Susan Squires Interview
Publication Date: December 1, 2007
Susan Squires is author of the lushly written Companion series.
Visit Susan Squires’s Website
Give us an update on yourself. What’s your latest news?
Well, I just returned from a needed vacation in Quebec. I loved Quebec City, and we spent a week outside at a house on the lake. A great chance to practice our French and have some downtime. It was our 30th wedding anniversary. While I was gone, Publisher’s Weekly gave One With The Shadows a starred early review. Mass market paperbacks don’t often get starred reviews, so I was very excited.
What’s your upcoming or latest book/story about?
In ONE WITH THE SHADOWS, Kate Malone makes her living reading Tarot cards and fleecing society’s elite. With no prospect of independence her own fate looks bleak. But Kate’s fortunes change when she steals a magnificent emerald — and is confronted by a mysterious stranger. Kate is sure the striking gentleman’s attention is a ruse to retrieve the gem. But his presence awakens her to passions she’s never known…and to powers she never knew she possessed.
Gian Urbano is honor bound to retrieve the stone that can drain a vampire’s power and drive humans to madness. The willful Kate has no idea of the emerald’s dark magic or the length Gian’s enemies will go to retrieve it. Gian discovers a desire for Kate more compelling than duty — one that could save them both or lead them to their downfall.
How did you come up with the title?
Here’s an awful secret. I didn’t. I am horrible at titles. I just write the books, and my editor came up with the title. Whew! Good thing she’s better at it than I am.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer, and what inspired you to start writing?
This is a two part question. I have always wanted to be a writer (see below when I wrote my first book — or tried). I majored in English Literature at UCLA where I have a Master’s degree. But it just didn’t seem a very practical way to make a living. (Turns out I was right about that!) So I went into the business world, and started trying to earn a living. Which I did. But something always nagged at me. I was just unsatisfied. In one of my many mid-life crises, I decided that while I might not be able to give up the dayjob, I could still write. I wrote a book, and it was very bad. But I still couldn’t give up, so I learned how to write, through classes and critique groups. I re-wrote that first book (which became SACRAMENT) and wrote a second book, DANEGELD. I was on to the third book, BODY ELECTRIC when DANEGELD finally sold. It sold off a contest in the RWA chapter.
When did you write your first book?
When I was twelve. On an old typewriter. I got about fifty pages. It was in the first person from the point of view of my dog. Sigh.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I was torn between librarian and palentologist for a while. And I always wanted to write, see above. Then I got the theater bug, and was actually a theater major at UCLA, which was even less practical than writing!
What projects are you working on now?
I just finished a novella, called Seize the Night for an anthology called Dead After Dark, with Sherry Kenyon. Now I’m finishing the last in this contract for St. Martin’s — ONE WITH THE DARKNESS. It will be a visit to ancient Rome, with some of the character’s from ONE WITH THE SHADOWS. I’m enjoying writing it. Barbarian slaves and Caligula — what’s not to like? You know, people always say they’d want a barbarian slave, but what would you actually DO with one?
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I ride horses — my current partner is Finlandia (Finny) a sixteen year old Trakahner mare who is a dressage whiz. I do a little dressage and jumping. I also try to find time to train my dog partner, Violet, who is a Belgian Sheepdog. She’s a whiz too. Both are better than I am at it. And when I have time I knit — which frankly, hasn’t been recently.
What does your family think of your writing?
I am very fortunate. My husband Harry, is a writer too. He writes supernatural mysteries under the name of H.R. Knight. He was the one who encouraged me to write during my mid-life crises. He actually took that first horrible book, which was something like 675 pages (way too long for publication!) and typed an hour a day to put it onto our new computer. He gave it to me as two discs for Christmas and told me I had to make something of it. Still makes me tear up to think of it. So he totally understands writing and is very supportive. He’s my critique partner too. That’s the good part. But you don’t want to be around our house when the writing isn’t going well for either of us.
How long does it take you to write a book?
I set my contracts for nine months apart. I know that seems long to many, but there are several factors involved. One, I still have a day job, and it’s a big one. Lots of hours a week. Two, it takes me a while to figure out the story, make the characters complicated, figure out the plot arc, etc. Then I can truly start writing. Plus, something always comes along to get in the way. This time I was trying to squeeze in a month to write the novella. Finally, I’m a re-writer. I like two months at the end to do several drafts, layering in more depth and getting the story and the motivations just right. I want the book to be the best I can do at the time.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
Well, I do have that day job. So I can’t write every day. I am the scheduling queen. I look forward to the week ahead, and block out two evenings and one weekend day for writing. Then I try to get in a few hours on the other weekend day. I’m not a night owl like lots of writers, so while I can produce at night during the week, I’m best on those weekend days.
Do you have an interesting writing quirk?
Well, I’m not sure it’s interesting, but I travel a lot for the dayjob, so I have to write where I can, hotels, the middle seat of an airplane…. One doesn’t wait for the muse to strike. One doesn’t wait for the perfect quiet place. My place is my laptop. I open the screen, read a few paragraphs to get the rhythm, and ask myself, “Where was I?” And I go. Sometimes gives the people on planes sitting next to me a thrill, but that’s their problem.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
That’s really hard to answer. Anything can spur your thoughts into a new idea. I have a new idea for a series based on an experience my mother had sixty years ago.
What do you think makes a good story?
For me it’s almost always characters. They drive the story. If you add some pacing, and carefully imagine what it would really be like for your characters to have the experiences you give, them, I think you’ve got a good book.
What was one of the most surprising things you’ve learned in creating your books?
I think the startling thing is that they take on a life of their own once they are published, and you can’t control it. Some people are enthralled, some people appalled. Some get what you were trying to say, and some miss the point entirely. Some even become a little fixated. And you have to let it happen.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I have been told that my writing style is very recognizable, that you would know you were reading a book by me, regardless of the story. That’s hard to recognize in yourself or describe though. I will say that I love language, but that over time, I’ve learned to leave out some of the ornate wordplay that used to be in my books. I’ve gotten a little more spare in style.
How many books have you written? Do you have a favorite?
I have eleven books and two novellas in some state of publication. Favorites are SACRAMENT, because it was my first, and it actually finally got published after I cut it in half. DANEGELD, because it proved I could do it again, and I loved the characters. It won a lot of contests, including the Golden Heart and that always makes you love a book. BODY ELECTRIC — my damaged heroine, Vic, is one of my all time favorites, plus she creates an artificial intelligence and finds him a body. Who wouldn’t like to build their own man? THE COMPANION — it was my re-entry into vampires after years away — good characters, and I think some of my best writing. THE BURNING — one of my sexiest, and — warning — kinkiest, but I loved the character of Ann Van Helsing. Her courage was the equal of the hero in every way. Sigh. I guess I like them all. If you don’t like them, you can’t live with them for nine months.
Who or what has influenced your writing?
Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, all the mysteries and sci-fi and literary fiction I’ve read. My mother, who read me stories before I could read them for myself…
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Many people have been very kind to me. Christine Feehan was one of the first, and I still count her a close friend. She gave me a quote for Sacrament. Catherine Asaro gave me early encouragement after she judged a contest and read DANEGELD. Sandra Hill, Melanie Jackson, Doug Clegg (who writes horror)… all have helped me along the way.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I love Susan Sizemore (we’re often mistaken for each other), Kresley Cole, and Cindy Holby has a great new book coming out in the Dorchester SHOMI series that I just read.
Who designs the covers of your books?
The publishing house ALWAYS designs the covers. They are the specialists in marketing, and I let them do that. As if I had a choice
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I hear from my readers a lot. My favorite message starts out something like this: “I hate you.” But the next words make my day…. “you kept me up all night,” or “I couldn’t put your book down until I finished.” That means a lot. Because that’s what I always wanted to do for people — give them a good ride.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I guess just thanks for their support, and that I love to hear from them. I try to give something back. On my website in November, I posted the new trailer for ONE WITH THE SHADOWS. You can see it along with the others for THE BURNING and ONE WITH THE NIGHT.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
I’m afraid it’s just the usual: Persistence counts, so hang in there. Work on making the writing the best it can be. And have fun. The process has to be something you like to do.