Guest Post: Write What You Know, Right? by Susan Shea

April 29, 2013 Guest Post 0

I’m really excited for today’s guest! Today, I have the honor of having Susan C. Shea as our guest author. She delves into the background of The King’s Jar as well as how her real life experience influenced Dani’s character. The King’s Jar will be released on May 1st and I reviewed it here. I hope you take the opportunity to add The King’s Jar to your TBR list and get lost into Dani’s world.
kingsjarWrite What You Know, Right?

Well, right and not right. It helps to start somewhere solid, whether it’s an emotional truth, an experiential base, or a firm knowledge of a specific discipline. As a writer, I need to make my story credible. If I set it in an auto body shop as the late, much-admired Barbara Seranella did or in a dystopian future like the chilling society Suzanne Collins created, I have to find an element that I know on which to hang my story.

The Dani O’Rourke series, of which The King’s Jar is the second, is based in large measure on my previous professional life in the not-for-profit world. I began working as a journalist, segued into public relations and from there into a blend of fundraising and marketing (two sides of the same coin anyway). As a fundraiser, I did everything from fancy events to million dollar asks, both of which feature in my series. I have spent time with lots of individuals with what’s called “high dollar worth” (i.e. rich) and even a few billionaires who gave to my organizations. None of them were murder suspects or victims, but not all of them were equally likeable and a couple may have inspired murderous thoughts on someone’s part!

Another essential ingredient in The King’s Jar is the loss and attempted recovery of a priceless artifact discovered in Africa but originally from China. In my past professional life, I served as the ED of a scientific organization famous for its work in Africa. In that role, I learned a great deal about the administrative processes that guide developing states on the continent, the sketchy systems foreigners must navigate in order to do their research, and the competition between groups for making major finds in a bare landscape that is the cradle of humankind. Some of that was incorporated into my completely fictional story in order to ground it in real experiences.

The third major element in my series is art, more specifically, the contemporary art world with its huge profits, shifting sensibilities, and exciting discoveries. I started going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art when I was about three years old, and have been a member in my own right since I became an adult. I belong to every museum in the San Francisco Bay Area and to a few much farther away. The love of my adult life was a visual artist until his death five years ago; we had a complete immersion in the arts as common ground. Our friends included – and mine still do – a number of talented, dedicated artists. This is a world I know and love.

So there you have it. I chose to base my stories on what I know best, adding elements I don’t have experience with (murder, intrigue, cruelty) after I built what I hope readers sense is a credible base in reality. I hope, if you read any of my series, you’ll enjoy both the parts I know and those I have invented!

susansheaSusan C Shea writes the Dani O’Rourke Mystery series. The first is Murder in the Abstract and the sequel is The King’s Jar, published May 1. You can read more about her at

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