Monday, 9 January 2012

Fearless, Fast-Paced Fiction: An interview with Susan Swift/Suz deMello

Today, I am delighted to be able to chat to Sue and discover why she has two identities and about her work both as a writer and editor.
 Catherine:  Welcome Sue. I am intrigued. You write under both names. I understand this is a result of writing books in two distinct genres. Can you tell us more about that? Would you advise other authors to do the same?
Sue: Whether an author takes a pseudonym is both a personal and business decision. Some authors, anticipating an uncomfortable level of celebrity, take a pseudonym before publishing. I never reached or thought I’d become famous, so I didn’t bother. I published first book under the name Susan Swift, but realized after my first book signing that the shorter, the better.
 
So I started to write using Sue Swift. When I branched off into erotic romance, I wanted to enable readers who might be uncomfortable with a high heat level to easily distinguish the erotica. So Suz deMello was born. I occasionally use Thalia S. Child as a name when editing just for fun… l like having alternate identities. Maybe I should have been a CIA agent!

Catherine:  What made you start writing and when did you begin?
Sue: I’m not one of those writers born with a pen (or a computer keyboard) in her hand. I came to writing rather late, as the result of taking a friend’s class at a local community college. “Writing for Publication” was a real eye-opener in regard to the business of writing. At the time, I was mired in an uncomfortable career as a trial attorney, and when I realized that writing could be an alternate career, I jumped at the chance. I consider myself very very lucky.
I started writing my first manuscript when taking another writing class in late 1996. We were supposed to be keeping a journal, which didn’t interest me, but writing a romance did. Romance is the largest fiction genre and I figured that I had the best chance of creating a career in that genre. So I wrote the manuscript that eventually became Walk Like A Man, one of my most successful books, in late 1996. I sold my first book in 1999, and have been writing and selling at a steady pace ever since—an average of a manuscript every year since 1996.

Catherine: In addition to writing, you are also an editor. How and why did you get into that?
Sue: After I divorced, I had a vicious case of writers’ block that still hasn’t let up. As you can imagine, that makes writing difficult! The economic collapse was just beginning and I couldn’t get a job in my former profession, law. I knocked around doing one job and another, including working as a Starbucks barista and teaching English to toddlers in China, until I discovered that online publishers are greatly in need of good editors. Though I didn’t major in English, I have a feel for the language and am meticulous, which are prerequisites. As I said, I’m very, very lucky.

Catherine: If you were told you could either be a writer or an editor, which would you choose and why?
Sue: My muse has gone AWOL, so it’s editing, I guess.

Catherine:  What are you currently working on?
Sue: I’m revising a BDSM story for (hopefully) resale and finishing a vampire historical, a follow-up to Temptation in Tartan, which will be published by Ellora’s Cave next year.

Catherine: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to get their story published?
Sue: Read books on craft, take classes, get a critique partner who’s a better writer than you are. Stories are like diamonds. They start out looking like a lump of dirty rock. Cut away a lot—most new writers think each word came from God, but trust me, it didn’t. After you’ve cut and trimmed and tweaked, polish your story until it shines.

Catherine: If you could be anyone at any time in history, who would you be and why?
Sue: Wow…tough one. I believe we live in a wonderful time, when most diseases, poverty and hopelessness are on the run. We enjoy advances in health care that were unimaginable two centuries ago, and if we have the will, we can eradicate all the traditional ills for everyone. I love history, but I know that past peoples (and some folks right now) had pretty rough lives. I wouldn’t want to live any time in the past, for purely practical reasons.

But the best is yet to come. I’m not sure that I want to be anyone other than who I am, except maybe me living in Venice with a cool boyfriend I adore and who adores me.  I’d rather be someone in the future, just to see what’s going to happen 

Catherine:  Thank you very much for joining us today, Sue. Where can we find out more about you and, crucially, where can we find your books? 
Sue: I have a couple of websites and a blog:
And people can befriend me on Facebook
And follow my reading picks on Twitter@ReadThis4fun.

Here’ the blurb and an excerpt from Seducing the Hermit, a book Sue wrote during and after a cruise to Alaska:
 Deejay Valerie Percy rejects the phony life she's led in L.A. and travels to remote Takinsha Island, Alaska, determined to start over. She looks for a fuck-buddy, an accessory she considers more important than mascara. She wants a warm, outgoing man to laugh with her, hang out with her and shag her silly.
She doesn’t think she’ll encounter any difficulty in Alaska, where the odds of men to women are twenty to one. But as locals say, the odds are good, but the goods are…odd.
She falls for Fisher Chugatt, a loner who rejects any relationship. But Cupid has other plans for this couple, and so does Valerie. She doesn’t waste any time, seducing Fisher within a few hours of arriving.
Hot anal sex in the shower, hummers on the couch and a spectacular encounter beneath the Northern Lights seal the deal in Valerie’s mind. In love with Fisher, she wants it all: home, husband, babies…his babies. But Fisher can’t banish shadows from his past that prevent him from committing to Valerie.
***
Chapter One
flamboyant, flam-boy-ant: (adj): vivid, bright

Fisher Chugatt eyed the woman on the ferry approaching Takinsha Island and realized that she embodied his most recent “word of the day”.

Though he’d spent most of his life on the remote Alaskan island, his brief foray into the world convinced him that the education he’d received in Takinsha’s small high school had been inadequate. Thus the words of the day. Every morning, Fisher worked on The New York Times crossword puzzle, which always yielded something new to learn.

Ms. Flamboyant wore ankle-length, zebra-print jeans that revealed fuchsia socks with fake fur trim. Her short, thin-soled boots would be useless against the fearsome Alaska winter. Her more sensible gear included a fuchsia and black parka, fuchsia gloves and a matching knitted hat. She tugged off her hat by its cutesy little pom-pom, revealing shoulder-length blonde hair that whipped in the wind.

Yes, Ms. Flamboyant was definitely a babe. A hot babe.

She shoved the hat into her pocket then stripped off her gloves, exposing ridiculously long, fuchsia-painted nails. Fisher chuckled to himself. They wouldn’t last.

No wedding ring. His pulse quickened.

Was flamboyant related to flambĂ©? This woman was definitely hot, scorching hot, and Fisher wouldn’t mind a little Female FlambĂ© occasionally warming him up through the long Alaska winter.

Stop, he told himself. Chances were this girl wasn’t Valerie Percy, the woman he’d come to meet. The new station manager and disk jockey was most likely a hardened Hollywood type, not this slender, wide-eyed blonde. This female was probably just another day-tripping tourist, here to see the orcas, eagles and bears.

Too bad. He raised his gaze to the woman’s eyes and grinned.
***
Valerie Percy smiled at the tall, dark hunk standing on the boat docked by the Takinsha Island pier. He leaped from his boat to the surface of the wharf, agile as a sleek, sable otter. The man must have antifreeze in his veins, since he wore only khaki shorts and a faded black T-shirt in the cool Alaska summer. His skimpy clothes showed off one hell of a body, golden and muscular.

She shivered inside her sweater and parka. A southern California girl, born and bred, she could tolerate heat rocketing into the nineties or even triple digits in the summertime. She’d learned that in this part of Alaska, a temperature of seventy degrees Fahrenheit was unusually warm. She bet it was only in the sixties today, despite the August sunshine.

She shivered again then remembered, You chose this, didn’t you? You wanted a change. When her company RadioWorks USA had acquired Takinsha Island’s only station, they’d offered her big bucks to move from L.A. to manage the place since the previous owner was nearing retirement and unwilling to stay on for much longer. Bored and restless, she’d jumped at the chance.

The ferry bumped against the dock, and she went below to get into her faithful V.W. Bug and drive it off the boat. Packed with her belongings, Old Faithful had somehow crawled from Los Angeles all the way to Bellingham, Washington, where Valerie had boarded the Alaska Marine Highway, the ferry system to Takinsha.

She crammed herself into the small car, crowded with boxes and bags. Digging the key out of her purse, she started O.F. and slowly drove out, rolling and clattering over the ferry’s metal bib.

When she emerged into the thin sunshine illuminating the dock, a box slipped from the top of the stack in the front seat. It fell, jamming the brake. “Shit!” She pumped furiously at the pedal, but O.F. kept rolling along the crowded dock.

Dammit, she couldn’t stop her car. Images flashed by her panicked eyes. Tourists jumping out of her way, cameras swinging like misshapen pendulums. Fishermen swearing as they dodged O.F. The crunch of crab pots and assorted other gear she couldn’t identify, not when it was being crushed beneath Old Faithful’s tires.

The tall, dark hottie she’d seen from the ferry turned, his eyes widening. Just before the bug rolled into him, he leaped onto the hood of her car, shouting, “Jesus fucking Christ!”

Scrabbling for a grip, he grabbed a wiper. It broke off in his hand. Swatches of angry red flagged the hunk’s furious face. He spread his hands on the window, plastering himself along it as best he could, bending his knees onto the hood so he wouldn’t lose a leg.

Old Faithful bumped into the side of a battered red pickup.

“Shit, shit, shit!” Screeching with dismay, Valerie dug her hand between two boxes to grab the brake below. Something snapped, probably one of her acrylic fingernails. She didn’t care. Thankfully, the car had stopped before it could inflict much more damage to the truck and dock, to say nothing of the hottie.

She slumped back into her seat, panting. Tracks of sticky sweat oozed down her chest under her sweater. Damp pools soaked her armpits. Fumbling in her pocket for a tissue, she wiped her forehead with a shaky hand.

Hearing a tap, she jerked up her head. A tanned, impassive face waited outside the driver’s side of the Bug. The hunk appeared to have calmed from his previous fear and fury, so Valerie started to roll down the window. She struggled with the cranky handle, which had stiffened from cold during the week-long ferry trip.

“Hi,” the hunk said in a conversational tone of voice. He didn’t smile, but his eyes glinted. “You wouldn’t happen to have car insurance, would you?”

“Oh my God!” Valerie shoved the door open, whacking his midsection. He fell back with an “Oof.” She exploded out of the Bug. “Oh, I’m so sorry. Are you okay?”

He rubbed his belly. “I’ll live. Tell me—are you always so accident prone?”

“Oh no.” Valerie opened her blue eyes wide, hoping for an earnest expression. “Normally I’m a very good driver.”

“Of course.” His smile didn’t reach his cool, dark gaze. Damn. Her innocent routine hadn’t impressed him. He leaned against the side of her car with an easy, masculine grace. “But have you noticed that everyone thinks he or she is a good driver?”

 She gaped. Had she just been insulted? “Uh, uh, I guess you’re right.” She searched her memory. “I can’t think of anyone who’s ever said he’s a bad driver.”

“Precisely my point.” He scrutinized her car, his slightly narrow, Asiatic eyes lingering first on a scrape in the door and then on the twisted antenna. He walked to the front where he no doubt noticed the dents in the hood.

“They’re not my fault,” she said defensively. Besides, he had a lot of nerve. His old clunker was hardly an advertisement for its owner’s good driving habits.

The hunk tipped his head to one side like a curious raven. His long, black hair, tied neatly at his nape with a leather cord, shone in the sun. “Did I say something?”

“Uh, no. And by the way, I have excellent car insurance. With a good driver discount.”

“That’s…remarkable.” His eyebrows lifted. “Can you reverse a little? I’d like to see how my truck—”

“Oh, of course.” Valerie hastily climbed back into Old Faithful and turned the motor back on. O.F. edged back with a jerk and a pop.

This was great, just great. The man was obviously a local. Lacking a wedding ring, he was a prime candidate for the position of fuck buddy, an accessory she considered even more essential than mascara. But he seemed to have formed the opinion she was a goof, and with good reason.

Still, the odds were in her favor. Twenty to one. At least that was what she’d heard from other women on the ferry, so maybe he’d want to hang out with her anyhow.

Valerie brightened as she searched for her insurance information. After scribbling her name and that of her insurance company on an old gum wrapper, she peeked out the window again.

Hot Stuff was bending over, checking out the side of his truck, giving her a view of his nice, tight ass. Ooh baby.

When he straightened, she got out of the car to hand him the paper. “By the way, I’m supposed to be meeting someone here. I think the name was…” She frowned in thought. “Fishman or something. Do you know someone named Fish, uh, man?”

This time he gave her a real grin, one that gleamed against his dark-golden skin. “Lots of fishermen around here. Maybe we can pin it down to a species. Sure it wasn’t Shrimper, or even Halibut?”

Was he making fun of her again? “N-no. But it was a fishy name. Um, just for the halibut, can you stop teasing me?”

“But you’re so entertaining,” he murmured. “I’m Fisher,” he said in a clearer tone. “Fisher Chugatt.”

Well, hell. Foot-in-mouth disease had struck. She wanted to sink into the pilings of the dock.

“Welcome to Takinsha Island, Ms. Percy.” He smirked at her, extending a hand.

His warm, strong grasp made her wonder if the rest of him would feel as fine. Losing her wits momentarily, she managed to say, “Oh, uh, you can call me, umm, Valerie. Won’t we be working together?”

“Yep. If you leave the radio station standing,” he muttered.

“What?” Had he insulted her again?

“Yes,” he said in a louder voice. “I keep the equipment in order. I understand that the new owners sent you. You’re the new station manager and will be handling part of the deejay work, right?”

“Right.”

“Follow me to the station. I think my truck’s drivable. I guess I can get into it using the other door since you stove in this one.” He nodded at the driver’s side.

“Oh God, I’m so sorry.” Could matters get worse?

“Don’t worry. I can pop it out again.” His keen gaze again swept O.F. “Your car’s probably okay. V.W.s have the trunk in the front, don’t they?”

“Uh-huh. The engine’s in the back, so it’ll be all right. I don’t care about another ding in the bumper.”

“Yeah, I’m sure you don’t.”

Valerie winced. Had she turned off a total hottie who was also a coworker? What if he told everyone on the little island she was a ditz? She’d have a dimwit reputation before even a single day had passed.
***


4 comments:

  1. Great interview! I'm also slightly envious that you have experience as a barista at Starbucks. I know that sounds crazy, but I love coffee and wish I knew how to make all the different ones they serve.

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  2. :) Yes, I joined Starbucks because I love the place, love their coffees and the pastries. I even love the way a Starbucks smells! So it was a good fit for me, but it's a grueling job. I have great respect for anyone who works in retail food service. I know how tough it is.

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  3. Loved the cover for Big Girls Don't Cry!

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  4. Thanks, Magnolia! The team at Etopia does a great job :)

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