Susan Wiggs Speaks Her Mind
Why, oh why, did you leave Daisy twisting in the wind in Lakeshore Christmas? Curse you! May you burn in hell! (But after you write Daisy’s story.)
SW: WARNING. There are bound to be a few spoilers in my reply. If spoilers bother you, please don’t read!
Oh, Daisy. When will you learn? We’ve been following you since you were a troubled child of divorce in Summer at Willow Lake, a pregnant teen in The Winter Lodge, leaving home in Dockside, a college student in Snowfall at Willow Lake, a career girl in Fireside and a busy single mom in Lakeshore Christmas.
And all we’ve ever wanted was for you to find your happily-ever-after.
You keep being pulled back and forth between Logan, the handsome, well-born father of your child, and Julian, the dangerous but adoring adrenalin junkie in search of adventure.
And now this! Somebody’s about to pop the question and we don’t even get to know which one, or what your answer is!
Argh! I could kill you dead right now!
There is no way everyone is going to love everything that happens to a character in a book. I just hope I can be true and fair to the characters and storylines I’ve set up.
It’s true that there is a major, major unanswered question at the end of Lakeshore Christmas. Daisy finds herself in quite a pickle. A delicious pickle.
The good news is, somebody wants to marry her.
The bad news is, we don’t quite know which somebody.
Do I know who dropped the d-bomb on the train platform? Yes.
Is it who you think it is? Probably not.
Disclaimer: Even though I do know how this is going to go down, I haven’t finished Daisy’s book yet, so it’s subject to change. Sometimes a story goes off in its own direction and I have no choice but to follow.
I have a title I really like: Daisy+Logan+Julian which doesn’t really give anything away. It’s a working title and my publisher tends to change them so I’m not holding my breath.
One thing I can promise: The book will be Lakeshore #8 (after the March 2010 release of The Summer Hideaway).
Are your books connected in a series? Do I need to read them in a certain order?
SW: Yes and no. Some of my books are loosely connected because they're about various members of a family. However, I know how crazy-making it is to have to collect and read things in a sequence, so I make sure each book stands alone. If you want to have all the titles and order of publication on one nice, neat form, please click here or use the link for "Printable List of Books."
How many books are in the Lakeshore Chronicles, and in what order should I read them?
SW: There are lots of books in the Lakeshore Chronicles, and I can't say how many because I'm still writing them! I believe you can read the books in any order because each book is a complete novel unto itself, but if you want to go chronologically (and if you're a fan of the Daisy Bellamy storyline, I recommend this), here's the sequence so far:
- Summer at Willow Lake
- "Homecoming Season" (a novella in the anthology MORE THAN WORDS: STORIES OF COURAGE)
- The Winter Lodge
- Snowfall at Willow Lake
- Lakeshore Christmas
- The Summer Hideaway
- Marrying Daisy Bellamy
Why did you publish the latest ‘Lakeshore Chronicles’ book, Lakeshore Christmas, in hardcover, after hooking readers into the series with paperback originals?
SW: I’m glad this question has been asked (and asked and asked) by readers. It is annoying to get hooked into a series at onc price point—pocketbook-friendly paperbacks—and then to find the next eagerly-awaited book as a hardback that costs more than twice as much.
The explanation is, it’s a balancing act. Having low-cost paperbacks available is a great way to build a readership. A reader is more likely to take a chance on an author she’s never read before if she only has to invest $8 or so in the book.
On the other hand, the lack of a hardcover edition creates huge problems for the public library. With their dwindling budgets, libraries can’t afford to buy many paperbacks, because they tend to fall apart. So that creates problems for libraries with tough choices to make.
When I decided to write a Christmas book about saving the library, the best choice seemed to be a hardcover edition, followed by a paperback edition a year later.
It’s not a perfect solution, and it doesn’t thrill me to ask paperback readers to wait. But anyone with a library card can read the book (or audio) for free by taking this form to the local library and asking them to acquire the book.
That said, I should point out that the decision about a book's format is made by the publisher. Sometimes the author is consulted, sometimes not. The publisher makes the call based on their goals and marketing research.
What's the name of the book about Helena Cabot from Halfway to Heaven?
SW: Helena's story is called Enchanted Afternoon, and it was first published in 2002.
Why don't you tell me the date at the beginning of your historical novels?
SW: Sometimes I give the date at the start of a book, particularly if it's an historical. Other times, I try to be subtle, sly and clever, because I am my mother's daughter. The reader has to infer or guess when the story takes place. Like in HALFWAY TO HEAVEN, you'll find a clue or two. A Louis Tiffany ceiling in the East Room of the White House. Easy enough to figure out. Or the first automobile on Whidbey Island (THE DRIFTER).
Is there a story for Phoebe (from the Chicago Fire trilogy), Lucas (from A Summer Affair), Belinda and Rory (from A Summer Affair)? And what about Cody from The You I Never Knew and the kids from Passing Through Paradise?
SW: I do have stories for all of the above. Phoebe does indeed meet her English nobleman, Lucas returns from West Point to romance June Li, Belinda and Rory spar delightfully . . . as do all the characters in the Calhoun historicals. I hope to write these books one day, but at the moment, they're not on the schedule. Stay tuned, though! As for Cody and the kids, I haven't really sketched out a future for them. They're still living happily ever after, as far as I know . . . .
Where can I get Susan Wiggs books that are out-of-print?
Are you writing any more historicals?
SW: Yes and no. At this time, I'm not under contract with a publisher to write a historical romance. However, I love reading and writing them, and I'm always tinkering away at something. The Calhoun books are stacked like air traffic over O'Hare. I need to write about Rory and Belinda and the passel o' brats. Also Lucas and June Li from A Summer Affair have a story to tell. And Phoebe! Everyone (including me) wants Phoebe's story from the Chicago Fire Trilogy. And finally, I'm hoping to carve out time in my writing schedule to write American Princess, a Gilded Age story set in Washington, DC.
Why do you use swear words and foul language in your books? You're a good writer, you should be able to think up more refined words.
SW: I write about real people who talk like who they are. Men in particular tend to use salty talk. A firefighter dealing with an exploding propane tank is unlikely to say "gosh, darn it." A Navy pilot who is about to hit the "Eject" button is definitely going to say something that gets an "R" rating. A regular guy checking out a gorgeous woman does not look at her breasts and think of them as "milk-white pillows of paradise." Sorry, but the word that goes through his head is much shorter and to the point. And what is really obscene, anyway? Poverty and injustice. Prejudice, cruelty and intolerance. Swear words are just empty air, but real people use them, especially in tense situations. The nice thing about reading is that the reader is free to skip things.
How many drafts do you write?
SW: As many as it takes. Some parts come out just right the first time I put pen to paper. Others take seemingly endless tweaking. Because I was curious, I saved every version of Chapter 1 of Just Breathe as I was writing it. I have about ten versions now, and this is before the copy editor gets her hands on it.
When did you live in Rhode Island [or Montana, Chicago, Boston, etc...?]
SW: I love this question, because it means the setting of the book felt real to the reader. I've been fortunate to live a lot of places, from upstate New York, to Belgium and France, Texas, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Washington State. I've traveled to many other locales, too. But in fact, I've never been to Montana--the setting of The You I Never Knew. One of the most flattering letters I've received from a reader was from a woman who was sure she'd been to my fictional town of Crystal City, MT. In the book, it really comes to life thanks to copious research, coupled with the magic of closing one's eyes and going to a far-away place. When I was a schoolgirl, this habit tended to get me in trouble!
I probably get the most feedback about the Rhode Island books. I lived in a beach house in Point Judith, Rhode Island in the late seventies, and loved it so much there that I've used it as the setting for three novels. It's always a kick to hear from someone who remembers having lobster rolls at Aunt Carrie's! The Lakeshore Chronicles series takes place in the mountains of upstate New York, where the legendary "Great Camps" were founded by the Rockefellers, Roosevelts and other rogues and robber barons.
Is it true that anyone can write these little women's books?
SW: "Hmm...I don't know. Let's see. Here's paper and pen. GO."
I have a great idea for a book! How about I tell you the idea, you write the book, and split the money with me?
SW: I have a better idea. How about YOU write the book and keep ALL the money?
OK, so I want to write my own novel. How do I begin?
SW: Putting that first word down on paper is like the surgeon making the first cut. Read lots, read broadly, pay attention to the language, and most important of all, sit down for an hour each day and write. Even if it sounds awful, keep writing. When you're ready, join a writers' group or club--your local library or bookstore can help you find a group. Attend booksignings (and please buy a book!) to meet working writers, and see if you can catch an author reading/lecture near you sometime. Your local college or writing group probably sponsors writing workshops, and there are workshops and seminars going on all over the world, literally! Many last only a day and are affordable. You might even try entering your work in a writing contest, so long as the contest is legit (sponsored by a reputable organization), the fee is reasonable and entrants receive written feedback on their entries.
If you want to write a romance novel, you should join Romance Writers of America for education, market information, fellowship and professional support. Find out more about the organization and request an application by visiting www.rwanational.org on the web. Other genre organizations abound--for mystery, SF and Fantasy, Western, Children's... Try a web search and find an organization that feels like the right fit for you
How do I get published?
SW: Learn the profession of a published author the way you would any other profession: through research, education, networking, trial-and-error, hard labor and lucky breaks. As a writer, I'm self taught--just like it says in my bio. Surf the web for publisher and literary agency sites. Take a writing class, go to a conference, go to booksignings (did I mention you should always try to buy a book?). Just by reading this and other author sites, you're doing research. Fun, huh?
Writing groups and genre organizations keep members updated about market news. In addition, you should read Publishers Weekly (request the most recent issue from your librarian) and research the Internet for further leads. You can try finding a publisher through Writers Market or Literary Market Place, but make certain you have the name of an actual acquiring editor to submit the manuscript to. What companies published the last ten books you read and loved? Chances are, this is the sort of company that would do a good job publishing what you've written. If you want to make a living, plan ahead, work smart, live humbly, and produce!
What's your opinion of book reviews?
SW: The good ones are all true. All are written by intelligent people of impeccable taste. You should believe every word of them. The others . . . well, asking me what I think of those who diss my books is like asking a fire hydrant what it thinks of a dog.
How do I find an agent to handle the book deal, movie deal, translation rights, audio rights . . . etc.?
SW: I'm assuming you've finished your book. If not, go back and take care of that minor little detail, please. If you believe you've written a publishable book, take a bow and roll up your sleeves, prepared to work! Top-notch agents present writers with a Catch-22: They rarely agree to represent unpublished authors, and publishers refuse to consider unagented manuscripts. Such is the logic of the publishing industry. Deal with it; we all have. Maybe you could query a newer agent at a big-name agency. Perhaps your manuscript placed well in a contest, or maybe you could meet an agent face-to-face at a writers' conference. Often, this will get you over the Catch-22 hurdle.
Online, you can try Www.literaryagents.org for starters. However, after you find someone you think you might like to work with, research his/her credentials and meet the before entrusting your hard creative work to him. An outstanding agent will have enthusiasm as well as a marketing plan for getting your book to the right publisher. He or she will also have a track record of recent sales in your field.
I sent my novel to an agent/publisher/book doctor who wrote back, saying it's a work of genius, and for the modest fee of $45-$15,000, he will work with me on the book until it's a bestseller of the caliber of The Firm. Honest, I'll earn it back a zillion times over once the book hits the bestseller lists. Is it a good idea to send him my money?
SW: No, no, a thousand times no! Never, ever pay anyone a fee to read your work, provide a marketing/mailing/web listing/editorial /publishing service, or whatever they want to call it these days. Legitimate agents and publishers earn money from selling your work, not by collecting fees from unsuspecting writers. Legitimate book doctors, freelance editors, ghost writers and other professionals exist in publishing. These people make the writer no promises as to marketing and sales; they simply work with the text and charge a fee accordingly. If you decided to use the services of a freelance editor, always request recent samples of their work.
Note: There is a list of cheaters posted online at http://www.sfwa.org/beware/. Please do yourself a huge favor and read this very important message. Also look into "The Scam Kit" at http://www.writer.org/resources/resource.htm or http://www.writer.org/scamkit.htm.
Will you read my novel and give me some feedback/recommend it to your agent/publisher/endorse it so I can market it to publishers?
SW: No. Sorry. But I do teach writing workshops, and would love to meet you and cheer you on if I'm ever in your area. My speaking/signing schedule is posted at www.susanwiggs.com/schedule.shtml.
I'm worried that if I send my novel out, someone will steal the idea and leave me high and dry. Is this a legitimate risk?
SW: No. It's one of the most pervasive urban legends in publishing. Look at it this way--if you read someone's unpublished manuscript, would YOU be tempted to steal the idea? I doubt it. Lots of writers worry about this, but it never happens.
How old are you and how much money do you make?
SW: Very. And a lot.
Good luck, and take joy in your reading and writing. That is the one thing writing will always give you, even when publishing gives you the cold shoulder. And when all else fails, curl up with a good book!
Remember: Laugh. Cry. Dream. Read.