Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Interrogation Room #29: Susanne Winnacker, Author of IMPOSTER

Okay, sleuths, line up behind that one-way mirror! We’ve finally tracked down IMPOSTER author Susanne Winnacker and hauled her in for questioning in the Interrogation Room. Here’s what our sources have revealed about the suspect so far:

Susanne Winnacker studied law before she became a full-time writer. She lives with her husband, a dog and three bunnies in Germany. She loves coffee (in every shape and form), traveling and animals. When she isn't writing, you can usually find her in the kitchen, experimenting with new vegan dishes. 

Susanne’s new book, IMPOSTER, will be released this May 28th. Here are the only details she’s thus far consented to give up about her book:

Can Tessa pose as Madison . . . and stop a killer before it’s too late? 

Tessa is a Variant, able to absorb the DNA of anyone she touches and mimic their appearance. Shunned by her family, she’s spent the last two years training with the Forces with Extraordinary Abilities, a secret branch of the FBI. When a serial killer rocks a small town in Oregon, Tessa is given a mission: she must impersonate Madison, a local teen, to find the killer before he strikes again. 

Tessa hates everything about being an impostor—the stress, the danger, the deceit—but loves playing the role of a normal girl. As Madison, she finds friends, romance, and the kind of loving family she’d do anything to keep. Amid action, suspense, and a ticking clock, this super-human comes to a very human conclusion: even a girl who can look like anyone struggles the most with being herself.

Hmm, sounds intriguing… Let’s see what else Susanne has to say for herself!

Tessa faces a unique situation in that she spends most of the novel impersonating someone else. Was it challenging to continue to develop Tessa as an autonomous, complex, and sympathetic protagonist while still allowing her to believably impersonate Madison?

It wasn’t as difficult as it might seem. Tessa’s internal thoughts gave me plenty of room to show the reader her personality. There are also several scenes in the book where Tessa interacts with fellow agent Alec. In those few moments she can be herself inside and outside too.

On your website, you describe IMPOSTOR as "X-men meets the Zodiac Killer" (which seems wholly appropriate). Did you find it challenging to avoid plot holes or inconsistencies associated with the characters' Variations? Was it hard to find ways to keep things difficult for your characters?

It wasn’t very difficult to remember which character had which Variation. Somehow it was part of them in my mind. Of course there was the matter of potentially making it too easy for characters because of their Variations, but Tessa is facing so many struggles that can’t be solved by any kind of Variation that I never had to figure out a way to make it more difficult for her. I actually love “torturing” my characters so it was fun to figure out a plot that made Tessa’s life (and the lives of the other agents) hell.

If you could have any Variation, which would you choose and why? Which would you be least pleased to have?

My favorite Variation to have would be some kind of healing Variation. That would allow me to help others, and especially the people I love. Least favorite: That’s a tough one. Sometimes I think mind reading. On the one hand it could be fun to find out what other people think of you, but on the other hand it could turn life into a very lonely place. If you always know what people really think of you, it’ll make relationships much harder.

Can you tell us a little about the process of developing Tessa's character, and where, if anywhere, you drew your inspiration from?

Tessa’s identity struggles are a result of her unhappy upbringing. She’s longing for a loving family. That is something each of us can relate to, I guess. I was raised by a single mom and only met my father for the first time when I was eleven. I always longed for a good relationship to my father, so I guess a part of Tessa’s feelings have been inspired by my own. As for Tessa’s confusion about who she wants to be; that’s probably something many of us experience as a teen while we try to figure out what we want to do in the future and what kind of person we want to be.

I really had no clue who the killer was until the bitter end! How were you able to maintain so many suspects without prematurely giving away the real culprit or making an innocent person sound too suspicious?

I think that is the absolutely hardest thing about writing a mystery/thriller. I have to admit that it was also the part I had to tweak quite a bit in revisions. As for adding clues throughout the book: I think people are always looking for suspicious behavior in others when bad things happen. Even small things that wouldn’t have drawn our attention suddenly seem threatening or suspicious. So I didn’t have to add “big clues”. Sometimes the small details have the same effect.

Looks like you have us set up for some sequels (at least I hope so)! Can you reveal anything about Tessa's future missions?

There will be at least one sequel. I can’t say much about what happens to Tessa in book 2, except that it has something to do with the revelation at the end of book 1.

What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of writing mystery/thriller for a YA audience?

As I mentioned above: keeping the killer a secret until the very end. I think the only difference between a YA and an adult audience is that teens prefer fast-paced books, so I was always looking for a way to keep the pace up without it reading rushed.

You live in Germany! Do you think there is any German influence in your storytelling? Your last novel, THE OTHER LIFE, was published in German -- did you have any part in the translation?

It’s hard for me to determine if my writing style shows that I have German influences. But since I love cooking, I’m always trying to include some kind of German food in my books! I didn’t translate The Other Life, but I was allowed to read it after the translator was done and to make corrections.

What writing secret will you reveal only under the harsh light of this interrogation room?

I can’t write first thing in the morning. I have to shower, walk the dog, drink coffee/match latte, and check emails and facebook/twitter/pinterest/goodreads first. I know all the social networking sites take too much time but I just can’t stop myself!

Thanks, Susanne, you’ve been very cooperative. Now that we have all the information we needed, you’re free to go. But we’ll be scouring IMPOSTER for further evidence on May 28th!

In the meantime, check out Susanne's blog, like her page on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter! Best of all: order her book!

Interview by Dani Forshay

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