Crime Writers Interview: Nancy Nau Sullivan

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We periodically introduce our readers to other mystery writers whom they might find interesting. Because as we all know, there is no such thing as too many books to read, especially in these strange times when distraction is a very good thing.

Today, please help us welcome Nancy Nau Sullivan. Nancy has led an interesting life and has many stories to tell…

Nancy Nau Sullivan began writing wavy lines at age six, thinking it was the beginning of her first novel.

It wasn’t. But she didn’t stop writing. After eight years of newspaper work in high school and college, she contributed to editorial posts at New York magazines and for newspapers throughout the Midwest.

Nancy grew up outside Chicago but often visited Anna Maria Island, Florida. She returned there with her family and wrote an award-winning memoir, The Last Cadillac-––a harrowing adventure of travel, health issues, and adolescent angst, with a hurricane thrown in for good measure.

She went back to the Florida setting for her first cozy mystery, Saving Tuna Street, creating the fictional Santa Maria Island. Nancy now lives, for the most part, in Northwest Indiana…or anywhere near water.

Kassandra Lamb (on behalf of the misterio gang): We like to start with an open-ended, “tell us about yourself” question. What two or three things do you feel people need to know in order to understand who you are?

Nancy Nau Sullivan: I must have been born with a bitty little suitcase in my hand, because I can’t sit still—except to write. I was born in San Francisco, but grew up in Lansing, Illinois, in the steel belt outside Chicago. I moved 19 times with my ex-husband, a West Pointer. Over the years, I’ve lived in Spain, Argentina, Mexico, Germany, the South, and now I’m back home in Indiana near the kids.

This peripatetic life has influenced my writing. My new series has an international bent, starting in Santa Maria Island, Florida, a fictional adaptation of Anna Maria Island, my favorite place in the world.

Kass: What subgenre of mysteries do you write?

Nancy: The Blanche Murninghan mystery series is somewhere between traditional and cozy, mostly the latter. The first book, Saving Tuna Street (due out June 23, 2020), takes place on Santa Maria Island when the quiet little island comes under threat from land-grabbing goons. They want to  turn it into a mecca of McMansions. Blanche, who lives in a cabin on the beach, is having none of it—especially when her suspicions tell her the goons are also murderers, kidnappers, and a front for drug-runners.

I picked Santa Maria (fictional Anna Maria Island) because it’s the beloved setting for my memoir, The Last Cadillac. I’m inspired by setting. Blanche will go on to Mexico next, then Ireland, Spain, Argentina, and maybe Vietnam.

Kass: What was your favorite book/author as a child? Why was it your favorite?

Crime Writers Interview: Nancy Nau Sullivan

Nancy: All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor and Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I loved the Brooklyn “family” and their customs, and I can still see the maple syrup coming out of those trees in the “big woods.”

Later, I read all of Nancy Drew in her little motor car, finding lost jewels, with a doting father in the background.

Kass: I adored Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books as a kid. So, where are you in your writing career? Tell us a little about your stories.

Nancy: I worked at newspapers all through high school and college, and in New York City publishing following graduation, then went back to my first love, newspapers, for almost 20 years. Along the way, I was always diddling with stories. But it wasn’t until the 1990s, when my life exploded, that I wrote my first book, The Last Cadillac, a memoir of high family drama.

I joined the Peace Corp in 2013, and with no TV (the writer’s enemy), I started writing short stories  and sending them out for publication. I think that was a springboard to getting the memoir published in 2016. I went back to that setting to write Saving Tuna Street, my first mystery due out in June.

I’ve also written a novel about a woman who teaches in a boys’ prison and gets mixed up in their escape plan. The Boys of Alpha Block will be out next year. It’s based on my own teaching experience in a boys’ prison in Florida for five years. They did not escape, but they darn near did everything else in this novel.

Kass: What do you find to be the most fun and/or the most difficult part of the writing process—first draft, editing, researching? Why is that?

Crime Writers Interview: Nancy Nau Sullivan -- The Last Cadillac cover

Nancy: I dread the first draft, and I don’t know why. Once I sit down to write it, it usually flows. I figure if the writing gets boring, then the reader will be bored, so I stop. Take a walk or mop the kitchen floor (I have a very clean kitchen floor).

I am pretty much of a pantser, but I can see the rough arc of the story when I sit down to write. Once I’m in, I don’t want to get out until it’s done. And I love to edit and research.

I’m an old newspaper type with a master’s in journalism, so I guess it’s coded somewhere in my brain to edit and research, or the writing just won’t work.

Journalism requires tight writing and deadlines and checking the facts. The practice has helped because I can see where to cut and fill in later, how long it’s going to take (always longer), and where to pace.

Kass: What’s the oddest and/or most difficult thing you ever had to research?

Nancy: How to make a mummy!

In the No. 2 mystery in the Blanche Murninghan series, Down Mexico Way, which should be out in the summer of 2021, Blanche discovers that a mummy in a museum exhibit is not “real,” but was more recently manufactured.

I had to research ancient methods, and it was fascinating. You should have seen what turned up on my news feed!

Kass: In Saving Tuna Street, your first mystery, what was your favorite (or hardest to write) scene?

Nancy: Those tense scenes involving the kidnapping were the most fun and the hardest. The sentences had to be short and snappy, and I had to put myself in the moment. Fortunately, I’ve never been kidnapped, but I do know fear, and so I channeled it. A friend who was once mugged also helped, and she picked apart that first draft.

At a conference I attended once, Lee Child said: The action scenes have to be longer, and the descriptive, backstory, more mundane scenes have to be on the shorter side (I paraphrase. Sorry, Lee.)

Kass: In Saving Tuna Street, what changed the most from the first draft to the last?

Crime Writers Interview:  Nancy Nau Sullivan -- path to the beach
Path to the beach on Anna Maria Island

Nancy: The main character. The first time I wrote her up, an editor told me she was “flat.” How dismaying.

So I let that puppy out of the cage. Pretty soon she was using her anger as a tool and throwing back shots of tequila with her friend (Blanche is a bit of a drinker). I also got a good look at her appearance—She lives on the beach, and her T-shirt is stiff with salt and the only footwear she has are sandals.

That is a drag when you get kidnapped and have to kick your way out of a van.

Kass: And last of all, what question do you wish interviewers would ask you that they usually don’t? What is your answer to that question?

Nancy: Are you in it for the money?

And the answer is HAHAHAHAHA. What money?

Kass: LOL…Thank you so much, Nancy, for joining us today.

Readers, please check out her debut novel, Saving Tuna Street, now available for preorder! (see below) It’s due to be released by Light Messages on June 23, 2020.

Nancy will hang out for a while to answer any questions you may have. And you can also connect with her on Twitter (@NauSullivan), Facebook, Instagram and via her website.

Saving Tuna Street (A Blanche Murninghan Mystery)

Crime Writers Interview: Nancy Nau Sullivan -- Saving Tuna Street cover

Blanche “Bang” Murninghan is a part-time journalist with writer’s block and a penchant for walking the beach on her beloved Santa Maria Island. When land-grabbing tycoons arrive from Chicago and threaten to buy up Tuna Street, including her beachfront cottage, her seemingly idyllic life begins to unravel. Blanche finds herself in a tailspin, flabbergasted that so many things can go so wrong, so fast.

When her dear friend is found murdered in the parking lot of the marina, Blanche begins digging into his death. With her friends Liza and Haasi by her side—the latter a mysterious, tiny Native American with glossy braids and dark eyes, who seems to appear just when she’s needed most—Blanche stumbles into a pit of greed, murder, drug running, and kidnapping. She has survived her fair share of storms on Santa Maria Island, but this one might just be her last.

Available for Preorder on:


Also two of our books are available for Preorder:

Hostage to Fortune, A Tea and Tarot Mystery, by Kirsten Weiss ~ Releases May 21st!!!

Hostage to Fortune book cover

Tea and Tarot room owner Abigail Beanblossom is used to running interference for her socially-awkward former boss, tech billionaire Razzzor. So when he invites her on a stakeout to investigate the sale of counterfeit wine from his latest venture – an upscale winery – she barrels on in. But the two stumble across the corpse of a wine merchant, and new wine in old bottles is now the least of their problems.

Good thing amateur detectives Abigail and her partner, tarot reader Hyperion Night, have a nose for murder. Their investigation takes them from elegant wine cellars to chic tea parties on the California coast. But just as the investigation starts to get its legs, Abigail discovers there’s more than wine at the bottom of this crime…

Tearoom recipes in the back of the book.

Click HERE for Preorder links!

Lord of the Fleas, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery, by Kassandra Lamb ~ Releases May 26th!!

Lord of the Fleas book cover

What could be more innocent than a country flea market?

When service dog trainer Marcia Banks takes up temporary residence with her best friend in Williston, Florida, her goals are simple: spoil her toddler godchildren and train her newest dog’s veteran owner, a vendor at a local flea market.

Ha, the universe has other plans. When the owner of the flea market is found dead and her client is a prime suspect, she discovers that nothing is as it seems—from the flea market owner himself, to the ornate dragonhead cane he gave to her client, to the beautiful but not very bright young woman whom her client has a crush on.

The only true innocent in the bunch seems to be her guileless client. But when he shares a confidence that puts her in a double bind with local law enforcement, she’s not sure she can even trust him.

Despite her promises to her new husband, the only way out of her no-win dilemma seems to be to find the real killer. The flea market, however, is hiding more secrets, and at least one of them could be deadly.

Click HERE for Preorder Links!

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  • Reply
    Shannon Esposito
    May 19, 2020 at 2:09 pm

    Great interview! What an interesting life, Nancy. I’m envious of all your travels. Saving Tuna Street sounds like a fun read and great addition to the cozy mystery genre. I also love Anna Maria Island and set my first mystery, The Monarch, there. It’s great they don’t allow condos and high rises to be built there. Wish more of Florida has those rules. Best of luck with your new release!

    • Reply
      Nancy Nau Sullivan
      May 19, 2020 at 3:56 pm

      Wow! Shannon! AMI is such an inspiration, isn’t it? I’ll have to get your book, The Monarch. Thanks so much for your note! So glad you got in touch…Have you read Mark Kay Andrews? She’s set some of her books in Holmes Beach and the old Cortez village. Lots of material there!! All the best to you–see you at the Sandbar? Nancy

  • Reply
    May 19, 2020 at 2:45 pm

    Nancy, thanks for allowing misterio press to interview you. I’m not usually a cozy reader, but your varied settings appeal to me. And, I’d love to find out how a mummy can be “manufactured.” Great advice from Lee Childs. I’ve always heard that, too. Write the fast stuff slow and the slow stuff fast.

    • Reply
      Nancy Nau Sullivan
      May 19, 2020 at 4:03 pm

      Thank you, Vinnie, for getting in touch! Yes, settings appeal to me, so strongly. I love Anna Maria Island, and when I saw what was happening with over development, it brought on the murder!! Well, all benign, of course. I saw Lee Childs at Thrillerfest, and he had such good advice–besides, he’s a hottie :)) (a little editorial aside there!) All the best to you ~~ Nancy

  • Reply
    Mar Bear
    May 20, 2020 at 9:32 am

    I loved your first book, The Last Cadillac, so heart felt and real. Your new book sounds very different, but exciting. I can not wait to get my fingers on a copy of Saving Tuna Street and meeting Blanche.

  • Reply
    Kathleen M Rockwood
    May 20, 2020 at 11:39 am

    Thanks for sharing your adventures with us, both personal and written.

    You have a great, vibrant style, and it shows itself in your written work.

  • Reply
    K.B. Owen
    May 21, 2020 at 4:16 pm

    I love the title of your new book! Thanks for visiting our site, Nancy, and good luck with the release!

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