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How long have you known that you were a writer? Did you receive a clear “call?” Or have you just loved writing all your life?
The life long love of reading inspired me to want to write a book, but it was God who arranged free time for it to happen. I’ve always enjoyed writing from creative to technical writing I’ve done in the corporate world, and I said for years that I was going to write a book, but I was so busy working full time, raising children, and volunteering at church that I never made the time. Then in 2000, I began having health issues that limited my physical activity. Forced to sit for long periods of time, I started to research the craft of writing and began my first book.
As my health deteriorated, I had more and more time available and soon I was writing fulltime and actively pursuing publication. I continued to work on the craft and to submit books, got the requisite rejections and then in the fall of 2008 at the ACFW conference, I was awarded a book contract in front of 500 or so of my fellow writers. My agent, crit partners and the editor had conspired to keep this a secret from me for five months. Since then I have contracted additional books in the Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense line and look forward to writing for years to come.
Wow! Exciting way to begin. Can you tell us the genre you write in? Would you explain what it is?
I write romantic suspense and mystery. In both of these genre’s there are equal parts romance and suspense and or mystery. Suspense and mystery often overlap but differ in that suspense is a story where the clock is ticking and you're on the edge of your seat waiting for what’s going to happen next. It’s more frightening, scary even, with the heroine’s life often in danger throughout the entire book. A mystery on the other hand is a story filled with questions and usually involves solving a murder where the reader is wrapped up through the entire story trying to guess the killer’s identity.
How do you spend your writing days? Do you set goals to reach a certain number of words per day? Can you give us a general idea of how long it takes you to write a novel?
I used to write more when I felt like it, but deadlines now force me to be more disciplined. I currently set writing goals for every day and I write every day of the week. If the words aren’t flowing one day, I keep myself in front of the computer until they come or make up the time the next day.
To complete a rough draft of a book once the synopsis is finished will take about two months. Then it takes another month to complete the editing process, before the manuscript is submitted to my editor and she starts the official rounds of edits.
Tell us about your new book. What is the spiritual message in it? What can readers expect to get from reading it? How and where can readers buy your book?
High-Stakes Inheritance a romantic book published by Steeple Hill’s Love Inspired Suspense line. In High-stakes Inheritance, family counselor Mia Blackburn’s Uncle Wally dies and leaves behind a will that requires her to return to Logan Lake, Oregon to live at the rustic Pinetree Resort for one full year in order to inherit the valuable property. If she fails to stay at Pinetree for the full year, the property reverts to her brother.
But on her first day in town she receives a threatening message: Leave Logan Lake or you will pay. Despite the warning, Mia won't let anyone scare her from the rustic resort. But when a fire traps her in a burning barn, she fears that she won't get out alive. Just in time her ex-boyfriend wilderness counselor Ryan Morgan rescues her from the deadly blaze. He had once broken her heart, yet she still has feelings for him. With Ryan insisting on keeping a close eye on her, Mia feels safer-and closer to Ryan than ever before. Yet the threats haven't stopped, and soon Mia's high-stakes inheritance includes a murder-and Mia could be the next victim.
Nipped in the Bud, book one in my Garden Gate Mystery Series. Read Between the Tines and Seed You Later, books two and three are not contracted, but if this new mystery line does well, I hope they too will be published. These books take place in Oregon in a fictional town named Serendipity and feature Paige Turner, a landscape designer and host of a local radio show. She has a knack for finding trouble and there is no trouble bigger than discovering a dead body. Which she does after she bickers with a town official---and that day he's discovered dead in a mound of mulch---she finds herself in . . . well, a pickle! With no alibi, she struggles to prove her innocence, but she soon enlists the help of lawyer Adam Hayes. The question is will his knowledge of the law keep her out of jail and will he win her love?
Both books have a spiritual message revolving around trusting God and what happens when we don’t do so. We are taught as we are growing up to be independent, to stand on our own two feet, to be responsible and plan for our future, and sometimes we forget that all of this is a good thing, but not when we begin to rely on ourselves instead of God. We can’t see the big picture of life as God can, so when we stop asking him for direction and trust in what we alone can see, we don’t make the best decisions and life can be filled with worries.
Both of these books can be purchased on line at Amazon, CBD, Barnes and Noble, etc. or in stores at WalMart, Borders, and many grocery and drug stores.
Oh, my, Susan, I've already read High Stakes Inheritance and love it. Your mystery series sounds fantastic. Tell us, do you ever feel like giving up? Most people don’t understand the stress, the work, and the joy of being a writer. How tenuous becoming a writer is. Do you care to share how it feels, what discouraging/encouraging times you’ve gone through?
There are many things on the road to publication that can make you want to give up. Rejections by editors and agents, harsh critiques from other writers, cancellation of the line of books your recently contracted novel was to be published in, negative reviews, and on and on. But when each set back occurs, you are faced with two options. Give up or learn from the experience and move on.
I have to admit my first reaction is usually to question my abilities as a writer and have the urge to throw in the towel. But then, after I process the information, I try to use it to be a better writer. As with everything in life, what doesn’t kill us will make us stronger if we let it.
Would you explain how you “chose” (or were chosen by) a publisher? Do you just go “inny, minny, miny, moe?” Grin.
My first step was to find publisher’s guidelines. Most publishers have them and if you want your book to be published by that company, you need to follow their guidelines. If they say they only publish books between 50-60,000 words, don’t write and submit a book of 100,000 words or you are asking to be rejected. If they publish only romance, don’t send them a suspense book.
So with both of my current releases, I found the guidelines for publishers I was interested in working with, read many of the currently published books to get a feel for the line, and then wrote books that fit within those guidelines.
Now, that you’re published, can you sit back and relax from the success you’ve experienced?
First off, getting a book published is a goal I wanted to obtain, but it doesn’t equate to success in a writing career. And I can tell you that since I have contracted a few books, I have been busier than ever and working harder than ever.
Sitting back and relaxing, if you don’t ever want to publish another book is an option, but I want a writing career so I can never sit back and relax. Book publishing is a business like any other business and businesses exist for one reason, to make money. To make money in the publishing world the company has to sell a lot of books. If a book sells well the company is happy. It a book doesn’t sell well, the company rethinks publishing another book with that author.
So if you want a career in writing you need to make sure your books sell. This does not allow you to sit back and relax. You must promote your book through interviews, book signings, websites, and social media, etc all at the same time as coming up with and writing another novel and perhaps working on edits for a third novel all the while meeting your publisher’s deadlines.
There is however, time in this busy schedule to enjoy holding your book in your hand, to read wonderful emails from readers whose lives you touched, to celebrate the sale of another book to a publisher and to thank God for the blessing of this crazy, hectic, yet most wonderful job in the world.
Do you mind telling us some of your likes and dislikes? Hobbies, interests? Where would you like to travel if you could?
I love to read. I don’t like to clean house. I love to play with my grandson and spend time with my family. I don’t like to do the dishes. I love to garden. I don’t like to do the laundry. I love to work on websites and graphic design things. I don’t like to do the taxes. I love to go out to dinner. I don’t love to cook dinner.
If my travel budget weren’t fully committed to traveling between Florida where I live and Portland, Oregon where my children and grandson live, I would like to go to Australia, France and Alaska.
Would you give us your blog or webpage so everyone can check it out? Anything else you’d like to share? Promotional information?
I can be found at all of the following places on the internet and would love to connect with readers in any and or all of these places.
- http://www.susansleeman.com Personal website
- http://www.thesuspensezone.com Book review website
- http://hometownmysteries.com Hometown Mystery Website
- http://www.twitter.com/susansleeman Twitter
- http://www.facebook.com/susan.sleeman Facebook friends page
- http://www.facebook.com/pages/Susan-Sleeman-Books/124844037537711 Facebook fan page
- http://www.loveinspiredauthors.com Love Inspired Author
Susan, thanks so much for the interesting interview! Folks check out her books. She is a great writer!