Sunday, June 03, 2007

Susan Meissner

I met Susan online through American Christian Fiction Writers. I'm happy to share this interview with you.

Susan, tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

All my main characters are amalgamations of everything I am, everything I’d like to be and everything I’m glad I’m not. Many of my characters’ fears are my fears. I try to step into the very flesh of the people I’m creating so that I can imagine what it’s like to live the life they are living. I would guess that many of my characters’ reactions to their troubles are what my own reactions would be if I were standing where they are standing.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

Taking an elevator when the rest of my “party” rode the escalator. I hate escalators. Especially the ones in airports. They’re too fast, too narrow and I’m carrying or tugging on too much. Getting on something that wants to amputate at the ankles? No, thanks. There are a few Midwest ACFW members who can affirm my quirky aversion to escalators.

I understand. I get on them very carefully. When did you first discover that you were a writer?

For a lot of us, I think this is something that someone else discovers about you before you actually realize it. I had a second-grade teacher who gave me a little red journal to put stories and poems in. I don’t recall her giving one to anyone else in my class, just me. I think it was because she saw something in me; a desire to write when there was no requirement for it, and perhaps raw talent. I’m so glad she did that. I still have that little red journal. The stories and poems inside its pages are pretty pathetic but whenever I come across it I feel like this is where it all began . . .

What a wonderful experience. Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

I love books that take me places, where the writing is so powerful and rich time seems to stand still as you’re reading. I tend toward literary fiction but I also like a smart chick lit or expertly researched historical fiction. I’m also keen on well-written biographies, where the writing is true to life and the prose, exquisite and haunting.

What other books have you written, whether published or not?

I have five additional titles out with Harvest House, all stand-alones. They include Why the Sky is Blue, A Window to the World, The Remedy for Regret, In All Deep Places, and A Seahorse in the Thames. Widows and Orphans, released in October 2006, is my first true mystery. The second in that mystery series releases in January and I’ve a stand-alone, a chick litty piece, coming out next spring called Blue Heart Blessed.

A book club some friends of mine are in chose A Seahorse in the Thames as one of their selections. How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

Well, I think your sanity is not so much something to be kept as it is something to be handed over to Someone who loves you and is smarter than you. For me, that would be God. He’s the One who keeps me centered, and that means my relationship with Him has to be my foremost concern. I tend to bite off more than I can chew, and when I do that, I need to just realize I’ve done it, chew slowly, don’t talk with my mouth full, don’t shove anything else into my mouth and then learn from my mistakes so that I can go back to being a lady who knows her table manners. God has created me to be a gracious woman who doesn’t cram food into her mouth and I think He did that for my benefit and His glory. So the short answer is: 1. Chew your food slowly. 2. Shove nothing else into your mouth. 3. Don’t talk with your mouth full. 4. Take a smaller bite next time.

Sage advice all of us could use. How do you choose your characters’ names?

Sometimes I peruse the names of the spam email-senders I get by the boatload every day. Sometimes I peruse my baby name book. Sometimes I watch the credits of movies and pay particular attention to names no one probably notices, like the assistant to the assistant director’s assistant. I also look at obituaries. Is that morbid?

Some really new advice on names. What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

That I am in the ranks at all of published writers. I would never have guessed it. I actually don’t even like to take much credit for it because getting here seems more like a gift than a goal met. God has been incredibly nice to me.

If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

A koala at the San Diego Zoo because they are cute, cuddly, everyone loves them and they are protected from predators, poachers and bad weather.

What is your favorite food?

Anything Italian.

What would you like to tell us about the featured book?

This book gets its title from that little verse in the book of James where we're told pure religion is to look after widows and orphans in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. In the story, my main character Rachael Flynn—who happens to be a lawyer—gets word that her ultra ministry-minded brother has confessed to murder. She is certain Joshua is innocent—that he is covering for someone—because her brother took this verse to heart as a teenager. He made an oath before God to live it out the rest of his days. Rachael is convinced Joshua is taking the fall for someone, but he refuses her offer to let her represent him. Widows and Orphans is the first in the Rachael Flynn Mystery Series. The second title, Sticks and Stones, released in January and the third, Days and Hours, in the summer of 2007.

The books will all feature Rachael Flynn and some of the other cast members of Widows and Orphans, but each title can stand on its own. Widows and Orphans is my first book to fall solely into the Suspense/Intrigue category. I’ve been an Agatha Christie fan since high school, so writing this series has been a thrill but also a challenge. With mystery writing, pacing is key and you have to throw in both clues to the truth and logical red herrings. I have new respect for veteran mystery writers. Spinning a tale that no one can guess the outcome of yet rings true in the end is a tall order. I had to stand on my tiptoes . . .

Susan, they all sound like wonderful books. Thank you for sharing about them.

Readers, here are three books to put on your must-read list. Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy.


DeAnna Julie Dodson said...

Ooooh, Widows and Orphans sounds great. I'm working on my first mystery book, too, and they're certainly a different animal. Nothing like straight historical romance! :D

Deborah said...

oh i love susan's books! i read the sequel to this book but i haven't read Widows yet. please enter me!

great interview!

tetewa said...

Enjoyed the interview, count me in for the draw!

Sheryl said...

That was a wonderful interview Lena and Susan, thank you so much.

I loved Susan's advice about not stuffing anything else in your mouth when you've already bitten off more than you can chew :-)

I so enjoyed Susan's book A Seahorse in Thames when we read it for the ACFW bookclub. I'd love to be entered in the drawing for Widows and Orphans.

Rachel Hauck said...

Wonderful interview! I love learning more about Susan.


Kathleen Morphy said...

This book sounds absolutely ideal for a school-teacher friend of mine. She hates romances but loves mysteries. I'd love to win the book and give it to her for her birthday. It sounds perfect! I'll definitely recommend Susan as an author to her.
Kathleen Morphy

Carolynn W. said...

Oh, please sign me up...I love Susan's books! Can't wait to read Widows and Orphans!
Carolynnwald [at]

Susan Meissner said...

Thanks for having me on your blog, lovely Lena, and to all who've posted such encouraging words, I am humbly grateful.


Cez said...

Just got me wondering, since you like books that take you to places, have you actually read a time-travel romance but didn't like it or have you not read any yet?

sherlyn said...

My mom is a widow but I'm not an orphan..still, i think this book is really amazing, i should have a chance to have it. (wink, wink)

Ina said...

I can't wait for Widows and Orphans to hit the stands. It's definitely going right on my keeper shelf. For now, i'm crossing my fingers to win.

heinaeina *at*

Lenz said...

i've read a lot of great things abt this novel from publisher's weekly and blog tours. Hope I get the chance to win this one!

rose mccauley said...

Great interview, Ladies. I love the title of the book and the verse it is based on, but when I first saw it I thought of the W and O feature in MSW. LOL Hope I win! rose

Catslady said...

Very insightful interview! I've always been a fan of Susan since I've read her book Why the Sky is Blue. She's a really good writer.


Carole said...

Susan, I've heard so many good things about your books. I love getting to know you through this interview, and want to read your books soon. This mystery sounds like a good place to start.