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Tuesday, August 25, 2020

It's All a Matter of Mindset: Author Interview with Susan Sleeman


My interview today is with a bestselling author of over forty Christian/inspirational, romantic suspense, and mystery novels.  She’s won several awards, including the ACFW Carol Award for Suspense and the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award. And she has sold over a million books. Read on to learn how she’s achieved this success.

I am in awe at the number of books you have written and how you continue from one series to the next. At the beginning, you published with HQ Love Inspired Suspense where many new authors begin. How many books in did it take until you thought, I can make a career out of this?

What a good question. It was after my first multi-book contract with Love Inspired, that I believed I could make a living at writing. This would've been the contract for my Justice Agency series or my fourth book.

You now publish under Edge of Your Seat Books, Inc., which is the tag line on your website. Am I to understand this is your own imprint? What made you change to indie-publishing? 

Yes, this is my own imprint. I didn't change to indie-publishing alone. I am a hybrid author. I write for Bethany House Publishing under a traditional contract as well as publish books via my company.

I actually happened into indie accidentally. I was asked to join other authors in writing a novella for a multi-book set. Then we each published our novellas independently. I wrote Cold Harbor with the thought of it being book one in a series. Sales for Cold Terror took off right away, and I quickly thought if a short novella could sell so well, what might a novel do? 

So I wrote the second book in the series, and it sold very well too. So I wrote the third book. At that point, I didn't look back. I fit as many indie novels as I could between my contracted books and my indie career was born.

What are the pitfalls of going indie that new or established authors need to know before they make the switch?

I have found no real pitfalls in indie publishing. But something I would tell any author before doing it, is that you have to treat it like a business and be able to manage a business to succeed. I have prior management experience and this helped me succeed as an independent author.

But you have to be prepared to wear every hat. From cover design, to administrative details like uploading books, to advertising. Or plan to hire someone who can do it for you. Everything is up to you. You succeed or fail based on what you put into it. One other thing I would mention is that to succeed financially you need to write several books a year. Preferably one every ninety days or so. Many writers can't do that so it's something to consider.

Besides suspense novels, you’ve also penned three cozy mystery series. What made you branch out to that genre? Do you think you’ll write more?

I actually started with the cozy mysteries, but for some reason cozies don't sell well in the Christian market so publishers didn't want to contract them. If I wanted to make a living as a writer, I needed to write what the market wanted, which at the time was romantic suspense and still is. I'd love to write more cozies, but I just can't fit them into my schedule.

That's too bad because I am an avid cozy mystery reader. The suspense novels I see in stores and online are male driven with male authors. Why did you choose to write suspense novels? 

Romantic suspense is female author driven and I write romantic suspense. So I'm not unusual there. But what is unusual is that I write police procedurals, which seem more like suspense books, I suppose. I have read suspense books all my adult life, so it was natural for me to gravitate toward writing them. 

Plus, I am fascinated with forensics and police procedures. I love doing the research and learning new things in that area. Also, I attended the FBI's citizens academy and other local police citizens academy. When I saw the agents' and officers' hearts for helping people, I was hooked on writing in this genre.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?

This has changed over time. I used to struggle with starting that all-important first chapter. But now that comes easy to me, and it's coming up with fresh plots, forensics, and conflicts I haven't used before that challenge me. After writing forty books, that's a big challenge for me. I can come up with the big plots, but the investigative details are more challenging.

What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?

I guess winning awards is very encouraging and affirming as are good reviews from the trade magazines like Publishers Weekly and the Library Journal. But mostly, I'm encouraged by emails from readers who say the books not only entertained them, but the spiritual message gave them something to think about and employ in their own lives.

We have all experienced rejection. How have you learned to write past it?

It's a matter of mindset. When my life is interrupted, I remember to go back to the place where I last saw God in my goals and work, because I believe He is the one driving my writing success. So, if I've prayed about a direction, and I still believe that is the direction I am supposed to head, I move forward knowing at some point that he will bless it.

What has surprised you the most in writing/publishing?

I guess the biggest surprise is that you're never done learning and growing. No matter the number of books you've written. The amount of money you've made. The accolades you've received. No matter all of that you, still need to keep improving and working to write your best book ever. And always remember that you are writing for the reader, not for yourself.

What has frustrated you the most?

It's hard to name my biggest frustration, but one thing that is a challenge is hurtful reviews. Not negative ones, but ones that are mean and hateful as if you, the author, have personally written a bad book just to hurt the reviewer. Every author pours their heart and soul and many, many hours into each book and never intends to disappoint readers. I have learned to overcome this by not reading reviews. I just ignore them now. But earlier on, it was hard.

What do you know now about writing you wished you had known sooner?

I definitely wished I'd started sooner in life, but other than that, I feel like my journey was my journey because I had to experience it the way I did. It was God's path for me, so I am glad it unfolded as it did.

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

Be open to criticism from critique partners, editors, and even some reviewers. Take the comments that you can employ and use them, not only in the book that has been evaluated, but carry them forward to future books. This goes back to my comment about never being done learning or growing.

Are there any other points about writing you would like to add?

It's a wonderful career, but also a very hard one. If you want to succeed you have to be pretty thick-skinned and prepared for disappointments. But the joy of crafting books and creating memorable characters can overcome it all if you have the right mindset.

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

My recent release is Minutes to Die, book two in my Homeland Heroes series from Bethany House. Reviewers are calling the book 'a nail biter from page one! Here are the details. 

It’s the intel every agent fears—terrorists have been smuggled into the country intent on unleashing the most deadly attack since 9/11. With the threat imminent, FBI Agent Kiley Dawson and ICE Agent Evan Bowers are charged with taking down this terrorist cell. Only problem is, Kiley blames Evan for the death of her former partner, and she can barely be in a room with him. But with millions of lives on the line, she has no choice. 

If it wasn’t for a bad call Evan made, Kiley’s former partner would still be alive, and Evan has to live with that guilt for the rest of his life. When he starts falling for her, the agent’s death seems an impossible obstacle—but it’s also the last thing he needs to think about. As the terrorist plot veers toward targeting Kiley’s family, the two are pushed to the breaking point in a race to save countless lives.

I can see why it’s considered a nail biter. I’ll have to read it. To learn more about Susan’s books, you can sign up for her newsletter that includes exclusive excerpts, giveaways, and other goodies.  I’ve done that. Here’s the link and others to get her books. 






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