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Be normal, invisible. Don’t get close to anyone. Kids with psychic abilities tend to mysteriously disappear when they get noticed. Joss has spent years trying to hide. Now she has an unasked-for best friend, who is the victim of an extortion plot by the school bully, who used to like Joss, who is best friends with her long-time crush, who is actually talking to her. Life just got more complicated.
The first thing that attracted me to this book was the gorgeous cover. The description was interesting enough so I snapped it up and started reading. I didn’t put it down again until I was done. Hush Money tells the story of people with “Talents” (also called Talents themselves), super-hero like abilities, in a world where the government strictly controls such Talents to the extent of making children with them vanish. The plot revolves around Joss (who, as you can probably guess, is a Talent) and others at her high school. It combines super-hero action with an intriguing story of high school bullying and blackmail as Talents try to keep themselves hidden from the system.
Susan Bischoff’s writing style is what makes these books. While reading I couldn’t help but compare the story to “I am Number Four”. It also has a character trying to hide his identity and abilities, and much of the conflict in it (until the final alien battle), is based around high school bullying. While in my opinion “I am Number Four” fails in all ways to create any tension in the bullying conflict, or believable motives from the characters-in-hiding, “Hush Money” keeps the reader on edge with a truly malevolent antagonist who is believable creepy and bad. Joss is a fantastic heroine, stepping up to match the villian of the story. She’s caring, clever and resourceful. And of course she also has a kick-ass talent. Throw in Dylan – a very appealing love interest for Joss who is caught between his feelings for her and questioning his loyalty to his best friend, who is doing some very bad things – and the plot sizzles.
I’ve always loved super hero stories, and Hush Money takes elements of titles like “X-Men” (or maybe, “Generation X” for those who remember that comic), and puts powerful “outsider” characters in a realistic high school environment. The writing is clever and had me chuckling a few times, and honestly worried for the characters at others. Another thing I loved about Hush Money is that while it did leave some questions unanswered and set up for the next book, it still felt finished. There seems to be a trend in series books these days where books end on cliff hangers or flow onto the next without real resolution, so I appreciate when a story comes to a satisfying end. This has probably been my favourite book of 2011 so far, and I’m excited to say it’s sequel has just been released!
An Interview with Susan
Do you have any personal rules about what Talents can exist in the Hush Money world and which can’t (eg, physics, biology, logic based rules?)
I know the hows and whys behind the Talents’ existence, and that does create some limitations. I don’t want anything to feel too magical or too “other.” I think of Talents as things that are inside all of us. In the people who have or are Talents, those things are magnified. And just the way everyone we know has different gifts and different things they’re good at, that magnification brings out different things amongst the Talents.
If you could have any Talent, what would you choose?
I really enjoy Joss’s telekinesis, and all the possibilities of it. But then, I enjoy developing all of them. One thing that I want to explore in the series is that it doesn’t so much matter what your Talent is, it’s that you embrace that and make awesome with it.
I love how we switch back and forth between Joss and Dylan’s points of view. How did you decide what scenes would be told from which character?
When I’m not sure whose head I should be in, I try to think about which character has the most to learn or will be most affected by what’s going to happen in the scene. Which point of view will be most interesting for reader?
Marco is so much more than just a bully. He’s dangerous to the point of terrifying. Was it fun writing such a nasty character, or hard?
I’m not much for conflict, personally. I get that it’s the stuff of fiction, so I have to push past my natural inclination to shy away. At times it was hard for me to be that bad, but sometimes it was just way too easy. My own repressed evil nature coming to the fore? I don’t know.
What do you love about being an indie author?
I’ve just recently had a lot of feelings about this clarified for me, and I talk about it a lot in this post: http://susan-bischoff.com/2011/08/29/on-choosing-indie-again-an-epic-journey/. But off the top of my head I’d say top things are the complete freedom to make any decision at any time, and the feeling of support and sharing in the indie community.
What is the oddest thing you’ve found yourself researching for your books?
I don’t know that it qualifies as odd, but what comes to mind is that, for Heroes ’Til Curfew, I had to try to understand a disintegration Talent. The person I asked gave me all kinds of scientific-based options for what kind of disintegration I was talking about. Molecular sub-particle blah blah bl—And then my brain disintegrated.
Quick Five Questions-
1. Which would you pick- fame, money, happiness, or easy inspiration? Happiness
2. Plotter or Pantser? Plotter
3. Word count of your last book? 107,000
4. How many drafts from first to final? Three (Very. Slow. Ones)
5. Author stereotypes- Cat owner? Yes Coffee Addict? No Messy handwriting? Yes Recluse? Yes Late night writer? No Spelling/grammar nazi? Yes
I’ve been dying for the sequel to Hush Money, and excited to see that it’s just been released! Here are some details about the new book from Susan-
(Another sexy cover!)
Heroes ’Til Curfew is out! As I’m writing this it’s available for Kindle and the NOOK edition is processing. I’ve had a SNAFU with the paperback version and I think that’s going to be held up for a week or two yet, but it is in the works. (Check for availability updates at http://susan-bischoff.com/talent-chronicles/2-heroes-til-curfew/.)
The second novel of the Talent Chronicles picks up not quite six weeks after the end of Hush Money. Joss and Dylan still haven’t defined their relationship and it’s making them both nervous around each other. Marco’s got a real score to settle against both of them now, and he’s also got ambitions that neither Joss nor Dylan has even guessed yet. He’s maturing as a villain in the sense that he’s done playing around with kid stuff. And that’s just dangerous. Dylan’s protective instincts where Joss is concerned keep putting him in harm’s way, and the difference in their physical strength causes some friction in their relationship.
There are things revealed in the book that I think will please fans of Hush Money. More facts about Marco’s motives, a somewhat broader view of the world beyond the town of Fairview, a deeper look at Dylan and where he comes from, and the identity of the undercover government agent lurking in their midst. There are also some big changes for Joss; some real challenges for her and for Dylan. There’s also a fair amount of kissing.
Readers can find more information about Susan Bischoff and her books online at-
My website: http://susan-bischoff.com
Facebook page: http://facebook.com/SusanBischoffAuthor
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