Suzie Johnson’s debut novel, No Substitute, a contemporary inspirational novel, is out now from White Rose Press of The Pelican Book Group. Suzie is a regular contributor to the Inkwell Inspirations blog, but today she is hanging out at the Scribes. Please welcome Suzie as she tells us a little about her writing.
Suzie, how do you incorporate your real-life experiences into your stories?
I try to imagine how I would feel in certain situations. I recall emotional experiences and try to draw from them, even if they’re not necessarily exactly like my character’s situation. We all have a wealth of emotional experiences. When I need to express that my character is in pain, I think back to a hurtful situation. I see how much of it I can put into words. I wonder if I can give a tiny bit of that emotion to my character even though her situation isn’t the same.
How do you come up with your shtick? By shtick I mean your voice. That thing that identifies the story as belonging to only you.
Most of the books I’ve written are set in small towns and have some element of the beach, the ocean, or sea creatures in them. It’s just part of who I am. I love the water and spend a lot of time at the beach. Granted, where I live, when I’m at the beach, I’m usually in my car because it’s not warm enough to sit on the beach and write. But I love my island and I love my beaches so I try to incorporate them in most of my work.
With that said, I am currently working on a couple of projects that aren’t set in small towns and don’t have beaches nearby. For one of those, I’m incorporating my love of nature. For another, I’m incorporating my love for things that are just a little bit different. They are two historical novels with very different settings. I’m excited with this new direction and to see how it all works out.
What was your biggest misstep in your writing career so far?
Not knowing my own process and submitting or querying unfinished manuscripts too soon. I’ve often thought I had an entire book planned out and querying on proposal would be enough. But I’ve learned that my process is not conducive to knowing my characters well enough with just an idea and a proposal. I need more time. I need to basically write the book first, because that’s how I get to know the characters. Then I can go back and layer in more reactions and emotion because I know them better. Often times I don’t know them well enough until I’m finished with that second draft, and then I go back and layer even more. Some people know their characters inside out before they even begin the book. I get to know them as I’m telling the story.
Do you have a word related pet peeve?
I don’t want to offend anyone, so please note this is my own personal pet peeve and I wouldn’t stop reading someone’s work because of it. I’ll just skip ahead a few paragraphs.
I am so weary of reading the word tattoo in association with a character’s heartbeat or their shoes on a sidewalk. Those two references seem to be so overused that they’re falling into the cliché category. The other one that seems cliché to me is when a hero bows (in a contemporary) and tells the heroine her chariot awaits. I would love it if, every time someone starts to write these words, they would stop and think of a way to change it up.
What is your junk food of choice?
Chocolate, of course. Frozen miniature peanut butter cups are my favorite “over the counter chocolate.” By that, I mean chocolate that you can buy in a grocery store. I do love some of the chocolates at See’s Candy and Godiva, but they aren’t easily accessible. Lucky for me, or I’d be eating it every day!
What’s the most dangerous or risky thing that you’ve done?
Riding a really terrifying roller coaster that didn’t have a harness. Little did I know it was a mile long with 300 foot drops and every time it went up and dropped, I would rise up in the seat. The only thing holding us in was a little triangular piece of plastic over our legs. When my son asked me to go on it again, I wisely declined.
Yikes!!! I can’t even imagine. Well, Suzie, I have loved getting to know you a little better today. Please tell us about your book!
Thank you, Katy. I have enjoyed being here. My book is set in the fictional town of Goose Bay, Washington. My heroine, Amy Welsh has come back to town as a substitute teacher. One of her students is the daughter of her high school sweetheart and the man who broke her heart seventeen years ago. When the student realizes her father and her favorite teacher used to be in love, she goes all-out in her matchmaking efforts.
There are a few remnants of my high school years in this book. A restaurant based on one my husband and I used to go to when we were dating, which is no longer there, one of the beaches I still go to at least once a week, and the drive-in theater – which still stands and is supposedly only one of six drive-in theaters left in Washington.
My publisher is amazing. I’m writing for Pelican Books and I’m just amazed at all of the work Nicola Martinez does. I’ve been impressed with her every step of the way.
After my book was acquired, it went through the editing process. My editor, Fay Lamb, suggested a few places where I could increase the emotion or clarify a scene. After that, it went to another editor who read for content, typos, ways to increase the pacing, etc. Those first two editors also work on formatting it for publication. After those edits were made and it was formatted, it went to another editor who double-checked everything one more time.
Nicola designed my cover. I sent her two photographs I’d taken. One is of a bluff where I like to walk and another of a lighthouse near one of my “writing spots”. I told her what my characters looked like. All of those elements were incorporated into my cover and I just love it.
Referring back to the question of “voice”, I think this cover is very well representative of who I am deep in my soul – a lover of the beach, nature, and all of God’s creation.
Suzie, I love the premise of your book! Second chances warm my heart.
And here is a bit more about Suzie and her story, No Substitute:
Suzie is a member of ACFW, RWA, and is the cancer registrar at her local hospital. Suzie and her husband are the parents of a wonderful grown son who makes them proud every day – even though he lives way too far away. Suzie and her husband live in the Pacific Northwest with their naughty little cat on an island that is definitely not tropical. You can visit her at the following places: