Jen: Sue McGeown is our guest at Book Talk this week. Welcome Sue. Will you please share a short bio with us?
Sue: I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, aunt, uncle (don’t ask), teacher, author … but, most importantly, a “woman after God’s own heart.” I’ve been a 4th grade teacher, a teacher of the gifted, a curriculum writer, a Children’s minister, a church deacon, a vacation Bible school coordinator, a preschool director, and a Bible study leader. Living in Bridgewater, New Jersey, with my husband of over fifteen years and my three children, writing stories is just about the best way I can imagine spending my time. Each of my stories champions those emotions nearest and dearest to me: faith, joy, hope and love.
Sue: I like to write about people that are flawed but have good hearts. And by good hearts I mean that they have hearts, which are open to God and what He’d like to accomplish in their lives.
Joining The Club is a story loaded with colorful, flawed characters with truckloads of attitudes and issues and quirks. I had grand fun writing it! My main character, Elaine, is a thrice-married woman who’s sworn off love and relationships forever. After all, her life is already complicated enough with one daughter who’s “easy” and one daughter who’s “hard”, a grandson who’s a potential criminal, a meter reader who’s got attitude to spare, a girlfriend who’s trying to save her soul while at the same time jump start her love-life, and a mother who’s best avoided at all costs. Despite Elaine’s effort to keep her life as simple as possible, her life grows more and more complicated: drunken ex-husbands park on her front lawn, a secret she’s kept her entire life becomes public knowledge, and she meets a man that can’t possibly be as good as he seems.
Joining The Club is my ninth book. It’s currently available only on my self-publishing site www.lulu.com. PLEASE! Don’t let that deter you, okay? Lulu is very user friendly – just like Amazon and by searching for me – Susan McGeown – all of my stories will immediately show up. (Or you can just click here: http://stores.lulu.com/store.php?fAcctID=681731)
Jen: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.
Sue: Ha. Do you know that up until about five years ago I thought that everyone had stories in their heads? Seriously. A friend asked me once where I got the ideas from my stories. I said, “You know how you’ve always got a story running in your head? I just started to write mine down.” My friend acted like I was nuts. Said she had no idea what I was talking about. I was stunned. “What do you think about when you’re in traffic, or lying in bed waiting to fall asleep, or stuck listening to Aunt Lucy tell you about the time she met Uncle Fred for the five hundredth time?” I asked. She told me she thought about bills or her latest to do list or what she was going to fix for dinner. I was so shocked that I did this independent survey of all my friends asking them if they had stories in their heads. Only one friend – who writes music – gave me a smile and a nod. “Yeah, I know what you’re talking about. I dream music,” he said. I was rather overwhelmed to discover that this thing I had taken for granted literally from early childhood – this ability to dream up stories (and keep them running in my head for days or even weeks until I finished them or just got tried of the train of thought) was something rare and special.
So, in answer to your question, I’ve always written (even when I was too little to actually write it down, I ran the stories in my head). I didn’t appreciate my call though until about five years ago.
Jen: Describe your writing in three words.
Sue: Empowering, hopeful, realistic
Jen: Do you have a writing routine?
Sue: My stories always start with a bang – a sudden, vivid image in my mind that I want to know more about. Most of my stories’ opening scenes are these initial images. When I’ve got a story going, I write about 5-6 hours a day when the kids are at school or when I can escape to the sanctity of my room and computer.
Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest?
Sue: Historical fiction is harder than contemporary fiction because there is the pressure to keep things accurate. But for me, the hardest aspect as I write is keeping all the little details accurate – like timelines and character “facts” I’ve invented. And oh my goodness do I hate to proofread and correct. I’ve got a wonderful team of friends who proofread my stuff once I’ve got a rough draft. I hate having the tedious job of going back and having to fix everything.
The most fun is the story itself. Sometimes I dream parts of it, sometimes I’ll be listening to music (usually Christian rock) and the story will roll out in my head like a movie, and sometimes I sit at my computer and just type. The process of the story unfolding and then gradually coming together for a conclusion is a wondrous, delightful process – the ultimate rush.
Jen: What’s the most rewarding aspect?
Sue: I love when people talk to me about my stories. I love hearing any kind of feedback – questions, observations, or discussions. One of my friends read my story A Well Behaved Woman’s Life. All of a sudden, one summer evening there she was sitting out on my back deck. I went out to see her and she looked at me with wonder and tears in her eyes and said, “How did you know? How could you understand? What? Are you in my head or something?” I had made the whole story up and yet I had really, really touched her. That just about blew me away.
Jen: Is there a genre that you’d like to write?
Sue: I write Women’s Inspirational Fiction. Yeah, I know. There really isn’t a genre like that. I can perceive that as a problem because agents and publishing houses say, “Umm, Sue? You have a strong, unique voice and your writing is snappy and clever but we don’t have a place for what you write … Sorry …” Or I can perceive all this as an advantage: “Have you read the stories that Sue McGeown writes? I’ve never read anything like them! AT LAST, someone is writing realistic stories about people like me that I can really associate with!” So I write Women’s Inspirational Fiction: fiction stories that speak to all kinds of women and whose ultimate purpose is to inspire.
Jen: Where do you draw your inspiration?
Sue: I believe that my talent is God’s gift to me. I believe that my stories are God’s direction. I believe that my purpose is to make God smile. That is the framework I operate in.
Jen: Do you have a favorite character or one that you identify most with?
Sue: Tough question. I suppose you’ll want to know which one of my children is my favorite in your next question! Ha. Hmmm. I really wish I was as quick witted as Elaine is in Joining The Club. In the story I have her rolling off these great witticisms like lightning bolts when in reality the conversation has taken me six hours to write! Ha. And I love Bear – from my Trilogy – Call Me Bear, Call Me Elle, and Call Me Survivor. I love how she transforms over the course of her life from a terrified, frightened white girl named Elle to a powerful, outspoken woman of the Eastern Cherokees named Bear. In reality, everyone of my main female characters are me … either from experience or imagining how I would react in a particular situation.
And here’s a little secret – my male main characters (AKA known as The Love Interest) are always modeled after my husband … the good parts anyway! Sometimes I’ll ask him questions, trying to get the male perspective. On occasion, he’s given me a hard look and said, “You’re doing book research, aren’t you? I’M NOT ANSWERING THAT!!!” (So I ask my girlfriends to ask their husbands and get back to me … HA!)
Sue: Well, I try not to read whatever I’m writing. I just don’t want to let my brain collect “stuff” even subconsciously. I enjoy romantic suspense, romance, historical, contemporary, some fantasy and science fiction. NO HORROR!!!!
That being said I love Suzanne Brockmann (Romantic Suspense), Diana Gabaldon (Fantasy), Sara Donati (Historical Fiction), Linda Howard (Romantic Suspense), Rachel Gibson (love her romantic humor!!), Sharon Shinn (her Science Fiction Angel series) and Beverly Swerling (Historical Fiction). I’ve recently been delighted with Marian Keyes (Rachel’s Holiday) and am laughing my way through her book Watermelon right now. Let’s just say this – I am a voracious reader. I not only always have a book in progress but I also always have about ten or eleven “on the shelf” waiting to go!
Jen: What do you do in your free time?
Sue: I have to be careful because “staying home and writing” doesn’t always qualify for a lot of people as a priority and there can be a mentality of “Ask Sue. She’s home all day … just … writing.” But for me, writing makes me happy, energizes me, and makes me feel alive. I have to do it. And if I’ve got free time … we’ll that’s what I’m doing.
That being said, family is tremendously important and has first priority. Shocking as it might be, I really like hanging out with my husband and three kids. I’m always a class mom at school and have gone in and spoken about being a writer a number of times at school. I’m also very active in my church and lead three Bible studies from my home. I lead youth groups and direct vacation Bible school each summer, too. So IF family and God responsibilities are met, I run to my computer and write … (And if I’m not writing, I’m reading!)
Jen: What’s next for you?
Sue: I wrote my first nonfiction right after Joining The Club. It’s called Biblical Women and Who They Hooked Up With. (No kidding!!) It’s gotten a lot of favorable buzz and I’ve even gotten some speaking engagements out of it! Is that ever fun! I’ve got another nonfiction in the works: Biblical Warrior Women And Their Weapons. (Again, no kidding.) Both books take some famous and not so famous biblical women and examine their stories and how the lessons these women learned can be applied to us. I do it with a little bit of tongue in cheek humor with chapters like “Rahab and The Guy Who Got It For Free” and “Jael And A Really Sharp Nail.” I also have more than 150 pages written of an historical fiction story (set in the 12th century B.C.) that I stalled on and would like to eventually finish and a great lead in chapter done to a contemporary fiction story I think about often. I can only do one book at a time so occasionally things get a little backed up with me.
Jen: Where can you be found on the web?
Sue: My website http://www.faithinspiredbooks.com/ has all my books and their first chapters.
There is also my blog http://www.faithinspiredbook.blogspot.com/.
Jen: Do you have anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Sue: I would sincerely love to hear feedback about my works. My email address firstname.lastname@example.org is a perfect place to contact me to ask questions, request free e-copies of certain stories, and tell me what you think of my stories. PLEASE!! I’d love to hear from you!!