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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Spotlight on Susan May Warren

Ok, so I'm out of town and internet access is quite limited. So, I wasn't able to get to this until now. Technically, since I'm on the other coast this week, it's still Tuesday. It's just a bit later for y'all on the East Coast. Our spotlight lady is all ready and waiting for her follow-up post as well. So, I'll get right to this.

I'm sensing a theme lately with the authors. Seems I've shifted into a "chic lit" trend now. *g* But, I go with who returns my interview questions. And this time, it was Susan May Warren.

Now, some of you might be familiar with her from her romantic suspense books, although I know her best from the Heirs of Anton series co-authored with Susan Downs. But, now she's shifted gears a little and tried her hand at chic lit. And done it with great success. Everything's Coming Up Josey hit the bookstores 2 weeks ago, and now Susie is here to share a bit more. She'll also be chatting later today, so feel free to comment here or on her post.

Every comment will be entered for a chance to win a FREE copy of the featured book. So, be sure to share your thoughts and tell others to come and visit too.

1. This is your first Chick Lit book. What led you to decide to try this genre and how did Everything's Coming Up Josey come about?

I've always been a fan of chick lit – a look at the quirky slice of life of a girl just trying to get it right. And, I love the first person voice – it's so authentic, and can draw a reader right into the world of the character. I didn't realize that I could write chick lit, however, until a visionary editor at Steeple Hill challenged me to write it. I had always wanted to write "my story" – a fresh, first person look at the reality of being a foreign missionary. Rising to her challenge, I crafted a story about a nice Minnesota girl who goes to Russia to teach English – and found myself laughing out loud. (Which I'm not sure is a good thing or bad thing…is it schizophrenic to find yourself laughing at your own foibles, dressed up in another character?) Writing Josey felt natural…and frankly, sorta cathartic!

2. Since this *is* a new genre for you, what was your most difficult part to write? Your favorite?

I think I struggled with wondering what was genuinely funny and what was just me remembering it as humorous. Not everyone shares the same sense of humor, so I sorta passed around select scenes to my friends, just to make sure it wasn't in my own head. My favorite part was finishing the book and reading it without the editor in my head, and really enjoying Josey's story for what it was.

3. What themes exist in Josey that you hope the reader sees? Are there any themes that weren't overt but developed as the story progressed?

Josey goes into the story thinking she's "all that." She clings to the Super-Christian Label of Missionary and sets herself apart because of this label. As she gets deeper into her work in Russia, she realizes how far she really is from the perfect missionary and that is when she begins to learn why God might have sent her to Russia. I hope that readers see that they don't have to be perfect for god to use them…in fact, it's better if they’re not! I hope the book encourages readers that God is at work in their lives to bring them from one season to the next.

4. In addition to this, you've also written romances and romantic suspense. How easy was it for you to switch gears and do you intend to continue writing both genres?

I have a little bit of "chick" voice in my Romantic suspense…a sorta of tongue in cheek way that my characters look at things. Writing chick lit has only accentuated that "chicky" voice. I really enjoy writing different things – I've written historical novels, historical romantic suspense, a contemporary mystery, a contemporary romance, and a thriller as well as a number of suspense romance novels and chick lit. I know that publishers like to keep their writers in one particular genre…so I like to think that each story is defined by it's adventure, romance and spiritual depth – Susan May Warren style. I do have another book coming out this year – Sands of Time (Steeple Hil), another thriller set in Russia, comes out this fall.

5. You've recently received the great news that your novel, In Sheep's Clothing, was selected as a Christy Award finalist. Where were you when you found out? How does it make you feel to join the ranks of the other authors who have reached this landmark in their writing careers?

How did I find out? My nine-year old told me. I arrived home from running errands in town and he said, "Hey mom, somebody called about an award." I was thinking…that Ed McMahon, he tracked me down! But no, I got online and found an email from my editor at Steeple Hill. Chaos broke out and for the next hour or so, things got pretty loud! I am really humbled by this…especially since Sheep is a different kind of book – about a missionary, set in Russia. I am grateful that the Christy Award judges are open to different types of stories. Two years ago, my first novel, Happily Ever After (Tyndale) was a finalist, but I have to say I'm even more humbled by this nomination because of the nature of the story and how near and dear it is to my heart.

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?

I am a horizontal organizer…everything has to be out and around me for easy access when I write a story…so I have a comfy chair and a huge ottoman on which I spread my characters and other pertinent information. And, during the creative phase, I leave it all out and just get up and walk away from the mess, closing the door. I try and write 1 chapter/day…whether it's 2000 words or 5000 words. That way I finish the rough draft in about a month or two (depending on how many days I write per week). I usually write in the afternoons, between 2-6 pm. I find it takes my brain that long to warm up! And sometimes, if I'm stuck, I'll get up and take a walk and sorta work it out verbally. (Good thing I live in the woods in a secluded area or people might think I'm looney!).

7. Are you a SOTP (seat-of-the-pants) writer or a plotter? Or do you possess a blend of both?

I'm a meticulous plotter – with reams of notes, and chapter by chapter summaries. BUT, once I sit down to write the chapter, knowing my parameters and what I hope to accomplish, I let the characters take over and do their thing. So I'm a little of both, I think. And, I also let the story grow, so if, in the middle of the book, I realize it can’t happen the way I've plotted it, I let myself change it. Just as long as I end up basically where I'd hoped.

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?

Oh, I think this is absolutely essential. Without ACFW I don't think I'd be published today. My fellow writers taught me how to hone my craft, and if it weren’t for contributions by authors like Brandilyn Collins, and Lynn Coleman, and Deb Raney, I would still be in Siberia, wondering what GMC was! Most of all, my ACFW family gave me support during those days when I wondered what I was doing, trying to write something. Writers are a rare and strange bird…we don't come out of our nest often, so we need to have friends willing to perch with us as they’re tapping away in their own nests. Writing groups do this.

9. When is your next book coming out and what is the story?

I have a book hitting the shelves in October – Sands of Time (#2) in the Mission:Russia series (In Sheep's Clothing, is book #1). The idea of this story was birthed years ago during the bombing of Yugoslavia when the Americans in Russia were told to stay in our homes and pack a bag and be ready to leave on a moment's notice. I wondered…what about the missionaries serving in the remote regions? If they didnt leave, would they be arrested as spies? And what if a FSB agent (and this is my sinister author's brain at work) was in love with said missionary and set out to rescue her…only to discover that she refused to leave? And what if the time period for her to leave ran out and he, as an FSB agent was required to ARREST her? What would he do? I had a lot of fun writing this story – I love Roman, the hero, and Sarai is my kind of girl – strong, holding onto her beliefs. It deals with the idea of picking up your cross and following Christ...regardless of the cost. And I got to put snowmobiles in it. *grin*

10. Anything else you wish to share?

I want to say thank you to my readers who encourage me and make this writing life such a blessing. I take my writing ministry very seriously, and the fact that people would spend their valuable free time reading my books is quite humbling. I'm so blessed be to doing what I love for the God I love – and my readers make it possible. Thank you!


Kristy Dykes said...

Great interview, Tiff! And Susan! Thanks for the insights, Susan.

BTW, Tiff, I just "found you" (your blog). It's now on my Favorites list!

Georgiana Daniels said...

Thanks for sharing a wonderful interview, and I look forward to reading about Josey.