Susan was so generous to let me pick her brain a little! I've really enjoyed working with such a talented author!
First though, here's a little about her:
Susan Sloate is the author or co-author of more than 20 published books, including FORWARD TO CAMELOT (with Kevin Finn), which in its original edition became a #6 Amazon bestseller, took honors in 3 literary competitions and was optioned for film by a Hollywood production company. The new, revised edition, FORWARD TO CAMELOT: 50th Anniversary Edition, will be published in October by Drake Valley Press. REALIZING YOU (with Ron Doades) is a new genre entirely: the self-help NOVEL. It too will be published this fall. Susan has also written 17 young-adult books, including five biographies, a history of Alcatraz, a book about baseball, one on pre-teen fashion, and entries in four different girls' book series. She has been a sportswriter and a screenwriter, has managed two recent political campaigns, and currently serves on the Culture, Arts & Pride Commission of the Town of Mount Pleasant, SC.
Now, here's some questions she answered for me:
How did the idea for this novel come to you?
I lived through it! STEALING FIRE is an autobiographical novel about a relationship I had when I was quite young, in the ‘80s. It was very complex and very painful, and in the middle of trying to understand it, I sat down and started writing about it. In fact, it was so long ago I started writing it on an electric typewriter! (Remember those, kids???)
I changed a number of things—like the locale—I was living in L.A. at the time but set the story mostly in New York—and though my heroine Amanda works at a hotel and wants to sing on Broadway, I never worked at a hotel and I wanted to be a writer. However, virtually all of the plot points did happen, even if in a different way. What I was really doing was memorializing the relationship by writing about it.
From first idea to publication how long is the process of creating a book?
Ohhh—that depends on the book! The only part of that process that’s really uniform is the production of a book—ie, what the publisher does when they receive it from the author. At that point, there’s editing, which can take a week or a few weeks for the editor to go through and make suggestions (and that also depends on how detailed the edit is—some publishers, like mine, only want editing suggestions on the story or a heads-up on inconsistencies that should be fixed. Others want a full line edit, fixing spelling, grammar, usage, etc. That can take a lot of time.)
Once the editor has finished, the author goes through again and incorporates the suggestions he/she agrees with (which you hope the publisher is in line with, too). Then the formatters and typesetters take over—they get the book ready to go to press. At the same time, graphic designers are working on the cover—front, back and spine. That has to be ready before the book can go to press even in eBook form.
All these elements need to be readied for press—and then when they go to press, there’s the delay of getting them printed and either shipped (for hard copies) or approved and uploaded to the distribution chain (for eBooks).
This process can take 3 – 6 months and usually publishers give that time frame when scheduling your book for production. So if you turn it in to them on June 1st, it may be ready to go by December 1st.
In my case, what took a long time was the writing—it was 30 years from the first words I typed back in 1983 to the final polish this spring. HOWEVER—the production process for the book went incredibly fast—the editor gave me her notes in a week, the formatting and typesetting were done in about two weeks, I did a final proofing in about ten days, and the book I delivered on May 18th was actually in the Amazon Kindle store on July 2nd!
And God bless Drake Valley Press—they took on the same breakneck speed for FORWARD TO CAMELOT: 50th Anniversary Edition, which really HAD to be available early in the fall to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination (which is the subject of the novel). When we delivered the manuscript in mid-July, we had a finished product—formatted and typeset, proofed, with the full cover—by the end of August. Unbelievable!
I hope we never have to do anything quite that fast again—I’m really proud of both books, but the effort involved was brutal!
What is your favorite Broadway musical and why?
Oh, boy—very hard to say! I love BRIGADOON for its lovely score and very romantic story—about a village in Scotland that comes to life once every 100 years—I love GUYS & DOLLS for its romantic story about Sarah and Sky, and for its Runyon characters—I love OKLAHOMA! because hey, it’s a classic for a reason. Couldn't name just one, though.
What advice would you give to an aspiring author like myself?
Write as much as you can, and read even more. And read the good stuff—I enjoy reading category romance, but it’s often horribly written. You need to read really good writing, where the language is low-key but really expresses ideas well, and try to pattern your writing style on that. Being too melodramatic and too overblown is a trademark of a new writer, and it’s something you want to eliminate from your writing as soon as possible.
How do you plan out your story?
I used to do a lot more planning than I do now. While we did have to plan FORWARD TO CAMELOT (because the plot was so complex, involved so many characters, was historical fiction as well and went from first person narrative to third person), I do a lot less planning these days. Usually I just write down some notes to capture what I know as the first idea occurs to me. I almost never write character bios anymore. I just write down character names as they come to me, but mostly bits and pieces of plot, setting, etc. Then I sit down and write whatever scenes come into my mind.
Usually I kick off a writing project by doing Nanowrimo in November—www.nanowrimo.org—a lunatic marathon to write 50,000 words of an original novel in 30 days. It’s exhilarating and tough and you eat lots of junk food—but it’s a GREAT way to get the novel in your head down in a first draft, and along the way, if you’re not locked into a plan, you can discover wonderful creative ideas you would never have considered before.
I recommend Nano to ALL writers, new and seasoned—it’s just one of the best tools out there for locking away your inner critic and getting down to the business of putting a draft on paper. It’s great for you!
Joy, thanks for hosting me today—I really enjoyed being here!
So there you have it!! Great advice! I attempted Nanowrimo last Nov and it didn't go to well, so this year I hope to do better! What are your thoughts on her answers?
Don't forget to come back tomorrow as Susan will be guest posting!!!