Blog Archive

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Creating Meaningful Story Elements: An Interview with award-winning author, Susan May Warren

Today I am pleased to welcome to my blog Susan May Warren. She is a bestselling author of more than forty novels. Her books have been chosen as Top Picks by Romantic Times, won the RWA's Inspirational Reader's Choice contest and the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year award. She also runs a writing community for authors. Yet somehow she found time to do this interview and I thank her for it.

I am in awe at the number of books you have written and how you can easily move from different fiction styles. When did you publish your first book? Did you have an agent?

I published my first novel while living and working as a missionary in Russia.  I did not have an agent – I looked for publishers who would take unagented authors and worked with them.  My first novel was published because I won a contest Tyndale was having to discover new authors.

As a writer, do you think the requirements in producing a novel have changed since your first book?

No. I think a great story is a great story.  You need to understand storytelling elements and how to put together a novel that brings the reader through an emotional experience with the character. This is the crux of all novels, throughout time.

Your writing covers the romance spectrum from contemporary to historical and suspense. Do you have one genre that you feel more comfortable writing?

I love writing contemporary because I enjoy bringing into the story elements that I see in my everyday life.  But I love the challenge of writing historicals because of the research. I’m a research junkie.

One of your early pieces was for Pockets Magazine for children. Was that a non-fiction story? Is this something you’d like to go back and do some more?
I had an epiphany for a children’s story based on something that happened to my son, and wrote the story with Pockets in mind.  I am not necessarily a children’s writer, so it hasn’t been something I’ve pursued. But, if I get another epiphany….!

Since you write historical fiction, do you do your own research or do you have an assistant who does that for you? Is there one particular piece of research that surprised you?

No, I do my own research. I remember thinking, as I researched and wrote DUCHESS, that I didn’t realize that actors and actresses signed onto a studio like employees, and were paid a weekly sum, regardless of how much the movie made. (this was in the 1930s).  They felt a little like cattle, and the studios put them in whatever movies they wanted.  This was why United Artists (studio) was formed.  Interesting!

In your bibliography, it shows you publish multiple books each year. How do you find the time to be so prolific with raising a family? 
I write a book in about 3-4 months, including research and edits. I usually write a very rough draft, then do rewrites, then edit it, then proof it before I hand it into my publisher.  As for the kids – I write when they are at school, and am with them when they come home. But I have been known to take my computer to basketball games!

Have there been any books that you’ve felt strongly about writing that haven’t passed the editorial stage?

I have one series that I’m hanging onto, trying to decide what to do about it.  I haven’t really put it out into the marketplace yet, waiting for the right timing. But no, for the most part, my publishers have been on board with my ideas – and me, theirs! That’s important – you both want to love the story ideas.

You’ve received numerous awards for your writing over the years. Is there one that stands out with special meaning for you?

Probably the Christy, which I won this year.  I’ve been up for it six times, so it was very special to me to win.

You’ve also published books on writing and have several writing courses. What made you decide to go that route? What has been the most rewarding aspect you’ve had in helping others improve their writing craft?

I am a teacher at heart, so I loved helping people write their novels. But I was also fed up with all the different writing methods out there – it seemed so confusing to so many.  My method is very organic and intuitive, so I began to teach it and it caught on.  I teach based on my methods, so I really enjoy it, and I learn something every time I teach. I love it when I see someone’s eyes light up and they say, “for the first time, I finally get it!”  Cool!! 

What is some of the best writing advice that you’ve received or could give?

Keep writing.  Seriously – don’t just finish a book and sit on it.  Find another story and write that. Dee Henderson gave me that advice. 

What is the next book that will be coming out? Can you give me a short synopsis?

It Had to Be You.  It’s the 2nd in the Christiansen Family series, and it’s a Good Samaritan story about two strangers who find a John Doe and decide to look for his family.  When they do, they discover not only each other, but they end up saving lives.  It’s a story about looking more closely at the people in our world instead of walking by them.

If you would like to book this book or learn about her other ones, here's the link to her website. if you would like to improve your writing, here's a link to her writing courses.

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