More About the Author
My official bio reads as follows:
Susan Runholt shares her teenage heroines' love of art and travel and commitment to feminism. She has traveled extensively in Europe, Asia and Africa and lived in Amsterdam and Paris, working as a bank clerk and an au pair. She's also been a waitress, a maid, a motel desk clerk, a laundress, a caterer, and, eventually, director of programming for South Dakota Public Television.
For the past two decades she has lived in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where she serves as a fundraising consultant for social service and arts organizations. She was named runner-up for the Debut Dagger Award by the Crime Writers' Association of Great Britain for THE MYSTERY OF THE THIRD LUCRETIA. Her next mystery in the Kari and Lucas series, RESCUING SENECA CRANE, will be published by Viking Children's Books in 2009.
So much for the official bio.
One huge aspect of my life not mentioned in that little summary is my daughter, Annalisa. And she's a big part of THE MYSTERY OF THE THIRD LUCRETIA. In fact, it's not too much to say that without her, I would never have written that book. And I might not ever have written for kids.
The way it started was this. From the time Annalisa was really young, she and I always went to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts together for the same reason Kari and her mom went: because it was fun and it was free. Well, when she was eleven (this was sixteen years ago, because she's 27 now), we went there to see Rembrandt's two paintings of Lucretia, which were being exhibited together. Annalisa loved them. And when she read the sign on the wall beside the paintings and looked at the sad, sad woman Rembrandt had painted, she cried. This was such a big deal for her that she actually came home and wrote a letter to the museum director telling him how much she liked the paintings. He wrote a letter back and gave her some books and things. (The lesson here is that it always pays to say thanks, but sometimes it pays more than others.)
Two years later, she and I went to Europe and visited London and Paris. And it turned out that she loved to travel just as much as I did.
All this time, Annalisa was The Perfect Child. I am not kidding. She was always sweet and kind and never made any trouble for anyone. Well, when she turned fourteen she decided she was, um, over that. She'd been perfect, and now she was ready to do something else for a change. I'm not going to tell her story--it's her story, after all, not mine. But she and I had a terrible time getting along at that time. We could hardly say anything to each other without making each other mad or making each other cry. It was the hardest time in my whole life, and probably one of the hardest in hers, too.
I had written a book for adults by that time and had started writing a second. But at some point it occurred to me that maybe Annalisa and I could write a book together, and that would give us something to talk about. So I tried to think of what kind of a plot would be interesting to both of us. I'd already kind of decided that I wanted to write books that were set in faraway places, and since Annalisa loved London and Paris, I thought she'd be interested in a book set in those places. But what could the mystery be about? I thought and thought, and then I remembered how much she had loved Rembrandt's two Lucretias. That was how I came up with the idea of the Third Lucretia.
Writing a book together worked as a way of getting us talking. It was the one thing we could discuss without fighting. Annalisa decided who the characters would be, what their names would be, what they looked like and what their personalities were like. She read every part of the book and said things like, "Mo-om, kids wouldn't be interested in this!" or, "Yeah, this is really exciting!"
So when I say in the dedication that she helped me write the THIRD LUCRETIA, I'm totally serious. She really did. And I'm really, really grateful.