Welcome to the three hundred and ninety-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with romance / erotica author and editor Sue Swift aka Suz deMello. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Sue. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Sue: Hello, Morgen, and thanks for the opportunity. I’m a writer / editor living in northern California. Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of those lucky people born with a pen in hand, but came to writing via other careers. I’ve taught English as a Second Language in China, pulled shots as a barista at Starbucks, and toiled for nearly twenty years as a trial attorney. I was lucky enough to find writing and able to make a small success of it, and for that I’m truly grateful.
Morgen: Whenever an interviewee said they starting writing young I wished I had, a whilst I do, I think of all the life experience I have to write about, although most of what I write isn’t ‘what I know’ as there are invariably bodies in them somewhere. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Sue: I’m afraid I’m a one-trick pony—romance and erotica. I’ve added mystery / suspense, comedy and paranormal to the mix just to keep things interesting, but at the core of all my works is the formation of a loving relationship.
Morgen: Nothing to be afraid of (don’t you just love the English language?), they’re very popular genres. What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Sue: I’ve sold over fifteen books, plus a number of short stories and non-fiction articles on writing as Sue Swift or Suz deMello.
Morgen: Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Sue: Of course! I’ve been writing for over fifteen years and have earned more rejections than I have acceptances. Dealing with rejection is a part of writing. At first, rejection is very hard to take. Our feelings for our first books are deep and powerful. They’re also uncalled-for; in the normal course of events, our earliest writing is generally our worst. Rejections are generally deserved at that point. And later in one’s writing life, rejections earn a shrug of the shoulders rather than tears.
Morgen: I’m glad I’m not the only one to have had more rejections than acceptances (I guess most writer have), although I’ve had less than thirty of the former so I clearly need to submit more. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions?
Sue: Yes. My first novel, a historical romance, won best historical romance of its year from a group in Florida. That book has been recently re-released as Lord Devere’s Ward. My second book was shortlisted for the prestigious RITA award, given by the Romance Writers of America. My third won the “Smooch” Award, which is given by a review website for the best kiss scene.
And on and on. I don’t enter contests much these days—I’m over it, you know what I mean?
Morgen: I do. I haven’t entered any for a while although I do find that having a theme gets me writing something new so I still have it even if I don’t get anywhere, although I write a story a day for 5PM FICTION so I write something new every day so I don’t need to just for that… if you see what I mean. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Sue: I’ve had two agents in my time, and neither was particularly helpful. One out and out lied to me and the other didn’t have success selling my books, though he’s a lovely person. No, an agent isn’t necessary but one can be helpful.
Morgen: I’ve had a few authors say that. I guess, like everyone else’s, their jobs are tougher these days although lying isn’t the way to go. Are your books available as eBooks? Were you involved in that process at all? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Sue: My books are mostly available in digital form. I believe in getting all the books out for sale in every medium possible. I bought a Fictionwise e-reader many years ago, and after it gave up the ghost, I bought a Kindle Touch and like it a lot. I’ll read anything and everything, both print and digitized.
Morgen: I bought a Touch the day it came out (partly because a good friend had her eye on my Kindle 4), at the end of April and love it although the audio drains the battery too quickly but I love the touch-screen keyboard and it’s much quicker and SO useful for making notes. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Sue: Publishers have rarely been loose with their cash, and therefore authors have found themselves taking responsibility for marketing. I do most of my marketing, however, ineffectively.
Morgen: It’s really hard. Despite the success (with 200+ visitors a day, I like to think it is) of this blog my eBook sales are a trickle but then I only have short stories and a writing guide out there and I do think novels are what readers are really after so I’m hoping to get mine (three or four) online in the next few months (weeks would be great but probably unrealistic), certainly all before Christmas. Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Sue: The books are our children, and I love them all. Yes, I indulge in what someone called “casturbation”, that is, casting actors into the books. I’d cast Calista Flockhart and Harrison Ford into Fashion Victim, one of my most popular books. She’d play a couturier and he’d play a corporate raider, the hero and heroine of FV.
Morgen: “casturbation” is a new one to me, that’s hilarious! Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Morgen: I think they do although I bought James Patterson’s The Quickie a while ago despite the awful title and naff cover but it’s co-written by Michael Letwidge like the brilliant Step on a Crack is (I had a character recommending it to another in my 5pm Fiction story on Sunday… I love what we can do!). What are you working on at the moment / next?
Sue: I recently sold a vampire historical erotic novel to Ellora’s Cave and I’m writing the sequel.
Morgen: Fun. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Sue: …sigh…No, I don’t write every day and I do indeed suffer from writer’s block
Morgen: Oh dear. That’s a shame because you write a variety of things so at least you can (I guess) move to another piece and come back with renewed vigour (she says, half glass full). Do you have to do much research?
Sue: I love to research my books, which is the reason I’m drawn to historical romances. I’m fascinated by the way people used to live.
Morgen: And we have the internet… yay! What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Sue: I like both but have a preference for the greater intimacy provided by first. I can’t see writing in second person except for maybe a recipe, which I’ve done also.
Morgen: I’ve probably written half my short stories, certainly recently, in that point of view but struggled to read Jay McInerney’s ‘Bright Lights, Big City’ despite it being a second-person novella. It’s really for short pieces (yesterday’s story ‘Just that extra’ was a 297-word second person ). Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Sue: Nope. Ideally they’re all out there making money.
Morgen: I like to think mine are but I’m not sure anyone would want some of my old poetry, even as free eBooks. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Sue: Writer’s block is my least favourite aspect of writing, and it’s surprised me the most. When I first started writing, I couldn’t imagine getting blocked—my words and ideas were so free-flowing. Now, it’s a different story.
Morgen: Oh dear… maybe you could run your stuckness (I love making up words) past me when it happens and see if I can help. I find waving my arms around as if I’m doing whatever my character is doing / trying to do helps… and amuses my dog. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Sue: Work hard at studying your craft. Don’t be afraid of rejection, especially rejections that tell you what you’re doing wrong. Those words are gold. The editor giving you analysis is doing so because s/he thinks you have potential.
Morgen: Absolutely, because they wouldn’t have time to do so otherwise. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Sue: Jesus, Buddha and Allah, and I’d provide Indian food. My best guess is that they’d get along fine, unlike their followers.
Morgen: It is sad, isn’t it. As far as I know (I’m probably the world’s worst expert on religion, coming from an unreligious family) they all wanted peace and we’re not doing a very good job, are we. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Sue: I’m a freelance editor, and love my job. It perfectly uses all my experiences.
Morgen: Ah ha… fodder for another interview methinks. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Sue: I love to travel, and try to get on the road as much as I can.
Morgen: I’m the opposite; home sweet home, which is why writing is so perfect for me, although I love going to writing events. I say I’ll go to the opening of a rejection envelope. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Sue: I use FB and Twitter, and am not sure how many books these venues sell. But they’re nice for keeping up with my friends and making new ones.
Morgen: I know I’ve sold a handful of my eBooks that way and I’m sure they so help enormously if you use them correctly. I’m turned off by those who do nothing but tout – any more than 1:10 (the 10 being useful information, retweeting other people’s useful / interesting tweets) can have the adverse effect, IMO as you say. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Morgen: Thank you, Sue. I look forward to having you back to talk about your role as editor.
Best-selling, award-winning author Sue Swift, a.k.a Suz deMello, has written over fifteen novels, plus several short stories and non-fiction articles. She writes in numerous genres including romance, mystery, paranormal, historical, contemporary comedy and erotica. She also edits as Thalia Child, and welcomes private clients.
Her books have been favorably reviewed in PW, Kirkus and Booklist, attained the finals of the RITA and reached the top ten on a bestseller list.
A former trial attorney, she resides in northern California. Her passion is world travel, and she’s left the US over a dozen times, including stints working overseas for months at a time. Right now, she’s working on her next manuscript and planning her next trip.
Sue will be returning on Tuesday 14th August to talk about the editing side of her life (with some hints and tips too!).
Update August 2012: Sue returned for our interview about her editing and you can read that here.
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