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Q & A with New York Bestselling Author Susan Mallery

New York Times Bestselling Author, Susan Mallery is one of the most beloved and anticipated authors out today. Through her insightful and tender narratives of women and their relationships, her engaging stories has rewarded her with over 100 romance & women fiction novels published to date. As her loyal fans eagerly await the release of each book, her success is a testimony to the power of her pen. I chat with Susan about her readers and on being a writer. 

How did you become a writer?

I was actually in college, studying to be an accountant, when I saw a local adult education center offering classes on “how to write a romance novel.” I’d been reading romances since I was about 13 and decided to take the class. I’d never written a book before, but thought I should start one before the class.

It was an 8 week class and by week 6 I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life. But I wrote while I was in college and when I graduated, I had to make a decision. I had a job offer with an accounting firm. But I really wanted to be a writer. My husband and I agreed I would give myself 2 years to sell, so I turned down the accounting job and started writing fulltime. That was May and I sold in August of the same year. I’ve been a fulltime writer ever since.

As an author, finding that inspiration can be hard when you are trying to ignite that spark to write the perfect story. With such amazing characters, where do you get your ideas from?

Ideas come from everywhere. Situations I find myself in, songs, movies, conversa­tions I’ve overheard. (Okay, I admit it—I overhear those conversations because I’m intentionally eavesdropping. When you talk in public, you must realize a writer may be hanging on every deeply personal word.) The idea starts with a spark. The tough part is building that spark into a novel-length story. Some times an idea doesn’t go anywhere, and I have to save it for another day, when it might merge with another spark and become something wonderful.

The spark that led to BAREFOOT SEASON, the first book of the Blackberry Island series, was a thought that flitted into my head from I don’t know where – a gift from the universe. What if you and your best friend fell in love with the same man, and then he proposed to her You’re her best friend, so of course she wants you to be her maid of honor. And then... what if he tells you that he made a mistake, chose the wrong girl? BAREFOOT SEASON deals with the fallout of this scenario, ten years later.

The Fool’s Gold series of romance novels was initially inspired by a news story about the census. I thought of how interesting it would be if the census discovered that a town faced a serious man shortage. How would the women in town react? Would men begin to arrive in town by the busload, thinking there are women ripe for the picking?

You seem to be a very disciplined writer. What is your daily routine?

My writing process is fairly organized. I write every day and my goal is a set number of pages. Before I start a book, I do a detailed outline. I like to know I’ve worked out all the problems before I dive into the book. A typical day with me starts with e-mail, then pages.

My goal is to get my writing done in the morning so I can spend afternoons doing other things like answering fan mail, posting to Facebook or Twitter, or dealing with my website. I am always thinking four or five books ahead, so I might be reading a weird non-fiction book to give me back ground or doing research on the Internet. However, the pages come first. If it takes me until midnight, that’s how long it takes.

With all the success you have had, what has influenced you the most in developing as a writer?

I’ve studied a lot of screenwriting and that’s been a big influence for me. I have no interest in writing a screenplay, but I like the structure and the rules of it. I was living in Los Angeles when I first learned to write and there are all kinds of seminars and classes available there. I try to study with experts. I’ve taken characterization classes taught by psychologists and setting classes taught by poets. I still study. 18 years and over 100 books later, I read about writing craft, buy DVDs on screenwriting and listen to workshops in CD in my car.

Alright, it's just us. Are your characters based on people that you know or are they just pretend?

My characters are strictly fictional. Real people don’t fit well into stories. However, I will include situations I’ve heard about or experienced, which can be fun. 

You are one of the few authors I have seen that seem to be warm and engaging with their fans. How much does their support mean to you?

Fan support is everything to an author. I have published more than 100 books you can’t do that without a lot of very loyal, eager fans who rush out to buy your latest book the day it’s released. I have a very special group of fans called the Fool’s Gold Varsity Cheerleaders. These women are super-fans. They drive around their towns with Fool’s Gold car magnets on their cars, wearing a Fool’s Gold T-shirt, handing out Fool’s Gold bookmarks, and basically telling other readers about the books they love. I am humbled and honored by these very special women

Why do you think your novels resonate so much with women. I mean, when your novel comes out, it's like Black Friday shopping. Is there a particular reader that comes to mind when you are writing?

I believe there are universal themes we all connect with, especially as women. The need to bond, to create a family unit is biological. Romance novels affirm our desire to love, to have a mate, to have children. There is power in the ability to love fearlessly. Power in overcoming adversity, whether it lives inside ourselves or comes from an external force. Most women adore a good love story.

I do write with a specific reader in mind. She’s a mother with three kids and her husband is out of town. All three kids have the stomach flu, her washing machine is broken, and her husband won’t be home until the next day. She finally gets the kids in bed and has an hour or so for herself. She fills the bathtub to relax, grabs my book and sinks into the warm water, prepared to get swept away.

My job is to make her forget her aching back, the pile of laundry and the exhaustion dragging her down. My job is to make her laugh, cry and keep turning the pages, even after the bath water gets cold. My job is to make her believe that happy endings really do happen to everyone, especially women like her.

There are so many writers who get defeated and give up. Based on your success as a writer, what advice can you give them?

Don’t give up. Talent helps, but there are thousands of amazingly talented writers
who will never sell because they won’t start the book or finish the book or submit the book. The ones who sell, the ones who have a career, are the ones who don’t give up. Ever! You never know when the book you’re writing is going to be “the
one.” How horrible would it be to give up on the very project that was finally going to allow you to achieve your dream?

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