top of page
  • N. N. Light

Character Interview | Meet Holly Schlivnik from Death by Cutting Table by Susie Black #cozymystery

Hello. Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Holly Schlivnik, President of the junior and private label divisions of Mermaid Swimwear. I work in the California Apparel Mart in the heart of the Los Angeles garment center. I live on a houseboat in Marina del Rey with my standard French Poodle/psychiatrist Sigmund Freud and tool around town in a bubblegum pink vintage ’65 convertible. I’m petite, on the shady side of my twenties, and to my mother’s dismay, unattached.

What is your greatest fear?

HOLLY: Death. Let me just say genetics aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. If you’re lucky you inherit your Aunt Bertha’s sexy long legs or your father’s ability to add a bazillion dollar order in his head and get the total correct to the last penny. Without even breaking into a sweat, it’s easy to spout at least a million fabulous traits inheritable by the luck of the draw. Did I get those sexy long legs or the ability to add more than two plus two without a calculator? Noooooooooo. Lucky me. I inherited my nana’s fear of death we overcompensated for with the nervous habit of laughing. A hysterical reaction? Think Bozo the clown eulogizing your favorite aunt.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

HOLLY: I am probably the most impatient person on the entire planet. It drives me over the edge when there is a project to complete, and I’m ready, raring to go, but some of the yahoos I need to get with the program and finish the job are lollygagging around like we’ve got all the time in the world.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

HOLLY: Dishonesty. I have no use for some jerk who insults my intelligence by lying through their teeth and thinking for a nanosecond I am as dumb as a box of rocks and can’t see through their BS.

Which living person do you most admire?

HOLLY: Angela Merkel.

What is your greatest extravagance?

HOLLY: My stamp collection. I’ve been a collector since I was a pre-teen. With stamps as my travel ticket, this fascinating hobby took me everywhere and anywhere, through every period of history while never leaving my living room.

What is your current state of mind?

HOLLY: A constant state of confusion. Every time I think I have the answer, some wise-ass changes the question.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

HOLLY: Righteousness. Nothing turns me off more than some blowhard constantly coming off as a self-righteous, gloating know-it-all who you just want to throttle within an inch of their lives because they have never uttered these three words in their entire life: I. Don’t. Know.

On what occasion do you lie?

HOLLY: Only to prevent hurting someone unnecessarily.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?

HOLLY: I seriously got shortchanged in the height department…I stand only four feet nine inches tall in my stocking feet. Believe me, I’ve heard all the cute comments like, “dolls don’t grow!” at least a thousand times and they piss me off bigly. Pleaaaase, give me a friggin break. Rest assured, whatever I need at the grocery store is guaranteed to be on the top shelf. And unless I brought a pogo stick or a pole vault with me, I’ve gotta find some smartass-tall guy to reach for the item and endure the inevitable annoying comment Paul Bunyan finds hilarious. .Don’t think that’s so bad? How about this? YOU try sitting on a five-hour long cross-country flight not having your feet touch the floor and an hour into the trip they go numb from the knees down and then come talk to me.

Which living person do you most despise?

HOLLY: Is this a trick question? No? So, you really have to ask? Who else but DONALD FREAKIN’ TRAITOR TRUMP?

What is the quality you most like in a man?

HOLLY: A wicked sense of humor…and of course, it goes without saying…he’s gotta have one helluva great tush.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

HOLLY: Compassion.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

HOLLY: Yikes. Holy Guacamole. Cripes. Merde.

Which talent would you most like to have?

HOLLY: I would like to have an accent and be able to roll my R’s when I speak Spanish. While I speak high-level Spanish, I have NO accent and sound like I am Muriel from Michigan who went on a Mexican vacation and is trying to fit in with the natives. No matter how correctly I speak, you might as well just tattoo TURISTA across my forehead.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

HOLLY: Taking a sledge hammer to every glass ceiling and smashing them all to smithereens.

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

HOLLY: No question about it…a standard French Poodle. Trust me, NO ONE is more pampered, spoiled, or adored than my standard French Poodle Sigmund Freud Schlivnik.

What is your most treasured possession?

HOLLY: A collection of letters that my beloved, late nana wrote to me. Nana was a prolific letter writer whose missives were more like a news bulletin than a post. I read those letters and can hear her voice in my head talking to me.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

HOLLY: Regret. It is without a doubt the worst human emotion because it is the one we can usually do nothing about.

What is your favorite occupation?

HOLLY: A stand-up comedienne. I can think of nothing more gratifying than giving people the gift of laughter.

What is your most marked characteristic?

HOLLY: Irreverence.

What do you most value in your friends?

HOLLY: Respect, loyalty, and most of all, honesty…no matter what, tell me what you really think, not what you think I want to hear.

Who are your favorite writers?

HOLLY: I am a voracious reader and have quite a few. So, here’s a real shocker… I gravitate towards the snarky, sarcastic, irreverent, and zany ones-the zanier the better. Here are my all-time favorites:

Females: Joan Hess, Carolyn Haines, Anne George, Janet Evanovich, Elaine Viets, Lisa Scottoline, Sara Paretsky, Mary Daheim, Ann B. Ross, Nancy J. Cohen, Lisa Lutz, Gemma Halliday, Diane Vallere, Dixie Cash, Casey Daniels, Deborah Koonts, Peggy Webb, Laura Levine, and Ellen Byerrum.

Males: Donald E. Westlake, Carl Hiaasen, Tim Dorsey, Dave Barry, S.V. Date, Lawrence Shames, Parnell Hall, Harlen Coben, Lawrence Block, Lee Goldberg, John Grisham, Elmore Leonard, Tim Cockey, and Bill Fitzhugh.

Who is your hero of fiction?

HOLLY: Patricia Anne-“Mouse” and Mary Alice-“Sister”- The two sibling protagonists in Anne George’s Southern Sisters Mystery Series. Why? Because by contrast these goofy zanies make my bumbling and stumbling through investigations look more like Miss Marple and a lot less like Inspector Clousseau.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

HOLLY: Anne Frank

Who are your heroes in real life?

HOLLY: Personal heroes: My dad Mike Schlivnik and my late nana Rae Hart Eiger.

Historical heroes: Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt.

What is it that you most dislike?

HOLLY: Cruelty of any kind. And oh, yeah…NEVER serve me liver…never. Just a warning-proceed at your own peril…but understand-it won’t be pretty.

What is your greatest regret?

HOLLY: In college I won countless awards as an investigative reporter on the school newspaper staff. I was the first female Editor-in-Chief of my university newspaper and have a degree in journalism. I dreamt of a journalism career, but life had other plans. Don’t get me wrong-I love what I do and am pretty darned successful-yet there are moments when I’m alone with my thoughts and can’t help but wonder...what if?

How would you like to die?

HOLLY: In my sleep at the end of a beautiful day where I enjoyed great food, great friends, and a day filled with love and laughter.

What is your motto?

HOLLY: When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Thank you, Holly, for the wonderfully entertaining interview. Readers, scroll down to read all about Holly’s latest adventure and cozy mystery.

Title: Death by Cutting Table

Author: Susie Black

Genre: Humorous Cozy Mystery

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

Book Blurb:

There wasn’t an honest bone in Mermaid Swimwear CEO Butch Oldham’s body. He was an equal opportunity scoundrel who screwed anyone and everyone in his wake. So, the question wasn’t who wanted the bastard dead. The question was, who didn’t? After Mermaid Swimwear sales exec Holly Schlivnik finds colleague Queenie Levine standing over Oldham’s bloody corpse nailed to a fabric cutting table with a big honkin’ pair of cutting shears plunged deep into his chest, the cops soon find Queenie’s hidden blood-soaked sweater, discover her stormy relationship with the victim, and her public threats to make Butch pay for destroying Mermaid by stealing it blind. When Queenie is arrested for Butch’s murder, the wise-cracking, irreverent amateur sleuth jumps into action to flesh out the real killer. But the trail has more twists and turns than a slinky, and nothing turns out the way Holly thinks it will as she tangles with a clever killer hellbent for revenge.


Siggie’s frantic, loud barking woke me with a start in the pitch dark. If this kept up any longer, he’d wake the whole dock. Or was I just dreaming? A glance into Siggie’s empty basket across from my bed answered the question. My heart jackhammered in my chest with the strength of a piledriver.

I flipped the light switch next to the bed but it just made a clicking sound. The face of the clock radio was dark. My watch said one AM. I shook my head to clear the cobwebs. Siggie never did anything this crazy before. Why would a power outage send him over the edge? Must be something more to it. I pulled the baseball bat out from under the bed. With only a sliver of moonlight as a beacon, I felt my way like a blind guy past the main salon. I pulled a flashlight from the tool drawer in the galley. A quick check of the doors and portholes said security wasn’t breached. Thank heavens. So why was my dog going nuts? Siggie’s ears lay flaps back plastered to the sides of his head. His fur stood on end as though he’d stuck a paw in a light socket. He stood rigidly at full attention and barked his head off in front of the forward door. I pulled him by the collar and shushed him from barking to a low growl in the back of his throat.

I cracked open the forward door and stuck my head out. I scoped a one-eighty around the dock. The street lights were on, as well as the lights at the top of the gangplank. A half-dozen apartments were also lit. A single light shined inside a cabin cruiser two boats from mine. My boat seemed to be the only thing in the marina with no power.

This isn’t the first time I’d been the only one with no power. When I first bought the boat, I learned the hard way don’t let the coffee maker, microwave oven, and television run at the same time or the circuits overload. But in the middle of the night with no appliances running or an electrical storm to cause a power outage? The blood froze in my veins. The answer isn’t inside the boat. I hoisted myself over the forward deck onto the dock with my heart in my throat.

A faint hint of smoke wafted from the breaker box and power outlet as I reached the end of the dock. I yanked the damaged plug out of the outlet and threw it in the water. I blasted the dock power outlet and breaker box with the fire extinguisher and pulled the other end of the power cord out of my boat power outlet. Eight minutes after my nine-one-one call, the cavalry arrived in force and all hell broke loose.


The psychedelic light shows of the emergency vehicles flashing strobe bubbles created an eerie specter as they bounced off the walls of the apartment buildings across from the marina. While the firemen examined the breaker box, two LA County Deputy Sheriffs kept my dock neighbors at a distance from my houseboat now swathed with yellow crime scene tape.

After the Deputy Sheriffs arrived, Antonio, the security guard, called the Dockmaster to bring her up to speed. Twenty minutes later, Dock Mistress Audrey Camarillo showed up at my slip to consult with me and the first responders.

A fireman squatted in front of the breaker box and electric outlet. “See this?” Siggie sidled over next to the fireman and the nosy parker hound rested his head on the guy’s shoulder for a closer look. The fireman laughed and gave my curious canine a howdy-do scratch behind the ears.

The fireman pointed to the marine power cable connected from the outlet to my boat. The interior guts of the marine cable are covered by a protective rubber encasement. The cable was slit open, exposing the wiring inside mid-cable to the prongs of the tampered plug. Several strips of aluminum foil anchored in place by a fistful of pennies laid on the dock adjacent to the breaker box.

The fireman said, “Whoever did this is no amateur. They knew exactly what they were doing. If they hadn’t been interrupted, they would’ve jammed the pennies in the breakers and wrapped the breakers with the aluminum foil. The breaker would’ve blown and ignited a fire. With the rubber-coated power cable serving as a connector, the fiberglass boat would’ve burned to a crisp in a matter of minutes.” He stroked his gloved hand across Siggie’s head. “It’s a darned good thing Ms. Schlivnik’s dog scared them off.” He turned a one-eighty around the basin. “With all the gasoline-powered motors, they came within a hair of blowing up the dock and burning this entire basin to ashes.” The fireman shoved his helmet to the crown of his head and whistled through a gap in his front teeth. “Somebody wanted Ms. Schlivnik dead. They came mighty close to succeeding.”

The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department detective turned to me and asked, “Any idea who is responsible?”

I motioned to the gate above the gangplank. “That’s a security gate. You need a key to get into the basins. Every tenant has a key to the gate and their key works on every gate in the marina. I’m not saying boaters don’t let outsiders in, because we all do. But this time of night, I doubt if a boater is still out, and if someone was, they certainly wouldn’t let a stranger in.”

Audrey shrank back in horror. “You’re saying one of our tenants is responsible?”

I nodded. “Yeah, and I’ve got a pretty good idea which one. She was aboard her boat last night.”

Buy Links:

Author Biography:

Named Best US Author of the Year by N. N. Lights Book Heaven, award-winning cozy mystery author Susie Black was born in the Big Apple but now calls sunny Southern California home. Like the protagonist in her Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, Susie is a successful apparel sales executive. Susie began telling stories as soon as she learned to talk. Now she’s telling all the stories from her garment industry experiences in humorous mysteries.

She reads, writes, and speaks Spanish, albeit with an accent that sounds like Mildred from Michigan went on a Mexican vacation and is trying to fit in with the locals. Since life without pizza and ice cream as her core food groups wouldn’t be worth living, she’s a dedicated walker to keep her girlish figure. A voracious reader, she’s also an avid stamp collector. Susie lives with a highly intelligent man and has one incredibly brainy but smart-aleck adult son who inexplicably blames his sarcasm on an inherited genetic defect.

Looking for more? Contact Susie at:

Social Media Links:

1 Comment

N. N. Light
N. N. Light
Aug 11, 2023

Thank you, Holly and Susie, for the delightful interview. It was fabulous and I had such a great time.

bottom of page