An Interview with the Horrifically Wonderful Jette Harris

I’ve said it before but it deserves to be said again, I never thought I would be thankful for Twitter and being part of the Twitterverse, and yet I am. I’ve met some really wonderful people through Twitter…and my TBR list has never been longer. One of the best parts about Twitter is getting a chance to connect with authors as they get published and continue on their own writing journey. As long as people are willing to put in the time and effort to connect instead of sell, it’s a wonderful thing.

I’ve now been on Twitter for over a year (I can still hardly believe it), and I’ve met a variety of interesting people, many of which are fellow authors. I’ve had the pleasure of reading some, talking with many and even interviewing a few. I’ve chatted with and interviewed traditionally published Susan Crawford, as well as Jewel Leonard about her self-publishing experience.

Today, I’d like to introduce another wonderful Twitter-found author friend and share an interview I did with her about her own unique publishing journey. Without further ado, Jette Harris! (Please keep in mind that since we are discussing her books, some of the content discussed may be triggering to some people; her books come with a trigger warning)

Jette Harris.jpg

DM: So, your first book was Colossus, right?

JH: Well, my first published novel is Colossus. I wrote one other novel which was, I mean… I thought it was good, and then I thought it was bad, and now I’m realizing it’s unrevised. So, it could be good, I just haven’t touched it since 2006…so that’s sitting in a drawer….

DM: Is that kind of in the same genre or in a completely different genre?

JH: They’re…kind of the same genre…it involves a serial killer, but it’s more like a romance thriller

DM: Your idea for Colossus, what’s the first thing you remember getting for an idea, or where the idea came from?

JH: So what happened was…and this is kind of embarrassing in hindsight, but, I was watching HBO’s Rome, and the guy that plays Mark Anthony is James Purefoy. He seemed unremarkable beyond his character up to the point where, (if you’re not familiar with Rome it shows the rise Julius Caesar and Augustus)…so, up to the point where Julius Caesar dies at the end of the first season, I didn’t really think anything special about him. And then, when you see him discover that Julius Caesar has been assassinated, he gets this facial expression, which I thought was absolutely remarkable for an actor; it showed a real depth of talent, and I was just like, you know what, I’m going to take him, and I’m going to write a character for him.

I also had this really crazy dream where I was listening to Kesha sing “I Only Want to Dance With You” while a man, who is not Avery Rhodes, or James Purefoy or anything like that, was raping a teenage boy…

DM:…that…is definitely an interesting dream….

JH: Yeah….so, I combined all of those concepts and came up with a…at the time I wanted to work on short stories, I didn’t want to write a novel. I was going to write a series of short stories of a girl, Heather Stokes, fleeing this man who, at first he was just cold and calculating, unfeeling…he was just flat, a very flat character. As I wrote the story, or as I was writing the first few stories, I realized I needed to write an inciting incident, and so I started writing the inciting incident and it just kind of grew out of control.

DM: Gotcha. Bit of a snowball effect there.

JH: Yes. And so it turned from a series of about seven short stories, to a series of about seven novels. And then I also gave Avery Rhodes his own set of novellas of growing up and how he became the…I don’t want to say “monster” because he’s very much a human, but the serial killer you meet in Colossus.

DM: And that’s the Phoenix Rising and….

JH: Yes. There are two of those out right, and I have two more of those in revisions.

DM: Are you planning to put those out by next year or by later this year?

JH: I don’t know what I’m planning on doing. I’m just kind of at that point where I’m debating whether I want to keep tackling the Colossus novels and the Phoenix Rising novellas, or whether I want to set those on a back burner and come back to them at some future date.

DM: How long do you think it took you to write Colossus?

JH: So to write it…I would say it took a year and then a month to write and then revise Colossus… it was about late September-mid October that I came up with the idea for it, and then about April or May I thought I was completely done and I sent it to an editor. He had a lot of awesome suggestions and so I revised it, but at the same time I was writing material for Two Guns, which is the second book. I was also writing material for the Phoenix Rising novellas; I was also writing material for the other books that would follow Colossus and Two Guns, to get that series finished up. So I was working on a lot at the same time. So now I have chunks of several different novels in the same universe and all of these novellas. So it took a little over a year of inconsistent writing and revising.

DM: When you went to publish it, what route did you take originally for that? I know recently I saw that you had pulled it from where you had it but I wasn’t quite sure…..

JH: Yes, and, I haven’t really pulled it, which is a technicality….so, what happened was, in the summer of last year, I started talking to @EllaThomas22, which is a Twitter character account for Ella, who is a Stephen Moran character. Stephen had formed his own publishing company in order to publish his own novel, and he was also hoping to get other authors.

Ella is about a female serial character, it’s very savage. It’s a bit more…I don’t want to say gangster, but it’s a bit more money oriented than I like my thrillers to be, but the characters meshed very well. So, he asked me if I would make Colossus his first non-self-published book, and I thought that was pretty cool. He mentored me through the process, so basically what happened was that when I published it, I published it with his name on it, but at the same time it was self-published. So, publishing it under him was a technicality, but he’s also on my ISBN. When I decided that I wanted to shop Colossus for traditional publication for a wider release, because his company is very small, he has very small reach right now, and I wanted…more, so when I decided I wanted more, I pulled his name off of everything, but his name is still on my ISBN. So, I haven’t gotten myself a new ISBN yet, so I just kind of half-assed pulled it from them.

DM: So, you said you were going to try for traditional publishing for Colossus?

JH: Yes. I’ve been querying and I haven’t gotten any replies back, and for some of those it’s to the point they’re just not going to reply because they’re not interested….querying is hard hard pout face.gif

DM: Yes, yes it is, oh my gosh….

JH: Yeah, so if you’ve read Colossus and are familiar with it, it’s not surprising that most people I pass it to will pass on it…

DM: Yeah, it’s for a selective audience.

So, I think we kind of touched this, how many books have you written and published?

JH: I’ve written three. I wrote Perfect Words in college, and it’s about 53K. Then I wrote Colossus and that got published. Now, I’m actually very worried that I published it prematurely before getting more critical reviews on it, but….I had a lot of beta readers….all of the critical feedback I got I acknowledged, I adjusted most of it.

Now, I got a one star review and a two star review on Goodreads and, it just kind of knocked me backwards. It was stuff that my beta readers didn’t really mention, or didn’t have a problem with so, I’m kind of concerned now that I published Colossus too soon and didn’t let it sit long enough…but oh well..

And then I wrote Two Guns which is the follow up to Colossus, it’s the second book in the series. Two Guns is done, but it just doesn’t feel…right, and this was before I read the reviews, so that’s not what’s holding me back. It just feels like right now there’s too much going on and it’s too disconnected and so I’m thinking about just rewriting that. I’m going to keep most of the material in it and I’m just going to rewrite it in a uniform fashion so it’s smoother. But that’s going to be really time consuming.

Then earlier, for Camp NaNo I wrote a romance. It was a historical romance. It was based in 1800’s South Carolina and, I almost got to the very end, and then that last scene, I just couldn’t get it out. And I just let it peter it, so I have this almost finished romance novel that I’m going to revise. That one I might shop around because it’s more marketable.

DM: So, what do you have to say about your publishing experience so far?

JH: ……uh….fuck…..

DM:  Can I quote you on that?

JH: …I think I was impatient and I may have killed my opportunity to get Colossus traditionally published by publishing with Moran (which would have happened completely self-publishing as well). Then also, publishing with Moran prevented me from entering in any of the contests and competitions for self-published authors. So…I just think I was impatient, and if I had to do it all over again, I would probably shop a lot more agents and publishers before going and self-publishing.

DM: Would you say that the genre of Colossus is your favorite genre to write in?

JH: Yes. Yes, I would say….there’s debate among my readers and internally, in myself, whether or not to consider this a psychological thriller or a horror; because horror, and I read a really awesome article about this, about how horror is more about a monster or a horrifying being, and that’s very much true, but you also have the thriller aspect of everyone’s psychological descent as it were, not just the victims, but also the antagonist. I really do love being thrilled. I love reading something that gives me palpitations. Even though I’m not always happy about it, I always love that sensation.

DM: Is that your favorite reading genre as well, then?

JH:….so I have a confession, that I’m trying to break myself of, that I don’t read all that much…

DM: Really?

JH: Because, I devoted most of time to writing, and so I was writing mostly and I was just like “I don’t have time to read because I want to do nothing but write.” I was using writing to manage anxiety and so I’m not as anxious now as I usually am, so I’ve been slowly getting myself back into reading. I have a…. small…. TBR pile and it’s almost exclusively Joe Lansdale novels because they’re very easy to read and they’re hilarious, and they’re thrilling. They give me that fast heart-beat feeling, and so that’s kind of my stepping-stone back into learning how to carve out time for reading.

DM: Do you have a favorite writing spot?

JH: My desk at work. I actually wrote a blog entry, back when I first started writing Colossus, over two years ago, and I was talking about how, for the previous three or four years I had been wanting and trying to write and I just couldn’t sink my teeth into it. And it wasn’t until I got to the point where I was sitting in the same spot every single day for an extended amount of time, because I got a desk job that I finally got to the point where I could just sit down and write. I’m a customer service analyst for a software company that creates reading assessments, and so our customer basis consists of teachers and principals, and support staff, things like that, so we’re busy when they’re busy; we’re not busy when they’re not testing so, I have several hours of downtime a day at times, and I try to fill that with writing. So it took me a long time to get to where I could not just sit and write, but also to take writing anywhere else. Now, it’s a lot easier, especially if I’m in the middle of a story, I can take it anywhere, and I can write anywhere. But, if I were to start a story, or if I don’t really feel like starting or working on a story, even if I know I should, it’s a chore, but it’s easier now than it was previously.

DM: Are you working on anything in particular right now?

JH: Right now, I want to say no…but really, I should be. So, I also offer editing services, and I’m working on a medical thriller and a romance, or adult contemporary, for two different customers right now (people we know and love). When I’m done with that, if I have time between when I finish those and November, I’m going to pick a few more revisions for Two Guns, and then in November I’m going to write the third book in the Heather Stokes series.  Should be very emotionally taxing.

DM: Load up the funny movies, you know, have the Christmas fudge waiting…

JH: Yeah! The Hallmark channel will be doing their Christmas movies! Could totally do that!

DM: Can you tell me a bit more about the Colossus series?

JH: Two Guns was really fun to write. Two Guns is really funny. Basically it’s Rhodes meddling in the investigation. Colossus all occurs inside the house, it’s all very isolated, you have no idea, unless Rhodes implies something, what’s going on outside the house. In Two Guns, you don’t go inside the house. It’s concurrent, and it’s entirely outside of the house. It’s what’s going on with the families, and police, FBI, and Rhodes is having a field day among them and just kind of….fucking shit up.

The third book is the few weeks that follow Colossus and Two Guns, they basically end in the same place. The third book is called Ruin, which is kind of like a play off the archaic sense of a woman being ruined.

DM: Do you have any writing helpers/minions/or other furry distractions?

JH: Furry distractions. I have a cat and a dog and my dog is probably very upset he’s not in here under the covers right now. I used to have four snakes because they were all wild caught and we’re about to move out of state and it would be very, very illegal to take them out of state, especially seeing as one of them was venomous.

My dog is very distracting. He’ll sit at my feet and he’ll whine and whine and whine until I pick him up or have him sit in my lap. It’s annoying as hell. He’s a Velcro dog, he’s not comfortable being away from me.

DM: D’aww, poor puppy face.

pet

JH: He’s a spoiled little poopersnoot.

*temporary break and gushing about furry related cuteness*

DM: So, do you happen to have a favorite book?

JH: I have two. They’re very different, and for very different reasons. Richard Adams’s Watership Down, it’s just…I don’t even know how to describe it. I was young when I first read it, fourth or fifth grade, and so I didn’t really get the depth, but I did get the adventure and the character variety, it was amazing. I love them all, and my favorite will always be Dandelion because he was the story teller. I just, I used to read it every year, I haven’t done it a lot recently. I’ve read it maybe twice in the last six years, but every time I read it feels new and different and, I just love it very much.

My other one is Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic which I read for the first time in the eighth grade. It’s the reason I go by Jette; one of the aunts, her name is Bridget and she went by Jet, and my name is Bridgette. So between eighth and ninth grade I decided I would go by Jette, because I was sick of everyone calling me Bridge, I hated it. It was just so strange to read something where you combine this suburban house-wife kind of thing, kind of very normal family, and then there’s magic. You don’t really know if it’s really magic, but you get a sense that there’s something behind the shadows, and things happen and they can’t possibly be coincidence. It was so amazing to read that, and that was my introducing to, I think it’s called magical realism. It was just amazing how she describes things. Her descriptions are amazing. Her use of hyperbole and her description of things that, you know, otherwise would be normal is just phenomenal. Like, a guy who’s I love is leaning on a counter top, and he’s so in love, he’s so heated and hot for this person that linoleum begins to bubble…it’s just…ridiculous, and I love it.

DM: I can definitely get behind you with that….So, do you have a favorite book that you’ve written?

JH: ….that I’ve written or that I’ve published?

DM…either? Both? Since apparently they’re different?

JH: I think….my favorite thing is going to be the next Phoenix Rising novella. And if I had to choose one that I’ve already written and published…oh god…between the three that I’ve published….I…that’s a real challenge….I think it would have to be…it’s between the Phoenix Rising novellas. I don’t know if I like Salvage more or if I like Flint Ranch more….

DM: It’s okay, I won’t make you choose, haha.

JH: Okay, so, the Phoenix Rising novellas. I think the next one is going to be my absolute favorite because…I just love Thatch’s dad, Wren. He’s so cool, and he’s like so clueless. He has no idea how to raise a kid, but he’s a good man. And so, there was hope there for Thatch being a good man…and then there’s not, and that’s where I will leave that…

DM: How would you say that your writing community has affected you?

JH: I’ve finished a book. I’ve published a book. I’ve finished novellas, I’ve published novellas. I’ve almost finished Sweet Nothings, which is the romance, and they just keep me going, they keep me propped up. They taught me the importance of revisions and the importance of an editor. I would not have finished a book at all if it weren’t for Twitter, which seems like a ridiculous thing to say to somebody who isn’t familiar with the community. They just…that’s where I found my editor, that’s where I found my publisher, it’s where I found almost all of my beta readers.

DM: I was definitely surprised at the community I found on Twitter. I never wanted to be on it, ever.

So, for writing tools, do you have a preference for Word, Scrivener, old fashioned hand writing?

JH: Old-fashioned hand writing. If I had to choose one to live with for the rest of my life, it would be old-fashioned hand writing, as much as my hand hates it. I tried Scrivener for a couple of days and I liked the tools but I felt like…you have to use it for a while to get the most out of it and I wasn’t willing to take the time, to invest my time in it.

So what I do is I write out a scene for as long as I can write, or as long as I have an idea bubbling, and I’ll write it out in pen and paper. Then I will transcribe it either right after I’m done writing it or when I’m typing everything up into Word. I’ve recently become very familiar with Word. I learned how to track changes and make notes and that’s awesome. And that’s really helping my editing as well.

That’s basically what I do, write with pen and paper and then I transcribe. As I transcribe I’m revising and editing. I’ll make little changes, catch where something sounds unnatural. Because writing, typing, and speaking, they all use different pathways in the brain, so even if you’re conveying the same idea, it would come out different depending on what tool you’re using; it’s good to use as many different pathways as you can.

DM: Which author drink stereotype is your biggest vice: coffee, tea, or alcohol?

JH: …um….I hate coffee but I drink it…uh….so, coffee and alcohol, even though I’m not the write drunk, edit sober kind of person, I like to have a cider with my evening writing….I’m very much a soda person actually, I prefer Pepsi or Mountain Dew.

DM: What’s the, or one of the most difficult parts of novel writing for you?

JH: There are two. One is getting started with revisions. After you know what you want to revise and what needs to be done, then it’s really meditative almost, like you’re whittling a statue into shape, or smoothing stone or something like that. But getting to the place where you know what needs to be done is so difficult. That’s where I am with Two Guns, where I’ve revised and I’ve revised it. I’ve cut stuff out and added stuff to it, and it still feels…wrong. And I have people telling me it’s perfect and it’s exactly where it needs to be, but I’m just like no, it just feels wrong. So I’m just going to rewrite it and not worry about that.

The second part is knowing when you’re done. With Colossus, I revised it and I added to it, and I revised those, and then I was chipping away. And my then publisher thought it was ready, it was in publishable condition now, and I agree, I thought it was too, and I think it is, it’s just, there are still flaws in it that I didn’t smooth out.

 

It was a pleasure to interview Jette Harris, she’s a wonderful person and always willing to be there with a kind word. If you’re interested in finding out more about Jette’s works, visit her website here, or  take a look at one of her books!

colossus

salvage.jpg  flint ranch.jpg

 

A Look at Publishing Options and an Interview with Jewel Leonard

There are so many options in publishing today that it can be daunting sifting through them all to compare and contrast to find the best option for you. There are many considerations to take into account when you are exploring your options, and whether you’re going the traditional or self-publishing route, both have pros and cons. Here’s a quick rundown of each:

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Traditional

Pro

  • No upfront cost, money flows to you
  • Editor will edit for you (no charge to you)
  • Design and layout handled (no charge to you)
  • Publishing house handles: distributing to B&N and other stores, assign publicist, make it available for ebook, keep track of sales and pay you

Con

  • Moves slow
  • Much is out of your hands; often at the whim of others
  • Confines of genre and length
  • Payment good at first, but bad later

Self-publishing

 Pro

  • Lots of options or both print and ebook
  • You are in control; you can work different places (nonexclusive rights)
  • Better royalties
  • Speed
  • Length and genre no longer matter

Con

  • Too much control can be bad
  • Quality can be inferior
  • Stigma
  • You pay possible upfront costs (design, layout, editing, etc.)
  • No help with subsidiary rights
  • Tougher with bookstores and book fairs
  • Biggest issue: visibility and promotion

(many of these points are from a handout from the conference I attended in February, the talk was given by Chuck Sambuchino)

Now that we have those basics out of the way, I’d like to go into a little more detail about the ebook side of self-publishing. I’ve put some serious consideration into and have ultimately decided on a dual publishing approach, which means a lot of research and information.

jewelDoing research is great, and the Google gods are immensely helpful, but I decided to speak to someone that has taken this route themselves. She’s pretty wonderful, definitely sweet, and she is one of the many fantastic people I’ve met through Twitter. Her name is Jewel E. Leonard, and she was kind enough to let me pick her brain about her experience self-publishing her first book Tales by RailsTBRBookCoverPreviewGood-1

DMG: Tales by Rails is your first published eBook? How long is it and did you intend to publish it as an eBook?

JL: Yes, it’s my first published eBook. It’s about 27,000 words and I never even considered publishing it traditionally. I understand that short works are notoriously hard to sell and I was just writing this as light-hearted fluff.

DMG: How long did it take you from finished novel to published ebook?

JL: I wrote it in about 3 weeks. Once I started it, the words flowed better for me than they usually do. I wrote it in August, edited in December and decided to publish around Valentine’s Day for (I think) obvious reasons. So from start to publish, 6 months… Though I certainly could have done it faster. I had planned to publish it in December but I ended up participating in NaNoWriMo when I was going to edit it… Editing took about a month, when I finally got around to it because I was very undisciplined. I was too busy chatting on Twitter with new friends from NaNo.

DMG: How did you handle formatting? What considerations (if any) needed to be made?

JL: It helps to have the proper programs. I use Open Office as I don’t have Word anymore and the learning curve with Scrivener is so steep I couldn’t make it past the welcome screen… So I ended up getting help from my wonderful Ashley (@ashleygraham55) who did my formatting for me. However, I ended up discovering through experimentation that OO will save as PDF and once you save as PDF, you can convert to mobi and epub formats using free programs like Calibre.

But Amazon and Barnes and Noble will have you upload your file and then they will convert it…. Which don’t go without glitches and difficulties. Amazon, BN and Smashwords all give you a chance to review the file once converted: it is imperative to not skip this step or you’re risking complaints in your ratings and reviews.

DMG: Where is your book available for purchase? (You mention Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords?) How did that work?

JL: Just those three places. You have to upload to each individually which includes creating accounts, setting up payment and tax info… Really obnoxious work but the good news is, once the account is set up, it’s done.

Amazon had the fastest set up, B&N allows for the highest royalty. Amazon also has exclusivity options, which I chose to pass on.

Also, B&N didn’t have a pre-order feature and took about 5 days to process the file so plan accordingly.

DMG: That’s some great information, thank you. Did you create your author profile for each site as you created and uploaded your book, then? Could/would you maybe elaborate on what you mean by “exclusivity options” as well as your decision?

JL: Yeah, I worked one vendor at a time though really there’s no reason not to.

Amazon offers options where your book, for a certain amount of time, is sold through them exclusively. I skimmed the perks to that program and decided against it but that’s a personal choice. Obviously many others choose to do it.

I liked the idea of having multiple platforms… So that, for instance, my Nook possessing friends could read my novella the day it was released. And I know many readers are loyal to Smashwords, as well.

It made sense to me to offer through as many sites as I could easily access but, as they say, YMMV.

DMG: How was your blog tour arranged, how did it work and coincide with your book release?

JL: Ashley helped so much with the blog tour–she was a wealth of information. She set up the Google sign up form, told me the kinds of things that are normally done during blog tours and I got in contact with those who signed up and provided the content they asked for. She suggested the week prior to my novella’s release for three days which is what I did. (You don’t question a genius.)

To be honest I still don’t really know how blog tours work! Lol! The whole thing is a learning process and you just kind of have to accept that some things won’t come easily… May have glitches… And you just go with the flow.

DMG: Do you plan to continue publishing novels this way?

JL: Absolutely. My vendor accounts are set up, I know how to format my documents, I know (more or less) how to do the blog tour. Second time around should be far easier. That’s the great thing about experience!

I understand self-publishing is largely a numbers game and if you have any aspirations for success, you’re going to need to put out more than a single title.

DMG: Do you plan to keep to the romantic/erotica genre, or do you have plans to branch out into others?

JL: I really don’t feel like I’m capable of completely abandoning what is at the heart of my stories. Having said that, the second of my Rays of Sunshine series seems to be leaning a lot more toward drama with focus on interpersonal relationships and some erotic elements.

If I cannot find traditional representation for my other book series (I have 2 in progress) those will be self-published as well and the heat level of the romantic elements in those are definitely lower than Rays.

DMG: Anything you’d like to add?

JL: That the journey to publication is a personal one. I know writers who wouldn’t dream of putting themselves through the querying process and I know writers who would rather scrap years of hard work if they can’t get an agent than self-publish. Each journey has perks and pitfalls. But whatever you choose is good as long as YOU are happy with your choices. The most important thing is, as the lovely supportive writing community on Twitter will tell you: always keep writing.

 

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An Interview with Novelist Susan Crawford

I first tried to meet Susan Crawford at a group book signing of local authors at a nearby Barnes and Noble, but due to some poor placement of the authors around the store and my susan crawfordown introverted tendencies, I did not introduce myself. Nervously but determinedly (since I chickened out in person), I emailed Susan instead and asked her for an interview, noting my first sad attempt. Little did I know that I would find a fellow introvert who welcomed my questions and was kind enough to meet with me, returning to that same Barnes and Noble and indulging me in what would turn out to be a very lovely chat.

We started off talking a little bit about Susan and the start of her novelist journey. She deemed herself officially a novelist in 2014 when The Pocket Wife sold to a traditional publisher, which she had completed that same year. Susan noted that her first draft was written in about six months before going through edits and revisions that would lead to the eventual published tale.

DMG: I assume you like to read

SC: I do

DMG: What books do you enjoy reading?

SC: Right now I’m reading April Witch. It’s very dark in fact it’s a little too dark for me, have to read it in increments. I love Margaret Atwood, anything she writes. She’s able to write so many different kinds of books and people don’t care as long as she’s the one writing. Also, another favorite is Susan Minot. I like Kate Atkinson and Liane Moriarty. It is helpful to read other writers that write similar genres so you can say ‘oh, this works!’

DMG: Your Amazon author profile mentioned reading mysteries in a hammock as a child, what mysteries did you read?

SC: All of the Nancy Drew books, really.

After enumerating the ways that reading aids a writer, we turned to The Pocket Wife.

the pocket wife

DMG: What part came to you first? A scene, a character, the plot?

SC: Before I knew anything else, I knew there was going to be a dead body.

DMG: Did Dana come from anywhere in particular?

SC: She did.  I’ve been very close to bipolar people before, so I had sympathy and empathy for them. I thought it would be interesting because we always look in at the person with, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia and try to see what they’re thinking and judge them, you know ‘what are they going to do next’. And I thought it would be interesting to switch that around and try to show the world from the perception of the bipolar person instead of the bipolar person from the perception of the world.

DMG: One of the things I most enjoyed about The Pocket Wife was this aspect, most interested because of it

DMG: What about Jack Moss’s character? The empathy he seems to have for Dana or someone like her?

SC: I think people are very intolerant of most people with mental illness, which is why so many of them are living on the street, and then we put them down for asking for money. I wanted to show the humanity in Jack Moss. He’s in this position of authority and has, not much power but some power, in the situation at least, and he’s flawed. He’s screwed up his relationships with two women, and two sons and one of them died. And also to show that things that happen to us fleetingly when we’re young, and these things stay, often and make an impression. He had seen someone – maybe it was Dana maybe it was someone like Dana, but it made an impression on him that probably helped him to be a better cop and detective.

DMG: So I was curious, did you actively decide to use present tense or did it just start coming out that way?

SC:  I just do it. The next book is also in present tense. I’m not quite sure. Maybe because with suspense it seems a little more immediate, especially with Dana who is so frenetic.

DMG: Did you learn anything in particular from writing this book, The Pocket Wife?

SC:  I learned something about suspense writing by reading other suspense writers and I learned that it’s really a fun genre to write. And then the whole publishing world was an education.

 

On the subject of publishing and Susan’s writing process:

DMG: What influenced your decision for traditional publishing?

SC: I just never thought about any other way. I didn’t have the money, for one thing to do the vanity press or the personality to be out there selling my books. If it hadn’t been picked up, I would have continued to write.

DMG: What steps did you take to get published traditionally?

SC: Well I’m a member of the Atlanta Writer’s Club and once or twice a year they have a conference. Writers can go meet agents and editors. So that’s what I did, and found a fantastic agent.

DMG: Do you have a favorite writing spot?

SC:  I like, my daughter’s old bedroom, it’s sort of a small room. And it’s upstairs. It’s a really silly place because the computer is on this old desk and there’s a window right there so of course I can’t work there because the light comes through. So I have a shade over the window and I have a quilt over the shade. It would probably be smarter to find a different spot but…that’s how I write.

DMG:  What about music?

SC: I do like music, but it can’t be something so interesting that it takes my mind off work, so sometimes I work without music. Classic music is best, no lyrics.

DMG: What do you have the most difficulty with when you’re writing?

SC: The phone. If you’re not at work you’re not at work, so people think I’m more available, probably, than I am. To say nothing of telemarketers and just sort of random phone calls so I often work with the phone off the hook, and then when I take a break I’ll check my messages.

I’m not a terribly disciplined person so scheduling is key. What I do usually is get up, feed the cats, and then start working. People will say they have writer’s block, or only certain times of the day they can work, I don’t feel that way. I feel like there’s always something that can be put down. Even if I throw it out later.

 

On Susan’s upcoming novel and current writing project

DMG: So you’re next book is also a mystery/thriller type novel, but you said you like writing literary fiction. Do you think mystery/suspense is kind of where you’re leaning towards now?

SC: That’s an interesting question. I think…I like to combine them. I’m not sure I would say I wrote literary fiction because that’s such a nebulous term. I mean what does it really mean, I just really like characters. I like to develop the characters. So my emphasis is on the characters which I think then throws it into that genre of literary fiction. I do that with the suspense as well though. So the concentration is on the characters.

DMG: I definitely saw that in the Pocket Wife

DMG: What can you tell me about The Other Widow other than it comes out in April? The synopsis on the HarperCollins website was really intriguing. Can’t wait for April!

SC: It’s told from three points of view. One is the widow (the wife), the other is his girlfriend (the other widow), I wanted to make her a sympathetic character, not overly so but realistic instead of just somebody out there that steals people’s husbands, not this diabolical character. And then the third point of view is the insurance investigator.

DMG: What about what you’re working on now?

SC: I don’t have a title for what I’m writing right now.

DMG: Is it another suspense type?

SC: It is…I’m only at the beginning of it so it’s still forming, not quite sure where it’s going to go. Sort of feeling my way through it, with the help of the characters who do often sort of tell the story because of who they are. Being who they are, they will only do certain things so that when they come together it makes for a certain kind of scene, which is interesting. But right now we’re all flailing around.

Don’t forget to order your own copy of The Other Widow when it comes out in April!

 

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