My part of the world, eastern Massachusetts, is in the midst of a rough winter, with snow banks six feet high and more storms on the way. But life doesn’t come to a halt, not if you have a dog. While I was out walking our lab during the worst of the storm an idea for a story took shape. Those high snow banks along the street or in the yard by the garage are the perfect spot to hide a body. And no one thinks anything of a homeowner out snow-blowing in the middle of the night. The streetlights reflect off the new white snow, but not too much, and windows are shut tight against the cold and any noise.
This is how my stories usually begin, with a sudden awareness of how dangerous the mundane can really be. During my regular visits to South India, I always noted how things were changing and what remained the same. There were always new shops, and that got me thinking. In a story originally published in a Level Best Books anthology, a young woman opens a shop, earning her own money and new independence. This doesn’t sit well with some members of her family, and she soon ends up dead, in “The Secret of the Pulluvan Drum.”
The first book in the Anita Ray series grew out of my first breakfast in a new hotel/guesthouse. I was still exhausted from my trip to India (twenty-plus hours on a plane) and too tired and jet-lagged to make small talk. I listened half-awake to the other guests at the family-style dining table, and was struck by how casual comments could be and yet carry threads of danger. How could it be that so many of the guests were from the same part of the United States but didn’t know each other? And why was one so hostile to one stranger but not another? This is the opening of Under the Eye of Kali, the first Anita Ray mystery novel.
During the summer months I waste a lot of time trying to rid my garden of invasive species, especially Lily of the Valley. I once stood in front of a large side garden taken over by the poisonous flower, and marveled that something so dangerous could be such an ordinary fact of life. That became a key feature in a short story featuring Chief of Police Joe Silva and posted on Wattpad as “Bad News with a Touch of Class.”
It’s a truism that the world is a dangerous place, but for a writer, it’s a reminder of the truth that opportunity is everywhere. Good stories come out of turning the mundane on its head, seeing past the surface, and asking, What if?
For these and other works by Susan Oleksiw, go to