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Talking Crime and Weddings with Jesse Q. Sutanto

The author of the Aunties series discusses her love for rom-coms and murder. 

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Murder & Mayhem: When did you realize you wanted to write a crime/murdery book? Or did the idea come first before the murder?

Murder always comes first! *shifty eyes* Hah, I think it was a natural development after years spent reading R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, and Stephen King. I also feel like if you identify as a woman in this world, you’re probably going to harbor a lot of rage, so writing about murder is almost inevitable.

Why the decision to focus on the wedding industry for both books?

I love weddings! I was a wedding photographer in Oxford, England and I loved everything about weddings. Whenever I come across a rom-com that’s set around a wedding, I get this sense of excitement, like, “Heck yeah, bring it on!” So when I thought: Hmm, should I set this story at a wedding? I immediately got so excited about it.

Related: 19 Wedding Cozy Mysteries To Fall in Love With

How was it to write Four Aunties and a Wedding with a different series of twists from Dial A for Aunties?

Honestly, it was really challenging. I felt like I really had to be careful not to recycle the same old jokes but at the same time, I had to retain the charm from the first book. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be!

How do you see the series fitting into the crime/mystery genre? I’ve been using the phrase “meet kill” or “kill cute.”

I love that! I see the series as something like [television show] Jane the Virgin! Plenty of romance and comedy and kidnappings and murder.

Murder & Mayhem: In an interview with Read More Co, you said, “I read so many thrillers and I get really annoyed about the fact that most of the victims in these books are the female characters! In my books, I try to turn that trope on its head and have my victims be the men, and I find it so freeing in a sense.” Why do you think so many crime books feature women’s deaths or violence in general against women?

I don’t know the demographics of who reads mysteries but I feel that it’s got to be a larger percentage. Should we be more mindful of the types of crime/mysteries we read? I love reading crime/mysteries and I think people should read whatever they want to read, but yes, I do think it pays to be more aware of what we are taking in. I have two young daughters and I’m reading a lot of classic fairytales to them and I notice that from a very young age, we’re trained to see female characters as victims. Often, when I read these stories to my girls, I switch up the characters so that the damsel in distress becomes a prince in distress and the one saving him is a princess. I think it’s just so ingrained in many societies to see women as victims.

Related: 15 Must-Read Mysteries and Thrillers by Diverse Authors

How do your Aunties books compare with your writing? I know you have several books coming out this year, which is so cool! How do you feel about moving across genres/plots, etc.?

It’s been such a blessing that all my publishers have been so incredibly understanding with me hopping between genres. I have heard of publishers being more possessive, but all my publishers have been so supportive. I LOVE moving between genres because after I write a lighthearted rom-com, all I want to do is dive into my dark side and come up with a twisted suspense. It keeps me from getting bored! I realize that I am so so lucky to have such accommodating publishers.

What mystery writers inspire you?

Oh my gosh, I’m always screaming this from the top of my lungs whenever anyone asks for a book rec: GILLIAN FLYNN! She is a genius. Gone Girl is basically my bible. She is such a game-changer. She basically took a male-dominated genre and was like, “Let me show you what this genre can do” and it revolutionized the entire space. I am so grateful for authors like her. Other mystery writers I admire are Tana French, Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, and May Cobb.

Related: 9 Thriller Authors Like Gillian Flynn