Today, we're talking to two authors who write together.
Susan and Robin, welcome. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
SUSAN: I lend at least one of my quirky character traits to each one of my characters, even the bad guys. In the first book, The Chase, Rubric, Jill’s curmudgeon boss, is a creature of habit. He eats at the same restaurant again and again . . .that’s me. The female characters, especially the protagonist, have many of my traits. I bring my experiences to a character in a variety of ways, especially from the traumatic events of my life. I believe God has allowed these tragedies so I can use these experiences to relate to other and to encourage, inspire the readers.
ROBIN: I bestow each female with an aspect of my personality. At times I create females with the attributes I wish I had, or attributes that I admire in others. The men are a combination of people I have known.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
SUSAN: My husband Ken wanted his marriage proposal to me to be unforgettable. The evening began like a scene from a movie with a sunset drive along the coast to one of Malibu’s finest restaurants. When we were seated at a fireside table with two-dozen of my favorite Sonya roses, I became suspicious. The maitre ‘d appeared with two flutes of vintage French champagne on a silver tray. He and the waiters hovered over us, I assumed to await my reaction to the bubbly. Wanting them to go away, I quickly picked up the glass and took a big sip of the champagne. Everyone gasped. Perhaps they are upset I gulped instead of sipping such fine champagne? All of a sudden I understood as a foreign object slid down my throat. My ring was hidden in the glass of champagne. I swallowed my engagement ring! After the waiter’s Heimlich maneuver, the ring popped out on the table. Ken didn’t miss a beat as he picked up the ring and proposed to me. Not exactly the romantic evening Ken had envisioned, but it truly was—an unforgettable proposal!
ROBIN: Rick and I spent our honeymoon at a Christian Camp. It was 100 degrees and the room had no AC. It also had one lumpy bed so I gave Rick that to sleep in while I slept on the floor over the sump pump under the floor.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
SUSAN: My mother created dramatic story hours for my sister and me. If we were reading Jack and the Beanstalk, she would give us a ‘hunk of bread and a piece of cheese.’ We’d wear crowns and have tea parties when she read Cinderella. Best of all she would ask us make up new endings to the stories, and later, make up our own stories. In the second grade, I began writing my stories down and reading them to my friends. After all these years, I’m still doing it. When my childhood friends became bored with too many stories, they would beg, “Can’t we go play dolls?” Now those same friends beg, “Can’t we go shopping?”
ROBIN: I discovered I wanted to spend my life writing when I was in 5th grade, and tried to impress my English composition teacher with my stories.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
SUSAN: My mother’s story hours ignited my passion for books. Our town librarian introduced me to Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Count of Monte Cristo, Les Miserables, Sense and Sensibility, Rebecca, and my favorite book, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Favorite Christian books are C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, and Catherine Marshall’s book, Something More. New author Joshilyn Jackson’s first book, gods of Alabama, and Pulitzer Prize winner, Rick Bragg’s Ava's Man and All Over But the Shoutin’ are current favorites of mine. Here’s an excerpt from one of Bragg’s stories. "This is a place where Grandmothers hold babies on their laps and whisper in their ears that the lights in the sky are holes in the floor of heaven." Ah, I must confess I’m green with envy. Writing doesn't get much better than that does it?”
ROBIN: I love to read Cynthia Rylant’s books, and I enjoy short story collections, but my favorite read is a good mystery.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
SUSAN: Fleming Revell published our three novels, The Chase, The Replacement, and The Candidate. My first book with Ann Platz was the Match Made in Heaven series for Multnomah. Ann and I also wrote four gift books, From This Day Forward, (Multnomah) Social Graces, The Pleasure of Your Company and Social Graces for Your Wedding (Harvest House). I’ve written three gift books with Alice Gray, A Christmas Keepsake, Keepsake for a Mother’s Heart, (J Countryman) and A Grandmother’s Love, coming out in 2008 with Howard/Simon Schuster, and I’ve written two others, The Art of Romantic Living (Janet Thoma/Thomas Nelson) and ‘Tis the Season. Two books with Dr. Ted Baehr accompanied films, Faith in God and Generals (B&H) and Amazing Grace, (New Leaf Press), produced by my husband, a biography for a soap opera star, and a non-fiction book, Standing on the Promises (Multnomah/Random House). My five-year-old granddaughter and I’ve written and illustrated a lot of books that haven’t been published.
ROBIN: I have written two cozies, four full length mysteries, and one Young Adult book, yet to be published.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
SUSAN: I have learned to say, "no." Helen Hayes, the late great stage actress, found it impossible to say no, so her friends gave a "no"’ pin to wear and point to when she needed to say no. I considered buying a "no" pin, but instead, I retreat in my home, especially when I have a big project or a book contract. These retreats allow me to spend time alone with God to restore my soul. During my retreats, I say ‘no’ to all invitations, even the tempting ones. When I’m not on retreat and life gets crazy, I take a ten-minute time out for a walk on the beach or a power nap. I also pray a lot, “Lord, I need some help down here!”
ROBIN: I spend time with God and ask Him to clear my mind and bring me His peace. I also take time out for me, but have to schedule it.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
SUSAN: I have a blast because I name my characters after my friends and family. If they’re alive, I ask their permission, especially if the character is a bad guy. All the guys love having a bad guy named after them. Go figure? This also gives me a great excuse to call and catch up with old friends I sometimes haven’t seen in years. When the book comes out, I’ll send them a copy.
ROBIN: Sometimes they are combination names of people I know or have known. For example, in the book trilogy, Pearl was my mother’s middle name and Lewis is the last name of a boy I dated in college. Jill was one of my college roommates. Other times a name just pops into my head. When I cannot seem to come up with the appropriate name for the personality of a character, I go through a book of baby names.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
SUSAN: As a mother and a grandmother seeing the things you have taught a child about God and life reflected in their lives. As a wife, knowing how I, as a helpmate, have inspired my husband and his accomplishments. As a daughter, seeing the joy in the eyes of my elderly parents that I turned out okay!
ROBIN: I am most proud of my loving family; my husband of thirty years and his missions work overseas, and our two children who both work in the health system to help others.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
SUSAN: Wow! Great question. I’d like to be an animal that could live in the water and on land, but not a hippo . . . a sea lion. I love to watch sea lions lounging on the beach in the sun with their pals. They’re so laid back and unafraid of approaching strangers. As I walk past them, they look up to acknowledge me. They fish and will share their food with their pals. When the mood hits them, they’ll waddle down to the ocean and take a dip. Their concern for one another is poignant. I saw a documentary in which a gigantic polar bear attacked a sea lion, and although they were unsuccessful, his friends desperately tried to pull the bear off of him. So if I were a sea lion, I’d definitely want to be a California sea lion!
ROBIN: I am really glad I am a human because Jesus saved me.
What is your favorite food?
SUSAN: My husband and I love salads so I’m always experimenting and creating new ones. Our favorite is a beef tenderloin salad I created. I toss my favorite greens, romaine and spinach with toasted pine nuts, crumbled goat cheese, purple onion rings, sliced strawberries, and my homemade vinaigrette dressing. A famous French chef taught me it’s all about the herbs, spices, and especially the quality of oil and vinegar in the salad dressing. If any you would like my recipe for the salad or the dressing, let me know, and I’ll be happy to email it to you.
ROBIN: My favorite food is Mexican. Yum.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
SUSAN: I’m still working on it! After I finish writing a book, I read it, and then I’ll rewrite it. And rewrite it and rewrite it. It’s a part of the creative process. And I just keep coming up with better ideas. When the deadline is looming, I finally just have to let it go. It's a challenge, but you gotta do it. It’s an addiction, but at deadline time, I refuse to open the file and look at it again. Does anyone know of a 12-step program for addictive rewriters?
ROBIN: My greatest roadblock is finding the time to write. I am a fulltime teacher and work 50 hour weeks. Time can be the issue.
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
SUSAN: Jesus Christ walked in excellence and to honor him, we must strive for excellence in all we do. So beginning writers, never stop perfecting your craft. If you don’t have the money to invest in a writer’s conferences or a writing class, you can find a ton of free information on the Internet on writing and great books at the library. Lena’s site is great for beginning writers. Take advantage of these wonderful resources. When friends and family members ask what you want for your birthday or Christmas, ask them to contribute to a writer’s conference fund. Conferences are invaluable. For those who have secured your first book contract, my advice for you is to listen to your editor. Discussions with your editor are great . . . ‘iron sharpening iron’, but if you reach an impasse, remember the editor is the expert. Discuss your true feelings with your editor, but if he or she still insists you make a change, hit that delete button and let it go, my friend. Choose your battles carefully, not just in writing but in life too.
ROBIN: Stick with it, believe in yourself but be open to change. Join a critic group and take writing lessons.
SUSAN: The Candidate is one of three inspirational romances that revolve around Jill Lewis, an investigative political reporter. At the close of The Replacement, Jill is burned out from a life-threatening investigation and ‘torn between two lovers’ . . . what a great problem to have, huh ladies? So what’s a girl to do? Jill runs home to Mama and persuades her to buy the local newspaper. But Jill can’t seem to escape those evil politicians and finds herself right back in the middle of a murder investigation. On a recent dive, she’s also discovered the remains of what appears to be the legendary lake monster at the bottom of the lake. Will anyone believe her? Will she escape the evil politicians? Will she decide which man to marry? Her mother and sister, who have just opened a bridal shop, certainly hope so. As one reader wrote, the ending of The Candidate will make you smile.
ROBIN: I am really proud that we were able to tie legends and history of Delavan, Wisconsin, into the book. It added a flavor to the story that makes it unique. It’s a fun read.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
SUSAN: You can find me on my amazon.com blog. Just put Susan Wales profile in the amazon.com search. My website is www.susanwales.net .
ROBIN: Just type my name in on the browser.
Thank you, Susan and Robin, for letting us get to know you more.
Readers, here's the good news for you. The drawing for this interview will be for all three of the books in the series, so you'll want to leave a comment for a chance to win this set of books.
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MaryLu Tyndall - The Restitution
Margaret Daley - Heart of the Home
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