This holiday season, I’ve decided to promote some of my writer friends and ask some of the questions that folks ask me. Today’s guest/victim is:
First, a little something about Susan.
Susan Burdorf is an avid reader, photographer and lover of all things sparkly. Writing is a passion that is only quenched when THE END is written on the last page of a manuscript. Nothing says home to her, though, like the presence of her family. Susan encourages you to correspond with her and is available for public appearances at schools and conferences.
At what age did you start writing or know that you wanted to write?
When I was in 4th grade we had to do that essay “What I Did This Summer” – remember that one? Mine was twelve pages long, back and front pages in super tiny script. MY teacher, as she kept handing me extra paper asked if I was drawing pictures to go with the story – I handed in the pages to her and went home. Next day she called my mom and said I should be a writer because all my words were spelled correctly, and I used commas. Keep in mind this was before computers and spell check, of course, I was only in 4th grade… how big could my vocabulary be, right?
Where do your ideas come from?
Everywhere. I strongly urge people to experience something new and to keep track of how it makes them feel and how it affects the people around them. Measure your experience by the number of times you think “wow, that was cool.” Or “I probably shouldn’t have done this” because these are all very real emotions or reactions to what has happened and ones you need to recognize in order to make your characters feel real to your readers.
Do you base your characters on people you know or know of?
Sometimes, yes, I do create characters based off qualities or physical characteristics I see in people around me. Everyone who knows me knows I might write them into a story or novel if they are not careful. I have a dear friend I dogsit for, and her two dogs ended up as characters in a short story about a murder… she, however, was the victim! And I like her…
Family or celebrities?
I try not to do celebrities, most of them are too plastic to be real, anyway. But family are fair game, I just know too many of their secrets not to throw in a joke here or there that they will only understand.
Do you plot out your stories or just make it up as you go?
I am kind of in the middle. If I am writing a longer novel I will write a synopsis that details pretty much how it will go because there are usually so many characters I cannot keep them all straight if I don’t do that. For shorter novels, novellas, or short stories I will pants it… much more fun to see where the characters will take you and who will take over as boss of the show.
Do you listen to music while you write and if so, what do you listen to?
I do listen to music, or leave the TV on (usually Bones or Law and Order reruns). For music it depends on what I am writing. I love Enya; Taylor Swift (and her sick beat); 2Cellos (instrumentals are so soothing… unless it is something wild they are covering like AC/DC); The Calling; Chris Tomlin (love his song Waterfall); James Blunt (saw him in concert once and will NEVER forget him surfing on top of the piano – that dude is awesome); keith urban; Adam Levine; and once in a while I will throw something weird in, like a techno beat.
Which of your characters would you most like to meet in person?
I have a character that is based on a friend. This character is a PI (Paranormal Investigator) and he has a huge Great Dane named Blue. Blue is a ghost dog, and I want to meet Blue… although if Cristo comes with him that is okay.
Which character of another author would you want to meet?
I am not sure about this one. I think I would love to meet Anne of Green Gables fame more than any other character. She still makes me want to go to Prince Edward Island and have tea with Diana and her.
Which of your stories/books/works do you consider the best?
I have just started writing and publishing novels, so I will withhold judgment on this one until I have a few more under my belt.
How much do you write each day/week?
I don’t count words as much as I count time. I try to write at least one hour every day. If I am not writing I am reading, editing, proofing, tweaking,…etc, so I am still involved in the writing process.
Can you tell about your experiences working with publishers?
I am self published but work through a friend’s publishing company that is small press. I have no horror stories, but I know people who have them.
Any juicy or painful experiences?
For their stories I guess the biggest suggestion/tip I have is to really investigate whomever you are going to work with. They might be great friends – but as business partners they might not be so great. Be smart, do your homework, and when you make a decision go in knowing it might not work – do not live with regrets or “what ifs”.
Do you have a routine when you write?
I do not really have any routine. I just get comfortable, put my laptop on my knees, and type away.
What is your latest project/release?
I released “A Cygnet’s Tale” which is a YA Contemporary retelling of the story of The Ugly Duckling. I worked on it for three years before finally hitting publish. The story touches lightly on the topics of bullying, teen alcoholism, and identity crises. NOTE: a young lady read my book and as a bullied teen she resonated with the character of Helen. Using that motivation, she created the movement called #AuthorsAgainstBullying and started a blog for book reviews and comments about teen life. She became an advocate for other bullied teens instead of staying a victim. That was pretty powerful stuff for me. A Cygnet’s Tale was released this past May. I am currently shopping a novel to a publisher. It is called Breaking Fences and is about a young man who is on the edge of getting in serious trouble until he is sent to live with his uncle for a few weeks, with the help of a neighbor girl he learns to accept life as the gift it is, and to let go of his past guilts. Oh, and along the way they meet some cattle rustlers, rabid coyotes, and manage to save a life in spite of some bad choices.
Do you have any signings or appearances coming up?
I am scheduled to appear at several events in 2016, the most well known locally is Utopia Con, a conference in Nashville for people who enjoy reading. I will have a table there with prizes and my books, of course. I also will have appearances at Penned Con in St Louis; Once Upon A Book in Frankenmuth, MI (yep that is really the name and the venue is a cool old German style castle); and I will be at the Authors at the Opry event later in the year. Check my website at www.susanburdorfwrites.com for the complete list of appearances and check back often, who knows where I will turn up.
Who were your inspirations?
My writing inspirations were all the folks I have met at the Nashville Writer’s meetup Group and all the authors I have met at the various signings and conferences and writer’s retreats I have been to.
Way too many to list.
What book do you read over and over the most?
Anne of Green Gables (replaced that book several times due to reading too much. As well as the rest of that series); Harry Potter (any of them, of course); The Hobbit and all its sequels.
Is there a book or book series that you recommend to people?
I steer clear of doing this – recommending books, because what appeals to me may not appeal to you, so you are on your own with this one.
Do you have a dream project that you want to write in the future?
Yes, I do. But I cannot speak of it or I will not ever write it.
Do you have a special way of generating story ideas?
Nope. I just listen to the words around me, I am kind of backwards in that I usually hear the words of a title and build a story around it.
How much of you is in your characters?
You know, most of us are told to “write what you know” and I get why – we want our writing to be real to our intended audience. But I want to take that sentiment a step further and advise you to “Write what you want to know” – if you only write what you already know you will shortly grow bored with what you are writing, and if you get bored your readers will too. So go out and experience life… I went skydiving to get how one of my characters would feel facing a fear they had for coming out of their shell; and while skydiving is an extreme way to experience a fear (and expensive too) it did help me nail down the way my character might react physically and emotionally to a fear. I watched the others that jumped with me, their elation at conquering their own set of fears; or the cringing that went on before they made that leap. So, I guess my characters are all a part of me – my experiences, emotions, fears, failures, and successes, but they are also a compilation of everyone I know – because I am, literally, watching everyone I meet. Not creepy at all, right?
If you could live the life of one of your characters, who would it be?
Too soon to tell who I want to be like.
What genre do you prefer to write? To read?
I love to read YA Contemporary (which is what I write. But while writing I will not read it) and I love to write Steampunk, Fantasy, and NA Contemporary… but I will never write Erotica (nor read it) and I am addicted to audiobooks!
Do you prefer writing short stories or novels? And why?
Until I wrote and published my first novel I would have said I was happiest writing short stories, but now that has changed. I love to write both almost equally.
What are you working on now?
I have several projects I am working on to release in the coming months – one is an episodic series about a fairy tale ball that goes horribly awry when a demon attends uninvited. Another is a trilogy about a political situation in a world populated by deceivers and only a young girl with no power or courage of her own must battle those with all the magic at their control for her world to survive. And several short stories will be coming out in numerous anthologies throughout the year.
Is Writer’s Block ever a problem for you? If so, how do you deal with it?
Anyone who writes will suffer this at one time or another. I usually step away from the project I am working on and do something totally different. I will go to the Zoo and walk around taking pictures, or I will hike, or chat with friends – anything to exercise another part of my brain.
What 3 things do you feel every aspiring writer should know?
This is a great question and one I wish I had asked myself and others before I got into writing.
1. My first suggestion is that as a writer you should be an avid reader. It doesn’t matter what you read, just make sure you read. You will pick up phrasing, or word structure, or how to format, etc from reading. You will also need to read to research, and even if you are writing fantasy or something that requires you to create your own world you will still need to research to make sure you get the parameters of that world logical.
2. You are not alone. Reach out to others, whether you join a writer’s group, attend conferences on writing with workshops and panels, or just talk writing with groups online – make sure you connect with other writers. Networking is a great way to learn about trends (which you should never write to EVER), or find out about workshops or signings, or to find beta readers or Critique Partners, all of which are essential whether you publish independently or traditionally or are considered a hybrid author (both trad and indie published).
3. Learn to take criticism well. Remember: not everyone is going to like what you write and that is okay. Do not take personally what someone says in a review, and never engage in a war of words with someone who writes a one star review – their opinion is appreciated and then move on. And yes, there are trolls out there who use reviews to drop an authors’ standing, but that is not in your control. Keep writing, keep asking for reviews, and keep on the path you want to take. Don’t change what you are writing because of what anyone else says – this story is your voice, not anyone else’s.
What is your funniest/ awkward moment at a convention/signing event?
I have a very small fan base, almost three people like my book – truth. And I am okay with that. So I have absolutely no funny or awkward stories to talk about. I live such an average life, don’t I?
How do you use social media in regards to your writing?
Ahhhh social media… well, this is a novel all in itself and many have written a book about it. I have attended workshops and panels and lectures and read lots of books about how to use it. I have a website, a facebook author page, a twitter account, a pinterest account, an instagram account, and of course several email addresses and I converse daily on Facebook with fans and fellow authors. I have almost 500 friends on my facebook page and that is plenty for me. I am more of the old fashioned type of author – I want to meet my fans, and talk about the real issues of teens today because that is what I write about. So, the lesson here is – don’t email me, come talk to me!
Do you read reviews of your books? If so, have you ever engaged a reviewer over comments they’ve made?
No. I don’t read the reviews and never will. I just want to write and not be weighed down by what people write about my work – got questions, come talk to me. Got comments, come talk to me. I cannot write better without talking to those who read what I write.
Thanks Susan. To find her books, click below: