Welcome Susan Sloate with her heart-warming release Stealing Fire. Follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning! The tour dates can be found here: http://goddessfishpromotions.blogspot.com/2013/06/virtual-book-tour-stealing-fire-by.html
Susan will be awarding a notebook perfect for journaling to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. But first, Susan answers my ten in a fun interview. 🙂
Danita, thanks for inviting me to come today! It’s so nice to stop here and chat for awhile about writing.
Woohoo! You are a published author. Describe a strong character trait you possess, good or bad, and how it helped you become a published author. Becoming a published author, for me, was a matter of reaching out to New York publishers (this was back in the late 1980’s) and trying to find one who would pay me to write a young-adult series book (which is what I was most wanted to write at that time). I’d grown up on all those Scholastic Book Club books – still read them – and wanted to find a house that was still doing them. (Lots of them, in case you’re wondering. Spend an hour with Literary Marketplace in your local library and look up Book Producers.) A small house that produced book series for large publishers hired me, mostly because the first one happened to be about girls who were training for Olympic dressage, and I just happened to be riding English saddle every week at the time. Perfect synchronicity! I wrote a sample, got a contract, produced a manuscript in a month (panting all the way down the wire), and got another two contracts immediately to write young-adult bios of Abraham Lincoln and Amelia Earhart. From there I just kept going, as we all tend to do. Wrote a book about baseball, one about pre-teen fashion, a bio of Clara Barton, then after a lapse of a few years (during which I got married and had children), I went back to it. Two bios of Ray Charles, a history of Alcatraz, some girls’ series fiction. Great fun!
I suppose you’d say the strong character trait I had was perseverance. I actually never bothered writing editors; I picked up the phone and called them. (Fortunately I’d worked for some years for a literary agency in L.A., so I could sound professional when I spoke to them.) They couldn’t get rid of me – I kept calling back every three or four weeks – and finally the right circumstances came along.
Sometimes an author begins writing a story before they are aware of its genre. Did you choose your genre, or did it choose you? It always chooses me. I never think about genre when I get an idea for a story, never consciously try to fit into one, though most of them have elements of history, or mystery, or romance, because that’s what I like to read. Mine are always ‘what if?’ situations – ‘what if I could travel back in time to save JFK from assassination in Dallas?’– that kind of thing. STEALING FIRE, my new novel, is the one exception I can think of – that story is a love story between an older guy and a younger woman, and at the time I began writing, that situation was happening to me. I couldn’t make sense of it and I wanted to try, so I started writing, but the characters and the novel just took off of their own accord, and I just kept writing.
The plot thickens, or does it? Which one are you, a pantser or a plotter? Depends on what month you meet me! 11 months a year I’m a plotter – I do like to have some idea of where I’m going when I start, though with STEALING FIRE I had no idea – I sat down at the typewriter (yes, folks, it was that long ago – I started this novel, I blush to admit, in 1983!) With more complex stories, like FORWARD TO CAMELOT (which will be re-published this fall), I actually plotted every important detail with my co-author, Kevin Finn, before we wrote the first draft. It was really necessary, because so much was happening at once we really needed that structure to lean on.
On the other hand, if you meet me in November, while I’m doing Nanowrimo – well, all bets are off! I have an idea I start with, probably very little beyond that, and every day I’m flying by the seat of my pants. No idea where I’m going. It’s totally exhilarating! I’ve done it 7 times, won it 6 times (crossing the finish line at the end of the month with 50,000 written words) – I recommend it to all writers, just because it’s such a great way to shed your inner editor and make things happen creatively – wonderful!
Fear 101: As writers it is our duty to make our characters face their fears. Have you ever included one of your own fears in a storyline? I really hate to admit this – but since you asked – ???!! – while I write in different genres and tell different kinds of stories, the one constant seems to be that the heroine is some version of me. (I just figured this out about a year ago.) In STEALING FIRE it’s the young me; in FORWARD TO CAMELOT it’s a highly glamorized, idealized version of me; in my upcoming novel THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL it’s an older, more realistic version. I’ve often included my relationship with my mother in novels – it wasn’t easy, though we love each other – but as far as having a real fear I can’t get over, I don’t usually mention those in books. (Hey, as the writer, I think it’s a perk of the job to make stories come out the way you want them to – which is a brave heroine who saves the day!)
Fear 102: Yes, deadlines are terrifying. Have you conquered the juggling act between writing and the rest of your life? What do you do when it feels like the balls are dropping all around you? That happened a lot more years ago than it does now. I think I’ve really reached a point in my life where I decide what’s the priority and then am lucky that I can work my life around that priority. This year, with THREE novels (that is not a typo) in production and ready for publication this fall, the juggling act is at a premium – trying to finish and support all 3 has been ridiculously hard. I sleep a lot less, do a lot more writing and editing a lot faster than I ever thought I could, and since this time missing deadlines has critical consequences, I don’t dare fall behind. Fortunately my kids are a lot older and don’t mind a lot of meals at MacDonald’s!
Switch positions with one of your main characters in a scene. What is the outcome, disaster or divine intervention? If I were to switch places with Amanda from STEALING FIRE, I suspect a crucial scene in the story, where she’s being rejected by the love of her life who’s trying to do ‘the right thing’, would be very different. Instead of being hurt and feeling horrible, at this point in my life I’m a lot more secure about who I am. I’d probably confront him and say, “Listen, dude, we both know you’ll never feel like this again about a woman. How can you be so stupid as to let me go?” Let’s face it, when you get older you realize there’s no point in not speaking up, and you also realize you’re likelier to be respected if you do. Not sure how he would react in the scene – but I’ll bet there’d be some serious laughter involved (and then possibly some even more serious lovemaking!)
Where is your favorite place to write? Add that one comfort food that you can’t do without. Right now I’m writing mostly at my kitchen table, which at least gives me a balanced surface but isn’t always comfortable. During Nanowrimo one year, I discovered that I actually enjoyed taking my laptop into bed with me, and it was quite easy to balance it on my knees and get a lot of work done. Having learned that, I suspect I’ll go back to it at some point; I can write in pajamas, support my back and not be bothered, because everyone thought I was still asleep – hah!
I don’t usually eat while I’m writing, because it’s just too distracting enjoying a meal while you’re trying to come up with clues for your murder. And if the murder is interesting enough, honestly, I don’t get hungry. I do, however, admit to drinking a lot more Diet Pepsi than is good for me (decaffeinated, at least). I get thirsty after several hours at the desk.
One of my few healthy habits is to make time for exercise whenever possible – either before I start my writing day or taking some time off in the middle for a walk or a short exercise or dance tape. It helps get the blood flowing again!
Writing inspirations? Anything can inspire me, but probably the most inspiring is re-reading my favorite authors. I’m one of those readers who reads the same book again and again, and I really can’t understand people who enjoy a book once and think they’re finished with it. Seriously? Don’t you know how much more you get out of it a second, third, twelfth, hundredth time? (Yes, I have read books a hundred times.) I get wonderful ideas from them about how to structure a book (Leo Rosten in CAPTAIN NEWMAN, M.D. interspersed very serious and sad chapters with very funny ones – I thought that was a great idea and noted it down to try myself), how to write simple, highly readable prose (try any Dick Francis mystery), how to tell a true story warmly and movingly (KAREN and WITH LOVE FROM KAREN). Max Allan Collins is particularly inspiring – and irritating – no one should be that prolific! – but I love his historic research and love how he takes an historic event and turns it into superlative fiction. (However, when he described Walter Gibbs, who wrote THE SHADOW novels, which became the famous radio show with Orson Welles, and he said that Gibbs had written something like twelve 50,000-word novels in the first 10 months of 1938, I almost busted a gut!
You are introduced to your favorite author. Who is it, and what is that one burning question you must ask them? It would have to be Dick Francis, and the question would be, “How’s life in heaven?” since he’s no longer with us. Okay, I’m kidding. I know I’d ask a question about his career as a jockey – he almost won the Grand National in 1956 until his horse, Devon Loch, fell on the straight just a few hundred yards from the finish. Totally inexplicable. I’d love to know his thoughts about that, and since he went on to have a tremendous career as a novelist, I’d like to ask if he thought that disappointment with Devon Loch might have given him that much more impetus to succeed as a novelist. (I have a theory that being really disappointed in one area of your career can give you that kind of impetus to try again.) I think most of us, if we love an author, are convinced he/she knows everything about how to write brilliantly all the time and would reveal it if asked nicely, but in my experience, most writers who can pull off magical writing aren’t always sure how they do it. The same, I hear, with actors.
I’ve gone mad – why don’t you come with me? Some people just don’t understand us writers. Name a quirky, writer-thing you do that friends wish you didn’t. Probably the most annoying thing I do with friends that you might consider writer-like is to quote favorite lines from movies or books at what I feel are appropriate times in the conversation (ie, when the talk seems to be moving in that direction). It’s embarrassing that while my short-term memory seems fried, the movies I’ve seen many times – or books I’ve read many times – are stuck in the old cranium, and reminders of them pop out at the worst moments! What’s even worse is if you have a great, appropriate line but it takes a long time to set up. By the time you get to the punch line, your friends are looking at you cross-eyed!
Danita, this was so much fun! Thanks for having me!
“How do you recognize your soulmate?
In glittery 1980’s Los Angeles, Beau Kellogg is a brilliant Broadway lyricist now writing advertising jingles and yearning for one more hit to compensate for his miserable marriage and disappointing life.
Amanda Harary, a young singer out of synch with her contemporaries, works at a small New York hotel, while she dreams of singing on Broadway.
When they meet late at night over the hotel switchboard, what begins will bring them each unexpected success, untold joy, and piercing heartache … until they learn that some connections, however improbable, are meant to last forever.
STEALING FIRE is, at its heart, a story for romantics everywhere, who believe in the transformative power of love.”
STEALING FIRE was a Quarter-Finalist (Top 5%) in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest.
Oh, God, it was him, the bastard who had upset the switchboard operators and bellowed through the lobby loudly enough to alert all five boroughs. At three o’clock in the morning, asking for room service. Unbelievable.
Amanda leaned back in her chair. Her stomach was tightening inexplicably. “I’m sorry,” she said finally, when she could control her voice. “Room Service closes at midnight.”
There was a pause. “Oh. What time is it now?”
She looked at her watch. “Ten after three.”
“Then whom am I speaking to?”
“I’m the night operator. This is the main switchboard.”
“Well, main switchboard, you must all sound alike down there. I could swear I talked to you earlier tonight.”
Well, how about that. “You’ve got a good ear, 704. I was on duty earlier.”
“Good Lord. How long are the shifts around here?”
“Eight hours for everybody else. I’m working a double today.”
“Maybe I just love it here.”
“I guess you do. But I hope you’re well compensated.”
Trust a man to think of money first. “That’s not my major concern.”
“Glad to hear it.”
Okay, enough’s enough. It’s been a long day, made even longer by him. No reason to shoot the breeze with this guy. “Excuse me, I have other callers. Sorry I couldn’t help you.”
“Well, better luck with them.”
“Look, if you’d called earlier—”
“Absolutely. My fault entirely, for falling asleep after a cross-country flight, a time change and a screw-up in hotel administration. Forget I even mentioned it.” The phone clicked in her ear.
She sat for some moments before she noticed she was trembling. This was the second time he’d undermined her—and it bothered her.
Susan Sloate is the author of 20 published books, including FORWARD TO CAMELOT (with Kevin Finn), an alternative history of the JFK assassination, STEALING FIRE, an autobiographical love story, and REALIZING YOU (with Ron Doades), for which she invented a new genre – the self-help novel. FORWARD TO CAMELOT was a #6 Amazon bestseller, took honors in 3 literary competitions and was optioned for film production by a Hollywood company. STEALING FIRE was a quarter-finalist in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest. Susan has also written young-adult fiction and non-fiction, including RAY CHARLES: FIND ANOTHER WAY!, which won a silver medal in the 2007 Children’s Moonbeam Book Awards, AMELIA EARHART: CHALLENGING THE SKIES, a perennial Amazon bestseller, and MYSTERIES UNWRAPPED: THE SECRETS OF ALCATRAZ, which led to her appearance on a special for The History Channel in 2009, as well as books for five girls’ fiction series. As a screenwriter, she has written an informational film for McGraw-Hill Films and optioned two scripts to Hollywood production companies. As a sportswriter, she’s covered the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Mets. She’s also managed two recent political campaigns, founded the East Cooper Authors Festival (which put 18 professional authors in 17 area schools in one day) and serves on the Culture, Arts and Pride Commission of the Town of Mount Pleasant.