Susanne Matthews on Inspiration & The White Carnation - @jandsmatt #Suspense #Romance

The Story Behind the Story: What Prompted Me to Write The White Carnation

Every great novel starts with an idea, and that was certainly the case when I started The White Carnation, Book One of The Harvester Series. I’d been watching an episode of Law and Order SVU, one of my favorite shows, and that night Olivia was after a serial rapist who purposely impregnated his victims to create his own dynasty. Now, as most of you are aware, rape is generally a no-no for romance novels, even if they are suspense ones, so as much as I had a dozen different ideas for spinning that into a novel, I needed something else to make it palatable.

On the heels of that show, I came across an article on date rape—specifically on the so-called date rape drugs used in the commission of such a crime. I’d researched Rohypnol for Fire Angel, and I knew about Ketamine, the animal tranquilizer. After a little more exploration, I came across scopolamine, better known as the zombie drug. This drug comes from the borrachero tree found in South America, specifically in Columbia. Like many of the plants in the rain forest and its adjacent areas, the plant has medicinal purposes. It’s used to treat severe nausea. In the early twentieth century, it was given to women to ease the pangs of childbirth. They called it twilight sleep. In fact, some anesthetists use it in the cocktail they give patients undergoing surgery.
Among its properties is the fact that people under its effects behave normally to strangers. They don’t slur their words or have trouble standing or walking, but they do have an interesting propensity to tell the truth. It didn’t take the military long to decide to use it as a truth serum, but when given in large enough doses to be effective for that process, it has some fairly nasty side effects, including death.  

I was appalled to discover that this potentially dangerous drug has grown in use and not by the medical profession. I watched this documentary which really detailed how easy it was to get the drug and use it for nefarious purposes.

Unscrupulous people have been using it to commit crimes. Imagine a powder blown in the face of an unsuspecting person that eliminates their free will and makes them compliant. They’ll empty their own bank accounts, clean out their apartments, beat up others, submit to sexual assault, even commit rape, and/or murder. The kicker is they’ll have absolutely no memory of it afterward.

At first, I assumed this was just another of the many urban legends floating around the Internet, but the more I researched, the more I learned about what may well be the most insidious drug available on the streets today. That was the catalyst to being able to write the story.

So, essentially I had the beginnings of my story. A serial rapist, using scopolamine to render his victims compliant, but I went one step farther. After the women gave birth, my villain killed them, posed them like angels, and left them in public places where they’d be discovered.

Voila. Now you have the idea that allowed me to create a three book series.



The last person disgraced reporter Faye Lewis wants back in her life is Detective Rob Halliday, the man she blames for ruining her career and breaking her heart. But when she finds an old friend murdered, he’s the one she calls.

 For the past year, Rob and his team have been hunting the Harvester, a serial killer who ritualistically murders new mothers and vanishes with their infants. What Rob doesn’t need is another case, especially one involving his ex-fiancée.

 Then Faye is assaulted, and Rob realizes the cases are connected. She may hold the answers he needs to find the elusive killer. But the more they investigate, the more complex the situation becomes. Can they set the past aside and work together, or will the Harvester and his followers reap another prize?



Twenty minutes later, the unmarked police sedan pulled up behind the black and white outside the brownstone. The paramedics were parked farther along the street, just ahead of the police car, reducing traffic to a single lane. The coroner’s van pulled up behind them. Rob got out and approached the coroner.

“Amos, I didn’t expect to see you here so soon. I called for a bus, not the meat wagon.”

“Paramedics were nearby so Logan got here quickly. He radioed in—exsanguination due to a lacerated throat. He’s still up there. Nothing he can do for the victim, but your fiancée is taking it hard.”

“The victim was like a second mother to her.”

Your fiancée—Amos’s words were true once, but never again. There was no way Rob would hitch his wagon to a woman who could believe he’d betray her like that, a woman who’d put her job so far ahead of him, he’d barely been on her radar at times. The sex had been great, but love was supposed to be more than that. Still, she’d reached out to him. He took the stairs to the brownstone two at a time, his lean, muscular body having no problem with the climb. He flashed his badge at the officer who stood guarding the door. “Anyone showing any interest?”

“No, Detective. According to the concierge, the people in number five are in Europe, and I don’t think the rest of the residents are home from work yet. Looks like a robbery—the place has been tossed pretty good—and there’s no damage to the door, so she must have let them in. Logan says her throat’s been slit from behind.”

“Where’s Ms. Lewis?”

“In the living room with Logan. He wanted to take her to the ER—claims she’s in shock. I told him she had to stay put until you arrived. He’s pissed at me. Says I’m interfering with his job. He seems pretty friendly with her. I heard she’s some big shot investigative reporter.” He chuckled. “Some crime reporter—she’s puked a couple of times already.” He continued to laugh. Rob’s face must have reflected the anger moving to the surface because the guard choked it off.

“Rick Logan is one of the best paramedics we have. For the record, McMillan,” Rob read the nameplate on the policeman’s uniform, “the next time he says someone has to go the ER, you’d better damn well listen to him. And as for Ms. Lewis, the victim was a personal friend. It’s different when the victim’s someone you know.” His voice was clipped, his displeasure obvious.

Rob turned and entered the apartment. He’d learned the need to remain objective in order to do the job properly, but as he’d told the young officer, it was different when it was personal. Not only had the victim been an acquaintance, Faye was in there. He swallowed and tried to find the emotional distance he needed.

The place was a mess, just as the officer had said. He looked around quickly, his trained eye taking in everything in an instant—the wallet on the table, money on the floor mixed with the victim’s blood, the take-out bag, Faye’s purse and its scattered contents. Whatever this had been, it hadn’t been a routine robbery. Someone had been looking for something other than the usual snatch and grab items, so what were they after? What could Mrs. Green have that was worth dying for?

He found Faye sitting on the living-room sofa with Logan. Her face was red and blotchy, her blue-green eyes mascara-rimmed from her tears, and her clothing disheveled and covered in blood. She stood and moved forward, stopping before she reached him. Wrapping her arms around herself, she looked young and vulnerable, not a bit like the bitter, angry woman she’d been the last time he’d seen her.

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About the author:

Susanne Matthews was born and raised in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada. She’s always been an avid reader of all types of books, but always with a penchant for happily ever after romances. In her imagination, she travelled to foreign lands, past and present, and soared into the future. A retired educator, Susanne spends her time writing and creating adventures for her readers. She loves the ins and outs of romance, and the complex journey it takes to get from the first word to the last period of a novel. As she writes, her characters take on a life of their own, and she shares their fears and agonies on the road to self-discovery and love.

Follow Susanne on her:  Website    Blog    Facebook page    Twitter @jandsmatt

Amazon author page    and    Goodreads author page 
2 Responses
  1. Thanks so much for having me, Bethany. Always a pleasure to visit here.

  2. Thanks so much for having me, Bethany. Always a pleasure to visit here.

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