Interview with Susan Breen, Author of Maggie Dove

16 Jun 2016

What can you tell us about your new release, Maggie Dove?

Maggie Dove is a ‘cozy mystery with bite,’ which means, I believe, that it’s about nice people in a nice place who are forced to grapple with some really difficult things. I’m intrigued by courage and how so-called ‘ordinary people’ find the strength to fight against evil. The protagonist of my novel, Maggie Dove, is a 62-year-old Sunday School teacher and I suspect she would never describe herself as courageous, but I think she’s fabulous.

What books are currently on your night stand?

So many books! There’s Simon Sebag Montefiore’s new history of the Romanovs; Vikram Seth’s novel, A Suitable Boy (which is wonderful, but is taking me forever to read); Best American Mystery Stories 2015; Christine Trent’s mystery about a Victorian undertaker, Lady in Ashes; and last but not least, an Agatha Christie. The one I’m reading now is And Then There Were None.

Where did you write Maggie Dove? (your couch, a coffee shop, a bar…hey-we won’t judge)

I’m afraid there’s not much to judge. I write in my office at an old desk that I assembled a long time ago. Two little cockapoos lie at my feet and whenever I have a great insight, I jump up and kick them, which is unfortunate. There’s also a very large cat named Calvin who creeps in every so often. From my window I can see an oak tree and it was that very tree that inspired the opening scene in Maggie Dove, though I’m happy to say my neighbor never tried to poison it.

Who are your literary heroes working today? Why do you admire them?

Anne Lamott is a great hero of mine. In addition to admiring her books, I also admire the honest way she lives her life. She writes openly about her political and religious beliefs, but I think she does it in such a way that she doesn’t offend people who disagree. Another one of my literary heroes is Masha Hamilton, who I met when she was also a teacher at Gotham Writers. She’s a wonderful writer, but even more inspiring is that she’s devoted this last decade to helping young women in Afghanistan learn to write their stories. If you ever doubt the power of words, you should read some of what they write.

What are you currently craving?

Chocolate. Always.

What’s your favorite part about teaching in New York City?

I teach in the heart of Times Square and so every different type of person you can imagine comes to my classroom. There are people of every nationality, every gender, every political persuasion (although they do tend to veer liberal). My favorite part of my job is hearing their stories. For example, one of my students grew up in Dubai and is writing a novel set there. I find Dubai such a mysterious and unknowable place, and yet through my student’s story, I’m coming to understand it better.

What scene in Maggie Dove was your favorite to write?

I loved the climactic scene, which I can’t describe too much without giving away the ending. But what I liked about it was that everything just seemed to come together and Maggie Dove felt transformed. I do love moments of transformation. Perhaps, not surprisingly, A Christmas Carol is one of my favorite books. Of course, Maggie Dove does not wake up at the end of my book and ask for a goose for Tiny Tim, but I do believe she’s a changed woman.

Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?

I’ve always liked this Anne Lamott quote: “Pay attention to the beauty surrounding you.”


Susan Breen is the author of the new book Maggie Dove.

Connect with Susan
Author Website

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