Susan Carol KentA bookworm since childhood, author Susan Carol Kent (formerly Susan Snead) has a passion for books and writing which has finally led her to publish her first novel, a mystery set in the charming fictional river town of Potoma, Va., inspired by Colonial Beach, Va.

“I have written poetry and stories since I first learned to form sentences,” she said. Her debut novel, “Bad Neighbors,” highlights a sinister plot with unexpected twists and turns to keep the reader guessing as to who murdered a popular teenager in town. Her two protagonists, officers Katie Bell and Anna Madrid, are ideal for an ongoing series. Though Kent is pursuing other ideas, she hasn’t ruled out a series if the book takes off.

Kent said she begins her writing process with an idea, but has no set vision or outline to follow to the end. The story and the characters take wing and fly and she follows. Authors like Kent are known as “pansters,” a term used to describe writers who write stories by the seat of their pants.

Kent likes to use places she has been to or lived and use them in her stories. A historian, she is currently working on a different novel set at Maymont in Richmond. She focuses on the Dooley family, the prominent family who owned Maymont and functioned as the movers and shakers of their day during the latter part of the 19th and early 20th century.

“Nothing is known about the Dooleys, except he was a prominent lawyer who had many ties to the community, but Mrs. Dooley before her death in 1923 destroyed all letters, mementos and any personal items,” she said. “No one knows why and as a result no one knows anything personally about the family.”

That’s why the characters in her new book, a Victorian Nick and Nora Charles-type couple, are loosely based on the Dooleys. It is clear that Kent is mesmerized by Maymont and its history. She gave no details on the plot at this time.

“Choosing to write under the last name ‘Kent’ was a very conscious decision to honor the two people who were my earliest fans: my mother, who goes by her middle name “Kent,” and my maternal grandmother, Bessie Kent Haight,” she said. “I truly believe that my love of literature, my creative nature, and interest in mystery and suspense came directly from my mama and grandmother.”

Growing up on a farm of several hundred acres in Kents Store, her mind flourished with ideas for early stories and writing. Kent described Kents Store as a small bustling town at one time. The only thing left of the original stores was the mercantile before it was demolished.

In her early 20s and a young mother, she wrote her first historical novel, a mystery involving the Underground Railroad, called “Summers.”

“Back in the late 80s you would submit your manuscript directly to the publishing houses where they could languish on slush piles for six months to a year or more before someone got around to reading them,” Kent explained. “I got lots of rejections. They were mostly very nice rejections, like ‘Very well-written but not what we are looking for right now,’ or “Great plot and character development but the format would need to be reworked before we could consider it.’ After 20 or 30 of those I just pretty much gave up for a while.”

A few years later Kent said she edited the novel multiple times for publishing, but met with the same result. “Even with a literary agent for six months, as an unpublished writer, I couldn’t get my foot in the door,” she said.

Like so many authors, she put her aspirations of becoming a writer aside to pursue motherhood, advanced degrees, and a successful career in urban and rural planning. But she still harbored the thought of one day publishing a novel.

“I was very fortunate that my career involved a lot of research and report writing and so I was able to indulge in my passion for writing on a daily basis,” she said. “And because my analyses and reports became official records and are now archived, in a way, I achieved publication.” But that wasn’t enough.

Kent completed the first version of “Bad Neighbors” about four years ago and immediately began the process of trying to find a publisher.

“Nowadays, most major publishing companies won’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. You have to find a literary agent to shop your manuscript around and most won’t take a chance on an unpublished author,” Kent said. Once again, after experiencing numerous rejections, Kent considered self-publishing. “After following up on several resources, I was surprised to find out how many currently successful authors are indie (independent) writers.”

Kent said she doesn’t write for the royalties or fame. All her royalties are donated to various causes and charities, which she said gives her a sense of achievement and personal philanthropy. Kent said she decided to publish her novel under her own Wild Daffodil Press imprint rather than waste any more time with publishers and agents. 

Bad Neighbors” is available from Amazon in paperback and Kindle. For more information, interesting bits on “Bad Neighbors,” Kent’s blog and upcoming book signings, visit www.susancarolkent.com.