Today, author Suanne Schafer joins us to answer 10 Questions about her writing. Suanne has published magazine articles and books in a variety of genres and belongs to several professional writing organizations, including Romance Writers of America and the Historical Novel Society.
Linda Covella: Welcome, Suanne. Thank you for joining us today.
When and why did you decide to become a writer?
Suanne Schafer: I was facing retirement from my medical practice as well as an empty nest (divorced husband, son moved out), and wanted something to fill my time. I decided to take up writing. After cranking out one long, dreadful novel, I decided to take some classes. I was still a full-time physician with an erratic schedule and couldn’t rely on attending a class with a set schedule, so when I stumbled on Stanford’s novel writing program, I jumped at the chance. The novel I wrote for that program was published as A Different Kind of Fire. My second novel, Hunting the Devil, is due out 9/15/19.
LC: Congratulations on your new release!
What is your writing process: where do you write, how often do you write, are you a full-time or part-time writer, do you outline or do you plot as you go, etc.?
SS: I write daily, though without any set word counts or anything. I have a desk in a spare bedroom that serves as an office. The walls are lined with books which share space with my sewing and knitting storage. I retired a few years ago, so consider myself a full-time author. I’m a total pantser. If I take the time to plan out a novel, it feels like it’s already written, and I lose interest in them. I write and edit on computer, rarely printing out a copy of whatever I’m working on until the bitter end—I don’t want a tree chopped down unnecessarily.
LC: Where do you find your inspiration for your stories? Do you draw from your own experiences?
SS: So far, I’ve pull ideas from my world travels and my ancestors, but I have a pile of ideas filed away like a “Cupid Is Stupid” poster I saw for getting a free drink at a bar if you bring a picture of your ex- and post it on the Wall of Shame. And a post I found somewhere, “There’s nothing sadder than an unemployed stripper at Christmas time.” Also, there’s no time limit on my sources of inspiration: in Santa Barbara, California, I saw a beat-up old pickup driving down the road with a bumper sticker reading “Frankentruck”—that’s made it into my third novel after being carried around in my brain for 40 years.
LC: Inspiration comes from many places. 🙂
Who is one of your favorite characters from your story(ies), one that you enjoyed creating and writing about, and why?
SS: Ruby Schmidt, from A Different Kind of Fire, was loosely based on my grandmother. It was challenging to incorporate the feistiness of my grandmother and still have Ruby have her own personality. Jessica Hemings, the heroine of Hunting the Devil, was also challenging. I had to give her the emotional stamina to spend years searching for the man who murdered her children.
LC: Do you incorporate (or inadvertently find) any of your own personality traits into your characters?
SS: I think it’s inevitable that authors implant their own personalities into their characters—after all, we are pulling from our innermost selves to write, to create. I have Ruby’s artistic talent and Jessica’s idealism.
LC: Do you find your stories are more plot driven or character driven? Please explain.
SS: Definitely character driven. I usually create the character, then the situation, then the mechanism to get her/him where they need to be in the story.
LC: Did you read much as a child?
SS: I loved reading as a child, and it has carried forward into adulthood. I’ve read 138 books so far this year and generally read at least 150 books a year. That figure doesn’t include those I read as a beta reader, mentor, or editor. One year, I maxed out at 276 books.
LC: I believe you are what is called a “voracious reader”!
How important do you think reading is for writers?
SS: Reading is crucial. It helps hone your craft, provides guidance and inspiration. I also think critiquing other writers’ works is vital. Flaws are easier to see in someone else’s work. And once you’ve seen them, you can apply that knowledge to your own work. You learn what works/what doesn’t work from both reading and critiquing.
LC: Who are some of your favorite authors and/or books? What draws you to them?
SS: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini—I was in Afghanistan during the time described in the beginning of the book. It is so evocative of that time for me, plus has such a gut-wrenching story.
Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund—exquisite prose and a feminist heroine
The Gabriel Allon spy series by Daniel Silva—a great spy series with a hero with morals
Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx—spare terse prose and a wonderful story
The Wild Birds by Emily Strelow—a new author to watch, exquisite prose
Winter Loon by Susan Bernhard—another new author to watch with exquisite prose
LC: Anything new in the works?
SS: I’m doing the edits on book #3. I move the setting back to Texas and have a happily-ever-after ending. I’m also starting book #4 about insane asylums in the 1890s.
LC: You do write on some interesting topics! Thanks again for sharing your writing life with us. Best of luck with your current and new works.
Suanne Schafer completed the Stanford University Creative Writing Certificate program in 2014. Her short works have been featured in multiple magazines, literary journals, and anthologies. Her debut women’s fiction novel, A Different Kind of Fire, explores the life of a nineteenth century bisexual artist living in West Texas and was released in 2018. Coming September 2019, Hunting the Devil explores the heartbreak and healing of a biracial American physician caught up in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Suanne is a member of San Antonio Romance Authors, Romance Writers of America, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, the Historical Novel Society, and the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. She has served as an editor for a mainstream/romance publishing house and as fiction editor for an on-line literary magazine.
Connect with Suanne: