Saturday, May 6, 2023


Death by Surfboard


Get a behind-the-scenes all-access pass to Susie Black's Death by Surfboard!


Death by Surfboard is the third book in The Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series. The books in the series are related by locale and by a cast of continuing characters. 

All the books in the series take place in the Los Angeles garment center. Holly Schlivnik, the protagonist, and the Yentas, her group of colleagues, appear in every book, as does Doctor Sophie Cutler, Holly’s lifelong friend and a Los Angeles County Assistant Coroner. 

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? 

No, the characters did not lead me to this genre. It was decided before the story began.

Are you more character or plot driven?

As a career ladies’ apparel sales exec, I am by nature a people person, so I am naturally more character than plot driven.

With many main and secondary characters, how do you keep them separated in your mind? Do you have a story/vision board above your workspace? 

All of my characters-with the exception of medical and law enforcement-are based on real people I know or knew, so it is easy for me to keep them separated in my mind. So, no, I do not need a story/vision board above my workspace to keep the characters straight.

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? 

Are you kidding? With my cast of annoyingly pushy characters, ALL of them were determined to take their own direction instead of where I initially wanted them to go! LOL. 

The cast of continuing characters and I have worked out a compromise: I write the beginning and ending of the story and the characters take the plot from the middle to the end of the story. BUT…I have the last word. They know that they MUST get to my ending, not one of theirs. 

Generally, they behave, because if they don’t and I get really upset, they know I can write them out of the story…or kill them off. Nothing as lasting as a relationship based on fear…

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

Yes. With the exception of the LAPD Captain, all of the male POVs are based on someone I know.

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

Yes. With the exception of the homicide detective and the Assistant LA County Coroner, all of the female POVs are based on someone I know.

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

Absolutely, yes. The one character that was harder to write about than any other was the female homicide detective. I do not personally know any law enforcement personnel, let alone a policewoman. So, I had to contact a local precinct and interview a female homicide detective who was helpful in developing the character’s personality and giving me details of how women fit into the force and how they behave interacting with their colleagues as well as how they investigate cases.

The one scene that was harder to write about was a funeral for a surfer. I do not surf and had no idea about what the social mores of the surf industry were. Fortunately, my husband surfed as a youth and was extremely helpful with the surf terms and how a surfer’s funeral was conducted.

What is your favorite book in the series?

I have written four complete books in the series, and so far, the debut novel, Death by Sample Size, is still my favorite one.

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

Hands down, Holly Schlivnik is my favorite character because she is based on me. Holly is the me I always wanted to be and more.

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

My favorite couple has recently changed from the couple in my debut book to a couple in Death by Surfboard: Jack Tyne and Carrie Le Beau. 

I decided on their dynamic as the couple you love to hate because they are two selfish, conniving people who deserve one another.

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

Since these two characters are based on real people I knew and worked with, it was quite easy to get into their heads and find their perfect HEA as I  imagined it to be. 

Of course, their perfect HEA was perfect for me…for them…not so much.

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

The scene in this book that sticks out the most to me is when the protagonist thinks she finally figured out whodunit.


Because the level of betrayal and regret the protagonist experienced was so profound when she realized someone close to her was the one whodunit, that it tore at my heartstrings.

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

Yes. Actually, this one was harder to write than others. Half-way through writing the manuscript, I decided on a huge, unplanned twist at the end. I had to backtrack and weave a lot of clues throughout the plot and yet not give the surprise ending away.

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? 

I write all my stories in the first person from the POV of the protagonist, so multiple POVs are not part of my writing scheme.

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

Since I changed the ending mid-stream to one with a twist, I had to rewrite parts of it. So, it took a bit longer than anticipated. This book took about four months to write.

The four books in the series took a little under five years to complete.

How did you come up with the title for your book and series?

All of my book titles give the reader a clue of the plot and how the murder victim is killed. So, all the titles begin with “Death by…” In this instance, Death by Surfboard gives the reader a hint that the story is about someone who meets their death while surfing.

In coming up with the series title, I wanted to give the reader an idea of what all the stories in the series were about. The Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series tells the reader who the continuing protagonist is, a hint as to her profession, and that the series is in the murder mystery genre.

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

Since I actually did meet in real life the real people that these characters are based on, the answer is quite simple: 

Some of them-absolutely yes. 

Some of them would be just colleagues and others close friends. 

BUT there are others-definitely NOT. We would buck heads most of the time.

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, but the protagonist definitely demanded that every story featured her as the star.

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- Carrie Le Beau; 

Sakura Ando-AJ; 

Juliette Rylance-Harriet Cowan-; 

Edgar Ramirez or William Levy-Miguel; 

Paul Rudd-David; 

Edward Norton-Jack; 

Kate Mckinnon-Mo Mac; 

Mayim Bialik-Lynnie; 

Ms. Markowitz-Charlotte Rae

Can you give us a hint as to what we can expect next? Whether a new book and series or a sequel to an existing series? Can you share a small tease?

Death by Cutting Table, the fourth book in The Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, is slated for publication early this August. Here is a blurb to share a small tease:

Butch Oldham didn’t have an honest bone in his body. So, the question wasn’t who wanted the bastard dead. The question was, who didn’t? After Mermaid Swimwear sales exec Holly Schlivnik finds colleague Queenie Levine standing over Mermaid CEO Butch Oldham’s bloody corpse nailed to a fabric cutting table with a big honkin’ pair of cutting shears plunged deep into his chest, the cops soon discover Queenie’s blood-soaked sweater, learn about her stormy relationship with the victim, and her public threats to make Butch pay for destroying Mermaid Swimwear by stealing it blind. When Queenie is arrested, the wise-cracking, irreverent amateur sleuth jumps into action to flesh out the real killer. But the trail has more twists and turns than a slinky, and nothing turns out the way Holly thinks it will as she tangles with a clever killer hellbent for revenge.”

I am also working on a prequel that features the series protagonist as a high school newspaper reporter and amateur sleuth. Fingers cross, the first book of the prequel will be out sometime in 2024.

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. 


The Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series - Book One

Everyone wanted her dead…but who actually killed her? 

The last thing 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 murderer hellbent for revenge.

The Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series - Book Two

The last thing Mermaid Swimwear sales exec Holly Schlivnik expected to find when she opened the closet door was nasty competitor Lissa Charney’s battered corpse nailed to the wall. 

When Holly’s colleague is wrongly arrested for Lissa’s murder, the wise-cracking, irreverent amateur sleuth sticks her nose everywhere it doesn’t belong to sniff out the real killer. 

Nothing turns out the way she thinks it will as Holly matches wits with a heartless killer hellbent for revenge.

The Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series - Book Three

No one is more stunned than Mermaid Swimwear sales exec Holly Schlivnik when a fisherman hooks her unscrupulous colleague’s battered corpse attached to a surfboard and hauls it onto the Washington Street Pier. 

The coroner ruled that while Jack Tyne drowned, he “had help dying,” and Holly’s boss is wrongly arrested for the crime. To save the big cheese from a life behind bars, the wise-cracking, irreverent amateur detective dons her sleuthing hat to find Jack’s real killer. 

But the trail has more twists and turns than a pretzel, and nothing turns out the way Holly thinks it will as she tangles with a clever killer hellbent for revenge.

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