Susan Shaw is with us this week. Author of books such as The Boy from the Basement and Safe, she talks about how she writes stories that just happen to be YA and how a birthday party turned out to be one of the better days in her writing life.
1) What is your typical writing day like?
I don’t have a typical writing day. I probably say, if anyone is present, “I’m going to go do some work.” Then I go back to the computer and just start. The writing gets interrupted by checking e-mail, getting up to make cups of tea, wandering around the house, especially in the early stages. But basically, I open the file and go. Unless I have an obligation, I write until I run out of steam, usually after about three hours. As I get farther into it, I write longer, and sometimes have two writing sessions in one day. I write at any time of day except the wee hours.
2) Why did you decide to write YA?
I didn’t decide to write YA. I just wrote stories that turned out to be YA books.
3) What is the biggest surprise you’ve experienced when it comes to book publishing?
The biggest surprise is that anybody ever offered me a contract. I had years of rejection letters before any acceptance.
4) Do you ever have any “dark days,” when you wonder why you’re a writer? What are those like, and how to you get through them?
I don’t so much wonder why I’m a writer as wonder if I am one. I often question my ability to write at all. But I just keep on trying. What’s good about being a published writer is that I can look at those books on the shelf and say, well someone wrote them, and it was you, therefore you must be a writer. “Dark days” aren’t so much about being a writer as just being a human being. Life can be hard, and often what I do on those days is write, write, write about all the things that are bothering me. Also, getting out into fresh air, getting exercise, talking to other people is good. Sitting alone in the writing studio can sometimes be the opposite of what you need. Do I wonder why I’m a writer? Sure, sometimes. But that is part of a larger question: How I happen to be who I am, period. Story-telling is in the genes, at least for me, same as my brown eyes and freckles.
5) 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 had just finished writing BLACK-EYED SUZIE and had asked three writer friends to read the manuscript. The next day, a birthday party was scheduled for my fourteen year old son, and as the guests were arriving, I kept getting phone calls from these friends of mine, each telling me how they couldn’t put my manuscript down and how blown away they were over it. One called before she had read the ending. I told her I hoped she liked the ending as much as the rest, and she said, after having read so far, that she knew I wouldn’t let her down. I was totally shocked by these responses and felt like I was living in outer space for days. Since then, I have sold several books, my fourth coming out next year, and have heard lots of praise and experienced varying degrees of shock from the great responses of editors and other people, and sometimes I still wonder how this can be me they’re talking about, but nothing has beaten the huge validation those three friends gave me that weekend. The birthday party went well, too.
For more Susan, click here.