The winner of the book giveaway is Susie Black, mystery writer! Susan Calder generously gifted her two pdfs: Ten Days in Summer AND Winter’s Rage! Thank you, Susan!
Susan Calder: Adventurous E-Bike Author of Spring Into Danger (Latest Paula Savard Mystery)
Mystery writer Susan Calder and I met a couple of weeks ago at the Bouchercon Mystery and Thriller Conference in San Diego: “Murder at the Marina.” We bonded as writers, and she shared how her Paula Savard mystery series got started. Interestingly, her latest mystery (Book 4) in this series began with e-bikes as an impetus (and I told her my husband was, at that very minute, whizzing around the harbor on his e-bike while we were there chatting, and, hopefully, not running across any dead bodies!). Readers view her mysteries through the knowledgeable point of view of Paula Savard, an insurance adjuster, who draws on her wealth of experience to expose malfeasance, murder, and mayhem. Readers also benefit from the author’s insider insights about the industry. Read Susan’s fascinating blog about how e-bikes and the pandemic inspired Spring Into Danger (the 4th book in the Paula Savard Mysteries Series), which was just released.
For a refreshing break in your busy fall schedule, I recommend you read one of her mysteries in front of the fireplace, on a bench at the park, or at the beach. Or after a long bike ride. For a chance at a free copy of one of her books, enter the book giveaway contest below with a comment at the bottom of this blog.
Did You Know? (Interesting Factoids about Susan):
- Susan grew up in Montreal.
- She speaks French and loves maple sugar, crepes, and French Fries but not poutine.
- When she was twenty, Susan and her girlfriend hitchhiked across Canada from Montreal to Vancouver.
- The following year they hitchhiked to Newfoundland, on the east coast.
- In 1975 Susan visited the People’s Republic of China, one year before the death of Mao Zedong.
- Susan is married, with two sons. One is married with a six-year-old daughter (see her picking berries with grandparents in the photo) and works as a pollster. Her younger son is a digital nomad and currently resides in Vietnam.
- Susan is a chronic late bloomer. She graduated at age 36 with a degree in Urban Studies and started writing fiction three years later.
- She moved to Calgary in 1996 and took up hiking in her fifties. She also loves long walks along the river where she often contemplates plots for her ongoing and upcoming mysteries.
- She loves biking (and now e-biking!), which is one of the inspirations for the latest mystery, Spring Into Danger (Book 4), in her Paula Savard Mystery Series.
- Susan loves to travel.
- She and her husband organized a trip this spring to the Yorkshire Dales, UK, for 24 members of their Calgary seniors hiking club.
Nancy Q: Tell us about your Paula Savard Mystery Series, which is set in your home city of Calgary (Alberta, Canada).
SUSAN: Paula is an insurance adjuster in her mid-fifties. She’s divorced with two grown-up daughters. In the first novel, A Deadly Fall, Paula has just moved into an inner-city home. She stumbles into her first case when her childhood friend is murdered. Paula’s success in solving the crime makes her and the police realize that her skills would be useful for future insurance-related crime investigations. Her next three cases are the result of suspicious insurance claims.
Nancy Q: Why did you choose an insurance adjuster sleuth for your series?
SUSAN: I worked in insurance claims for ten years and understood the job and type of people who tend to be in the field. While writing A Deadly Fall (Book 1), I realized that claims investigation is a form of detective work, and insurance claims could easily conceal murders. In Ten Days in Summer (Book 2), a man dies in a building fire. In book three, a hit-and-run driver kills a pedestrian. Were these deaths accidents or murders?
Nancy Q: What insurance claim sets off your latest novel, Spring Into Danger (Book 4)?
SUSAN: A break-and-enter at a bicycle store. Unlike in the previous three books, there isn’t a murder in the first chapter. Paula takes on this seemingly routine insurance claim, convinced it poses no risks. Her encounter with murder in Winter’s Rage (Book 3) went sideways, and she’s vowed to stay away from future suspicious death cases to protect her loved ones from danger. She feels a particular need to protect her aging mother, who is living with her during the pandemic. Of course, once Paula is lured into the case, danger ensues.
Nancy Q: What prompted you to choose a bike store as the setting for an insurance crime?
SUSAN: In April 2020. my husband Will and I bought e-bikes from a local bike store to keep us occupied during the pandemic. Our purchase involved frequent visits to the store for adjustments to our bicycles and to buy accessories. Most retail outlets were closed at this time, but bike stores remained open because Calgary viewed bikes as essential transportation. An open store would enable Paula to meet claimants and other people face-to-face, rather than on phone and Zoom calls, and create a more dynamic and active story.
Nancy Q: Why did you set this novel during the COVID-19 pandemic?
SUSAN: Winter’s Rage (Book 3) took place in January 2020, on the cusp of the pandemic. Since the first three books featured Calgary in fall, summer, and winter, I wanted the next book to happen in spring. But which spring would it be? I like my novels to reflect their real place and time. I started writing Spring Into Danger (Book 4) in the fall of 2021 and considered setting it in the spring of 2021 when the vaccines came out and the situation became more hopeful and open, or, perhaps, even in the spring of 2022 when the pandemic might be over—we didn’t know then that the Omicron variant was around the corner. But I had an almost nostalgic desire to set the story at the start of the pandemic when it was new and we were all afraid and didn’t know what lay ahead. In the fall of 2021, enough time had passed for me to want to process that experience through a fictional story.
Nancy Q: How does the pandemic affect your story’s characters and plot?
SUSAN: Spring Into Danger takes place in April 2020, and Calgary is in lockdown. Paula’s boyfriend is stuck overseas with flights canceled. Her daughter is depressed because her plan to open a restaurant collapsed with the pandemic restrictions. Paula misses her colleagues, who are working from home. She has chosen to work alone in her office building, which is rumored to be haunted. She’s worried her mother will catch the virus and die. All of this dampens Paula’s mood, which was already shaken by her last murder case. As the story progresses, characters have to choose alternate ways to meet with many of the usual places no longer available. Business and school closures and the need or desire to follow COVID protocols trigger numerous plot twists. If I had to remove COVID from the novel, the story would completely change.
Nancy Q: What were the challenges of setting a story during the pandemic?
SUSAN: Extra research was required for Spring Into Danger because the situation changed radically from April 2020 to fall 2021 through spring 2023 when I was working on the story. I constantly had to look up what was open or closed during the story time frame. It was almost like writing historical fiction. I also had to strike a balance between flavoring the story with COVID and having it overwhelm the story, which it often did in real life. I wanted the pandemic lockdown to be the story landscape of an entertaining murder mystery tale. On the plus side, COVID provided fresh ways to portray story characters. Did someone fear to leave the house? Ignore protocols? It also forced more outdoor meetings, which are generally more interesting in novels than having characters talk in coffee shops, and allowed me to portray more Calgary locations.
Nancy Q: What is Paula’s next adventure?
SUSAN: I don’t know. Her life is an open book right now. I’ve started a new novel, which was prompted by my interest in the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, commonly known as the Spanish flu. It’s set in the fall of 1918, during Calgary’s lockdown for the second and deadliest wave of the virus. After that, I think I’ll be done with pandemic stories.
Nancy Q: And you also wrote one stand-alone thriller?
SUSAN: Yes, To Catch a Fox. Here’s the basic plot: Julie Fox is on the run. A psychotic breakdown has shattered her career in Calgary, her marriage, and her love for her child. Julie travels to California to search for her mother and learn the root of her problems, and clues at a cult-like retreat appear to hold the answers.
Nancy (final comment): Thanks for joining us, Susan! I enjoyed talking with you about writing, Calgary, and the 2026 Bouchercon in Calgary (Alberta, Canada) where you’re the co-chair for this fabulous event for writers and readers. We’re hoping to join you there. Keep writing, and we’ll keep reading!
Where Else Can Readers Find You and Your Books Online?
Author Website: Susan’s Website
Facebook: Susan Calder, Author
Susan’s Publisher Author Page: Books We Love
Amazon: Susan Calder’s Author Page
Co-chair Bouchercon Calgary 2026: Bouchercon 2026