Susan Andersen is a New York Times bestselling author known for her romance novels. The work of Susan Andersen has been recognised by her books being nominated three times for Romantic Times Magazine’s Reviewers’ Choice Awards, and collecting the award in 1998 for her book Baby, I’m Yours. However, Susan Andersen was not always an author, having trained as a dental assistant before beginning her writing career after turning thirty. Her first novel was entitled Shadow Dance and was released in 1989. Susan Andersen has also appeared ten times on the list of 10 novels picked for the Amazon Editor’s Choice, in the space of a single decade – quite a remarkable achievement. Talking books with such a prestigious author was a real pleasure. Please enjoy my interview with Susan Andersen…
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
I’m a writer.
A romantic thriller called Dangerous Attraction by Sidney Bristol, who is a new author to me.
What’s your earliest memory of reading?
I truly don’t remember a time I didn’t read, a belief likely fuelled by my mom often telling me I was born with a book in my hand.
If you could encourage young people to read one book in particular, what would it be?
That’s kind of like choosing your favourite kid. I do know the book that expanded my son’s reading lists. He came home from school one day, grousing about having to read To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. He was a huge Stephen King fan at the time, so it was all horror, all the time. And there’s not a damn thing wrong with that, but it’s good to try new things from time to time. It keeps life interesting.
But I digress. I slapped a hand over my heart and said, “Oh! I love that book!” Turns out, he did as well, and he went out and rented the video for us to watch. Neither my husband nor I had seen the vid and I found it interesting how well they followed the book. I believe Harper Lee’s classic is as relevant today as it was then. Then Harry Potter generated an entire generation of new readers. I’m not as up to date on what’s hot these days, although I must say I have read some fabulous young adult and new adult books recently.
Can you remember the first story you ever wrote?
A friend Chris and I wrote a story in the 6th grade. I did most of the writing and she the artwork. I remember less what the story was about than I do our male teacher red-penciling the curves we’d agreed our heroine needed in the artwork, even though they were slight, as were the breasts we ourselves were developing. Mores were more rigid back then.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
I haven’t liked every job I’ve had, but most have taught me something. I must say, however, I remember vividly my afterschool-until-late babysitting job I did for a cocktail waitress on the next block. Her Chihuahua would hump my arm every time I sat on the floor with the kids to supervise after dinner games.
What two pieces of advice would you give a young aspiring writer?
First: plant your butt in the chair and write. Second, and most importantly, persevere. I’ve seen good writers disappear because they caved at the first criticism. This is a business where criticism is a given—toughen up. I recently posted a quote from R.A. Salvatore that read: “If you can quit, then quit. If you can’t quit, you’re a writer.” I believe the truth of that right down to my socks. Writers have this gut level compulsion to write. If you don’t have that compulsion or can easily ignore it (which pretty much negates the compulsion part), then a different profession likely would be a better alternative.
Do you read as much as you’d like to?
No—at least not without guilt, the way I used to. I always thought, as a kid, getting old would be pretty cool, because I’d have all the time in the world to just kick back and read. Instead, the older I get, the more responsibilities I’ve accrued along the way, all of which cut into my reading time. It is a rare day, however, when I can’t carve out some time for reading. But it’s not nearly as much as I’d like.
I’m a seat of the pants writer, so I don’t have any must read how-tos. I have friends who swear by The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler or Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, but they didn’t come close to giving me the old cartoon light-bulb-over-the-head moment. What I do think is important is doing your research, and reading extensively in your chosen genre to keep abreast of the market. The Indie market is fascinating. I get to read books containing the edgier characters or situations I tried to incorporate in my novels years ago, but I had chopped off at the knee by traditional publishers. I am not knocking those publishers as they have done well by me and taught me much. But I still don’t understand their insistence on changing my so-called bad twin in Baby, I’m Yours from a stripper to a skimpily dressed dancer. The former would have given more edge to the ways in which the sisters handled their childhood experiences.
But it’s a new world out there now, and I’m loving it. Yes, I come across more dreck. But I’ve also scored a plethora of new-to-me kickass Indie authors who are opening up new frontiers.
Is there a book that you’ve read more than once? What is it and why did you revisit it?
My list of rereads is long and varied. But here are a few: the books of Beverly Cleary when I was in grade school. Jubilee Trail by Gwen Bristol shortly after that; Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase (best prologue ever); Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow; Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff; pretty much all Lisa Kleypus’s and Connie Brockway’s historical romances. I adore revisiting a story I loved in the past. It generally requires some time in between reads, but I invariably pick up on details I missed or skimmed over in my excitement to reach its satisfying conclusion the first and sometimes second and third times around.
I recommend so many I can’t keep track. The most recent was the entire In Death series by J.D. Robb, the futuristic police procedural series. Most impressive character arc over the course of a series ev-ah.
Who would you say are the three writers that continue to inspire you?
Every writer who knocks my socks off while I read his/her book inspires me to improve my own writing. The longer I have been in this business, the more difficult I find it to turn off my internal editor. But when I find a book where my I-E remains silent–because the book’s author is just that good–well, it kicks my own writing into high gear and I simply write with more clarity and passion. It’s hard to explain because it has nothing to do with the subject of the book. it’s rare indeed that the current book I’m reading is anywhere close to what I’m writing at the moment. But there is just something about good writing that fires me up. It frees or quiets something inside of me. I suddenly understand what was blocking or holding me back on a section. My MO is to write by correction, but I do fewer print and polishes during and for a short while after a truly engaging book. It simply helps me improve the quality of my own writing. I’m telling ya, it’s magic.
What’s your favourite genre of book?
Romance. I read across the board, but am drawn most strongly to romance than any other genre. I just purely love me a happy ending—and the push me/pull me between men and women.
What do you think a world without books would be like?
A grey, lesser place. But without books doesn’t necessarily mean paper books to me. I resisted e-books for a long time. I spend my days in front of a monitor and aside from the convenience while traveling, the idea of reading on one as well didn’t appeal. Then I downloaded the Kindle app to my first iPad. And I was hooked. I loved the font-size changing feature. The ability to read in the dark. Being able to eat and read at the same time, which is hard to do with a paperback—and most hardbacks. I also adore the lightness of my current Paperwhite, particularly in relation to hardbacks, as I have arthritis in my thumbs. And the kicker: not having to find as much space on my overcrowded bookshelves.
Is there an author whose writing you’re such a fan of, that you’ll read everything they release?
Lord, yes. I have so many auto-buy authors, it’s not even funny.
Do you think digital books will ever completely replace real books?
The way so many bookstores are going, winnowing down actual bookshelf space in favor of so many non-book related items, I can honestly never say never. Already, we’re seeing shelf space given over to fewer and fewer authors and even the top sellers are only kept on the shelves a week or two instead of the first full month after release we used to enjoy. Plus–again, except for a handful of authors)–the backlist on shelves we used to depend upon are going the way of the buffalo hunter.
What book do you feel humanity needs most right now?
I have no idea, but it would be something preaching more acceptance, more tolerance toward differing faiths/sexuality and opinions, and one advocating a lot less violence.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life?
I can’t narrow it down to a single book. But I can point to growing up with shelves full of books in a house with parents who didn’t slap restrictions on my reading tastes, my love affair with libraries from a young age and the privilege of immersing myself in a world of books that took me from my everyday life into endless, ever-changing adventures and possibilities.
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
Reams. There are so many good books out there, I could literally recommend list upon list upon list. But I’ve gotta get some writing of my own done this afternoon.
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, aside from research books and the occasional biography, but I will be reading as many novels as I can fit in my schedule in 2017.
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?
The Hard Route Taken, A Long-winded Success Story.