So, what inspired you to write your first book?
I was working as a grief therapist, and while I adored my clients and worked very hard on my specialty, I felt a dark cloud over me. A friend/colleague introduced me to the term, Compassion Fatigue. Essentially, I was burned out. While in a group meeting of therapists one morning, the question was asked, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” I exclaimed, “I’d write a book!” Three months later, I resigned. Nine months later, I birthed my first draft of Out of Breath. I’d always wanted to write; fear of failure held me back.
What do you find particularly challenging about the writing process?
To stay present. To shut out the noise around me, whether it be my “to do” list, laundry, a Costco run, exercising, “shoulds.” The worst: what if this isn’t…funny enough, impacting anyone, doesn’t attract an agent, the market doesn’t pick up, blah, blah, blah. It’s so important to write because I love to write. And I do so love to write…it feeds my soul!
What is the best part of the writing process?
When I make an emotional connection with my reader. My goal in writing Out of Breath, publishing articles about parental bereavement and holiday grief, my short stories about my father's Alzheimer's disease, our family's experience with suicide, is to touch someone. I want to help a person feel less alone in his or her grief. Just the other day, a friend said she read my short story, The Veil, off of my blog, and came away with a sense of being understood and also understanding me; this sense of being human and connected. This is what I loved about being a therapist, and miss, and can now pour into my writing.
Out of Breath is a novel about parental grief, addiction, and recovery. You say in your book synopsis that,"... it's the prodigal story of grace undeserved." Sounds like something from the New Testament. Are there Christian overtones?
I'll answer that two ways. 1. One of my readers, prior to publication, did not attend church. After she read my book, I asked her to give me her "take" regarding it's spiritual tone. She replied, "You have spiritual overtones?" 2. Another one of my readers is studying at a seminary down south. After finishing, she told me that she thought it was Christ centered and real without being "in your face." I guess the answer to the question is, yes, but the message will be heard differently, based on the life experience of the reader. Isn't life amazing!
Who is your favorite author and what is it about his/her work that you love?
Really? One!! I can’t. Two. My first is Anne Lamott because she is quirky, brutally honest, transparent, her writing brings me to out loud laughter or streaming tears, she has a potty mouth AND she loves Jesus and she understands grace. I have read all of her books. Twice. Her writing instruction book, Bird by Bird, is my writing Bible. If I can learn to keep the mice in the jar who are tapping at the glass, wanting to scream out that ‘I’m not good enough,’ then I’ll be okay for one more day. My second favorite author is Jodi Picoult. Her characters, ability to build suspense, add tension, and sneak in plot twists, well, she's amazing. I never tire of her books. She's a role model, for sure. Plus, when I’ve written her emails, she actually answers them.
What is the greatest piece of wisdom you ever received?
Writing wise, it’s that I have to develop thick skin and be able to welcome critiquing and criticism. Now, this did not come easy. I am sensitive, cry easy, pour my soul into my writing, and so, when my first draft came back looking as though a red pen leaked all over it, I wanted to put it through the shredder, throw the covers over my head, and toss my laptop into the garbage. Fast forward to the present, I get a critique back, see those red marks, and exclaim, “Yes! That is so right on. How did I not see that?” It’s a process, for sure. I’m still sensitive and cry easily, but not over a critique. Oh, and I have an amazing editor and writing partner, thank you Jordan and Christina.
What is one ‘random’ fact about you?
I try to sneak in a name or special personality trait of people who are close to me into each of my stories. When you read Out of Breath, my upcoming book, No Ordinary Girl, and even some of my short stories, you just might find your name popping up or a personality trait shine through! No, I don't reveal your inner secrets. Much... Just kidding!
What new project are you working on?
I’m juggling a few. One is a humorous, chic-lit book with a twist of self-discovery titled No Ordinary Girl. I’m about 75% through my first draft and hope to complete the rest by next spring. The second is a parenting book for spiritually minded parents of tweens and teens who are struggling with giving over their kids to a social media frenzy world and who want to reclaim their family time. Although the book tackles strong issues, the writing is light, humor-filled, and keeps it real. My third project takes me back to my roots of grief work in that I’ll be a contributing writer for a post-vention program for the bereaved by suicide. I continue to look for ways that I can serve my community and when this writing opportunity popped up, it was a great fit.
Is there one particular event that helped launch your career in writing?
As a matter of fact there is. I entered my book into the South West Writer's contest in 2010, and guess what: I placed in the top three for Mainstream/Literary Novel as judged by HarperCollins. It was so exciting, Danica! I'd never been to New Mexico, so, at the advice of my editor, I packed a bag and flew out to lovely Alberquerque, stayed at a fun hotel, attended the awards ceremony, schmoozed with agents, and came home with an award certificate and a small check. (By the way, it took me a long time to cash that check.) I believe that winning that contest gave me the confidence to publish. It was at that award's ceremony that I heard an agent who'd been in the business for 30+ years say that he was fearing the e-book revolution and that self-publishing was not the red-headed step-child that it used to be. Amen to that and my apologies to any red-headed step-children!
Can we look forward to book tours/author signings for Out of Breath?
Absolutely! My book is already available as an ebook on the Kindle, Nook, and iPad and you can also upload it on any smartphone. I will have traditional books available in November in time for Christmas gifts. My first meet the author event is at Caffe Santoro in the town I live on December 16th from 4-6 pm if anyone is in the neighborhood. Bookshops, cafes, art council groups, and local libraries have expressed interest in having author readings and book signings. I will keep everyone posted on my blog and Facebook. Additionally, I will be visiting bookstores and libraries in Santa Cruz, Ca, as this is the setting of my novel. After that, I’ll branch out and introduce myself to the San Francisco Bay Area Bookstores and libraries. If anyone’s up for a road trip, let me know! You will be able to purchase my books on my website, www.sipnsharewithsusan.com, using your PayPal account or simply signing in as a guest starting in December as well, so please visit my website and follow me on twitter at Twitter@ssalluce.