Susan Oleksiw is the author of the Mellingham series featuring Chief of Police Joe Silva (A Murderous Innocence) and a second series featuring Anita Ray (Under the Eye of Kali). Oleksiw compiled A Reader’s Guide to the Classic British Mystery, and was consulting editor for The Oxford Companion to Crime and Mystery Writing. Oleksiw was a co-founder of Level Best Books. Susan’s website is www.susanoleksiw.com and her blog is www.susanoleksiw.blogspot.com
The heroine of your story in Thin Ice, Anita Ray. is an Indian-American. In some ways, that makes her a fish out of water in two cultures. How does her outsider status affect the narrative in “The Recumbent Cow”?
Anita is considered something of an outsider because her father is American. As such, she can poke her nose in where it doesn’t belong and be forgiven because people think she doesn’t really know any better (she does). Someone who is new to India is regarded as a child, and people are always explaining things to foreigners even if the foreigner has lived there for years; mistakes or social gaffes are forgiven, in the same way a child making a mistake at a wedding ceremony or family dinner is forgiven. Anita uses this to pry into suspicious circumstances and go where she knows she shouldn’t. But Anita does know her culture because her mother, an Indian, and other relatives have taught her the traditional ways. She uses this insider’s view to figure out how others are using traditional practices and rules to get what they want or hide what they have done.
You were a founding editor of Level Best Books and co-edited the first seven anthologies. Now you’re a contributor. How does it feel to be in the writer role? What do you miss and what don’t you miss?
I thoroughly enjoyed being only a writer this year—it was a satisfying experience to send in my story and not have to think anything more about it except whether the editors liked it or didn’t. As the new editors have undoubtedly learned by now, editing and publishing an anthology is work—it takes time and skill, of many sorts. I was ready to let someone else do the work of editing the mss and putting together the anthology for the printer. I was also ready to let someone else do the selling to bookstores in this area, and I’m pleased to say that I’ve seen Thin Ice in some of my local independents. It’s exciting to see Level Best Books continue on without the original editors—it means that we founded something that is solid enough to survive on its own merits.
As an editor I enjoyed reading the stories submitted from so many excellent writers, but I can now read them at my leisure in the new anthology, so I still have the best part of the whole thing. And thanks to Crime Bake and Sisters in Crime, the camaraderie the three of us enjoyed as editors is still available to us, albeit in different venues.
What are you working on now?
I’m pleased to report that Five Star has accepted the second book in the Anita Ray series (for 2012), and I’m now at work on the third. This one is set in the hills of central Kerala during an especially heavy monsoon and I’m having loads of fun with it. I’m thinking of introducing some wildlife, perhaps a leopard.