Friday, March 5, 2021

Susan McCauley Interview - Pirates' Curse

Photo Content from Susan McCauley

Susan McCauley is a writer/producer of paranormal, fantasy, and horror films and fiction for adults, young adults, and middle grade audiences and readers. Susan fell in love with writing, theater, and film when she was eight-years-old. That passion inspired her to receive a B.A. in Radio-Television with a minor in Theater from the University of Houston, a M.F.A. in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California (USC), and a M.A. in Text & Performance from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) and King’s College in London. Susan also studied acting at Playhouse West with Robert Carnegie and Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park, Independence Day) in Los Angeles.

While living in Los Angeles, Susan wrote the story for and produced a short film, which later won awards at the Houston International Film Festival and the Seabrook Film Festival. In 2002, she moved to London to further explore professional theater. While in London, her stage adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s “The Nose” was performed at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art’s George Bernard Shaw Theatre; and, scenes from her play The Prisoner: Princess Elizabeth were performed at HMS Tower of London. She returned home to the U.S. in 2005. In 2007, she was the line producer of the Emmy Award nominated Civil War short film Now & Forever Yours: Letters to an Old Soldier.

Susan has several short stories published, one of which, "The Cask", was made into an award winning short film. "The Cask" was republished in the Camden Park Press anthology Quoth the Raven, which won Best Anthology of 2018 in multiple reader polls. In addition to her short stories, Susan has one novella and two novels in print, as well as two feature length screenplays in development.

Susan loves travel, animals, movies, theatre, taekwondo, and books (of course!)


Where were you born and where do you call home?
I was born in Webster, Texas. (It sounds like a small town, but it’s actually a suburb of Houston and very close to the Johnson Space Center.) I left Texas for many years and lived in Los Angeles, London, and Washington D.C., but came back to Texas and now live in Spring.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
The most rewarding experience so far was when a boy who never willingly read on his own, wouldn’t put down my book, Ghost Hunters: Bones in the Wall. His mother told me that he took it to lunch with him and was even reading it in the car on the way to and from school and soccer practice. The fact he loved it that much and wanted to keep reading was/is amazing. I want to find more readers like him to engage with my books.

What inspired you to pen your first novel?
I don’t have a singular inspiration. I wrote my first short film when I was eight-years-old. From there, I just kept writing. I started with poetry in elementary school, but didn’t really get into writing fiction until my 20s. (My masters degrees were in playwriting and screenwriting). I suppose the final push that got me to write my first novel was when I was teaching middle school English and drama in London. It was at that time I started re-reading classic children’s literature and started reading current children’s fiction. It was then I was hooked, and the first story that became a novel was planted in my mind.

Tell us your latest news.
The biggest news right now is the upcoming release of Ghost Hunters: Pirates’ Curse on March 2. I’m also having a fun virtual launch on March 3 for anyone who’d like to JOIN. I hope to have an in-person event that includes an actual ghost tour once more people have had the opportunity to receive the COVID vaccine (maybe in May). Finally, I’m nearly done with the first draft of Book 3 in the Ghost Hunters series. . . so more on that coming soon! J

In your newest book, PIRATES’ CURSE; can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about the novel?
Ghost Hunters: Pirates’ Curse is a spooky-fun adventure with a pirate twist. Growing up on the Gulf Coast of Texas, I always heard about the pirate Jean Lafitte and the treasure that is supposedly hidden to this day in the Houston/Galveston area. As a kid, I always had wild ideas of hunting for (and finding) the treasure. So, as an adult, I thought it would be fun to combine my love of the paranormal with pirates, which is what I did in this book.

For those who are unfamiliar with your series; GHOST HUNTERS, how would you introduce it?
Ghost Hunters is a bit like going on Disney’s Haunted Mansion ride. It’s spooky, but fun. There are sad moments, too, because I wanted to touch on real-life human issues and explore the growth of these kids as they find their way in a world full of ghosts. The series is a bit like Ghostbusters meeting Harry Potter (no wizards, of course, but there are fantasy elements to the books).

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I hope that both adults and kids will enjoy the scares, but will also enjoy the characters and stories. A few reviews have compared Ghost Hunters with Goosebumps, which is great and I totally get it. I mean, Goosebumps is a HUGE middle grade horror/paranormal brand. But, there is more character development in my books that in Stein’s series (at least I hope). I want readers not just to get a “scare”, but to feel for the characters, and to come away from the books with a sense of connectedness to the characters’ personal growth and the human challenges they face.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters?
I don’t think there’s a single most surprising thing, but I always find it interesting when I have plans for a character (based on plot), but they have other ideas. . . and the story has to move forward differently because it’s a choice the character (not the author) would or wouldn’t make. I won’t force a character into something because of plot. The two have to go hand-in-hand, which can be challenging sometimes!

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I’ve always thought it would be fun if Alex from Ghost Hunters could meet Anthony Lockwood from Lockwood & Co. The alternate worlds they live in are different, but both characters are kids dealing with ghosts in different countries. The conversations they could have!

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
Being a mom. LOL. When my son, age 12, is home from school it’s very difficult to get my work done because there are always questions, problems, or things to do. Now that he’s a bit older, I strive to hit 1,000 words a day when he’s home.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
I think everyone should visit a foreign country, and, if possible, live in a foreign country. I lived in the United Kingdom for over two years and loved it. It was a transformational period in my life. I don’t get back there as often as I’d like, but I do go back and see friends when I’m there. If I could go every year, I would!

Best date you've ever had?
I think the best date I’ve ever had was the first date with my husband. We met for dinner at a waterfront restaurant. The conversation was easy and we both “knew” we’d met the right one.

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go?
I’d probably go and talk to myself at age 20 when I first moved to Los Angeles and give myself some career and personal guidance. If I couldn’t actually talk to myself, but just went back in time – it’d definitely be while I was at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and living in London.

What is one unique thing are you afraid of?
I think I’m most afraid of loss (especially the idea of losing my son), which is probably why loss/death is something I tackle in some of my books.

What was the best memory you ever had as a writer?
I don’t have a single best memory (yet), but I love it when kids have read my book and come up to me at author events or if I’m doing a school visit and are excited about meeting me because they loved my book(s).

First Heartbreak?
My first heartbreak. . . wow. Well, I was in first grade. I “married” this boy named Brian Raines on the playground. The sixth grade class put together an outdoor wedding with a little plastic ring and everything. LOL. Brian and I would spend most weekends together. I mean, obviously we were kids and it was just hanging out having fun, but we had a special bond. Then, in the middle of the school year—without warning—he and his family just disappeared. I believe his father got into some sort of business trouble and they literally moved without a trace overnight. I never saw or heard from him again. Here I am decades later, and I still wonder what happened to Brian.

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?
True love. I’ve had a few broken hearts. One was an especially bad heart break, but I recovered. I think every time we open ourselves up to love, we open ourselves up to loss. The loss part isn’t fun, but it’s all part of the intricate emotional ebb and flow of being human.

  • 1. I drew upon my experiences during Hurricane Harvey for the scene where Alex goes out into the hurricane.
  • 2. The character, Jason, is named after one of my oldest, dearest friend’s brother, Jason Grant. I met Jason when he was two-years-old and I was five. Sadly, Jason was killed at 19. I wanted to honor his memory and his family by naming one of my main characters after him. (Like the character in the book, the real Jason was also of Jamaican descent).
  • 3. The real-life Lafitte Blacksmith Shop Bar is a main location in Pirates’ Curse.
  • 4. I did a lot of research on Jean Lafitte and his time in New Orleans for the book.
  • 5. The cats in the book are named after my cats. ;-)
  • 6. The main character, Alex, is named after my son.
  • 7. The idea for the hidden treasure in the book and where it’s found (not going to give a spoiler!) came from real treasure that was found in my 6th grade school in Galveston, Texas! A portion of the building was damaged, and hidden treasure was found.
  • 8. My family and I visited New Orleans near Halloween so I could incorporate elements of the city and that season into Pirates’ Curse.
  • 9. I printed a map of the French Quarter and, using Googlemaps, plotted the walking distance and time from each character’s place of residence and/or business to the other. (I want to make sure the details are accurate!)
  • 10. I used my knowledge as a Dive Master and Scuba Instructor to give Alex and his friend, Jason, the search patterns they use when looking for treasure. (They don’t search for it underwater, but the same search patterns work just fine on land, too!)
Writing Behind the Scenes
I’ve finally gotten to a point in my writing life where I write 1,000-1,500 words per day (during the week). Sometimes I write more, but if there’s a school holiday, I might not hit the goal. Thankfully, I usually get it done. I write in my office as much as I can because I’m surrounded by books and art that I love; however, my cats can open doors. So, there’s no escape. LOL. They all break into my office and surround me (we have three rescue cats). That’s usually okay, but can be somewhat distracting. I also sometimes sit in the living room and write. Before COVID, I liked to write at the cafĂ© at my gym and/or at local coffee shops. I may get back to that eventually.

When beginning a new project, I start with an outline based on The Writer’s Journey. (I particularly like Christopher Vogler’s book and diagram, which is what I’ve brought into my fiction from screenwriting.) I then make notes on character arcs. I make a rough outline on how I want the characters to grow and change through the book, and then work to marry those character changes with the plot. For Ghost Hunters, I’ve created a story bible of sorts. I have an electronic file, but I also have a binder where I keep details for each book, along with research I’ve done, maps, notes, inspirational images, etc. So, for example, if I forget when an apprentice psychic is supposed to get a certain tattoo, I open my binder and find the information quickly.

I draw ideas for my writing from life-experience and images. I select settings based on places I find interesting and that I know something about. And I love weaving history into my fiction, which is why I have some alternate history going on in many of my books. Finally, even though I write fiction, I do a ton of research for each book. I like to get the details as accurate as possible. And, if I do fudge the facts for the sake of story, I want to know I’m doing it and, hopefully, do it in a fun and creative way.

In this ghostly and fast-paced adventure, twelve-year-old Alex must use his psychic gifts to speak with a pirate ghost to solve the curse of an old pirate hangout—if he fails, his best friends could be trapped there forever.

Ghosts are commonplace in this dark and exciting world, and the psychics who deal with "The Problem" are rare. Apprentice Psychic Investigator Alex and his two friends take on their first solo case to discover who’s haunting an old New Orleans pub. They battle ferocious winds, driving rain, and raging spirits to put the pirates’ curse to rest.

Ghost Hunters: Pirates’ Curse (Book 2 in the Ghost Hunters series) is filled with rich characters, spooky moments, and action-packed fun.
You can purchase Pirates' Curse at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you SUSAN MCCAULEY for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Pirates' Curse (Ghost Hunters #2) by Susan McCauley.


  1. My greatest adventure was going to live in Calif. when I was 19.

  2. My greatest adventure was a trip to Norway, the land of my ancestors.