Big dreamer and certifiable overachiever Susan Ann Wall embraces life at full speed and volume. She’s a beer and tea snob, can be bribed with dark chocolate, and the #1 thing on her bucket list is to be the center of a Bon Jovi flash mob.
Susan is a national bestselling, multi-genre author of racy, rule-breaking romance and women’s fiction. Her bragging rights include the Fighting Back for Love series, Puget Sound ~ Alive With Love series, Superstitious Brides Romance series, Sunset Valley Women’s Fiction series (coming soon), and Devon Taggart Suspense series. She also likes to boast about her three perfect children, two amazing rescue dogs, and a happily ever after that started while serving in the U.S. Army and has spanned over two decades (which is crazy since she’s not a day over 29).
In her next life, Susan plans to be a 5 foot 10, size 8 rock star married to a chiropractor and will not be terrified of large bridges, spiders, or quiet people (shiver).
What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine or do you have any weird, funny, or unusual habits while writing and what are they?
I’m a bit of a hybrid, sometimes a plotter, but usually a pantser. I write a first draft very quickly, then take time in revising to add in the layers of details and emotions that draw the reader into the story. I have a small laptop (I call it my Tom Inspiron because of the brand and the wallpaper (Tom Hiddleston, the love of my life)) that I take everywhere, so sometimes I write on the porch, sometimes in bed, sometimes in the car while I’m waiting for one or more of my kids. I love being a mobile writer.
Once I’m done with the first draft and revision, I load the book into the Kindle app on my iPad and make editing notes as I read it as a reader. Once those notes are integrated, I ship my baby off to my editor and hope she loves it as much as I do.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
I don’t call it writer’s block, but yeah, I have dry spells. What I do about it depends on the cause of the dry spell. For example, May is a difficult month for me emotionally because there is a 33 day span between my dad’s birthday and the day he died. Add baseball for my three kids, the festival in our town, and well, I just can’t write during that time, so I don’t.
In other situations, if it is something specific, like a plot hole – I hate those!! – then I talk through it with a fellow writer and commit time to writing distraction free (shutting off Facebook) to push through.
What is the single most important piece of advice for aspiring authors?
Write. So obvious, I know, but you have to write and you have to keep writing. Set writing goals and strive to achieve them. It’s also good to have a plan that includes when you plan to finish your WIP, when you plan to pitch it or publish it if self-publishing, and all the things that need to be done in between. I also recommend all writers join a writing group where you get support from your peers. I’d be lost with the New Hampshire chapter of Romance Writers of America (NHRWA).
What are your current/future projects?
I’ve got a list of about 62 stories I want to write, so I’m never at a loss for projects. This year my focus has been on my new Superstitious Brides humorous romance series, but I’ve also launched two other series (Sunset Valley and Devon Taggart Suspense) and I’m continuing to write for my Puget Sound ~ Alive With Love series. I like having a diverse portfolio and there’s no shortage of voices in my head.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
I mostly write romance, but some of my books lean toward women’s fiction, especially my Sunset Valley books. I also dabble in erotic fiction under the pen name Ann Victor. I have a publication plan that I update every few months. It has everything I want to write and publish for the next twelve months and keeps me focused on the task at hand. Of course, opportunities arise that I didn’t plan for, which is why I update it every couple months, but for the most part, I follow the plan.
I’m not sure why I chose romance except that I love the freedom to develop the characters on multiple levels and I love a hunky hero.
What do you think is the future for independent authors and do you think it will continue to be easy for anyone to be a published author?
I don’t think it is easy to become a published author. Self-publishing takes a tremendous amount of work and perseverance, not to mention the time and financial commitment and decisions that the author has to make at every turn. I do like that self-publishing has opened doors that were previously closed and I think the industry will continue to grow as more and more authors embrace the opportunities available.
Are you traditional or self-published, and what process did you go through to get your book published?
I am self-published. I started publishing my own books back when self-publishing was much more taboo than it is now. I had only intended to self-pub one book (as a fundraiser for Relay For Life), but I enjoyed the process so much, I did it again, and again, and … (I’ve published 14 books in 5 years, with at least 4 more books scheduled for publication this year). I jumped into an online self-publishing support group pretty early on and what I couldn’t figure out on my own, I was able to learn from my peers. I am a DIY author for the most part, handling every aspect of a project on my own. It’s a lot of work, but I have the technical skill to be able to do that.
Have you ever changed a title, book cover, or even the content of your book after it was published? What was that process like?
Yes, I’ve changed my book covers and a few years ago I changed my name (I initially published as S.A. Wall). In self-publishing, it isn’t difficult to change the covers, but because I had used free ISBNs, I had to unpublish my books and publish them under a new ISBN when I changed my name. That was quite a learning experience. I don’t change the content of my books, except for the typo here or there, but I do change the back matter on occasion. My writing has grown, so I know I could go back to some of my older titles and make the writing better, but I would rather keep moving forward and put the new skills into new books. I think it is interesting to see how an author grows through her/his books.
What do you do if inspiration strikes in an inconvenient place like (car, restaurant, bathroom/shower, etc..) and how do you capture that moment before it gets away from you?
In the shower, I have AquaNotes attached to the wall, so I just jot my notes. Everywhere else, I have a memo app on my phone and I also use Google Docs, so I’ll jot notes down wherever I happen to be. I’ve also been known to write on my hand in the absence of paper or technology. When I was commuting, I kept a digital voice recorder in my car.
Do you have a target amount of words/pages for each of your books or do you just know when enough is enough?
When I’m writing a novella, I shoot for 1500 words per scene, but I let the story drive the number of scenes knowing I have to keep it under 40,000. Scrivener is a great tool to keep track of word counts and to set goals and I love writing in it. For novels, I set my word count goals to 2000 words for each scene and again, I let the story drive the number of scenes.
With self publishing being so easy these days, do you believe there is an over abundance of books out there and how do you sort through all the hype or copycats?
Again, I don’t believe self-publishing is easy, but the option has definitely increased the availability of books that previously would not have been published. Being in the self-pub pool for over 5 years now, I spot novice mistakes and can pick up on trendy things that authors jump on and I tend to avoid books that look like they weren’t given the professionalism required in publishing. Of course, books are art, from the cover to the writing, and art is subjective, so what pleases one person won’t please another and that is okay. That is why I don’t write negative reviews either.
If you have multiple books published what do you feel is your greatest work, why?
ALL OF THEM! LOL. Are you really going to make me pick one? My writing gets better with each book, so I think each new book is my greatest work, but I still get rave reviews for my first book because the story is so solid in that book. So I would say every book is my greatest work at the time it is published.
What is the intended audience for you book?
Anyone who loves to see characters grow internally and in their relationships. Must love happily ever afters.
Give us a fun fact about your book(s)?
Well, here’s a fun fact about Whisper to a Scream. I met Jon Bon Jovi in July 2015 and he gave me permission to quote lyrics at the start of every chapter in that book. It was exciting and I am so proud of that book.
Another fun fact, in my Superstitious Brides series, my daughter names most of the animals in those books (and there is at least one furry friend in each book).
If you had the chance to get one message out there to reach readers all over the world, what would that message be?
Writing is a lot of work. Support authors by paying for the books you read and by writing constructive reviews.
Do you find it easier to connect with your readers with the advances in technology we have today like social media? What platform do you prefer, and why?
I love chatting with readers on Facebook. For me, it’s the fastest and easiest.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I do read reviews on my books, but I do not respond to them. Everyone gets bad reviews. My advice is to crack open a bottle of your favorite spirit and celebrate joining the bad review club, then move on. Books are art and art is subjective. Not everyone will like your story and some people are just mean because they can be. Don’t take it personally. Of course, if your story is plagued by negative reviews, you may want to consider the root cause of that, but for the one-offs, celebrate and move on.
What is the easiest/hardest scene for you to write, why? (Love, action, fight, death, racy, controversial, etc…)
The end. I struggle to write the final scene in EVERY SINGLE BOOK. My editor makes fun of me for it. I think it is because I’m not ready to say good-bye to the characters or to send my baby off into the world.
Do you have any characters you would like to introduce in other books or a combination of characters from multiple books you would like to write about in one book?
This question made me laugh because I have a lot of crossovers in my books.
For example, Devon Taggart in the Devon Taggart Suspense series (Broken Strings is the 1st book) has a brother, Campbell Taggart, who appears in the Puget Sound ~ Alive With Love series. Also, Maddie Carson from For the Love of Chocolate (Superstitious Brides series) makes an appearance in Whisper to a Scream (Sunset Valley series).
When writing Whisper to a Scream, I introduced a group of combat veterans near the end of the book. I had no intention of ever seeing them again, but they are demanding their own stories, so they’ll be popping up in their own books. I can tell you for sure one of them will be a Superstitious Brides book (Mistletoe Marathon), but I’m not sure yet where the others will land.
Were your characters based off real life people/events or did you make it all up?
Yes, I pull from real life, both people and events, and I put a fictional spin on it. In the Sound of Betrayal, the book I was writing when Blizzard Charlotte hit Connecticut and caused a Bon Jovi concert I was supposed to attend to be rescheduled, I ended up naming the villain in that book Charlotte Snow.
What book(s), author(s), or significant life event(s) have had a positive or negative influence in your life that inspired you to begin writing?
I started writing as my own personal therapy to cope with losing my dad to cancer. I started by writing women’s fiction, a book called Too Many Daughters, which I have yet to publish but do plan to). Then my husband bought me an old Janet Evanovich romance for Mother’s Day. I read it in four hours, threw it down and declared, “Dammit, I can do this.” I’ve been writing ever since and published my first novel just a year after that.
What are your thoughts about eBooks vs. print books?
Thank goodness for ebooks. I wouldn’t read as much as I do if I didn’t have an ereader, but as an author, there’s nothing like holding and smelling your baby. Long live the print books!
Do you view writing as a career, labor of love, hobby, creative outlet, therapy, or something else?
It is a career that offers a creative outlet and provides therapy without needing insurance or forking out a co-pay. The voices in my head actually keep me sane. I’ve been much happier all around since I started writing consistently.
Do you proofread/edit your own books or do you send them off to an editor? If you send them off to an editor, who/what have you had the best experience with?
I do have my own editing process, but when that is done, I ship it off to my editor. I started out working with Purple Pen Editing and Micheline was fantastic. I would absolutely use her again, but I had a fellow writer and friend who started freelancing as an editor, so I started using her (Mary Ann Jock). She challenges me to be a better writer with each book, which I think an editor should do, and I love working with her.
What are the advantages/disadvantages of self or traditional publishing?
I’m a control freak, so being able to control every aspect of a project is a great advantage to self-publishing. The disadvantage is the amount of work that goes into exposure. I don’t have a marketing or distribution team to do that for me, so I have to do all the leg work and marketing is exhausting. I’d rather be writing.
What motivates you to write and where does your inspiration come from?
Everything inspires me, from spilling hot cocoa on my manuscript to overheard conversations in the grocery store to song lyrics.
My motivation is completely internal. I love writing and I love sharing my stories, so I keep on keeping on.
Do you design your own cover? If not who does, why?
Yes, I design my own covers. I’m lucky that I come from an instructional design background (it’s still my day job), so I have significant experience in graphic design. I love being able to bring my books to life through the cover and often I design the cover before I start writing so that I can be sure my character’s physical traits match what is represented on the cover.
What is your most/least favorite part of the writing process, why?
My favorite part of the writing process is writing a first draft. The story just pours out, fast and furious and I love seeing the story come together. Even though sometimes I plot, I still never really know what the characters are going to do or where the story is going to take them. It’s a fun journey.