Thursday, December 16, 2021


The Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series by Susie Black

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Holly Schlivnik is a Ladies’ swimwear sales exec based in the California Apparel Mart in downtown Los Angeles who has a penchant for finding the dead bodies of people in the garment industry and solving their murders.

How are the books in the series related?

All the books in the series take place in the Los Angeles garment center. The protagonist and her cronies called the yentas appear in every story, as does Holly’s friend assistant LA County Coroner Sophie Cutler.

What is the sub-genre and trope?

The sub-genre is humorous cozy mystery. The trope is the stories all take place in the LA garment district. The main characters meet every morning for coffee at the same place and time. Garment jargon is in every story.   

Did your characters lead you to this genre or was that decided before the story began? 

The genre was decided before the story began.

Are you more character or plot driven? 

I am a people person, so I am definitely more character driven.

With many main and secondary characters, how do you keep them separated in your mind

Since almost all my characters are based on real people I knew, some of them quite well, I do not have any issues keeping them straight in my mind.

Do you have a story/vision board above your workspace? 

No I do not. I follow a loose story outline to make sure events happen and clues are placed in the right spots and times in the story.

I know from previous interviews that characters take on a life of their own.  Were any of the characters in this series determined to take their own direction instead of where you initially wanted them to go? 

Oh yes. Several are extremely independent and pushy. And we had some lively disagreements. Regrettably, the characters turn out to be right more often than not and don’t let me forget it. As a result, I write the beginning and ending but allow the characters to direct the middle. 

However, they know if they screw it up, I take over, and there is a chance one of them will either be written out of the story or killed off.

Are any of the male POVs based on anyone you know? 

All male POV’s with the exception of law enforcement are based on men I know.

Are any of the female POVs based on anyone you know? 

All female POV’s with the exception of the coroner and law enforcement are based on women I know.

Was there any one character that was harder to write about than the other?

Yes. The one character that was harder to write about than any other was LAPD Detective Miguel Martinez. I don’t personally know anyone in law enforcement, so it was challenging to develop this character because I had no idea how his personality would impact his job would vice versa. As it turned out, the dynamic between his personality and his job had a huge impact on his relationship with the protagonist. 

Was there any one scene that was harder to write about than the other?

The one scene in Death by Sample Size that was harder to write than any other was when the protagonist discovers the body of the murder victim. 

Since I have never personally discovered the body of a murder victim (thank goodness), it was a challenge to create the protagonist’s response.

What is your favorite book in the series? 

So far, I have written four complete manuscripts in the series and the debut book, Death by Sample Size, is still my favorite. 

I truly disliked the real-life person the murder victim is based on and thoroughly enjoyed knocking her off in my book.

I know that we aren’t supposed to have “favorites” as far as our children, but seriously, who’s your favorite character and why? 

Definitely Holly Schlivnik because she is based on me. It has been great fun giving her characteristics that I actually have as well as ones I wished I had but do not in real life. Holly is the me I always wanted to be.

Series question - Who is your favorite couple and why did you decide on their dynamics? 

My favorite couple is sales exec Ronnie Schwartzman and his wife Rhoda. I decided to make their dynamic confrontational so they would bring out the worst of one another. Both are filthy rich-money-grubbing, power-hungry, selfish, arrogant, obnoxious, social ladder-climbing snobs who deserve one another and are the perennial couple everyone loves to hate.

How do you get inside these character’s heads to find their perfect HEA?

I got into their heads to find their happily ever after by examining their personalities and motivations for everything they did or didn’t do to destroy one another.

What scene in this book/series sticks out the most for you?  Why?

The scene that sticks out for me the most is the first time the protagonist meets the octogenarian defense attorney representing our heroine’s innocent colleague who was arrested for the murder.

Both the physical description and personality of Rose Markowitz as well as Holly’s reaction to her are priceless.

Series - Were any of the books harder to write than others?

Yes. The fourth book in the series was originally the first one. It was a completed manuscript that was completely revamped. The murder victim, how he was killed, and who the killer was all remained the same, but how the plot moved from the middle to end was completely different. 

The original back story was scrapped, as were a number of characters and events. When I was finished with it, the story was terrific, but could no longer be the first one in the series. 

Candidly, it was like giving birth twice to the same child. 

This question is if you write in MULTIPLE POVs not just the hero and heroine - I love the multiple POVs in a book.  It’s not just the hero and heroine, but we get inside the heads of multiple characters throughout this series.  I feel that it gives the story further depth.  Do you think you will write another book or series following this multiple POV outline? 

The reader gets to know all the main characters quite well, but the story is told first person and from the protagonist’s point of view. 

So far, that is how all the books in the series have been written and I don’t see changing that formula.

How long did it take you to write this book/series?

It took two years to write all the versions of Death by Sample Size. It took three years to write both the prequel and the other three books in the series.

How did you come up with the title for your book and (if applicable) series?

All of my book titles for the series give the reader a clue as to how the victim is murdered.

I came up with the series name The Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series by taking the nickname the protagonist is given in the prequel and adding Mystery Series to it.

If you met these characters in real life would you get along? 

I’d certainly get along extremely well with some of them, but many of them, absolutely not at all.

Series question – Did you know in advance that you were going to write this as a series or did one of the characters in book one demand their own story?

I knew in advance that I was going to write this as a series.

If your book/series were made into a movie, which actors do you see as playing your characters?

Sarah Silverman- Holly Schlivnik

Katherine Heigel-Queenie 

Melissa McCarthy-Joan 

Elizabeth Banks-Sonia 

Rebel Wilson-Hope 

Sophie-Kristen Wiig 

Anna Kendrick- Bunny 

Hilary Duff-Angela 

Sakura Ando-AJ 

Rose-Betty White or Charlotte Rae 

Edgar Ramirez or William Levy-Miguel 

Paul Rudd-David 

Gerard Butler-Louis 

Edward Norton-Ronnie 

Kate Mckinnon-Rhoda

Can you give us a hint as to what we can expect next? 

Book two of the Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series is Death by Pins & Needles. Fingers crossed it will be published this coming year.

Small Tease: 

A dozen swimsuits picture -framed Lissa’s lifeless body like a museum exhibit. Ringed with matching black and purplish-blue shiners, her sightless eyes were wide open as though she was surprised by her situation. No kidding. That made two of us. No need to take her pulse. I was no doctor, but I didn’t need a medical degree for this diagnosis. Lissa Charney was as dead as it gets.

Check out all my interviews/reviews for Susie Black!


Named Best US Author of the Year by N. N. Lights Book Heaven, award-winning cozy mystery author Susie Black was born in the Big Apple but now calls sunny Southern California home. Like the protagonist in her Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, Susie is a successful apparel sales executive. Susie began telling stories as soon as she learned to talk. Now she’s telling all the stories from her garment industry experiences in humorous mysteries.

She reads, writes, and speaks Spanish, albeit with an accent that sounds like Mildred from Michigan went on a Mexican vacation and is trying to fit in with the locals. Since life without pizza and ice cream as her core food groups wouldn’t be worth living, she’s a dedicated walker to keep her girlish figure. A voracious reader, she’s also an avid stamp collector. Susie lives with a highly intelligent man and has one incredibly brainy but smart-aleck adult son who inexplicably blames his sarcasm on an inherited genetic defect. 

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The last thing ladies’ swimwear sales exec Holly Schlivnik expected was to discover ruthless buying office big wig Bunny Frank’s corpse trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey with a bikini stuffed down her throat. 

When Holly’s colleague is arrested for Bunny’s murder, the wise-cracking, irreverent amateur sleuth jumps into action to find the real killer. Nothing turns out the way Holly thinks it will as she matches wits with a wily killer hellbent on revenge.

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