Today we’re welcoming Susan Sleeman, one of my favorite authors, to the blog. She graciously took the time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions. Thanks for stopping by, Susan. Let’s start off by telling the readers a little bit about you.
Susan is the bestselling author of Christian/inspirational and clean reads romantic suspense and mysteries. She grew up in a small Wisconsin town where she spent her summers reading Nancy Drew and developing a love of mystery and suspense books. Today, Susan channels this enthusiasm into writing romantic suspense and mystery novels and hosting the popular internet website TheSuspenseZone.com.
Michelle: I know choosing a favorite from among the books you wrote is like picking your favorite child, but do any of your books have a special meaning to you?
Susan: You are so right, Michelle, choosing a favorite is hard to do, but there are a few books that have always resonated with me. No Way Out, book three in my Justice Agency, Emergency Response, book four in my First Responders series, and Web of Secrets, book three in my Agent’s Under Fire series, all have a special place in my heart, but I can’t tell you why as I honestly don’t know. It’s similar to when I read a book by a favorite author, and I like one better than the others, I can’t put my finger on the reason, I just like it. I wish I could figure it out as I could purposefully implement the findings as I write, but alas, it’s an elusive thing for me.
Michelle: Yes, as a reader, I feel the same way sometimes. I just love certain books or characters, but can’t always articulate why. So, which of your characters is most similar to you?
Susan: I feel as if I am similar to Becca in Web of Secrets as she is organized, makes goals, plans, and implements those plans. I don’t have a tragic past like she does, but I have my own issues from growing up that if I let them can interfere in my life. I am NOT athletic as she is, though I wish I was. I’m also a person who can let work take over my life. This year I am consciously trying to work less and enjoy life more. So far, I am doing better, but I plan to take even more time off after meeting deadlines this month. I won’t have as many books release in 2017, but honestly, this year I have seven books releasing and that is WAY too many! How I kept it all straight is beyond me. LOL
Michelle: The three books in the Agents Under Fire series are closely connected. When you’re writing a series like this, do you have all the books planned out at the beginning, or do you develop each story as you go?
Susan: When I write a series, I know the main plot and the characters for each story before I begin the first book. I decide the conflicts, back story, and physical description of each character before I start the project, so when I begin the first book I know them all and can leave hints for the readers about the issues each character is struggling with. Then I outline each book before writing it.
I didn’t do this when I first started writing. I simply sat down and wrote whatever came to mind, but after I became published and could contract a book with publishers without actually writing the book in advance, I had to learn to plan it out so I could provide the publisher with a synopsis for the proposed book. In doing this, I discovered that it is easier and faster to write the books with an outline as I don’t write scenes that then have to be cut. Plus, each day when I sit down to write, I know where to start. And in a suspense book there are so many plot points, red herrings, etc to keep track of so that outlining allows me to resolve each item. Now that doesn’t mean things don’t change as I go along. In fact, Web of Secrets started out completely different than it ended up, and I am so pleased with the final book that I’m glad I took a big detour.
Michelle: The villain in Web of Secrets is pretty evil. Where do you get your ideas for the bad guys? Is it difficult to write from their perspective?
Susan: I wish I could say it’s hard to write evil villains, but it comes naturally to me. Kind of scary actually. J I find villains are easy to write as they have one motive and everything they do is based on that motive. The other characters have more going on and aren’t as focused. The fun part about writing the villain’s point of view for me is that I have to dig deep to find a redeeming quality about them that the reader can connect with so the villain isn’t one dimensional.
Michelle: What is your favorite part of writing a new book?
Susan: Writing the first chapter is the best part for me. Opening a blank Word document and coming up with an opening chapter that I hope will draw the readers in and make them want to read on is both challenging and rewarding. And it’s also a fresh beginning where I get the chance to really get to know the characters and see what makes them tick. I have a degree in psychology, and I am fascinated with people and why they do what they do. I love to apply all that I have observed over the years to create very real characters.
Michelle: Now that the Agents Under Fire series is completed, what other stories can your readers look forward to?
Susan: The final books of my First Responder series will release this year. Silent Sabotage comes out in August and Christmas Conspiracy in December. I am also working on a brand new series, White Knights, to be published by the FaithWords imprint of Hachette Book Group. This series is about a group of FBI agents as well. The elite Critical Incident Response Team headquartered in Washington, D.C. includes experts in crisis management, explosives, ballistics/weapons, negotiating/criminal profiling, cyber crimes, and forensics. All team members are former military and they stand ready to deploy within four hours anytime and anywhere to mitigate the highest-priority threats facing our nation. I have finished book one, Fatal Mistake, and it is scheduled to release in May of 2017.
Michelle: Sounds like another greats series! I can’t wait to read them. What bit of advice would be most useful to any beginning writers?
Susan: Probably the best advice I can give is to write, write, write, and then write some more. Though we can learn writing techniques in classes and seminars, which I highly encourage, it’s one thing knowing the rules of writing and quite another thing applying those rules to your own writing. So practice, like anything you learn to do, is essential, and that means writing a lot. Each book you write you will learn new things that you can then add to your repertoire and craft better books as you go along. And second, I would say that writer’s have to be open to criticism and be able to take a long hard look at their work to see if the criticism is valid then make changes accordingly.
Michelle: Just for fun, what are some of your favorite authors?
Susan: Oh, gosh, this is like naming the favorite child. LOL Authors I enjoy reading are Terri Blackstock, Steven James, Dani Pettrey, Lynette Eason, Dee Henderson, DiAnn Mills, Lisa Harris, and Elizabeth Goddard.
Michelle: That’s a great collection of authors! I’ve read all but Steven James. Well, thanks so much for your time, Susan. I hope you get some time to relax in between all those books.
I hope you all enjoyed getting to know Susan along with me. Don’t forget to check out my review of Web of Secrets here and enter both giveaways. For more information on Susan and the Agents Under Fire, check out these links.
Web of Deceit:
Web of Shadows:
Web of Secrets:
For more information on the rest of her books, check Susan Sleeman’s official site: http://www.susansleeman.com/