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Artistic License: Susan Israel on 'Over My Live Body' (Q&A)

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Today, Hartford Books Examiner welcomes Susan Israel.

Ms. Israel is the debut novelist of Over My Live Body (The Story Plant, $13.95). A graduate of Yale College, her fiction has been published in Other Voices, Hawaii Review and Vignette. She has also written for magazines, websites and newspapers including Glamour, Girls Life, Ladies Home Journal and The Washington Post. Ms. Israel makes her home in Connecticut, where she is at work on her next book.

Over My Live Body was published last March, and has received a warm response from readers. Doug Corleone, author of Good as Gone, praised, “Smart, witty, and delightfully unpredictable, Susan Israel’s Over My Live Body is a truly wonderful debut. Highly recommended.” Further, Booksie’s Blog noted, “Susan Israel has created an offbeat heroine, a strong woman intent on her career and determined to make it on her own regardless of what it takes to do so…recommended for mystery lovers.”

From the publisher:

Delilah is accustomed to people seeing her naked. As a nude model – a gig that keeps food on the table while her career as a sculptor takes off – it comes with the territory.

But Delilah has never before felt this vulnerable.

Because Delilah has an admirer. Someone who is paying a great deal of attention to her. And he just might love her to death.

The debut of a shockingly fresh voice in suspense fiction, OVER MY LIVE BODY will work its way inside of you.

Now, Susan Israel reveals her body of work …

1) What inspired the idea for OVER MY LIVE BODY – and how did you find the process of writing a full-length novel to compare to that of writing short fiction?

When I started writing Over My Live Body, it was like when a sculptor takes a lump of clay or terra cotta or plaster and starts working it; it took on a life of its own and I looked forward to adding to it and fine-tuning it every day. Not having committed to writing a full novel before, I just let it roll with no expectations. I liked the luxury of having a lot of ‘elbow room’ to let things develop as opposed to a short story.

2) Tell us about your protagonist. How did you come to discover Delilah’s motivation(s) – and what made you decide that hers was a character worth revisiting?

I identified with Delilah – and not just because I had done the moonlighting jobs she did. I liked her and wanted to move on with her and see her grow through more life experiences (and being that these are crime novels, the experiences aren’t always so great). And seeing as how she lives in New York City and I don’t, I wanted to live vicariously through her.

3) What type of research did you do for the book – both in terms of procedural stuff and the art scene, which provides the story’s backdrop?

I modeled for art classes quite a bit, though in a very sheltered environment so I didn’t have to deal with lines crossing or that sort of thing- and for the most part, Delilah’s experiences modeling for art classes are generally nonthreatening- except in the instance when it becomes very threatening. Those who aren’t artists are just as likely to lump art models in with Playboy centerfolds, etc., a problem Delilah encounters more than once. As for the procedural research, I went target-shooting, did a ride-around in a NYPD blue-and-white on a night when there were NO 911 calls whatsoever, toured precinct houses and begged- yes, begged!- to be fingerprinted. I collected NYPD police forms like kids used to collect baseball cards.

4) In addition to murder, you take on topics such as domestic violence and stalking. What do you hope that this adds to the book’s depth – and how can fiction be used to help us better understand reality?

I remembered an artist who I worked for had been stalked a few years earlier and that worked into my subconscious. I think to a certain extent the O.J. Simpson case did too. Women are too easily objectified as sex objects and possessions and stalking and domestic violence sadly go hand in hand with that way of thinking.

5) What have you find most surprising about the publishing industry – and what advice would you give aspiring writers as to how best to pursue that particular dream?

Never give up is all I can say. Write the book you want to write and heed every critique; if you get the same constructive criticism from multiple sources, think how you could use that criticism to make your work even better. And never give up. Did I already say that?

6) Leave us with a little teaser: What comes next?

In my second Delilah Price novel, Student Bodies, Delilah gets a job as a substitute teacher on top of the modeling gigs, makes a new friend, has to deal with a classroom of obnoxious pubescent girls who are harboring secrets and the threat of a serial sexual predator who is preying on those close to her- and she could be next.

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With thanks to Susan Israel for her generosity of time and thought.

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