State Police veteran and forensic scientist debuts second book
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Susan Connell Vondrak is a 24-year veteran in the forensic department of the Illinois State Police. She is also the author of No Evidence of a Crime (2010), a mystery novel surrounding the death of a congresswoman while detectives discover tampered evidence within the case.
In July, Vondrak released her second novel, The Evidence is Clear, a continuation of her first book about an alleged suicide of a previous character.
Vondrak said that during her years at U of I Urbana-Champaign and Springfield [respectively], she had always wanted to work in forensics; forensic science was the only job she applied for after college. Her passion for writing, however, occurred around 4 years ago.
When asked what compelled her to write her first book, Vondrak said, “it’s not that I wanted to be a writer; I was just sitting there thinking I have a story and I want to put it down on paper…I think that some people just have this desire to write.”
She said her career’s influence creates a realistic portrayal of detective work. “With the books that I write, you get the information as the detectives get it; they have the same information as you.”
Vondrak emphasized that her books reveal what it is like to be a forensics scientist, what details they look for, and what particulars are important at a crime scene and why.
She intended for her second novel to stand on its own. She said, however, “that proved a little more difficult, because you want to give some of the background. I hate it when some authors in their sequels just write a paragraph explaining everything.”
When asked why she wrote a sequel instead of a separate story with new characters, Vondrak explained that she had written her first book and began the second before she looked for a publisher. She said she wanted it to be a series because she is invested in her characters.
“I hadn’t planned to do more than the three books with these characters. But as you’re writing, these people–and this may sound strange–but it’s like you know them…they become real.”
As for character inspirations, she clarified, “none are based off me, but a lot of them are based off people that I know. The main character, Kathleen, is not based off of anyone I know because she has a personality that’s a little bit different; she struggles to make it in this world. But the other characters, to keep them in form, I did base them off people [from work].
She said her books are “not that gory, there’s not a lot of swearing involved, so younger readers could read it and get acquainted with forensics; I think my second book has a little more forensics than the first one.”
Vondrak is currently writing the third installment of the series. Her first novel No Evidence of a Crime, and her sequel, The Evidence is Clear, are available at www.oaktreebooks.com.