Thursday, June 12, 2008

Susan Crandall Is In The Lair!

by Cassondra Murray




Granny Tula insisted with all of her Jesus-loving heart that God’s hand was in everything. She held the deep conviction that, although it might not be readily seen, there was a divine reason for all that transpired in His earthly kingdom; even the terrible derailment of Glory’s life. But Glory Harrison didn’t possess her grandmother’s unwavering faith. Glory had spent the past eighteen months on the run and had never once seen a glimmer of God’s hand in any of it.



That’s the opening paragraph of On Blue Falls Pond, Susan Crandall’s 2006 release. The book was nominated for a Rita and a Holt Medallion, and it won the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. But it won THE MOST IMPORTANT CONTEST OF ALL in my rather prejudiced opinion.

It won me as a hard-core Susan Crandall fan girl.

I’m so pleased to have this incredibly talented writer as my guest today in the lair. Welcome Susan!



Oh my, I’m blushing! Thank you so much for inviting me to your fabulous blog. I’m particularly intrigued by your Golden Rooster.



Well the Golden Rooster is an impressive and much sought-after fellow. That said, I've managed to slip him a copy or two of your books, and he does LOVE the rural settings, so I suspect he'll be making a spot on his dance card for you while you're our guest in the lair. Step up to the Bandita bar, have a glass of your favorite wine, and watch out. The rooster tries to cuddle up beside you and sneak a sip of your beverage when you're not looking.....


We’re here, of course, to celebrate the release of Susan’s most recent romantic suspense, and seventh published novel, Pitch Black. But we’ll talk more about that later.

Susan, we love call stories here in the lair. Will you tell us how you started writing, how long it took for THE CALL to come, and how that came about?

I was sucked into writing after my sister admitted she’d been writing a book in secret. She knew I was an avid reader, so she asked me to read it. I edited that book for her (unsold), then we wrote five novels together (also unsold – although we came close with one). Then my sister moved away and stopped writing – she really didn’t have the patience to mess with the details.

She was the idea woman – and I wrote my first solo book, BACK ROADS. Which sold in October 2001. Fortunately, my sister isn’t vindictive and bitter, she’s my biggest promoter.
It took nine years for THE CALL to come. But truthfully, I didn’t know anything about the craft of novel construction when I began, so I consider those years my education.
I did have an agent for BACK ROADS.


I can’t stress enough how important it is to have an agent who is absolutely over the moon about your work – don’t settle for someone who’s lukewarm or “on the fence” to represent you!

Okay. Gotcha. No agents who are 'meh' about my work. I'm hard enough on myself. Don't need a mean agent!

It’s odd, really, it wasn’t the thunderbolt out of the blue that I’d always thought it would be.

THE CALL actually came in baby steps. Warner Books wanted revisions before they offered a contract. We had some interest from another publisher too. I really wanted to work with Warner, so I did those revisions to the last half of the book in two weeks and resubmitted.
I was touring a college campus with my daughter when the real CALL came. I didn’t have a cell phone at that time and was using hers. It rang (I was carrying it). Being unused to answering a cell, I ignored it until she stopped talking to the head of a department, turned to me and said, “Are you going to answer that?”


It was my agent with an offer from Warner. We did a little negotiation (believe me when I say it was hard not to just grab that first offer – I’d waited soooo long!) and in a few hours it was settled. Originally BACK ROADS was slated for release in October 2002, but Warner started the Forever line, which focused on women’s fiction and romance and they moved it to June 2003 to put it in that line.


I’m sitting at Panera Bread as I write this, with my computer on my lap and a pile of Susan’s books on the table around me. (People are tending to stare a little as they walk by, trying to catch clandestine glimpses of EXACTLY what all those books are.) And as I look at the stack, I’m trying to wrap my mind around precisely what makes Susan’s books so….well…transcendent... might be the word.

The Boudreau family—the people of Glens Crossing, Redbud Mill, Dawson and nearby Cold Spring Hollow ( where Granny Tula lives)—are REAL. Y’all can call the men in the white coats and they can take me away but even THEY will not convince me otherwise.


They are real.

I could drive to those towns, and I could visit them. They would
be there. We'd sit down and have a glass of iced tea. I'd get to watch Luke look at Analise the way ALL of us women want to be looked at. (fans self even though I'm NOT in the Mississippi heat, and I read Magnolia Sky quite some time ago.)



In the author notes for A Kiss In Winter (2007) Susan says,
"Initially the story was steeped in gritty urban suspense, but that was too easy for me to construct. (I’ve never in my life chosen the easy path). And that’s not a true Susan Crandall novel: a book about people and emotions and learning to live with what life dishes out.”


Susan, will you talk a little about that—about where these REAL people come from, and about why you choose to set your stories in these small towns? What do you mean “that’s not a true Susan Crandall novel..”?

I do love working with characterization. I spend a great deal of time with these people mentally before I begin writing, so I really know who they are and how they’ll react to situations, and how they’ll interact with each other. (That’s the case with the main characters; the secondary characters always pop up as I’m writing.)



Maybe that’s why they feel real to the reader, because they’re real to me. I also use the setting as a character itself; it’s integral to the story. That’s why I choose small towns.


The comment about a “true Susan Crandall novel” is linked to this aspect. My books, no matter how much mystery or suspense, are about real people dealing with problems that could fall into almost anyone’s lap. Therefore, I don’t normally feature FBI agents and serial killers. I like to make my crimes more “personal” to the characters. (Not that serial killers can’t be personal. I mean if you’re in their sights, it’s very personal!) I want my threat to be understandable and relatable to “average Joe and Joann”. Does that make sense?

It does make sense. And although you live in Indiana, the people and towns you set in Kentucky, Tennessee, and even Mississippi are just as real—just as aggravating--as wise and as nosey-- as the small town where I grew up. How have you become so intimate with the ways of places that tend to be a bit ecclectic-- that outside folks--WRITERS-- often get SO wrong? You get it right.

I write about small towns because I understand them. I grew up in a small town and have spent most of my life in a small town (although I’m seeing changes around here that say we’re rapidly losing our small town status). I lived in Chicago too, so I can see the differences in lifestyle, etc. I guess it goes back to that “write what you know” thing. There isn’t enough research in the world to take the place of actually living something.

I’d met Susan a couple of years before the release of On Blue Falls Pond. She’d been at the RWA National Conference when I wandered by her table and picked up Back Roads, her first release, which earned her a Rita for Best First Book (WOOT!!!! CHEERS ALL AROUND!), a Rita nomination for Best Single Title and two National Reader’s Choice Awards in 2004. I caught up with her again a summer later at the Southern Kentucky Festival of Books, where to my surprise, she remembered me. That always catches me off guard—an author who meets gazillions of people remembering any individual reader.

But that’s just how Susan is. I think it’s part of what makes her shimmer as a person and as a writer. She's not loud. She's not splashy in that way that screams "I WANT ATTENTION." She goes about her work--writing incredible stories. And when she releases a book, that book is near cataclysmic in its power to capture and hold the reader.

At that Southern KY signing I got The Road Home and Magnolia Sky.

Then came On Blue Falls Pond, and since then, I’ve circled like a buzzard around the bookstore, waiting for the next Crandall release. (Sorry about the buzzard reference--but seriously, have y'all ever tried to run off a buzzard? It ain't happenin.)

Susan, I notice on the spine of your books that some say “Romance,” some say “Fiction” and some say “Romantic Suspense.” You’ve recently gone through a transition—one a lot of writers fear--along with Warner Books, as they’ve become Grand Central Publishing. Will you talk a little about that transition? Did it affect what you’re writing or your release schedule in any way?
The labeling on the spine for Back Roads (fiction) and the rest of my women’s fiction novels (contemporary romance) has to do with what Warner decided to do with the line as a whole. All Forever titles are now shelved in romance.


Pitch Black is a true transition to a new sub-genre (romantic suspense). Although it holds many similarities to my other novels, the pacing is clearly romantic suspense.

The transition from Warner to Grand Central Publishing was fairly smooth. I still have my same fabulous editor. I did have a long lapse between A Kiss in Winter and Pitch Black, but that had to do with issues entirely separate from the transfer of ownership of the company. Hopefully, the releases will be more regular from now on .




I noticed that the suspense elements in both A Kiss In Winter and Pitch Black were a bit more intense than in the previous novels, but EACH your books has contained a certain degree of suspense. There's always been that ticking clock--which made me think "she's always been a suspense writer at heart." In your author notes, you said A Kiss In Winter had been brewing for a long while. Is this heavier suspense a direction you find yourself moving naturally?

I’ve always loved romantic suspense. And you’re right, I’ve been inching my way there for a long time. Yes, it’s a natural progression for me – and (this is key) my publisher agrees.

One of the things I find most surprising is the intense level of suspense you maintain in the last two books, but they’re still essentially small town stories. That’s a little unusual and one of the things I love about your books. It seems to me that it might be more difficult to write gritty suspense in a small town than say….taking it the direction of terrorism or threats to national security. And yet I can’t go to sleep until I’ve finished the book.

I can’t tell you how much I like hearing that I’ve kept someone up past their bedtime! Thanks for the compliment.


I write stories I love. And I love dealing with everyday people in extraordinary situations that bring them to realize that they are stronger than they’d ever thought possible. Although I love the suspense aspect, I like to pair it with a strong sense of character growth. Which is why the small town setting works well. I like to pair the danger with something that strikes at the heart of who these people are.

In several of your author bios you state that you live with “A rock band in the basement.” Will you tell us about your process—about writing in the midst of family and its chaos, how you maintained through what sounds like “teenage years” and what your typical work day is like?





Right now, I’m able to write on my own schedule (kids are out of the house – at least for now. The married one and his wife are moving in soon while they build a house.) Back in the day, as they say, I had to sneak in my writing around everyone else’s schedules (most of you out there understand this perfectly), a hour before time to drive to soccer practice, twenty minutes before it’s time for the rock band (in the basement) to come and rattle the walls for two hours). These days my routine depends on where I am in the writing process, at what stage my current work in progress is in.


I don’t draft. I don’t go through the entire story and get it sketched out, then go back. I write in what I call layers.
Each day I go back over the previous few days’ work and add more layers, polish, dig a little deeper, before I go on to new material. So when I reach the end of the story, I’m pretty much finished.

In the early stages of a book, I work mostly during the day, a couple of hours at a time. I tend to get totally muddle-headed if I stick with it longer than that without a significant break. Of course, these two hours sometimes result in ten pages, other times, ten sentences. (The first three chapters can take me a couple of months. Because these chapter are SO important.) As I begin the last third or so of the book, I start working at night too, after my husband goes to bed.



There’s something about the nighttime that fuels my creativity. During the last chapters, I start thinking about it all of the time, can rarely hold a coherent conversation – you get the idea. People have just learned to leave me alone.

Here's the thing that sets the hook for me. Susan’s secondary characters are SO real you can reach out and touch them. So powerful that I long for their stories in upcoming books. And there are often alien beings in each of her books—a teenager or three. Susan, I assume it’s not accidental that your books include the teenage angst and parental angst—all the grittiness that goes along with that rocky shift into adulthood. It brings a particular poignancy to the main characters’ lives, ambitions, and motivations. Is any of this “teenage angst” autobiographical for you—as a parent or a teen yourself?

We’ve all been teenagers. When I was a teen, I was, as I am now, a rule follower. And yet, I had plenty of emotions churning inside. I try to take myself back and get in touch with exactly how I felt at certain times (of course, logic and reality have to go out the window here). And yes, I’ve been a parent of teens. I’ve seen the emotional roller-coaster from both sides. Sometimes I think the key to writing good teen angst, is to embrace that lack of world-view, to let yourself go with emotion over logic.

Will you tell us about Granny Tula? I gather from your website that I’m not the only reader enamored of her character?

Ah, Granny. You see, I come from a long line of pragmatic, yet fiery women (I got my acquiescent side from my dad). Although both of my grandmothers died long before I was born, I had some great fodder for stories in my great-grandmothers. Not to mention the tales of my mother’s mother. Granny Tula is an amalgam of my mom and those who came before, in temperament and outlook, at least.

Okay all of you regular readers here in the Bandita lair have reacted with varying degrees of shock and horror when I revealed that each of my books have a certain “meal” that goes with them. Something I eat all the time when I’m writing that book.
Well, HA! I am VINDICATED! I recently learned that Susan also indulges in a particular “deadline snack” for each of her books—and it’s different for every book.
Susan, will you tell us about “the snack” and how it came about?

LOL! I can’t imagine writing without the proper accompanying food! Seriously, who doesn’t?
The snack, as with my secondary characters, comes of its own accord and varies from book to book. During the last stages of the writing process, I get hooked on something that I munch on continually. I was actually into my third book deadline before I even realized I was doing it. Now it’s a regular topic of conversation around here. I hope they keep making new snacks, so I don’t have to start repeating!




"It could have been the thunder. Or perhaps the gust of wind that shook the house as if it was a misbehaving child. Something had jerked Madison Wade awake with her breath locked her in her chest and her heart racing. Perhaps it had been Mrs. Quigley's Tom cat romancing the Persian that spent her mornings on the sun porch next door. But it didn't feel like any of those things. It felt, heavy ... dark, and stifling. She hadn't suffered from this kind of anxious awakening for months, not since she'd moved to Tennessee."

That's the opening to Chapter One of Pitch Black. I stayed up all night to finish it as soon as I got it last week(yes, with work looming the following day).


As usual, I laughed and cried and went on the roller coaster I expect with a Susan Crandall novel. It’s unusual for me to have an author’s entire catalog on my keeper shelf. But my least favorite (if there is such a thing) Crandall novel is better than 95 percent of the other books I’ve read. Pitch Black is fighting hard to take over my “favorite” slot. Y'all know I'm not good at short summaries. Susan says she's not either.

So we give you the back cover:

YOU NEVER SEE IT COMING.

A journalist who adopted a troubled teen, Madison Wade has tackled many challenges--but never one like this. Leaving Philadelphia for a small Southern town to give her son a better life, she's now in a tightly knit community that won't accept her big-city ways and Ethan's less-than-perfect past. When he's finally invited on a camping trip, it turns into a nightmare--and Ethan is suspected of murder.

YOU'LL NEVER HAVE A CHANCE.

Sheriff Gabe Wyatt doesn't want to believe this kid is guilty. He's falling in love with Ethan's beautiful, sophisticated, and generous mother, the first woman who has ever awakened the tender side of this tough lawman. But he can't ignore evidence, even if it keeps him from getting close to the woman he longs to protect, even if it drives this fierce mother to track down the murderer herself--and on one terrible night, come face-to-face with her darkest fears.


Susan, what’s on the horizon for you? (Yes, I need to schedule the start of my vulture-like circling around the Barnes & Noble) Can you give us a taste of what you’re working on now? Will we get to revisit the small towns we’ve come to love, or are you taking us someplace new?

LOL! I do so love those book vultures! You may schedule your circling for this coming February.

My next release, Seeing Red, is the story of a woman, Ellis Greene, who as a teenager was the only witness to her cousin’s abduction. Her testimony was key in convicting her cousin’s attacker. Her cousin subsequently died without ever regaining consciousness. Now the man who threatened Ellis with vengeance is out on parole.
Nate Vance, a childhood friend and one time suspect in the cousin’s attack, left town right after the trial and never returned. Now he’s back to protect Ellis from a brutal rapist seeking retribution. But his years away are steeped in suspicious activities and mystery. Can Ellis trust him?

You can check out excerpts from all the books and keep up with the latest at her website here.

So, Bandita sisters and friends, is YOUR favorite book set in a small town, or a big city?

Where did you grow up? Suburb, farm, or concrete jungle? And do you notice when an author gets it right?

Have you a favorite character that is so real to you that you refuse to accept him/her as the creation of a mere mortal author?

What makes you grab on to a character like Granny Tula--somebody you want to know--to sit down and eat supper with--to sit in the shade and have a glass of tea with--to find out exactly what makes that person tick?

Have you met people like that in the books you've read? Have they changed you? And are you the better--or the worse--for it?

I've got an extra copy of Pitch Black for one lucky commenter. I bet I could get Susan to sign it if I asked real nice and y'all help me keep the Golden Rooster away from her glass of wine......

147 comments:

Jane said...

Yay.

Cassondra said...

Congrats Jane!

The Golden Rooster is yours for the day!

Jane said...

Hi Susan,
What was your occupation before you got the call? My favorite book right now is Debra Webb's "Nameless" and it takes place in Birmingham, Alabama, a big city. I'm from the city and I've never lived anywhere else. When I'm reading about characters who live in the suburbs or a farm I often wonder if I would be comfortable in that kind of setting. I do notice if an author creates an accurate picture of NY and its quirks. I can't wait to read "Pitch Black." Gritty suspenses are a fave.

Cassondra said...

Jane I think you'll love Pitch Black.

I'll have to pick up Debra's Nameless as well. I haven't spent a lot of time in Birmingham but enough to realize that, like most cities, it has its own "feel." Its own particular energy.

I have a manuscript set partially in New York, and writing that was one of the scariest things I've done--what a complex place--with all those "regions" even within the city itself! True of most cities I suppose. And upstate is a completely different animal.

If I had to live in a big city, New York would be the one I'd choose. I love it there.

Susan is probably far more the sensible sort than I am--and is sleeping now--she'll be around tomorrow to chat with everyone though.

Anna Campbell said...

Cassondra, what a fantastic interview. Susan, what great answers! Welcome back to the lair! Your books sound AMAZING!!! And Miss Cassondra and I have similar tastes in reading so I'll have to order them. Cassondra, which one do you recommend for a novice?

I've read about lots of characters who become more real to me than most of the 'real' people around me. All right, call the people in white coats! But I adore that feeling of living so intensely in the world of a book that it's much more vivid than anything else. I then get obsessed with the stories and keep mooning around, re-reading bits, hoping somehow there's MORE. I did that with Dorothy L. Sayers and Dorothy Dunnett and Laura Kinsale. I remember reading Dune in my early 20s and getting that out of body experience.

Susan, who do you like to read?

Anna Campbell said...

Jane, wanted to say congrats on the visit from the chook. I had him nice and calm when he left me! Actually, that's not true. He was in a chocolate fugue state after all those Tim Tams!

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Congrats Jane, after his visit with Anna he should be mellow. She always does a fine job of pampering him.
Susan, wow, I have to say I have never read your work but that will be rememdied quickly, the hard part will be choosing where to start.
I grew up in a small town, heck, I didn't even live in the small town, I grew up in the boonies. I can relate to that atmosphere. I have known a couple of "Grannies" in my life, my mother in law being one of them. You could always depend on them to have an answer to anything.

Helen said...

Congrats Jane have fun with him

WOW fantastic interview Ladies these books sound amazing. I love it when an author can make me feel part of the adventure and brings me so close to the characters that I feel I personally know them. I have read a lot of books over the years and for me I often feel close to the characters I really get into everybook I read.
It is very hard for me to name a favourite book I have read so many and my keeper shelves are just so full (I need another bookshelf now) I would have to go with Kathleen Woodiwiss's and Julie Garwood's historicals to many to name for me.
I will be looking for your books Susan I love the images of small towns although I have never lived in one I have always lived in the city but I have visited small country towns and they always feel comfortable nice friendly even though eveyone knows everything about everybody the premise of small towns and their caring and close knit coummunity sounds wonderful to me.
I can see myself sitting on a country porch reading my books yes.
Thanks for the great post Ladies.
Have Fun
Helen

Buffie said...

From one Hoosier gal to another . . . Howdy Susan!

I was born in Indiana but lived there less than a year before the family packed up and moved to the sunny side of Florida. I basically grew up around swimming pools and boats (no one went to the beach when you had your own pool and boat). But every year we would go back to Indiana to visit the extended family. My grandparents lived in a small town -- Centerville, which was the center of nothing. They lived on a tree-line, sidewalk street called Plum Street. Their home was only 4 blocks from the little city park and 5 blocks from the only diner in town. But man that diner made the best pies!

Now, I am living in a suburb of Atlanta, so there is nothing in walking distance to me other than my neighbors. I miss going to my grandparents home and feeling like I stepped back in time.

Susan, your books sound wonderful. I have to admit I haven't read any of them, but I'm pretty darn sure that will change!

Carol said...

Jane,
I think you should perhaps give the GR a salad day, with plenty of anti-oxidents.
Those yummy Tim Tams tend to creep up onto our hips!
Congrats! He loves your city life!

This is a great site to hear about books to read... many times we see books on the bookshop shelf and say to ourselves 'that looks good' and then put it back, because with limited cash, we want to choose something we know we WILL enjoy!

To read an interview and have a recommendation by other readers of a book really worth reading is invaluable!
Susans books sound really interesting...and have believable storylines.
Thou I love the unbelievable too
(Sci-fi)
A while ago I read the Unknown Terrorist - Richard Flanagan, an Australian Author,...
the language of the book was so familiar to me, we speak like it, we make jokes like it, the characters were so real to me. 5/5 It was a book I thought about for weeks afterwards.

Cheers Carol

PJ said...

Wow, fabulous interview, Cassondra and Susan! You've hooked me. I'll be looking for PITCH BLACK and your backlist too. Susan, I love the cover of A KISS IN WINTER. As a matter of fact, I voted for it in AAR's recent cover contest.

I grew up in a very small rural town in SW Michigan. As a matter of fact, my college dorm had a larger population than my hometown. I love stories set in small towns where you come to know many of the residents. One of my favorite small-town series is Robyn Carr's Virgin River trilogy. I love the town of Virgin River and am totally invested in the health and happiness of her residents.

Susan, whose books do you read when you want to escape for a while?

PJ said...

Nice catch, Jane! Enjoy your day with the GR!

Dina said...

Hi Cassondra

Grear interview!!

Off to work, check back later for all the craziness I've missed. :)

Terry Odell said...

I love the 'layering' process, because that's how I write (although I still have to go back and revise/edit the entire book once I finally get to "the end." But working in smaller bits and pieces as I go along means that task isn't as daunting.

And I totally agree that the first 3 chapters take the longest to write (I just cut two of my first five yesterday -- didn't need 'em).

As far as believing characters are real -- any author who writes series/connected books has me convinced the characters are real, or I wouldn't keep reading them. My list of authors who've done that for me is too long to post!

Susan Crandall said...

Jane,
Before my days as a writer, I was a dental hygienst -- guess maybe I've always liked to frighten people!

Your comments about city life are probably why I don't set my books there. You really have to live in that environment to pick up on all of the true "quirks".

I hope you enjoy Pitch Black ... and your time with the Golden Rooster.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Susan, welcome to the Bandita Lair! We're so excited to have you today. Cassondra, what a fantabulous interview.

I think I've found a new writer to fall in love with. Susan, your books sound exactly my cup of tea. I'm off to order from Amazon as we speak.

Small towns, outstanding secondary characters -- you guessed it -- To Kill a Mockingbird.

jo robertson said...

Oops, forgot my question. Which book would you recommend I start with Susan? Which is your "favorite"? Nothing like putting you on the spot. That's sort of asking which child is your favorite.

Congrats on getting the rooster, Jane.

Susan Crandall said...

Hi Anna,

I know exactly what you mean about totally losing yourself in a book and its characters. That's what makes books so wonderful, you get a vacation from your real life for a bargain price and no extra days off work!

I felt that way with Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER.

As for my own reading preferences, I'm all over the map genre-wise. I loved reading Sharon Kay Penman's historical fiction -- talk about making someplaced real! Naturally, I'm a big romantic suspense fan (Karen Rose, Sandra Brown, Karen Robards, just to mention a very few). I love Stephen King's earlier works. Lately he's been losing me. Dean Koontz. Kathleen Givens' historical romance. Actually, my list goes on and on, so I'll cut it off right there for now.

Susan Crandall said...

Dianna,

I hope you'll enjoy the books. I'd love to live in the boonies. Maybe when my hubby retires ... I can write anywhere!

Susan Crandall said...

Helen,

Ahhhh, I love historicals, too. There's nothing like taking a trip back in time with wonderful characters.

Speaking of small town comfort, right now, I'm sitting on my screened porch, listening to the birds and drinking coffee ... wish everyone could be here with me. Man, would we get a conversation going!

Susan Crandall said...

Hey there buffie!

Centerville truly is a small town. My small town is just north of Indianapolis and the city is very quickly slopping over on us. I grew up on a brick, tree-lined street myself (it's still brick). I doubt anyone moving here now would look at the town the way I do, having grown up here before the mega-growth hit. Growth is definitely a double-edged sword!

Susan Crandall said...

Carol,

I know what you mean, so many books, so little time and money. And I'm one who when I start a book, I'm determined to finish it, no matter what ... I guess the optimist in me keeps thinking there will be some marvelously redeeming factor somewhere along the way. So I choose carefully.

My reading time is pretty limited with my writing schedule. I don't like to read the same genre I'm writing at at time. And I want to make sure I only read really good writing (I think it rubs off). I have foudn that listening to audio books while I'm walking makes my excercise less painful. Sometimes I actually look forward to walking so I can get back to a book. And believe me, after all of the deadline snacking, I need the exercise!

Susan Crandall said...

pj,

I too think Cassondra did an outstanding job with the interview. She definitely made it easy for me!

Right now, the book I'm reading is Eileen Gouge's WOMAN IN RED. I'll probably go for a historical next.

Kirsten said...

Susan, thanks for visiting the Lair! Your books sound just incredible. I love books with a full complement of fantastic, real, characters, and not just the hero and heroine. So I'll be signing up to add to the TBR pile!

And Cassondra, brilliant interview, as always. :-)

I have never lived in a small town and I must admit, the ones I read about in books sometimes sound a little too good to be true. Do you think there's a tendency to romanticize small towns? Or are they really as lovely as they seem?

I definitely lose myself in books (Anna, you are spot on about Dune -- wow, that book changes your entire world!). That's probably why I can't handle gritty romantic suspense. I've barely recovered from Dark and Dangerous, and I read that a week ago!

Good luck in all your writing endeavors, Susan!!

Susan Crandall said...

Terry,

Ouch! Nothing more painful than cutting whole chapters. I'm quite stingy with my words, I suppose that's why I think so long before I write them down. I detest that delete button!

I like connected books too. Although I never planned on writing them. The idea to do a series was my publisher's. I'm so glad I did it. I'll probably do another series before too long. I like to mix it up a bit.

Susan Crandall said...

LOL, Jo. I've often used that favorite child line. And, like children, they are all special in their own way... ;-)

The first four books are connected, however, you don't need to read them in order. Although I'd probably read BACK ROADS before the other three, just because of the town set up. The remaining three books are stand alone titles.

One of my favorites is MAGNOLIA SKY, Luke Boudreau's story. But unfortunatly it's out of print. I don't even have any copies of it. (I know that was cruel, like holding candy out in front of a hungry child then eating it yourself. Sorry.)

Not very helpful in the selection process ... I'll leave the suggestions to Cassondra.

Susan Crandall said...

Kirsten,

Small towns are just like everywhere else, they have good and annoying all thrown together. In my books, I try to convey both, although the good ususally outweights the bad, since I like them. I think one of the things that makes them work for my stories, is the lack of anonymity, your personal laundry is out where everyone who passes by can see it. It's a great tool for conflict.

Cassondra said...

Anna, Oh, gosh. Which one would I recommend?

That's an impossible question. I think EVERYBODY should read On Blue Falls Pond for the sheer emotional ride. Fo, Susan does a damaged heroine in this book and I know you'd love it. A Kiss In Winter (the premise of that is one of the more unique suspense setups I've seen--and I love it) CANNOT BE MISSED.

But Pitch Black for certain--you know--a lot of writers either do the suspense roller coaster well--or they do the satisfying ending well--but this book is both.

The backlist is harder to get, but it can be done. Back Roads is awesome and it's SO interesting to read a first release. But Magnolia Sky--Fo, you like tortured characters--well--Susan knows how to do it.

Oh, I'm not helping. Sorry!

Cassondra said...

hrdwrkdmom said:

I grew up in a small town, heck, I didn't even live in the small town, I grew up in the boonies. I can relate to that atmosphere.

Oooo. Me too Dianna. Farm for me. Part of what made me relate to A kiss In Winter where the heroine was forced to sell her deceased parents' beloved farm in order to care for her younger siblings. I know the pain of losing that kind of connection--like losing a part of your soul, and that pain partially shapes and drives this book. I don't know how Susan got there from here, but she nailed it.

Cassondra said...

Helen these books ARE amazing. But I know--when you look at your keeper shelf, how do you pick one and say "this one is the best?" They're each individuals after all.

can see myself sitting on a country porch reading my books yes.


With iced tea. Don't forget the glass of iced tea. It's bloody hot here in Kentucky.

Cassondra said...

Anna said:

He was in a chocolate fugue state after all those Tim Tams!

A chocolae fuge state? Oh, that CAN'T be a bad thing.

Cassondra said...

Buffie said:

But man that diner made the best pies!

Buffie I have a thing for small town diners. They have 1) The BEST COFFEE (yes, even better--DIFFERENT--from Starbucks, which I also like), the BEST pie, and the best burgers. You cannot go to a chain anywhere of any kind and get a diner burger. I fear those little diners are like the dinosaurs and will eventually go extinct. :0(

My husband and I used to make a hobby of taking our day off and "finding" a new diner somewhere in the region.

Cassondra said...

Oops. I see I spelled "fugue" wrong in my haste. You know, I think it was Freudian. Maybe I was thinking chocolate fudge state, which would also not be a bad thing.

Cassondra said...

carol said:

It was a book I thought about for weeks afterwards.

There's something magic about books that do that isn't there? I think most of us read and read, longing to come upon that book that does this for us--that's what I mean by being "real" to me. Carol you said it better than I did. People and places that...well...you just can't let go.

Cassondra said...

PJ, A Kiss In Winter DOES have a great cover doesn't it? You've got to read it if you didn't get a chance to do so.

And I'll have to look for Robyn's books as well--oh great--more for the TBR pile. JUST what I need. ;0)

Suzanne Welsh said...

First, yay, Jane, keep an eye on that bird today!!

Susan, I just fell in love with Granny. She sounds just like some of my relatives!!

Beth and I had this discussion on her guest blogging yesterday that a small town can be a character to the story, along with the residents of the town. I think that's what gives them their flavor.

I have a series of books set in a small town in Ohio. In the first book, my heroine's mother is in the early stages of Alzheimers. I used my own grandmother and a few other older relatives to make up this character. (Had my mother and her sisters laughing so hard they cried.)

I grew up in Columbus, Ohio. It's not a major metropolitan area like Chicago or NY, but it isn't quite small town either. My parents are from a small town in eastern TN, with a population of less than 10,000 (might be slightly higher these days). So both places influence my stories a great deal.

Susan, do any of your family members ever see themselves in the secondary characters in your stories, (which I will be scarfing up on my next trip to the book store....egads the TBR pile is starting to look like Mt. McKinley!)

Cassondra said...

dina, hurry back to play with us! Thanks for stopping by.

Terry o'dell said: I love the 'layering' process, because that's how I write (although I still have to go back and revise/edit the entire book once I finally get to "the end."

I do this too Terry, but am not as skilled at it as I'd like. It doesn't come out smooth and I end up doing edits anyhow. Always something I missed--something the character "neglected" to tell me--something IMPORTANT--"oh THAT little detail that would explain about half of your actions, eh?"

Frustrating.

Tiffany Kenzie said...

These books sound so intriguing. Must put on the TBB list :) I love suspense (but I cheat and skip to the end first)

I have read one book that made me feel like I was living the story. Only because I totally identified with the protagonist--agewise, lifewise, mentality wise--hmmm maybe I need a white coat? It's historical (1920's) and you could say small town.

Does your sister ever think of writing again? Do you think of collaborating again?

Cassondra said...

Jo said:

Small towns, outstanding secondary characters -- you guessed it -- To Kill a Mockingbird.


Ah, but with MUCH nicer endings. (Shudder about TKAM)

Oh, and some steamy bits for flavor. ;0)

Suzanne Welsh said...

Susan, Teri and Cassondra...I layer, too. I write in such sporadic squences, (Dreaded Night Job) that I always have to retrace at least the last scene before I can continue with new pages. That's when I find ways to add depth to the scenes.

Yippee, some people who write like me!!

Cassondra said...

Susan said:

I'd love to live in the boonies. Maybe when my hubby retires ... I can write anywhere!


Susan, do you have routines or anything you "need" in order to write? Or did life with the teenagers and the rock band teach you to write anywhere, any time? I think not having kids maybe has spoiled me. I don't do well writing in snippets. I need a chunk of time or the book never feels cohesive to me.

I'm amazed by people who can discipline themselves to do this--write anywhere. Could you always do that? How do you refill the well--what do you do to recharge the creative batteries?

Terry Odell said...

Cassondra, I said I DID the layering thing, not that I was GOOD at it. And yes, often my characters reveal stuff I didn't know at the time. Or I see a perfect place to drop a clue, red herring or do some foreshadowing. I always have to edit.

But those wonderful moments when you realize you've 'nailed' a character are chocolate frosting on a fudge cake. Like when Randy in Finding Sarah, more than halfway through the book, told me he played piano. I went back and there was ONE LINE I had to change to fit this revelation. He'd been telling me all along, but I hadn't been listening well enough.

LindaC said...

I loved Magnolia Sky, Susan! I am a proud Mississippian and was so glad to see a book set here in the present day. Other favorites are your On Blue Falls Pond and on my TBR shelf is Back Roads and The Road Home.
Someone mentioned Robyn Carr's Virgin River series(these characters were so vivid that I hated for it to end). Another favorite is Brenda Novak's Dead series and Karen Templeton's Men of Mayes County.
Thanks for sharing with us, Susan!

kimmyl said...

WOOHOO!!!!!
I love reading your books.

Susan Crandall said...

Suzanne said:
"Susan, do any of your family members ever see themselves in the secondary characters in your stories"

I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about! ;-)

I did have one of my old classmates peg the model for one of my characters (and we've been out of school a long time!).

Susan Crandall said...

Cassondra--
Don't give my layering process too much credit, I still have to go back and catch some bloopers!

Susan Crandall said...

Tiffany said:
"Does your sister ever think of writing again? Do you think of collaborating again"

First of all, Tiffany, shame on you for peeking at the ending!! I can't imagine reading a suspense and already knowing the end. However, I realize you're certainly not alone!

Occasionally my sister mentions dragging out one of the old manuscripts and working on it. But truthfully, neither of us has the time to devote to it right now.

I (the control freak) feel I'd have a difficult time collaborating again. I've even gotten so I don't like writing with anyone else in the room!

Susan Crandall said...

Cassondra said:
"Susan, do you have routines or anything you "need" in order to write? Or did life with the teenagers and the rock band teach you to write anywhere, any time? I think not having kids maybe has spoiled me. I don't do well writing in snippets. I need a chunk of time or the book never feels cohesive to me.

I'm amazed by people who can discipline themselves to do this--write anywhere. Could you always do that? How do you refill the well--what do you do to recharge the creative batteries?"

Odd as it sounds, considering how I used to write, I need quiet and no one around me to write. I really like to get myself lost in the story ... which is hard to do when hubby sticks his head in and says "I don't want to interrupt, but where are my (insert misceallaneous item he misplaced here)?" People don't understand, it's not the tiny fragment of time for the interruption, it's the hour I've just spent getting my mind in the right place and now I'm back in the real world.

I'm big on movies to recharge the creative batteries. I love to watch a story unfold before my eyes.

Susan Crandall said...

lindac,

Thanks! I love Magnolia Sky too. I had my husband drive me around Mississippi willy-nilly (he doesn't do anything without a plan and it nearly killed him). But we found some great places that ended up flavoring the book!

Susan Crandall said...

Thank you, kimmyl. Hearing from satisfied readers makes working much more rewarding! I can run a long way on a single word of praise. ;-)

Cassondra said...

Kirsten said:

have never lived in a small town and I must admit, the ones I read about in books sometimes sound a little too good to be true. Do you think there's a tendency to romanticize small towns? Or are they really as lovely as they seem?

And Susan said: Small towns are just like everywhere else, they have good and annoying all thrown together. In my books, I try to convey both, although the good ususally outweights the bad, since I like them.

Oh yeah. I totally agree with both of you on this. And I think the author has the ability to pick and choose, which is nice.

Beyond that, every small town has its own personality--much like bigger cities. Some of them are much "friendlier" than others. Some are more closed to outsiders--some are just plain COLD if you're not from there (though this is rare in my experience). But most fall somewhere in the middle.

Does anyone else notice this "personality" thing with places? Each place, big or small, for me, has its own feel.

Kirsten I think Susan does an excellent job of demonstrating some of the down side--particularly with the Boudreau family in the early books--(the reaction of the town to the Boudreau children's upbringing ( The Road Home, Magnolia Sky, Promises to Keep) and with Caroline in A Kiss In Winter and her struggle to come to terms with her ill-fated early childhood--we get a real good taste of the "attitude" of the town when it doesn't approve.

You know, I completely neglected Clay and Lily's story (The Road Home) and Molly's story (Promises to Keep) in the blog. Sheesh!

And talk about a small town turning on an outsider--Back Roads doesn't pull a lot of punches there, and neither does Pitch Black

And yet, Susan manages to redeem them. I'm not entirely sure how she walks that line, but maybe that's part of what sells her stories to my heart.

Cassondra said...

Lindac, thanks for stopping by! Aren't these books wonderful?

I both love and hate it when books like this end. I want more, and yet I want that happy ending too. Susan has hinted in the past that there's more stories churning with some of these towns and families....but only SHE knows the order or when we'll get to read them. It's hard to wait, isn't it? One book at a time.

Cassondra said...

Suz said:

In the first book, my heroine's mother is in the early stages of Alzheimers. I used my own grandmother and a few other older relatives to make up this character. (Had my mother and her sisters laughing so hard they cried.)

Omygosh Suz. You will LOVE On Blue Falls Pond if you haven't read it.

Interesting that you tackled Alzheimer's. I took this part of the interview out because I needed to shorten it a bit for the blog, but we talked about Susan's inclusion of things like Autism, Macular degeneration, domestic abuse, and mental disorders. Real people with real problems ya know? It takes some skill to handle those things just right I think.

Suz it's so cool that your family loved your Alzheimer's character.

Tiffany Kenzie said...

Susan,

I can't help it... I'm an impatient aries, that has to be in the know :)

But it's imperative I skip ahead, especially when I'm reading suspense or I get antsy about wanting to know what twist is coming and who the key players are in the end and what dance their jiving to... :) Anne Stuart is a prime example of this, I want to know what the turn out is, or [even if it's romance] I need to be sure the end is all good :)

Cassondra said...

Tiffany said:

I love suspense (but I cheat and skip to the end first)

Ha! Only in our genre is that okay! (well, it's okay with me anyhow.) But I'll tell you, the ride through Pitch Black is a good one. You might want to hold off on skipping to the end of it.

Solving this mystery/finding the killer with the gorgeous hero and spunky heroine and her amazing son is not to be missed.

Cassondra said...

Hi Kimmy! Welcome and thanks for stopping by!

Suzanne Welsh said...

Cassondra, they loved the Alzheimer's characters because some of the parts were the funniest things that happened with our relatives all rolled up in one character.

We tend to be a group who'd rather laugh about strange things than cry. My daughter says it's easier on the heart.

Cassondra said...

Suz said:

We tend to be a group who'd rather laugh about strange things than cry. My daughter says it's easier on the heart.

Wow, what a gift. I think your daughter is right. Can I adopt your family? Or better yet, I just wanna read your books! Time for you to SELL girlfriend.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Susan, when you give the characters real life problems that we all face, like Autism and abuse, do you think that brings the reader deeper into the charcters' lives?

Suzanne Welsh said...

Cassondra said: Or better yet, I just wanna read your books! Time for you to SELL girlfriend.

From your lips to God's and the publishers' ears!! LOL

Trish Milburn said...

Hi, Susan. Glad to see you here in the Lair today. I grew up in a small Kentucky town, so a lot of what I write tends to be in small towns even though I now live in a city. In fact, all four of the books I've sold so far are set in small towns -- Colorado, Florida, Tennessee and next up, Alaska. If only I could manage a research trip up there this summer. :)

Virginia said...

Hi Susan, nice to see you here. I just wanted to let you know that I have read On Blue Falls Pond, fantastic read by the way. I am looking foward to reading more of your book.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Hi, Susan! Welcome to the lair! Fabulous interview, Cassondra, though my TBR pile now teeters dangerously. :-)

I'm a small-town girl, though never farther than 100 or so from the nearest major airport. So not crazy-uber-rural or anything. So maybe suburban girl? In the true sense of being from inbetween?

Maybe that's why I love both kinds of books--the ones that evoke the heartbeat of a huge city (love, love, love J D Robb's New York City) & the really intense community of small towns. (Jenny Crusie does this really well, I think.) I don't know either place so I can totally buy that either one is 'how it really is." Or at least that's why I can accept an idealized version of either.

I wrote a series of connected books (sadly & terminally unpublished) & after I was done, set one in Washington DC, a place I've never been. I have not the faintest clue if I nailed it or not. As that one is currently unpublished as well, I'm not too worried. :-)

Thanks for swinging by the lair, Susan, & I'll be eating up your backlist shortly.

Cassondra said...

Trish said:

all four of the books I've sold so far are set in small towns -- Colorado, Florida, Tennessee and next up, Alaska. If only I could manage a research trip up there this summer. :)

Trish, have you been to all of the places you've written about other than Alaska? (I know you've been to Tennessee of course, and I'd LOVE to go to Alaska too, btw). Writing about places I haven't spent time is one of those big fears I have--scared I'll write something dumb like Western KY University is set in the mountains of Kentucky or some such other blunder. I haven't seen that particular one, but I have seen blunders of that magnitude--makes somebody from there want to throw the book across the room.

It's so cool that Lindac is from Mississippi and LOVED Magnolia Sky. That's the teller right there.

Cassondra said...

Hi Virginia.

I'm so glad you loved On Blue Falls Pond Is Eric Wilson not a honey of a firefighter hero?

And then when he says to Glory, "I think there's something broken inside my son." My heart broke right along with his. :0(

Cassondra said...

Susan Seyfarth said:

I'm a small-town girl, though never farther than 100 or so from the nearest major airport. So not crazy-uber-rural or anything. So maybe suburban girl? In the true sense of being from inbetween?

Susan, I don't know how it is up where you live, but down here, we can be forty miles out and basically be in the middle of nowhere. That's changing--the suburbs are eating the farmland down here. But the cut off is kind of abrupt--or at least it has been up to now. You were in the city, then BAM, you were out of it--and the next town you came to was a small one. We're only 60 miles from Nashville here--but there are those tiny towns, complete with town squares and diners and small town attitudes--scattered all over the place. And when you're there, you're in a true small town even though you're just an hour from a major metro area. There are bedroom communities of course. But not so many as there seem to be on the East and West coasts.

I love it that you can sink into the story in either direction.

Keira Soleore said...

Susan Crandall... OMG! I'm such a HUGE fan! Susan, thank you, thank you, thank you for visiting. I missed seeing you at RWA National last year. Hope to see you at SF?? Off to read your interview.

(Congrats Jane for the rooster).

jo robertson said...

Shame on you for dangling that in front of me, Susan LOL.

Actually I was thinking of Magnolia Sky because my granddaughter is named Analise (not quite the same as your character but similiar). I have to say Pitch Black sounds very intriguing and I adore romantic suspense. That's what I write.

Keira Soleore said...

On Blue Falls Pond was my first book. After that I harried my favorite bookseller to find your backlist. And lucky me, she scared up every single copy, even the ones out-of-print. OK, one last gushing... I love, love, LOVE your books!!!!!

Now, I'm really off to read the interview.

Cassondra said...

Y'all, it's fixin to storm here, so if I disappear, you'll know why.

jo robertson said...

LOL, Cassondra. Well, with TKAM, there is all that trial, Boo Radley, and Atticus killing the rabid dog -- not exactly romance fair, huh?

Which book of Susan's do you recommend I start with, Cassondra? From your description, I'm thinking Pitch Black.

Boy, Susan, you should hire Cassondra as your promotion manager. She's convinced me!

Cassondra said...

Jo, it IS Analise. Just like your little angel. I spelled it wrong and didn't notice the typo until you mentioned it.

You'll LOVE Pitch Black. But you'll love A Kiss In Winter too.

I re-read all of these books as I was getting ready for this interview, and I admit, depending on my state of mind at the time, they shift around in the "favorite" order. But Magnolia Sky never moves much. Those are some tortured characters I'll tell you. Both Luke and Analise.

And Olivia in that story--well--I'm not gonna say anything. You just have to find that book somewhere. I'm not loanin' mine out.

Cassondra said...

Keira said:

On Blue Falls Pond was my first book. After that I harried my favorite bookseller to find your backlist. And lucky me, she scared up every single copy, even the ones out-of-print. OK, one last gushing... I love, love, LOVE your books!!!!!

See? I'm tellin y'all. Susan's books are must-reads.

Cassondra said...

JO said:

Which book of Susan's do you recommend I start with, Cassondra? From your description, I'm thinking Pitch Black.

Hmmm. Okay here's the plan. Get A Kiss In Winter and Pitch Black at the same time. Read Pitch Black first, then read AKIW.

You'll be up for two nights straight, but it'll be worth it. They're not connected or anything. And they're certainly individuals. But that's the way I'd get them for you if I were getting them--knowing your love of RS. I just love the premise of AKIW because it's so fresh. And yet---they're both intense in different ways.

But I'm tellin you to save yourself a trip to the store and get both at once.

Natalie Hatch said...

Susan, I think working in the dental industry you were definitely ready to scare people. Just make the sound of that drill and you'll have them cowering in fear, or bring out a really big syringe that tends to do it as well.
I grew up in a pokey little seaside village called Keppel Sands, at the moment it has about 300 people living there. It's about seven streets long and has views of the Keppel Islands. Absolutely small, quaint, and just beautiful. When you drive around the corner and it sits before you, well my heart eases, the stress lines disappear and I'm home (though I haven't lived there for years now). But as all towns the gossip and get in your business type thing the neighbours do is amazing. I think that can be a good and bad thing.

Cassondra said...

Natalie said:

But as all towns the gossip and get in your business type thing the neighbours do is amazing. I think that can be a good and bad thing.

Hi Natalie. And a hanky waving AMEN to the two sides of the same gossip coin. The thing is--I live ten miles from a town of about 50,000 people, and in some ways it's the same--at least with the crowd of old families and the "in" folks.

And even the big city papers have a gossip column. So I guess people are just people in that gossip way? But alone in a city is a little different from alone in a small town I think. Maybe I'm wrong about that. I dunno. Small town folks, for all their busybody ways, also tend to take care of people a little better maybe?

Your home town sounds beautiful. I think I'd be tempted to move back!

Cassondra said...

Jo said:

Boy, Susan, you should hire Cassondra as your promotion manager. She's convinced me!

No way Jose'! I'm not any good at that stuff as a job. I just know what I like to read.

BUT WAIT. That might mean I'd get to read the books ahead of time. (evil grin as plan takes shape).

Cassondra said...

Jo said:

LOL, Cassondra. Well, with TKAM, there is all that trial, Boo Radley, and Atticus killing the rabid dog -- not exactly romance fair, huh?

None of that bothers me honestly. It's the (I suppose there's no such thing as a spoiler in this instance?)whole death of the innocent man at the end--the injustice of it.

Much like The Education of Little Tree--they're BOTH books that I suppose it's good that I read, (I'm part Native American, so TEOLT was one I could not ignore) but in a way I wish I never had.

They're both books that left the unerasable stain of sadness on my soul--a permanent stain--and yet there was nothing to redeem them at the end. Nothing hopeful for me. Nothing much to elevate that stain to art--to something scarred but beautiful.

If you're gonna put characters through the awful hell of real life stuff, I just appreciate something at the end to suggest there's a reason to go on living ya know?

I'm not dissin' those classics in any way. I guess everybody should read them. I guess. Maybe they raise awareness for some people. They didn't for me as I was already there, but I suppose some people don't grow up thinking about that stuff.

Now Luke and Analise--they've got some scars. I cried through the last third of this book--but there's also healing and powerful love and goodness.

Keira Soleore said...

JoMama said, "Boy, Susan, you should hire Cassondra as your promotion manager. She's convinced me!"

JoMama, it's not hard to gush over an author who writes some of the most perfect books around. And of course, fans want others to become fans so we can have a joint squee session. :)

Cassondra, you lucky devil, er, roomie. You've already read Pitch Black?? I have to run out THIS evening and get it.

flchen1 said...

Woo! Congrats, Jane!

And welcome, Susan! Awesome interview! I do love books set in small towns (not having grown up in one), and of course wouldn't know if the details were wrong or not! I do like it when authors get the details right for places I DO know :) (See, all that research pays off ;))

I enjoy some suspense, but am kind of a chicken, so if it's too real, it might be too much for me :p Granny Tula sounds like quite the character--can't wait to "meet" her!

catslady said...

I come from the suburbs which I consider middle of the road lol. No exciting night life like the city but not the calm, peaceful country either. I actually enjoy reading about country and city since it's not what I see all the time. As far as a character that stuck with me, it was Ayla from Jean Auel's Earth Series - her strength and perserverance and independence really impressed me.

Cassondra said...

Keira said:

Cassondra, you lucky devil, er, roomie. You've already read Pitch Black?? I have to run out THIS evening and get it.

Yup. And it may be her best one yet. Maybe. Hmmm....there I go again...trying to pick one. Can't do it.

Crap. While I'm sitting here I just picked up Back Roads to move it to the other side of the table and I was ten pages in before I realized what had happened.

Now I've gotta re-read THAT one again.

Cassondra said...

flchen said:

I enjoy some suspense, but am kind of a chicken, so if it's too real, it might be too much for me :p

No worries flchen! It's like the middle-sized bed in the Fairy Tale. This one is "just right."

And everybody should have a Granny Tula in their life. They just should.

Cassondra said...

catslady said:

I come from the suburbs which I consider middle of the road lol. No exciting night life like the city but not the calm, peaceful country either. I actually enjoy reading about country and city since it's not what I see all the time.

Interesting. The 'burbs are the one place I've never lived. I've lived in extremely rural areas, and cities, and medium size towns, and now I'm back to the rural area. But I've never lived in the suburbs. And I just realized I've never set a book in the 'burbs either. Hmmm.....that's a way of life I don't really "know." Now I'm curious.

Cassondra said...

I've gotta go into town and pick up my husband (and a hive of bees) so I'll be back in a bit. Y'all mind the bar will ya?

Keira Soleore said...

Keeping the bar high up and proud.

Fedora, you have to read the book and experience Granny Tula. The minute I think "Susan Crandall," she's who comes to my mind first.

Keira Soleore said...

Oh, and Cassondra, do leave those hives of bees home before venturing onto the plane for SF. While a pig once traveled in the main cabin, I don't think travelers will take kindly to a "pet" that's neither cute, nor cuddly.

robynl said...

I'd love to meet Granny Tula; she sounds fascinating.
I grew up on a farm in the country and since have lived in cities and small towns.

Keira Soleore said...

Yes, wouldn't it be amazing if it was ever possible to meet a beloved character from the books?

Susan, a question for you: Did you base Granny Tula on people you know/knew/interviewed/etc. ??

Beth said...

Susan, thank you so much for being here! I love books set in small towns and yours sound so wonderful. I love adding to my TBR pile *g*

Thanks for the great interview, Cassondra!

Cassondra said...

robynl said:

I'd love to meet Granny Tula; she sounds fascinating.

I think it's the combination of her down home speech and her basic philosophy of life that won me to Granny Tula.

Before I'd read On Blue Falls Pond Susan and I were having a conversation via email about Search & Rescue Dogs. I was describing how you'd work a given scenario to put the dog's nose to best advantage--by studying how scent moves, and I said something about a holler.

Then I backed up and inserted "do you know what a holler is?"

And Susan came back with "I most certainly DO know what a holler is..." and then told me about her background. Once I "met" Granny Tula, I realized how true her statement was. Those people--folks from the foothills of the Appalachians--folks from back in the hollers--have a certain way about them. And Susan nailed it with Granny Tula. Reminded me of my own grandparents a LOT.

And the way the town thinks of those folks from the holler--that's pretty dead-on too, at least where I'm from.

Cassondra said...

Keira, as long as you're minding the bar, could I have a glass of Merlot?

And I promise, no bees on the airplane. Maybe no me on the airplane either if I don't get myself a ticket. I've neglected that little detail. I may be walking to San Francisco.

Cassondra said...

Beth said:

I love books set in small towns and yours sound so wonderful. I love adding to my TBR pile *g*

Beth, speaking of the TBR pile, I've got to get my hands on a copy of Not Without Her Family.

Keira Soleore said...

Walking, eh? Gosh, I don't know which year RWA will be back in SanFran, but perhaps you're aiming for that year and not six weeks from today.

Cassondra said...

Keira said:

Walking, eh? Gosh, I don't know which year RWA will be back in SanFran, but perhaps you're aiming for that year and not six weeks from today.

LOL! I suspect I'll end up coming in on a different day than I'd planned--maybe earlier--to get a ticket. Hmmm. Gosh. What'll I do in SF with an extra day or two?

Keira Soleore said...

I'm going to be there earlier, too, staying with my brother till Tuesday, when I meet you.

You have to visit the Golden Gate park/bridge. Then there's the extremely curvy street (Lamott??), and a streetcar tour of the city. At least that's what I've done, not being a native.

Isn't one of the Banditas from California? Perhaps she knows more?

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

I am so excited, bf gave me a 50.00 gift card for Amazon, I will get to get Susan's books all at once instead of one at a time. I asked him if I ran out of money before I got them all if he could spot me the rest.....LOL He just rolled his eyes and said ANOTHER author? Uh, well yeah!

Pat Cochran said...

Thanks, Cassondra and Susan, for the great interview! I was born
at home just east of "beautiful" downtown Houston, at age four we moved out to what my parents
called "the country." Later we
found out that our "country
home" was approximately 12 blocks
outside the city limit line. So I
had just a taste of small town life
for a few years. We were soon swallowed up by the rapidly growing
big city, so most of my life has been as a city dweller.

Pat Cochran

Pat Cochran said...

I forgot to add that the last
thirty-nine years we have lived in
the suburbs.

Congratulations, Jane!

Pat Cochran

Ann M. said...

what a great interview.

Lots of fun.

I've had characters in books that I want to jump in and join. Just hang out with because the author has done such a great job with their characters.

I did live in a small town through high school. Found it tough because it was always clear I was the newcomer even after 6 years there.

Cassondra said...

Dianna said:

I am so excited, bf gave me a 50.00 gift card for Amazon, I will get to get Susan's books all at once instead of one at a time.

Woot! That's a cool gift! I see you have a fellow who knows just how to get to your heart. ;0)

Cassondra said...

Pat said:

at age four we moved out to what my parents
called "the country." Later we
found out that our "country
home" was approximately 12 blocks
outside the city limit line. So I
had just a taste of small town life
for a few years. We were soon swallowed up by the rapidly growing
big city


Pat that seems to be happening EVERYWHERE. We live ten miles outside the city limits of a medium size town--actually in another post office address (a teensy weensy village) and we fear in another five years we'll be in a suburb. I'm not sure where all these people are coming from and who is left to live in downtown areas!

Cassondra said...

ann m said:

I did live in a small town through high school. Found it tough because it was always clear I was the newcomer even after 6 years there.

Ann I find that so interesting, and I'm not sure why that's so, but I know it is so. I grew up in one place and until I was gone for a lot of years and went back and into a store where people didn't recognize me and was treated as an "outsider" I never realized that my town was a bit "aloof" in some ways.

I said, "this place isn't as warm as I remember it," and my husband said, "It was always this way. You just didn't realize because you were from here." I know kids who moved to our area some time AFTER first grade and they were ALWAYS "not from here." Even in high school.

I have no idea how that feels because I haven't experienced it, but it must be frustrating.

Even now, after moving to a small community just outside the town where my husband was born and spent most of his life, our house is not "our house." It's the old Hayden Place. In the minds of the community, this house is still associated with the people who lived here for so many years--even after they've died and the house has been sold.

terrio said...

Late getting here but these books sound great. Susan's name is one I've been hearing for years and just never gotten around to finding. That shall be rectified very soon.

I love when the town becomes another character. Nora Roberts does that really well. There are lots of characters that live in my mind long after I read them. Eloisa's Mayne and Kleypas' Hardy (who I'm still reading about..sigh) but the one that I'd love to visit with is SEP's Sugar Beth from Ain't She Sweet. It's very hard to like her when the book starts, but by the end you can't help but love her. She's so real and her flaws go deep, though there's no doubt she's a good person and her HEA is much deserved.

Susan Crandall said...

LOL, Tiffany! I just wonder how in the heck you continue to read the middle part when you know how it's going to end? I'm a pragmatic, critical Virgo (as you can see). Maybe we should start a study of the Zodiac and reading habits. Could be very interesting!

I love Anne Stuart's books too.

Susan Crandall said...

Suz said: "We tend to be a group who'd rather laugh about strange things than cry. My daughter says it's easier on the heart."

Amen to that!

Susan Crandall said...

Suz,
I do think bringing everyday life crises to my characters draws readers closer. I think we're more empathetic if we can see it happening to us or our families.

Susan Crandall said...

Oooh,Trish, a summer "research" trip to Alaska sounds like it's your bound duty, no matter how much you have to suffer! ;-)

Susan Crandall said...

Hello Virginia -- and a bit thank you! On Blue Falls Pond does have some of my favorite characters ... don't tell the others. ;-)

Susan Crandall said...

Hello Susan S. Actually, I've always been within a fairly short drive to a major airport too. But I would love to try a place totally remote, at least for a while. Doubt I can get my other half to agree though.

Susan Crandall said...

Cassondra said: "Hi Virginia.

I'm so glad you loved On Blue Falls Pond Is Eric Wilson not a honey of a firefighter hero?

And then when he says to Glory, "I think there's something broken inside my son." My heart broke right along with his. :0("

Now THAT makes my life worthwhile! Thanks Cassondra!

Susan Crandall said...

Keira,

You're too sweet! And you've made my day.

I'll be in SF -- let's make certain we meet this time!

Trish Milburn said...

Cassondra, I've of course been all over Tennessee, so I know it well. My Florida book is set along the Gulf Coast and my made-up town is a mixture of places I've been along the coast. As for Colorado, I've ridden through the setting of my story a few times on the train. So yeah, Alaska is the only one I haven't seen with my own eyes. I'd love to go there someday.

Susan Crandall said...

Keira said: "On Blue Falls Pond was my first book. After that I harried my favorite bookseller to find your backlist. And lucky me, she scared up every single copy, even the ones out-of-print. OK, one last gushing... I love, love, LOVE your books!!!!!

Now, I'm really off to read the interview."

As they say in the South, Bless your heart! :-)

Susan Crandall said...

Natalie,

Your hometown sounds beautiful. I'm all for less stress. I think when you can walk anywhere you need to go, that loweres the blood pressure right there.

I had to reveal my ignorance, but where are the Keppel Islands?

Susan Crandall said...

You know Jo, that's a good idea. Cassondra, are you interested in a great, low-paying, yet highly appreciated job? You're the best publicist I've ever had!

terrio said...

I forgot to answer the other question. I grew up in the suburbs of Ohio and have lived in bigger cities such as Pittsburgh and Nashville. But I've certainly done the small town bit. When I was married, I lived in a county in Arkansas that didn't even have a traffic light. Then I moved to the closest town. Just over 6500 people and everyone knew everyone else. That took a while to get used to.

Susan Crandall said...

Dear fichen1,

You should be safe with all of the books before PITCH BLACK. Not really scary, just emotional!

Tiffany Kenzie said...

pragmatic Virgo, meet pragmatic Aries... I live through the middle quite well when I know the end... since I haven't read it yet :)

Can't wait to try one of your books. Love suspense, even if I do spoil the story after a couple chapters in... lol!

Susan Crandall said...

Keira said: "Susan, a question for you: Did you base Granny Tula on people you know/knew/interviewed/etc. ??"

Granny Tula is an amalgam of several of the women in my family from way back. All characters in their own way; I come from a colorful family, most of whom lived in rural areas like Granny.

Susan Crandall said...

Beth,
I'm honored to be in your TBR pile. I understand how precious a slot there is!

Susan Crandall said...

Cassondra, I'll be in SF on Tuesday, if you're looking for something to do!

Susan Crandall said...

I agree about the newcomer thing in small towns. Those kids who moved into my town after we started Jr. High ... well, they were always new.

And my town has gone through some major growth as Indy slops over on us. People now ask where I'm from and I say Noblesville, they say, no I mean before you moved here. The times they are a'changin'.

Susan Crandall said...

Hello terrio! Glad you're here. I had a long unplanned absence myself this afternoon. That's why all of my responses are so bunched up!

Cassondra said...

Terrio,

I loved Sugar Beth's story as well. SEP does know how to torture her some characters doesn't she?

flchen1 said...

Sounds good then, Cassondra! Uh, bees??

And thanks for the thumbs-up, Keira--I'll definitely get this one, then! And I think it might be Lombard Street (the curvy one) in SF--there's definitely lots to do and see there, but don't forget to pack in layers--SF can be gorgeous in the summer but then the fog rolls in and all of a sudden, the temperature drops ten or 15 degrees, easy. Brrr!

flchen1 said...

Oh, and Susan, I like emotional--I'll definitely put these in the TBB! And yes, I loved Ain't She Sweet--Sugar Beth's story is such a good one :)

terrio said...

SEP does love to torture them. But it's never over the top. It's the same things many people face everyday. One minute she has you crying and the next you're laughing. I love that about her books.

Cassondra said...

flchen said:

Uh, bees??

Yup. Honeybees. I'm a beekeeper. Maybe I need to blog about that. When we did our "Two truths and a lie" blog about the Banditas, everybody guessed that my lie was that I was a beekeeper. But that was actually the truth.

Susan Crandall said...

Cassondra,

Is it true that honeybees are disappearing? Seems I saw that on a what-to-worry-about-next magazine show.

Cassondra said...

Terrio said:

SEP does love to torture them. But it's never over the top. It's the same things many people face everyday.

And yet, she makes us care, and care hard.

Same as Susan's books.

Maybe if we could get these amazing ladies in the same room at the same time, we could lock the doors and not let them out until they tell us how they do that. Maybe y'all who are pure readers (and the most beloved people on EARTH here in the lair) don't care how, but us writers--we wanna know the secrets.

Maybe Jane could bribe the Golden Rooster and get him to slip something into Susan's wine--truth serum.....get her to tell us all the mysteries of making us care about the people in her books.

Susan Crandall said...

Ooooh, wine. What I good idea. Think I'll pour myself a glass!

Susan Crandall said...

Now that I have my wine ... the truth is -- even with truth serum, I can't explain the mystery of good characterization.

I truly think the characters have to be real to you -- and they have to be separate from you at the same time. YOu can tap into your personal emotions and reactions to certain situations for some of it. But you also have to really study that character and decided how they would react themselves.

I really had to concentrate on this in PITCH BLACK, because Madison is sooo opposite of me. Time and again I'd have to stop myself, ask who was in this scene Susan or Madison, hit that darned delete button and start over.

Cassondra said...

Susan said:

Is it true that honeybees are disappearing? Seems I saw that on a what-to-worry-about-next magazine show.

LOL on the "what to worry about next" show. That's why I don't watch them. I stress enough as it is!

Yes, there have been significant losses in the honeybee population in the past few years. BUT we think it's not as bad as the "what to worry about next" shows make it sound. At least not yet. We'll know in the next couple of years probably if we understand the reasons for the losses or not. (How's that for a maybe?)

And hopefully the honeybees will hold out long enough for us to understand them a little better.

I'm glad it's calling attention to the small things that most people don't notice or care about, but that are SO important to us here on this Big Blue Marble we call home. (I'm dating myself here---anybody else remember that show? I can still sing the theme song.)

Our lives would change significantly if there were no more honeybees. Hopefully they'll be okay. Did y'all know that when a honeybee stings, she gives her life for her colony? To sting kills the worker honeybee. It's a selfless act. (Here I go, projecting these emotions on little bugs.)

Everybody asks me if I've written a book about a beekeeper and the answer is no. Maybe I need to do that. Wonder how you get a suspense plot out of honeybees? Hmmmm. Okay, the wheels are turning. I'm not gonna burn them the way they did in that Steven Seagal movie.

Hmmm. Small town setting--I may have to hit Susan Crandall up in San Francisco for a plotting session. ;0)

Cassondra said...

Susan said:

But you also have to really study that character and decided how they would react themselves.

I really had to concentrate on this in PITCH BLACK, because Madison is sooo opposite of me. Time and again I'd have to stop myself, ask who was in this scene Susan or Madison, hit that darned delete button and start over.


Wow. Any insights into the "studying the character" part?

I know you said you "spend a lot of time with the characters" before you even start writing. What form does that take for you?

I know it's late and we're keeping you WAY past the point of good manners, but..well...we're a rowdy bunch here in the lair. And we've had wine, so manners are, as the pirate code would say in the Johnny Depp films...."more like guidelines"....so I hope you'll forgive us a bit.

Susan Crandall said...

Hey, that's what we writer's do, project emotions -- and I say, why not on honeybees?

Susan Crandall said...

Cassondra said: "Wow. Any insights into the "studying the character" part?

I know you said you "spend a lot of time with the characters" before you even start writing. What form does that take for you?"

Well, in the case of Madison, she's not the push over nurturing type that I am. I just read the other day a description of a good journalist/columnist (I'm sure I don't have this exactly right) comforts people who are too agitated and agitates people who are too comfortable. You get the gist. Madison is harder edged, yet empathetic. She's come to motherhood in an unusual way, to a teenager not an infant, therefore her relationship is going to be much different than my own experience. You have to think of things like that when you construct your scenes. She brings a much different perspective to the table ... as does Ethan.

Here's another example. When I wrote the scene where Gabe is massaging her shoulders in her kitchen, I began with her being a little more shy about it. But Maddie is direct, therefore she should deal with this situation the same as she does others. She directly comes out and asks Gabe if her response scared him. Make sense? My wine is making me ramble.

That time I spend with my characters prior to writing is mostly mental. I think of different possible situations, how they would react, what in their lives would make them react in that way, what kinds of experiences have they had that shaped them. It even goes to name selection. What would their parents have named them, given their social station and the time they were born. Things like that.

Cassondra said...

Susan wrote:

Make sense? My wine is making me ramble.

Perfect sense. But of course, I've read the book (gloating for those who haven't--I know, I'm having a mean moment.)Jeez-o-flip that's a steamy scene.

Ahem.

The rambles are great actually. I'm not sure many writers can concisely say how they do what they do. All they can do is ramble a bit and, as a newbie, if you listen to enough rambles, something clicks and you get one of those "aha!" moments that makes you a better writer.

And I totally get it because Maddie IS very direct. I'm that way. It scares some people. It used to scare MEN--well--boys when I was young and dating. (I'll just tell all y'all that Gabe is no boy and it doesn't scare him. How's that for a teaser? :-p)

Interesting though--and a mark of skill--that you can write what is the opposite of your personality in a given situation. I know we're supposed to be able to do that but it's hard.

If you notice a bit of green color leaking out of my pores, that'd be envy--of the skill level.

Susan Crandall said...

Like I said, Cassondra, it didn't come without sweat and the delete button. It IS hard to write someone your opposite, especially in emotional scenes. (that wasn't meant to be a slap on the back for myself!)

Susan Crandall said...

I just meant it's something that a writer has to be continually conscious of.

Susan Crandall said...

Okay, I'm clearly rambling now. I'm going to pack it in for the night (as you should to Cassondra, I saw how late you were up last night posting this!) I'll check back in the AM and see if there are more questions.

I really enjoyed my visit here with the Banditas and hope to have the pleasure again sometime!

Cassondra said...

I totally get it. And I'll give you a slap on the back for a job well done if you won't give yourself one. You deserve it. Keira will give you one too I'll bet if she gets a break from the busy bar in the lair. (Did y'all notice how I slid right out of there and left her tending bar? She's doing a right grande job of it though isn't she?)

Cassondra said...

Susan, you've been the best guest EVER. I owe you a glass of wine or three in San Francisco, and I mean that.

I even promise to NOT hit you up for plot help.

THANK YOU so much for giving your day and your wonderful insights to all of us here at Romance Bandits!

Anna Campbell said...

Susan, you've been an absolutely fantastic guest! Please come back and see us again. And in the meantime, I'm off to check these tortured characters out. Cassondra knows I LOVE tortured characters ;-)

Keira Soleore said...

Susan, thank you so much for being such a fabulous guest. I had to come back today and re-read the interview and these comments.

Maureen said...

I have always lived in the suburbs but the great thing about setting a book in the burbs is that there are so many different kinds from small little villages to large sprawling towns.

Susan Crandall said...

Thanks, y'all. Hope to visit again sometime soon!