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Monday, January 21, 2008

Interview with Susan Page Davis

Beth: Tell us about your writing journey.

Susan: It’s been a long journey, with surprises at every turn. Just yesterday I mailed off contracts for my third book with Harvest House, and when I got home I learned that Finding Marie, my second book with them, is a Crossings Book Club selection. The Lord has richly blessed me this year in my writing career. But looking back to the early years of writing fiction, it seemed I would never sell a short story, let alone a book! All in God’s timing. I knew it then, but practicing patience has always been difficult for me. Now I worry less and stress less.

Beth: When do you feel like it all began to come together for you as a writer—was there a particular moment?

Susan: I don’t think I’ve reached that moment yet. I started out thinking I was a pretty good writer, but soon learned how presumptuous that was. The first 100 or so rejections have a way of crushing your confidence. I’m inching my way up again, but knowing now what I do about the business, I’m certain that every inch of progress is due to God’s grace, not my talent.

Beth: Who has influenced you most as a writer and why?

Susan: I think my parents did. Many, many people have encouraged me, but they always expected the best.

Beth: Tell us about the writing process for you? Does it begin with a character, setting, or plot?

Susan: For a suspense book, I like to start with a germ of the plot. I think about the crime and the motive and the reason it’s not over yet—the happenings that will drive the suspense.

Beth: Tell us about your latest book.

Susan: In Just Cause (January 2008, Love Inspired Suspense), Laurel Hatcher is accused of murdering her husband. She spent some time in prison before her trial, then faced a jury. When they couldn’t reach a verdict, the judge declared a mistrial. Now Laurel is trying to start over and build a new life for herself in a location where no one knows her. But she realizes that any minute, she could be called back to Maine for a new trial, and she could spend the rest of her life in jail. She doesn’t think police officer Dan Ryan can do anything about that, but Dan has other ideas. When the killers start stalking Laurel, Dan becomes her self-appointed guardian.

Beth: What inspired you to write this particular story?

Susan: I wanted to write a story in which the heroine seemed to have no hope. This is a story that grew gradually in my mind. My first draft (written several years ago) had the basics of the plot, but was very simple and straightforward (can you say “predictable”?). I later rewrote it with a much richer texture—deeper characters, higher stakes. (An inside secret for people who have read the book: Renee wasn’t in the first draft. People read it now and say, “How could you have this story without Renee?” Well...I’m glad the story matured into its present form.)

Beth: What is the message you hope to get across in this story?

Susan: There are always choices. No situation is ever hopeless. God is able to turn any life around.

Beth: What do you think is the hardest part of writing suspense?

Susan: Sustaining the terror.

Beth: What are problem areas you see in aspiring writers who want to write suspense? Advice?

Susan: I see beginning writers trying to write a suspense where the stakes aren’t high enough. They just can’t bear to put their characters into a situation so bad that the characters (and the reader) will think they can’t possibly survive. They need to get past that. I’ve also seen a lot of shallow characters who need shading.

Beth: What are your future writing plans?

Susan: I’m pretty well booked through 2008 with novels to write. Although I’ve written nearly a dozen historical romances, I’m focusing more on suspense novels now. Look for more from Love Inspired Suspense (Witness comes out in April) and Harvest House (Inside Story coming in a few months). Also, my daughter Megan’s and my cozy mysteries—the Mainely Murder Series—will debut next month with Heartsong Presents: Mysteries.

Beth: What is the best advice you ever received?

Susan: Network. Join a writers’ group and ACFW. Listen to people who know the business.

Thanks so much for the interview, Susan! Don't forget to leave a comment on our contest page to be eligible to win a copy of Just Cause.



Blogger FrecklesandDeb said...

"I see beginning writers trying to write a suspense where the stakes aren’t high enough. They just can’t bear to put their characters into a situation so bad that the characters (and the reader) will think they can’t possibly survive."

Susan, I can certainly relate to that comment. One of the hardest things I've found about writing is putting my characters into harm's way. I get to knowing and liking them and hate for them to be in trouble!

9:15 AM  
Blogger Jess said...

Enjoyed the interview. I just bought Just Cause and can't wait to read it. As for "high stakes" -- something to think about. I think what I worry about is that my "high stakes" appear too dramatic, not plausible.

Looking forward to reading your cozy too. Can't wait 'til those mysteries hit my mailbox!

3:15 PM  

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