Interview with Best Selling author Susan Wiggs
By Theresa Rizzo
Date: September 2007
Though Susan has always had a passion for storytelling, she took a slight detour and taught math for a while. But even the logical comfort of predictable mathematics couldn’t hold her long and Susan’s been crafting wonderful stories for the past 20 years. After writing for 6 different publishers, Susan has found her home with Mira Books.
Unable to completely abandon her beloved teaching profession, Susan is a frequent workshop leader and speaker at writers' conferences, including the literary institution Fields End and the legendary Maui Writers Conference. She is the proud recipient of two RITA awards for Lord of the Night and The Mistress, and is often a finalist for the prestigious award. Her novel The Charm School was voted one of RWA's Favorite Books of the Year. She is the proud recipient of many RT awards, the Peninsula RWA's Blue Boa, the Holt Medallion and the Colorado Award of Excellence. Her books appear regularly on numerous "Best Of" lists.
1. Why did you start writing? Why do you write now?
Answer: I started writing the way most people start talking and walking – it’s simply something a person does. Seriously. I was “writing” stories at age 2-3 and my mom has kept them. I would “illustrate” a story and have my mother write down the words. All the stories seemed to be about a girl stuck up a tree with bad things after her. Which, when you think about it, is pretty much what all my stories are about.
I write now for many reasons. Yes, it’s my job but it’s also my metier. It’s as much a compulsion now as it was for that three-year-old scribbling on the back of a church collection plate envelope.
2. What do you love most about being an author?
Answer: The solitude, the sense of creating something unique, the feeling of control over the characters and their world, the bursts of creativity, the personal freedom of being self-employed.
3. What is the most difficult thing about being an author and what do you do to minimize this?
Answer: See above. For every advantage to writing, there is a difficult and dark side. To minimize the difficulty, I surround myself by supportive people, starting with my husband and also including the professionals I work with. I have the best agent in the business, the best business manager, a talented bookkeeper and CPA, and the best publisher.
4. What do you do to pace yourself, to prevent burnout, to keep your creativity and writing fresh?
Answer: Nothing. You don’t want to emulate my habits. I probably work too much and too hard, but I made a commitment to my publisher and I always keep my promises. However, I will say that writing is such a pleasure it doesn’t always feel like work so I don’t mind. Another thing–there are a lot of things to writing besides writing. I usually finish the “heavy lifting” (composing new text or doing big hard revisions) by noon, and the rest of the day is taken up with the lighter chores. Also–most writers don’t want to hear this–but physical fitness is important. I spent at least an hour a day doing something intensely physical. With a new puppy in the house, this is not difficult.
5. With the consolidation of publishing houses limiting publishing opportunities, with the ever increasing popularity of entertainment opportunities (HD TV, MP-S Players, Reality shows, Play stations) vying for entertainment dollars, with the decrease in disposable income to spend on entertainment, getting that first book published is more difficult than ever. What would you do if you were once again an unpublished author trying to break into this market?
Answer: I suspect you’ll hear this from any established author–I wouldn’t do anything different. I would write with passion and clarity, creating the best stories I can, and leave no stone unturned in trying to find a publisher. In this day and age, I imagine a new writer would do more Internet marketing, creating a blog, web site, networking and so forth. Maybe submit to some of the “talent search” contests like the Gather/S&S contest or the Amazon/Penguin one. But the task has never changed. Readers want a great story. There will always be a market for that. And it will always be hard for new writers to break in...but it will always be possible.
6. How many hours a day do you typically spend on writing? On business? Do you have employees to help you with either aspect?
Answer: I spend maybe 4-5 hours writing and another 4-5 on business. I use the services of a bookkeeper, a CPA and an assistant to help with fan and mailing list issues. I also have a web designer and graphics designer.
7. To what do you owe your success?
Answer: Relentless determination + talent + luck + flexibility + willingness to learn and try new things + the amazing loyalty of my readers.
8. Many people feel that with success, comes a certain amount of responsibility. Do you? How? What do you do about it?
Answer: My responsibility is to tell the most honest stories I can, so I don’t really do anything different. I do give back to the writing community (lots of teaching and volunteering) and have participated in many writing projects in which the proceeds from book sales benefit a cause (eg MORE THAN WORDS).
9. What industry/business secret/truism have you discovered that you wished you’d known about from the beginning?
Answer: That there is nothing secret or mystical
about the business. I used to be really intimidated by the idea of
10. Which celebrities do you find most fascinating/respect and why?
Answer: William Goldman. He is the ultimate storyteller, and there is a page in his latest book (WHICH LIE DID I TELL?) About creativity that should be dipped in gold. He’s just so wise and generous of spirit. The other is Stephen King. He has a generosity toward other writers that is unmatched, and a talent for putting words down so that they have the impact of a well-landed punch. Same reason I love and respect Nora Roberts, whom I also count as a friend.
11. What have you always wanted to do?
Answer: Speak Italian, master piano, sky dive, sing an aria.
12. What’s your favorite genre/type of:
a. Book: fiction
c. Music: anything but country and hip hop
d. Sports: skiing, cycling, endless hikes with the dog
e. Color: pool water blue
f. Movie: Wizard of Oz, Last of the Mohicans, Harold & Maude, Lady Jane ...