Random Q&A: Susan Beth Pfeffer

Susan Beth Pfeffer is the author of 75 YA books. Yeah, that’s not a typo. Her latest book, the dead & the gone, is a companion book/sequel to Life as We Knew It, a novel that explored what happens to one family when a meteor hits the moon and wreaks havoc with the tides, the crops, and the weather on Earth

1) What is your typical writing day like?

I wrote my first book, Just Morgan, when I was a senior in college, and I decided the best way of getting the work done was to write five pages a day. So I did, every day. I didn’t care if I was in the middle of a sentence; five pages was what I was supposed to write, no more, no less.

When I graduated college and sold the book, I decided to double the total, so I wrote ten pages a day. My chapters used to all be ten pages long, just so I wouldn’t have to write a word extra. I still don’t know how I managed it.

Somewhere along the way, I decided to write a chapter a day, and the chapters got to be longer. Then occasionally, I’d write two chapters a day.

Now I just write as much as I feel like. Neither Life As We Knew It or the dead & the gone were written with chapters (they’re put in after I finish the first draft). If I’m enjoying the work, I write and write and write.

2) What is the part of the writing process you hate, and what coping mechanisms do you employ to get through it?

I’ve never really developed a fondness for revising manuscripts after the copy editors have left their trail of little notes. My primary coping mechanism is whining and cursing (not necessarily in that order).

3) One of the number one things writers hate to do is revise, and they’re looking for an “easy answer.” That said, what is your revision process like?

My revision process is very dependent on the quality of my editors. I have minimal critical skills when it comes to my own work, so I need an editorial eye to tell me what works and what doesn’t. I’ve been very fortunate with the editors I’ve worked with. My current editor at Harcourt is fabulous, intelligent and tactful.

I do vast amounts of pre-writing, and work through the problems before I hit the computer. I generally send a polished first draft to my editor, who then polishes it some more. But I rarely have to change anything big.

4) Authors talk about “the call.” Usually, it has to deal with getting an agent or getting published or getting an accolade. What was the best “call” you ever received in terms of your writing, and how did it go down?

I’ve never thought of it as a “call,” but I still remember with great pleasure, standing on Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village, reading an extremely favorable  review of Just Morgan in the Sunday NY Times Book Review section.

Lest you worry that I peaked at twenty-two, my experiences with LAWKI and d&g have been so extraordinary that I grin all the time. Except when I’m dealing with copy editing. Then I grin and whine and curse (not necessarily in that order).

5) You said that when the dead & the gone came out, you’d have a really big party. Still plan on doing that? Have the clowns been ordered?

No clowns (clowns scare me), but I have ordered the party favors. I’m having a Sunday brunch on June 1. I’m calling it the Cheap And Easy 75th Book Party, which should give you some idea of the formality of the event.

Fore more Susan, visit her blog.

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