Well, here's my next author spotlight. And as promised, it's Tuesday. So, I'm doing good so far with my goal. One for one. *g*
Susan will have a personal post as well to follow this interview. And we'll be having a drawing from everyone who comments on either this post or hers for a free copy of Oregon Escort. Enjoy the interview!
1. You have two books with Heartsong Presents, and 5 more slated to release in the next year. What made you want to write inspirational romance and what steps brought you to this career? How long did it take before your dream was realized?
When I first started writing fiction, I was leaning more toward mystery and suspense. I felt my newspaper experience and love of the genre had prepared me for that. After stacking up quite a few rejections, I decided to try another genre. My first few attempts at pure romance were also rejected and I was discouraged.
About three years after seriously beginning to write fiction, I did sell several short romantic stories to Woman’s World Magazine, which was enough to keep me going. Soon I was selling stories to other publications.
Then a real, breathing book editor suggested I write a historical romance. He liked my writing style, but needed historicals at that time. That’s when I wrote my first published book, Protecting Amy. (Thanks for the advice, Jim Peterson!) While waiting for its release, I came up with ideas for several more historicals. My second book, The Oregon Escort, was also bought by Heartsong, and author Cathy Marie Hake graciously invited me to be in a threesome with her and another author, Vickie McDonough. That trio will come out in August, September, and October this year. It was a great honor to work with those gals! More historicals, including a Maine trilogy, followed.
As to the dream being realized, well ... It’s true many of my dreams have come true. Being a multi-published author is one of them that still floors me. It is less important than many other things, like my family. But it’s good. Very good.
I'm still basking in the satisfaction that first contract brought, but not resting on it. I have a lot more dreams now. My hankering to write mysteries never left me, and I had an 8,000-word humorous story published in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. My first published mystery novel will be Homicide at Blue Heron Lake, written with my 24-year-old daughter Megan. I'm very thankful for the blessings the Lord has brought to me through my writing. I have lots of other projects in the works, and I still have plenty of unfulfilled dreams.
2. The Oregon Escort features a Cavalry Corporal. Protecting Amy features a Frontier Scout and two cavalry troopers. Do you have any background in or connection to the army, or does that subject matter simply fascinate you? What led you choose those type of men for your lead heroes?
You caught me. I've had an affinity for Cavalry stories since I was a child, watching old B westerns on TV. Things can look hopeless, but when you hear that bugle blow, you know everything’s going to be all right.
Heartsong readers love "prairie" stories, but I wanted my first book, Protecting Amy, to have a different twist and a lot of tension, so I made up an army major whose rambunctious daughter is with him at Fort Bridger when trouble threatens the fort. Then Amy and her escort, hand-picked by her father, must travel east along the Oregon Trail in a suspenseful sustained chase.
I first learned about the real cavalry unit called the Oregon Escort while visiting a museum in Oregon. I knew immediately that I wanted to write a book about it, and my second book focuses on those brave men who escorted wagon trains from Fort Laramie to Oregon City in the early 1860s.
3. The Oregon Escort takes place during a well-known time of pioneers traveling the Oregon Trail. It was also a very treacherous and dangerous time in our country's history. What was your most difficult part to write? Your favorite?
I'd say the most difficult was the last third of the book. I wanted to be sure my references to the trail were accurate, so I did a ton of research. This book takes place in 1860, and there were Pony Express riders and stations along the trail by then. It was near the end of the "wagon train" period. After the transcontinental railroad was completed, wagon trains faded away. This was a time of transition, and also a prelude to the Civil War. I tried to bring out some of that unease, where the men of the Escort wondered if they would soon be called East for a war.
My favorite parts of this book were the dialogue between Mike and Lydia, and also their fight against the Sioux. Dialogue is one of my strengths, but I just loved it when Lydia let her arrow fly!
4. Protecting Amy was named second favorite historical of the year in 2004. Tell us about your feelings upon receiving the results of the annual reader's poll?
I was stunned. Until I heard the news, I had no idea Heartsong took this poll every year. Hearing that my book was named second-favorite historical of the year (2004) and I was named Favorite New Author of the Year was affirming, but it was humbling when I saw the list of other authors I was up against. God gave me this wonderful encouragement at a time when I really needed it.
5. What themes exist in The Oregon Escort that you hope the reader sees? Are there any themes that weren't overt but developed as the story progressed?
A couple of themes I played on are not judging a book (or a man) by the cover, and also faithfulness. Lydia's quandary over fulfilling her obligations was a major thread in the story. Mike wanted her to break a contract, but in the end he told her he knew she was right to honor her promise, and he honored her for that, giving her scripture to undergird her decision.
6. Describe your writing space and schedule. How many words per day do you write and do you have a minimum goal you hope to reach before you push away your keyboard?
My space: a very messy home office with two desks (computer and "regular but cluttered"), four overflowing bookcases, four file cabinets ... well, you get the picture.
My schedule varies tremendously because of my family situation. I help give care for my elderly father and mother-in-law, and I still have two of my six children being schooled at home. If I can rough out a chapter a day, I feel pretty good. Some days I just can't do that. I like to finish a section that I'm working on in one sitting if possible, for the continuity of it.
7. Are you a SOTP (seat-of-the-pants) writer or a plotter? Or do you possess a blend of both?
I'm smiling at this question. I used to be a confirmed (or so I thought) SOTP writer, insisting that I just let my characters take me wherever they wanted to go. Now I know better. Even in those days, I was running the story through my mind many times before writing the rough draft. Now I write notes, outlines, synopses, timelines—whatever seems best for that particular project. This advance planning keeps me from painting myself into a corner in my plots. But I'm always open to revision and frequently add major plot twists after I’m deep into the book.
8. How important do you believe it is for a new writer or even an established one to join a writing group such as ACFW?
For my first four years of fiction writing I was alone. No wonder I became discouraged so easily! I was professionally isolated. Then I found a monthly support group and online writing friends. I cannot express how much this has helped me. I joined ACFW less than a year ago, and it has been a tremendous boost. Through this group and the online "loop" I've met wonderful people who have answered writing questions, given advice, helped me plan speaking events, and invited me to join projects. I didn't find this group until after I was published. In the early days of my fiction writing, I suppose I assumed that published authors wouldn't want to be bothered by someone like me. But the writers in ACFW are gracious, giving people, always willing to help a newbie.
9. What does your upcoming releases schedule look like and what are the story lines?
I'm excited about the books I have coming out in the next year!
July 2006: The Prisoner’s Wife, from Heartsong, will feature Jack Hunter, a colonial Maine man accused of murdering his neighbor. When Jack is told he'll be hung in the morning, he sends for the only woman he ever loved. Lucy's father broke them up three years ago, but now Jack is begging Lucy to marry him in the jail, so that the magistrates can't seize his property after he is executed.
Weaving a Future will come out in October with Heartsong. This is part of a Shenandoah Spinning Wheel trilogy. The heroine in this 1854 book is Sadie, whose father breeds horses. Unfortunately, when Harry Cooper goes to buy some stock from the farm, he is gets a misleading impression, and Sadie isn't sure how to set things right.
Wyoming Hoofbeats, a December 2006 release, will complete my Wyoming Brides trilogy. It features Matthew Barkley, brother of Protecting Amy's T.R. Barkley. Matt falls in love with a woman held captive by the Arapaho Indians.
Also in the fall, my children's fantasy book, Feather, will be published by Journeyforth Publishing. Feather is a 12-year-old girl who is kidnapped by a band of marauders and forced to make weapons her captors will use against her people.
Homicide at Blue Heron Lake will release in February 2007, with Heartsong Presents: Mysteries (also known as Spyglass Lane), and my Maine Brides trilogy with Heartsong will be completed in the spring with The Castaway's Bride and The Lumberjack's Lady.
10. Anything else you wish to share?
Hang onto your dreams of writing, be diligent, and enjoy every minute. Praise God for allowing you to do this! Oh, and come see me at my website (www.susanpagedavis.com) and at the Maine Fellowship of Christian Writers one-day mini-conference Aug. 5th in Belfast.