Today on Author on the Couch,
I’m conducting a session with
Susan Gee Heino
Susan/Serena is giving away an Amazon gift card and a free book to one lucky person! Just leave a comment and you are eligible to win!
Me: Tell me about an experience that had a profound impact on your life.
Susan: Just one? Wow. Let me say that in the past few years, my life has been profoundly impacted in a lot of ways. I must have hit big in the Unlucky Lottery because, for a while, it seemed bad news was the only news my family had. In a very short time, a string of deaths, diseases, diagnoses, disappointments and disasters monopolized my life.
The whole thing culminated in one final blow: I learned in the most horrible way possible that my father was a child molester. I’ll keep details to a minimum, but I’m sure everyone can imagine how devastating—and truly life-altering—this could be. What followed that discovery was a blur of investigations, cruel family betrayals, medical and psychiatric interventions, a very public trial in our small town, and my desperate attempt to keep my household and my sanity intact.
Things have been calm now for over a year and I’m very happy to say that all the innocent parties are recovering and thriving. I have been blessed with beautiful, powerful children and a husband who truly is nothing short of a saint. And good friends! My friends have carried me through this, but—whoa—I can tell you I am not the same person I was just a short while ago.
Me: Sometimes these terrible things are the things that make us grow as human beings. On the other side of the awful we are different people–and often better people for the lessons we’ve learned.
Speaking of going through hard times…Here’s a tongue-in-cheek kind of question. If you had to pick a mental disorder (depression, bipolar, generalized anxiety, post traumatic stress, obsessive compulsive, phobia, attention deficit, other) to have for only one day–purely for writer research purposes–which one would you choose?
Susan: Hahahaha! This is hilarious. Have you been talking to my therapist? I’ve been diagnosed with at least four of these, and live with and/or have cared for someone who has a couple more. I would not wish any of these ever on anyone! Except maybe “Other”. That might be fun.
Me: What personality trait of yours helps you most as an author?
Susan: Thank God for my ADHD! On one hand it is not easy for someone so easily distracted to write books that are 400 pages long and require months of planning and concentration, but on the other hand it sure does help to get through the ups and downs of life—and this industry—if you can forget your difficulties and just focus on whatever cool thing is right in front of you. Like this page I’m typing now, or the pretty potted violet on the table next to me or… squirrel!
I do think this ability to be fully in the moment—whatever the moment is—can be a great tool for an author. We might lose track of the big picture from time to time, but we catch the little bits and pieces of life that “normal” people sometimes overlook. For me, this has helped me develop a sense of empathy that is very useful in creating characters and splashing them onto the page in a relatable way. I can jump in and out of their heads easily because that’s pretty much how I live my life on a daily… squirrel!
Me: What personality trait of yours hinders you most as an author?
Susan: See the answer for the previous question. That. lol There is definitely a downside to being, on one hand, very easily distracted, but on the other hand getting constantly sucked into hyper-focus and losing all sense of time and reality.
Me: What causes stress in your writing life?
Susan: Jumping back and forth between my pen names gives me stress! I thought it would be easy. I have a bachelors degree in theatre, after all. Won’t it be fun to have a pen name and take on this other persona? Hah! Not as much fun as I expected. I really don’t know how other authors do it, but I feel like I’m constantly either getting into character or getting out of character and trying to remember who I’m playing at any given moment. It’s weird, but oddly stressful for me.
Me: What’s the worst piece of writing advice you were ever given?
Susan: The worst piece of writing advice? Oh, that’s easy. Back when I was first starting out about 15 years ago, other writers would ask me, “So, what do you write?” I’d proudly say, “Regency Historicals” because those were (and are!) my dearest, true love. At that time, the Regency market had just tanked. Lines had closed and publishers weren’t buying new Regencies. A lot of the old stand-by authors had abandoned the genre in favor of others that would sell better. Yet there I was, thinking I had a ghost of a chance with my faulty, flawed newbie manuscripts. People told me to dump them and move on. Quickly.
Well, I tried to do that. I shifted to writing Romantic Comedy (chick lit was in its hay-day then) and got a couple contest nods. Still, no serious nibbles from any publishers. After four or five years I figured, “This is silly. I’m getting rejected on these hot-commodities. I could just as easily be writing Regencies and get rejected for those, but at least I’d be writing what I love.” So, I switched back and the very next book I wrote–a fluffy historical with all the Regency trappings–won just about every contest I entered, snagged me a wonderful agent, and ended up getting multiple offers from publishers.
Right in the middle of a dead market, I started my career. Go figure! I will say that I learned a lot from the books I wrote that didn’t sell. It would have been a waste of time to stubbornly keep trying to polish one of those earlier books, so I’m glad that I did get the message to “move on” in my writing. But I’ll always be very proud of myself for making my first sale with a book that I wrote for ME, not for the illusive market.
Me: Bad advice can really sabotage a writer. So, what was your low point as a writer?
Susan: Well, there are two levels to this question. Basically, I do the usual author-swing. When I’m writing a story I love and it’s going well and I’ve gotten a few good reviews on whatever book was my most recent release, then I’m sitting on top of the world. Nothing can get me down. Until the next day when I hit a plotting snag, someone on Amazon only gives me two stars, and I realize I’m cutting my deadline too close again. Then I’m down in the depths of despair. Until the next day when I’m not. I’ve found this is just normal life for a lot of us.
However, I have been in the place where not only was my writing career sluggish and my sales were down, my personal life was in such shambles that I began to worry I could never write a happily-ever-after ending again. I seriously considered throwing in the towel. I tried to do that, actually. But I couldn’t. I realized that even more than a career, writing was my lifeline. I needed it just as much as I needed the love and support of my friends and my husband.
So, while bad stuff swirled around me and every day was a desperate attempt at survival, I retreated to writing. I ignored “the rules” and gave up trying to write for an editor or the market, but I just wrote for myself. Again. It did wonders for my brain and my emotions. It helped me process the evil things I was encountering in real life. It got me back to a stable place inside my head. And, in the end, I was able to take some of that writing and launch my own indie career.
I couldn’t juggle the pressure of contracts and deadlines, but I could do things at my own pace. Due to the nature of some of my struggles, I was in no mood to write the sexy stuff I had been writing. So I didn’t. I found a new niche writing sweet Traditional Regencies and publishing them myself. Gradually, I eased back into mainstream publishing. My agent has been great, coddling me when I need it and nudging me when I need that, too. I’ve been writing a new series with a new publisher now, I’m excited about the future, and I’m looking forward to branching out even more. Also, I’m continuing with my self-pubbed Regencies in between contracted work. It really is true that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, and I think this pertains to writing as much as any other aspects of our lives.
Me: What was your high point as a writer?
Susan: In 2008 I was nominated for RWA’s Golden Heart® award. I made myself a fancy ball gown and flew out to San Francisco for my first-ever RWA national conference. As you know from your own personal experience, Abbie, Golden Heart finalists are wined and dined and treated like royalty! It was magical. On the final night of the conference the huge award ceremony was held and, by golly, I won my category. I got to stand up in front of thousands of people in my sparkly dress and give a fumbling acceptance speech! The next day I signed with my agent and the day after that I got The Call from my publisher. It was surreal and blissful and I do let my mind wander back to that happy time whenever I start feeling doubts and discouragement creeping over me. It’s a wonderful jolt of awesome!
Me: Tell me about your Serena Gilley book titled LICKED BY THE FLAME–the third installment in The Forbidden Realm fantasy erotic romance series.
Beyond the limits of sight, magical beings live in the Forbidden Realm…
Lianne McGowan thinks she’s merely exploring geo-thermal energy in the remains of an Icelandic volcano. Her job has its risks, but she discovers an even more dangerous heat in the smoldering arms of Nicolai Vladik. He’s not just a fiery lover, he’s a raging dragon in hot human form. Their two worlds collide as desperate secrets unravel. Nic is forced to decide: will he save his ancient clan, or sacrifice everything for the woman he loves?
Share with me a favorite paragraph or two from your newest release.
Susan: There are a lot of scenes in LICKED BY THE FLAME that I really like. This hero is one of my favorites. The little excerpt I’ll include here is especially dear to me because it’s the first time we actually get to see Nic being himself. He’s had to hide his true nature for a long, long time and the stakes are pretty high for him to keep up the pretense. But Lianne is in trouble and that pushes him over the edge. He’s never let himself care for anyone–especially not a human!–but she’s gotten under his skin and he just can’t hold it all in anymore.
It was forbidden, of course. Nic must never reveal his true form in the presence of a human, but he didn’t care. Lianne was in danger. He had to get to her now or it would be too late. He could feel the storm building in strength, focusing energy on the mountain, on the area where Lianne had been climbing. There was only one thing he could do.
A crack of lightning ripped though the sky above him. His body responded to the surge of electrified air. With a deep breath and a roar that erupted from deep within him, Nic let go the last of his ragged restraint and gave rein to parts of himself that had been tethered for so very long. The storm hit with full force, blasting him with gusts that literally blew him off the rocks he’d been clinging to. He embraced the wind, welcoming it and sucking it into his lungs.
His body unfurled as his nature burst forth with all the power and urgency he contained. His muscles, his limbs, his sinews…every part of him extended and expanded. The creature inside him lurched into being, the feel of it after all of these years incredible. He spread his wings wide in the wind, catching it and commanding it as he soared up into the night, using the storm to propel him almost instantly toward the spot on the other side of the mountain where he had left his woman.
Me: I’m heading over to Amazon right now. This sounds amazing!
You can find LICKED BY THE FLAME at:
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