Q. Good Evening Susan and thank you for taking some time to take this interview with me. Can I ask what drew you to writing?
A: I started writing after a season of loss and it brought new purpose and direction to my life.
Q: How long have you been writing?
A: I started my first novel in July 2013 at the age of 62.
Q: How long did it take you to write this book?
A: Three months. Then a YEAR to edit. Another year to polish and submit for publishing.
Q: What do you use to write your books?
A: Sticky notes for plot points. Typed into a laptop.
Q: What problems did you encounter?
A: I found a children’s author critique group and started taking my book to them for review. I found I had made all the classic mistakes; started with a dream sequence, switched character point of view constantly, and didn’t know what age group I was writing for… I could go on and on.
Q: How do you think you’ve evolved as a writer since you’ve started?
A: I knew nothing so I had everything to learn.
Q: Is there anything you wished you’d known when you started writing?
A: I’m glad that I was clueless about how much work and time and money it would take to turn the book I loved into a treasure.
Q: Do you structure your plots or just go with the flow?
A: I read what I wrote yesterday and keep going.
Q: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
A: My creative spirit is nourished by solitude, time in prayer, and riding my horse on the trails in the woods.
Q: What draws you to this genre?
A: I didn’t make a conscious choice to write middle-grade. It’s my natural voice.
Q: How many books have you written?
A: I’ve published two equine-themed novels and have several scenes written for the next in the series. I have a couple adventure books in various stages of completion for boys.
Q: Who designed your front cover?
A: My best friend, Melissa Gates, is an artist and she did the art for Selah’s Sweet Dream. For Mary’s Song, I asked Ruth Sanderson. If you don’t recognize her name – she did the covers for The Black Stallion paperback series.
Q: Who was the first person you showed your novel too?
A: It’s asking a lot of a husband to expect him to read a horse book for tween girls, but he loved it and has encouraged me all the way.
Q: Have you ever dedicated a book to someone?
A: I dedicated Mary’s Song to my deceased grandmother because she was a librarian and introduced me to The Black Stallion series.
Q: How do you deal with bad reviews?
A: I take all reviews seriously. I want to know the weaknesses of the work as it is the only way to make it better.
Q: Do you use an agent?
A: For about a week I thought I had an agent. She swooned over the book but left me at the altar. Her confidence in the book gave me the determination to publish it myself.
Q: How much time do you devote to marketing your books?
A: Since I don’t know what I’m doing marketing takes too much time and it cuts into my writing. I console myself with… if no one reads it do I really need to bother writing another one?
Q: How do you get your book reviews/reviewed?
A: When someone buys my book at a horse show or event, or comments on my Facebook, or writes me an email about enjoying my book, I BEG them to write a review. That only works 1 in 30 times.
Q: Do you do all your own proofreading and editing?
A: No way! I hire a professional editor. I want my books to be on a level playing field with the books that are traditionally published.
Q: How and where are you publishing this book?
A: At first I did KDP and Createspace only. For the second book, I am trying new things like Instagram and iBooks.
Q: What are the main benefits of being an independent author?
A: I wrote Selah’s Sweet Dream for my granddaughter. I worked at getting it agented and submitted to publishing houses without ever realizing that if a house had picked it up that THEY would own the book. They would make all the decisions about its development. How could I have ever thought I could sell a book I’d written for Selah?
Q: What are you reading at the moment? Which book do you have by your bed?
A: The Night Gardener. A middle-grade book that was recommended by a boy at a horse show.
Q: Where are your favourite places to read?
A: I am a slow reader because I will stretch out on a couch, on my deck, with a book, and promptly fall asleep.
Q: What books do you read to your grandchildren?
A: To Selah, any and all horse books. We just finished an old one called Leah’s Pony which has a wonderful plot about the girl giving up her pony to help save the family’s farm. A major ah…
Q: Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?
A: Find a critique group and change everything. Learn how to take criticism and use it to make your book the best it can be.
Q: What’s coming next?
A: I’m working on a collection of equine short stories which are free on my website!