Meet our Love-Kissed Author Couple! Susan and JR Mathis

Susan and JR Mathis

Meet a real life mystery couple. These fellow Floridians together write the Father Tom Mysteries and the Mercy and Justice Mysteries. Proud parents of three and extremely proud grandparents of of six, they plan to continue writing together and travel the county-with grandkids in tow. You can find all their books on their Author Page. After all, nothing says romance like mystery and murder!

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Father Tom Greer and his new wife, Helen, are called back to Myerton, Maryland, because of a sudden death of the deacon at Father Tom’s church. It doesn’t take long for the Helen, who is also the Chief of Police in Myerton, to determine that the good man was murdered. From that point on, the newlyweds spend the first weeks of their married life adjusting to a new home, a new car and a new case to solve.

Now, let’s find out more about this writing couple…

Which is more important to your book, the mystery or the love story?

In this book, the mystery is more important than the love story. Though they have just gotten married, more of the book is about them solving the crime than working on their relationship. This is not always true of our books. For instance, our previous book, The Father’s Family, center primarily on Tom and Helen’s wedding preparations, with the mystery taking a backseat. With our books, both elements are always present, but which element dominates really just depends on the story.

What type of love story plays out in your book—friends to love, enemy to love, instant love, or something else?

Our books are definitely about friends falling in love. Of course, there is an added element of unfulfilled longing at first, since Tom is a Catholic priest and under normal circumstances would not be allowed to marry. So, we spent a good portion of our first series, beginning with The Penitent Priest, working through the idea that their relationship would have to remain platonic to them dating and then ultimately marrying (in our world, the Pope decides to allow priests to marry, under certain circumstances, and with special permission; Tom and Helen are the first couple to be granted approval).

Does the love element cause problems for your protagonist?

The love element is not a problem for Tom in this book, since they are now married. However, he does struggle some, and will continue to in future books, with living out his vocation as a priest, caring for a large parish and still being a good husband for Helen. She struggles, too, sometimes, with the reality that, because of the nature of his calling, his duties as a priest must come before his desire to be with her.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Without a doubt our most interesting writing quirk is our daily visit to Sonic. After James gets off work, or sometime in the afternoon on weekends, we get in the car and drive across town to get soft drinks or tea. It takes us about an hour round trip and we use most of that time to talk about what I’ve been working on that day, thoughts he’s had about what we should keep or change and plotting the next few scenes. We just talk, often in the personas of our characters. We don’t make any notes or outlines.

When you’re writing an emotionally draining (or sexy, or sad, etc.) scene, how do you get in the mood?

As far as emotionally draining scenes go, I (Susan) keep a file open call “emotional dumps” so that when I am working on a book and am having a really intense emotional moment in my own life, I can just go to this file and “dump” how I’m feeling in the persona of one of the characters. Most of these scenes end up in the book we’re writing at that time, but others just sit in the file and turn up in future books. Some even inspire new plot lines.

What comes first, the plot or characters?

For us, the characters come first. All our stories are character driven, with the subplots being a very important part of the tale that we have to tell. Several of our main characters have had “starring roles” in our whodunits, either as victims or suspects. We’ll often introduce a character in an earlier book, fully intending them to be involved in the whodunit in a later book. We hope that our characters are well-rounded.

Victoria LK Williams


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