Suzanne Arruda

 
 
Author Suzanne Arruda has kindly agreed to take the second spot in our new "Asking the Author" feature.  Her extraordinary mystery series features intrepid journalist Jade del Cameron, a veteran of the World War I ambulance brigades now a travel writer in Africa. 
Throughout the series Jade comes face to face with both the beauty and the terror of colonial Africa.  She makes friends and enemies alike through her courage and her compassion.  Early on her steady nerves and prowess with a rifle earn her the name simba jike or lady lion. Jade's introduction to Africa and detection, Mark of the Lion appeared from New American Library in 2006.  Her further adventures are available in Stalking the Ivory and The Serpent's Daughter (both in paperback from New American Library).
The most recent Jade del Cameron tale, The Leopard's Prey came out in hardcover in January of this year.
Suzanne is uniquely qualified to describe the many animals that Jade encounters in Africa as before becoming a successful novelist she worked part time as a zookeeper.  She also taught school for a time.  Perhaps the two were
not altogether dissimilar.                                              
 
Sara: 
What was the most challenging aspect of being a zookeeper?  And, as an addendum, what is your favorite animal in the zoo?
Suzanne: 
I think the hardest part was trying to come up with a "tasteful" answer to the number one question asked by little school kids at every tour..."is it a boy or a girl and how do you tell the difference?" I recall many a teacher blushing when the question was asked  and  gratefully smiling when I said that the boys had some boy parts and the girls had some girl parts and moved on. The other big challenge was getting my boss to the hospital when he was bitten by a snake and learning to drive a stick shift at the same time. I did it, too!!
 
Sara:
What is your favorite zoo animal? 
Suzanne:
Favorite animal?? I'm always partial to the big cats. I love to look at Siberian tigers. And sometimes if I make a "chuffing pppfff" type of sound, I can get one to greet me in return. But meerkats and elephants also run a tight race in favorites and I'm always a sucker for the goats in a petting zoo.
 
Sara:
Who is your favorite explorer?
 
Suzanne:
Osa Johnson (and her husband Martin) have to come out on top for me. They were some of the first explorers I ever read about and you have to love little 5 foot Osa running after an elephant and shouting to deflect it before it charged her husband (who was manning the movie camera). She had a lot of guts and faced up to cannibal headhunters in the New Hebrides.
 
Sara:
How long did it take before you began thinking of yourself as an "AUTHOR" as opposed to someone who happened to write frequently?
 
Suzanne:
Now that's a tough question, because there are still days when I think of myself as someone who happens to write frequently. It was probably the second book before I really felt like an author. I know when I'm on the road and meeting readers at bookstores, I really feel like an author, at least now. To some extent, though, I've always tried to think "professionally" and that's a bit different. Feeling like an author is sort of a celebrity feeling to me. Feeling "professional" means I'm looking at my responsibilities to my editor and publisher and agent and looking for new ways to reach out to readers.
 
Sara:
Jade has her feline companion, but what is the most exotic animal you have ever kept as a pet?
 
Suzanne:
Actually, Jade travels with a cheetah (Biscuit) I'm thinking I should dress my cat up in a little cheetah costume and try to pass her off on talks as a mini-cheetah. I've never had anything terribly exotic: cats, canaries, parakeets, hamsters, gerbils, goldfish... that's pretty much it for me. One of my sons had a nice salamander and the other son had a little puffer fish. My current parakeet is a bit dysfunctional (he's afraid of treats), but I doubt that qualifies as exotic.
 
Sara:
What was your motivation behind setting the Jade series in the period between world wars?
 
Suzanne:
The time after WWI was a time when more people were on the move and there was a clash of cultures coming together: the ancient with the modern, that I find dramatic. It makes a good backdrop for adventure and mystery. I also like NOT having so much modern forensics and modern ways of contacting each other. For me, it would be difficult to write something suspenseful when just about everyone carries a cell phone and can contact another person.  But this time period was also the time period that I read so much as a kid. So it was a time frame I was familiar with.
 
Sara:
Do you like the cover art for your books?  And which is your favorite cover design thus far?
 
Suzanne:
I do like my cover art. And while the first book was pretty, and evocative of old Africa, the next ones pulled in a touch of Art Deco style that speaks of adventure. Right now, I think I like the current cover (The Leopard's Prey) the best because of that intense blue. It's so vibrant. But I liked Jade holding a knife on The Serpent's Daughter, too.
 
 
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