Interview with Susan Sleeman

» Posted on Sep 28, 2010 in Blog | Comments Off on Interview with Susan Sleeman

This week I’m hosting Susan Sleeman with High Stakes Inheritance and Vickie McDonough with Second Chance Brides. If you want to enter the drawings, please leave a comment on one of the post during the week with your email address. I will not enter you without an email address (my way to contact you if you win). If you don’t want to leave an email address, another way you can enter is to email me at The drawings end Sunday (October 3rd) evening.

Interview with Susan Sleeman:

1. What made you start writing?
The life long love of reading inspired me to want to write a book, but it was God who arranged free time for it to happen. I’ve always enjoyed writing from creative to technical writing I’ve done in the corporate world, and I said for years that I was going to write a book, but I was so busy working full time, raising children, and volunteering at church that I never made the time. Then in 2000, I began having health issues that limited my physical activity. Forced to sit for long periods of time, I started to research the craft of writing and began my first book.

As my health deteriorated, I had more and more time available and soon I was writing fulltime and actively pursuing publication. I continued to work on the craft and to submit books, got the requisite rejections and then in the fall of 2008 at the ACFW conference, I was awarded a book contract in front of 500 or so of my fellow writers. My agent, crit partners and the editor had conspired to keep this a secret from me for five months. Since then I have contracted additional books in the Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense line and look forward to writing for years to come.

2. How long have you been writing? When did you sell your first book?
I have been actively writing toward publication for six years. I sold my first manuscript, Nipped in the Bud to Barbour Publishing two years ago and that book will finally release this October.

3. How do you handle rejections?
Wow, that’s a hard one. At first, I took rejections personally and they really bothered me. But once you write long enough and communicate with other writers you learn that every writer is rejected and if you want to be a published author, you need to learn to not only accept the rejections but in some cases grow from them.
And it helps to realize that rejections don’t necessarily mean you’re not a good writer, but it could be as simple as your story doesn’t fit the publisher’s line up or may be too similar to another book that is already contracted.

4. Why do you write?
My faith is the reason I write. I once contemplated writing books without a spiritual element in them, but soon discovered conveying a spiritual message in an entertaining format is what I am all about. I think fiction has the power to changes lives by making faith applicable to everyday life. Readers can see the characters either live out their faith or fail to live it out, either way they can see how much easier and richer life is when lived with faith.

I also write because I love the creative process of writing. I like to dream up stories and imagine the world where my characters live. I like to look at things in my everyday life and ask, “what if so and so happened?” The plot starts forming and I can’t stop until I’ve created another book.

5. What would you be doing with your free time if you weren’t writing?
Since writing is my job, I still make sure that I have free time outside of the writing. In that time, I read, spend time with my family watching TV or a movie, playing a game or just hanging out. When the weather is not brutally hot as it is now in Florida, I also love to garden. And I spend a lot of time working on my book review website, so I can tell others about all the wonderful inspirational suspense books out there.

6. What are you working on right now?
I have contracted another romantic suspense book with Steeple Hill, Behind the Badge to release in June of 2011 and am busy working on the edits for this book. This is book two of a three book series featuring the Morgan brothers, Ryan, Russ, and Reid. I have started book three in the series featuring the third brother, ex-FBI agent Reid Morgan, and hope it too will release in 2011.

7. Do you put yourself into your books/characters?
I honestly can say I don’t set out to include myself in my characters. Because of my life’s experiences and perceptions, I couldn’t write a character without something of myself in them, but I try to make each character different and unique and that means they have to possess a variety of characteristics. If anything, I try to write characters that have features I would want to have or that I admire. Unless of course, it’s the bad guy.

That said, though not done intentionally, when I finish a book and evaluate the spiritual struggle of the main character I am surprised to see issues I am either struggling with and or have recently come through. Though Christian fiction entertains, and some would say that is the only purpose of fiction, God can really help us develop our spiritual walk through great stories.

8. Tell us about the book you have out right now.
I actually have two books releasing within a month of each other. The first book is High-Stakes Inheritance, a romantic suspense book published by Steeple Hill’s Love Inspired Suspense line. In High-stakes Inheritance, family counselor Mia Blackburn’s Uncle Wally dies and leaves behind a will that requires her to return to Logan Lake, Oregon to live at the rustic Pinetree Resort for one full year in order to inherit the valuable property. If she fails to stay at Pinetree for the full year, the property reverts to her brother.

But on her first day in town she receives a threatening message: Leave Logan Lake or you will pay. Despite the warning, Mia won’t let anyone scare her from the rustic resort. But when a fire traps her in a burning barn, she fears that she won’t get out alive. Just in time her ex-boyfriend volunteer firefighter Ryan Morgan rescues her from the deadly blaze. He had once broken her heart, yet she still has feelings for him. With Ryan insisting on keeping a close eye on her, Mia feels safer-and closer to Ryan than ever before. Yet the threats haven’t stopped, and soon Mia’s high-stakes inheritance includes a murder-and Mia could be the next victim.

The second book is Nipped in the Bud, book one in my Garden Gate Mystery Series. Read Between the Tines and Seed You Later, books two and three are not contracted, but if this new mystery line does well, I hope they too will be published. These books take place in Oregon in a fictional town named Serendipity and feature Paige Turner, a landscape designer and host of a local radio show. She has a knack for finding trouble and there is no trouble bigger than discovering a dead body. Which she does after she bickers with a town official—and that day he’s discovered dead in a mound of mulch—she finds herself in . . . well, a pickle! With no alibi, she struggles to prove her innocence, but she soon enlists the help of lawyer Adam Hayes. The question is will his knowledge of the law keep her out of jail and will he win her love?

9. Do you have any advice for other writers?
If you’re an unpublished writer and being published is your dream, don’t give up. Ever. No matter what setbacks may occur. But search deep to learn why you want to be published so you understand your motivation. In The Fire in Fiction, Donald Maass talks about two kinds of writers and I will very badly paraphrase him here. One type of writer is only seeking publication because they want to see their name on a book and is unwilling to do the work that it takes to become published. The other type of writer writes because they love to tell stories and want to do nothing else. He calls them status seekers and storytellers. Deciding early on which one you are may make the process easier.

10. How important is faith in your books?
As I mentioned earlier, my faith is the reason I write, so it is very important for me to include a spiritual message in a book. I love to read books that entertain at the same time as helping me look at my faith walk. To teach me how to be a better Christian without really knowing that I’m being taught. To see another Christian struggle with something in their lives and by the end of the book find hope and help with their struggle. So I include these aspects in the book to help others do the same thing.

11. What themes do you like to write about?
My themes so far seem to center on trusting God. This can encompass many areas, but in general, I think we are taught as we are growing up to be independent, to stand on our own two feet, to be responsible and plan for our future, and sometimes we forget that all of this is a good thing, but not when we begin to rely on ourselves instead of God. We can’t see the big picture of life as God can, so when we stop asking him for direction and trust in what we alone can see, we don’t make the best decisions and life can be filled with worries.

12. What is your favorite book you’ve written and why?
Like many writers, I always think the book I’m writing is my favorite book. This is because I have learned more of the writing craft and think I am doing a better job with the book, but honestly I can’t say that any book is my favorite, as there are aspects about all of them that I like.

That said, Nipped in the Bud, which releases in October from Barbour publishing holds a special place in my heart for a number of reasons. It was the first book I contracted for publication, it embraces one of my favorite hobbies, gardening and it also embraces my sense of humor and was such fun to write.
Plus I love the main character Paige Turner. She is a quirky character who has a habit of thinking of people by the plants they resemble and treating them accordingly. As a landscape designer and host of a local radio show with more whacky callers than legitimate gardeners, Paige is more at home with plants than people. She was such fun to write and it allowed me to merge my love for and knowledge of gardening into this character’s personality.

13. What is your writing schedule like?

I don’t really have a typical day as my writing day depends on whatever deadline I have at the moment. Let’s say that I don’t have a contract deadline, but pray that it never happens, and focus on what I would do if a day were typical.
While drinking my coffee, I start the day answering emails and posting Facebook and Twitter updates. Then I read the chapters I wrote the day before to get back into the feel for where I left off and do a bit of light editing as I read. Next I write the next chapter or as much as I can write before I no longer know where the story is going or need to do research. If research is required, I make calls, send emails, or work on the Internet until I resolve the issue. By now it’s lunchtime and as I eat I read postings from various news lists or groups I belong to. This is followed by checking email and of course wasting a bit of time on Facebook. Okay so maybe I do the Facebook and Twitter thing more than this, but hey, the writing business is a lonely business to be in.

I will write until about four in the afternoon at which time I’m kind of brain dead and I work on my website or work on updating until dinner, which I or my wonderful husband will cook. I take a short break for dinner and then continue the website work. When my eyes are crossed from the computer, I pull out a suspense book and read. Now that is a wonderful way to end the day.