Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Interview with Suzanne Hartmann

by Jeff Reynolds

There are some stories that are hard to pigeon hole. One of these are Suzanne Hartmann's Fast Track Thrillers. But I'll let Suzanne tell you about that.

Jeff Reynolds: Welcome, Suzanne. I've enjoyed reading Peril, the first of the Fast Track Thrillers. What inspired these stories?

Suzanne Hartmann: Thank you for having me here on Hoosier Ink, and thank you for your kind words about the first book in my series. I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

The stories that eventually became the Fast Track Thrillers originally began as a bunch of scenes I created to entertain myself while sitting through violin lessons, soccer and baseball practice, and the innumerable hours spend driving the kids to and from their various activities.

The twist of NASCAR came about after my daughter decided she had a favorite driver. I knew almost nothing about NASCAR at the time and had never heard of this person. In the process of researching the driver to decide whether he was someone we should encourage our daughter to root for, I realized racing would make an interesting setting for some of the scenes I had created and began incorporating racetracks into my stories.

JR:  The second installment of your Fast Track Thrillers is approaching the starting line. Could you tell us about the series and your new release?

SH: Conspiracy picks up only a few months after the dramatic, surprise ending to Peril, and we rejoin Joanne Van der Haas, a top-secret agent with enhanced strength who works for the nation's most clandestine intelligence agency. When her boss is accused of selling government secrets, she must choose which to trust: the man she's worked with for many years or the NSA’s evidence. While things heat up at the agency, Joanne must also deal with her husband's serious illness, but when bad turns to worse, her friend, NASCAR Champion Stuart Jackson, follows through with his promise to always be there for her. His willingness to help leads him into danger. Joanne would rather not involve him in, but when she doesn't know who to turn to in the intelligence community any more, she has little choice. Joanne’s final assignment for the agency leads to disaster, yet opens the door to surprising information from an unlikely source. But is there enough time to prove who the spy is before Joanne is implicated too?

JR:  I have the impression that you've dealt with several obstacles both on the writing track and off. What has it been like, and what lessons has God taught you through the false starts?

SH:  Yes, I have, Jeff, both the typical obstacles any new author must negotiate and medical issues, including over twenty surgeries. The main thing I’ve learned from both types of obstacle is the need to keep my eyes on Jesus. When I put my focus on people, I will inevitably be disappointed. But when I lay my troubles at God’s feet, I can rest in the knowledge that He will meet all of my needs. Much easier said than done, but He continually shows His faithfulness when I am able to do so.

JR: Besides this series, you also have a book out titled Write This Way: Take Your Writing To a New Level. Any other interesting facts that might help writers here in their literary qualifying attempts? How did this book help with the Fast Track series? Or was it the other way around?

SH: I wrote Write This Way after writing Peril. It is based on the many lessons I learned during the process of revising the very rough draft of Peril (my first attempt at novel-writing). When I realized the issues I dealt with were common among new authors, I began blogging about them to teach others how to recognize and fix them. Eventually I had so many blog posts that it just made sense to compile them into a book to create an easy-to-use reference tool.

One stylistic error I address that I don’t see talked about much is the unnecessary use of small movements: turning, reaching, walking across the room, etc. Every action involves multiple smaller actions, but we don’t want to bore our readers with every single, tiny action required to accomplish something. For example, I could write, “James made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.” That involves many steps, from reaching into the cabinet to pull out the jar, to spreading the jelly. But since readers are familiar with how make a PB&J, we don’t need to include every little step. In the same way, readers automatically fill in little actions like reaching out before touching someone, or walking across the room to answer the door, or turning towards the window before looking outside. So we can leave these small motions out when writing.

JR: In my opinion, Peril didn't fit neatly into a typical genre, combining elements from romance, suspense, science fiction, and auto racing. Did the uniqueness of this story create some roadblocks in dealing with agents/editors? 

SH: I believe it did. Even though the story was well-written, it didn’t fit nicely into a particular slot—an oval instead of a circle, and many publishers don’t like to take a chance on such things. Thankfully, OakTara not only takes chances on novels that don’t quite fit the molds, but seeks them out, because they know there is a huge audience out there looking for books that are unique and break the mold.

JR:  I know that you're working on Revenge, the third leg of this series. Have you thought about what you'll do when your trilogy has crossed the checkered flag?

SH:  Although I have been pondering the idea of a prequel, I have decided to move on for now and concentrate on finishing two partially completed novels. One is also NASCAR-related, but it is a romantic suspense novel. The other—like the Fast Track Thrillers—has a twist of the unusual, but it is women’s fiction.

JR:  Thank you very much for your time. As I've mentioned before, I'm looking forward to reading Conspiracy. Any web pages you want to mention so your admiring fans can keep cheering you on?

SH:  Thank you for hosting me on Hoosier Ink, Jeff. Your readers can find out more about Peril and Conspiracy at my Fast Track Thrillers website at, where they will find lots of extras like character interviews and articles about some of my own personal experiences that are reflected in Peril, and the book trailer for Perl is located at

G_LzhD4zE&list=HL1330442585&feature=mh_lolz For more information about Write This Way: Take Your Writing to the Next Level, readers can visit my blog at, where they will find tons of advice about writing. And I would love to connect with readers on Facebook.


  1. Thank you for hosting me here on Hoosier Ink, Jeff! It's a pleasure to be here and share with your readers.

  2. Thanks for the great interview, Suzanne and Jeff. I've heard about your books and this interview was a good reminder to check them out! It was good to hear about the inspiration for your book series, Suzanne, and I wish you many blessings and continued success in your writing career!