INTERVIEW WITH THE SUSPENSE SISTERS
Here is the text from a recent interview with the Suspense Sisters…
SS: How long have you been writing?
Since grade school. I started with political essays as a game with my dad. We’d read the front page of the newspaper, then I’d write taking a position, and we’d discuss it. From there, I went into poetry, decided I lacked the disposition for it, so I tried a few short stories, but felt too confined. I need room to sprawl out, so I tackled writing a book.
SS: Do you write full time? If the answer is no, what else do you do? If you are a full time author, what other jobs did you have in the past?
I am a full-time author and have been for many years. Before then, I was Director of Operations for a corporate chain, and before then a Certified Escrow Officer handling commercial transactions. Before that, I worked for a Congressman, a legal firm handling escrow real estate transactions, and earlier still, I worked in a department store. I got trained as a Cosmetologist while in high school so I could pay my way through college.
SS: Tell us about the moment you finally felt like a “real author”?
When the very first printed book arrived at my house—it was dedicated to my mother—and I placed the book in her hands. Before then (I’d been writing a long time), I felt like a writer, but that was the defining moment when I felt like an author. My mother loved books and read all the time. I passed her that book and she burst into tears. That was the most memorable moment for me. I still get choked up, recalling it.
SS: Who has been your greatest supporter as an author?
Until her death, my mother. From my earliest scribbling forward, she was steadfast in her faith and support. There’ve been many who have helped me along the way, but she’s the one that glued me back together with the, “Try one more time. Just one more time.”
SS: Why suspense? Do you write in any other genres? If so, what?
I write in many genres because I like many genres, but all my stories have suspense. Without it, I don’t love the story, and my one rule is to never write a story I don’t love. Suspense fascinates me. Especially taking innocuous things or situations and cloaking them in suspense. It proves that emotion is in the heart of the beholder. Anything can be suspenseful, given the right circumstances and conditions. As an author, that spells fun, interesting explorations and that’s entertaining. It also dovetails well with my author theme which is healing. Every book I write has a healing theme, and suspense is a wonderful vehicle for it.
SS: How does your faith play into your writing?
I don’t think faith can be separated from a person. It’s ingrained. It governs perception down to the tiniest details. We notice what we notice through our personal prism and our lens is one seated in faith. We process what we see and translate it into our stories, all from within. So if we’re people of faith, we can’t divide ourselves into segments and remove parts of us. It’s not just what we see and sense, but how we see and sense it. Why we notice that specific thing and deem it worthy of space in our book. So for me, whether I’m writing a book specifically for the inspirational reader or one for readers of general market fiction, seeds of faith are always in the stories and the people.
I’m a bridge-walker. I have one foot in the Christian world and one foot in the secular world; I walk the bridge doing what I can where I can. Like so many other authors, my goal is to shine light in dark places so those stumbling in the dark can see that there is light and find a way to it. That’s my hope for each book. So faith, overt or subtle, infuses everything, especially my writing.
SS: If you couldn’t write, what else would you want to do?
Honestly, I became a writer because I wanted to do so many things, and I refused to choose just one. Lawyer, teacher, ambassador, social services, doctor, scientist—you name it. It all fascinates me. But my dream job? Well, years ago, I saw a sign and I loved it. So it’s on the wall in my office. It reads: When I grow up, I want to be a Fairy Godmother. Wouldn’t that just be the best job? To help make other people’s dreams come true?
SS: Tell us about your current release.
My newest book is Down and Dead in Dixie. It’s the first book in my Down and Dead, Inc. series. Light suspense, heavy topics, but I’ve introduced a humorous element for balance. This is a clean read, and while there is a Christian perspective, it’s not an inspirational novel. In it, the heroine is in real trouble through no fault of her own. She happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And she’s alone, beside herself, and in her series of foster homes, she never really learned to pray. A classmate once had told her if she prayed wrong, God would get angry with her. But as a woman, she’s been exploring her spirituality and she’s quickly overwhelmed by circumstances. She needs God, and so she dares to pray. I just love that part of this book. And of course, she realizes what we know, that the Father who created her, created her exactly as she is, and He loves her unconditionally. I love that, too. And the colorful, wacky cast of characters. They’re endearing.
SS: Where did you get your inspiration for this book?
It was a gift book. One of those where the whole thing—plot and characters and everything comes to you in a flash. That was in 2008. It didn’t fit with what I was writing so I made detailed notes and put it aside. From time to time, I would think about it, and so I began writing a few pages here and there. I laughed and so enjoyed my time on the book. Then last October I had some medical issues and it occurred to me that some things shouldn’t be postponed indefinitely—whether or not they fit your current plan—and if a story keeps nagging at you, you really need to write it. So I pulled Dixie off the shelf and read what I’d done. I ended up throwing out all but three or so of the roughly hundred pages of the story I’d written, but I still loved the story and the characters, so I wrote the book.
I had such fun that I wrote a second project, a short story in the series, too. And I’m now working on a third one.
NOTE: Daisy Grant, the lead character in Dixie, disclosed she nagged me into writing the book. You can read her account of it HERE. Silly me. I actually thought I chose to write it. You’d think I would know better by now…
SS: What is the main thing you hope readers remember from your story?
What I mentioned about the heroine. She wasn’t raised with faith, but needed it and she knew it. She sought God and found Him. That nothing about you is a surprise to Him. He created you exactly as you are and loves you exactly as you are—warts and all. And you might feel alone and think you’re alone, but you’re never alone, and what you need will be provided.
SS: Who is your favorite character in this book and why?
I would have to say the heroine’s senior next door neighbor, Lester. He’s hilarious. A brick short and yet wise. Not all together but fragmented and yet constant and steady. He’s a wonderful character and even just writing about him now, I find myself smiling.
SS: Who is your least favorite character in this book? Why?
I’m torn on this—because the villains are grieving and fearful for their children and that touches my compassion and my mother’s heart. But there is a female character who is referenced in the book that is my least favorite due to her actions toward the heroine. Yet even with her, I find myself wondering why she did what she did the way that she did it. I can not like her actions, but I can’t not like her. I don’t know if I like her. But she is my least favorite character because the consequences of her actions are far-reaching, and she might be paying a price for that, but so are two others. The costs to them were and are very steep.
SS: What are you working on now?
I’m working on another Down and Dead, Inc. book, Down and Dead in Fern. I’m being self-indulgent and working my way down the alphabet in the titles. Dixie, Even and now Fern. These are the names of places in the stories. You first meet the lead character in Fern in Even. She . . . intrigues me.
I’ve also just finished rewriting Duplicity and Her Perfect Life. Both novels were original written for the general market. When I got rights back on them, I decided to rewrite them as Clean Read Books. So those will be available within the next week.
SS: A tough question: Where do you want to be career-wise in five years? Ten years?
In five years, I want to be content wherever I am. I believe that things work out the way they’re supposed to work out. So you look at what is in your path, seize opportunities presented and discovered, and then do your best wherever you are. Same answer for ten years. Writing. Walking the bridge. Doing my best for something I hope holds value.
SS: Now let’s get a little personal. Name two things on your “bucket list” that you haven’t done yet.
In small ways I’ve tried to be a fairy godmother to others. But I would love—LOVE—to be a full-fledged fairy godmother to someone. It appeals to my desire to help others fulfill their dreams, to encourage them to dare to dream. And that appeals to the whimsy in me. If I could do those things anonymously, all the better. For me, that’s the ultimate dream.
The second thing on my bucket list? To repeat the first thing on my bucket list. I’m not being glib. It’s just that in the bucket-list kind of way, this most matters to me.
SS: What is the silliest thing you have ever done?
Now that would take a book! Maybe a series! When I sold my first book, I told the editor I was very happy, I’d always wanted to write for her publisher. Only instead of her company I named a competitor. That was pretty silly and ranks right up at the top of the list.
But at the very top of the list was when I taught my little granddaughter how to spit. We were on a walk in the woods, she asked, so I taught her. When we got back to her mom, she was so excited, she had to show her “something.” She spit right in her mother’s face.
We got punished. Time-out in those little bitty chairs. Thirty whole minutes. I remember sitting there, thinking: Note to self. When teaching the angels to spit, remember to tell them when they show their parents to turn their heads. No spitting in their faces. And: Note to self. Probably ought to buy some bigger time-out chairs…
My daughter did let me off, though I couldn’t not do the hard time with my angel. I’d done the crime, and what kind of example would that be? But I have to tell you, I couldn’t wait to get out of that tiny chair.
SS: What is the hardest thing you have ever done?
Planning my brother’s funeral. I was thirteen. My dad had a heart attack that day and my mother was in shock. I had to be the rock and I was barely a pebble. But we got through it. Wait. No. That wasn’t hardest. Hardest was watching my mother grieve my brother and my dad, and then her suffering a long illness and watching her die day-by-day and minute-by-minute. That was definitely the hardest.
SS: Where can readers find you on the internet?
SS: Anything else you’d like to tell or share with us?
Thank you for inviting me to spend some time with you today. I appreciate your interest very much. And thank you for the thought-provoking questions. You made me laugh and cry. Not sad cry, but bittersweet cry. Memories, even hard ones, are good.
I hope you’ll give Down and Dead in Dixie a try and join me on the bridge!