Please welcome Susan Butler Colwell to my blog. How about a nice cup of coffee before we get started?
First, Thank you, Mary, for this fantastic opportunity to meet your friends, followers, and fellow book lovers, and thank you for my awesome animated covers! They are fantastic! (You are quite welcome!)
Okay, about me: I grew up in Midland, Texas, which my husband says is why I’m so darned nice and polite to the degree that he has “never seen in another human being.”
I think it’s the water in Midland—crude oil mixed with sand and fluoride—creating a magical potion that makes people friendly. Now, I’ve not been to Midland in decades, but the last time I was there, the residents’ sweetness made me seem like Cruella De Ville. (Oh, how hilarious!)
These days, I’m a Virginian, and no, I don’t make fur coats out of puppy pelts due to the change in geography. Still, I am sometimes curt with telemarketers who call during dinner. Most of the time, I ask about their families, though. So I guess that cancels out the rudeness in my voice when I say, “Thank you so much for the phone call, but please put us on your “do not call” list … You have a cough, are you feeling okay?”
I live in Loudoun County, about thirty miles outside of Washington, D.C., with said lovely husband (who comments on my politeness) and an adorable gray cat that has many names but responds best to “Kitty Boy.” We’re always coming up with names for him, by the way. Last night it was Pablo Fanque (yes, from the Beatle’s song).
2. Has writing always been part of your life and when did you “know” that it was time to start writing your first book?
I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. Well, except for a two-month stint in summer camp when I wanted to be a country-western singer. (I was seven. Don’t judge.) But I ended up in marketing instead, which means you write and write and write some more. So wish granted, I guess.
I do think writing marketing copy helps in writing a novel. You must take an idea and keep reducing it until you have a concise nugget of information that gets the point across. The same thing applies to story crafting; you just have to do it in much larger doses.
They say to be an adept author, you need to have written at least a million words. I’ve probably written several million words in my decades-long career of promoting products and services, so I felt that might qualify, and off I went. There was just one teensy problem … I had no idea what to write.
I considered my topic day and night. I could write about the grandmother who raised me. That’s a good story. Daught (short for Daughter Baby) was a funny lady, and some of her quips ended up in The Summerlands. Someday, I might have to write the story of Daughter Baby. But I wasn’t inspired to dig in just yet, so the idea sat.
When I was close to giving up, my husband, Cerphe (a big deal radio celeb), interviewed Robert Plant for his radio show. Bobby (as I like to call him, because, you know, six thousand degrees of separation) told Cerphe about his inspiration for a few songs by a band you may have run across if you live on planet earth…Led Zeppelin.
He mentioned J.R.R. Tolkien, light and dark, hobbits, and even Fatty Arbuckle (for goodness sake) in that interview. My ears pricked at “light and dark.” Thus began several weeks of musing on “light and dark” and “right and wrong” and the ever-important “gray areas.”
I’ll bet you think I had the story then and there. Nope.
It was a year or so later (once I’d finally decided I just didn’t have a tale worth telling) that I sat bolt upright in bed with my novel, The Summerlands, playing on a movie screen in my head…the whole thing!
Being four am, I crept out of bed, put on a pot of coffee, and got down to the business of novel writing. Thankfully, it was a Saturday, so I had the weekend to do nothing but type that movie out of my head and onto the page. Twenty days later, I had the first draft.
I’ve heard of songwriters “downloading” entire songs from the collective, the ethereal stream of information that rides the in-between spaces, the dark matter of the universe. I remember thinking how cool that was and wondering what that would be like.
Singer-songwriter Tom Waits says that when an idea for a song comes out of the blue like that, his job is to do what it takes to get it down. If he’s driving, he pulls over. If he’s sleeping, he jumps up and scribbles it down. If he doesn’t react right away, the song goes on to someone else…like Tom Petty, maybe. (Goodness, I miss Tom Petty. He’s mentioned in the book, and yes, I cried when I wrote that scene.)
Chris Martin of Coldplay (who Cerphe has also interviewed because my hubby is insanely cool) has a similar theory. I’ve heard him say, “You know, wherever songs come from,” and “I don’t write songs, I receive them.” Those are just two of the soundbites he uses to sanely describe content received in a mystical way. But I notice he usually looks up or waves a hand at the ceiling when he says it. Uh, huh, Chris Martin, I see you…
Taking part in this phenomenon is one of the most remarkable experiences of my life, and I will be forever grateful.
3. How difficult was it writing your first book?
I had the story of The Summerlands given to me by “the great creative,” so that part was easy. Teaching myself to write a novel was tough. It took three years to find my voice and slip into my writing style. After the fiftieth rewrite, I hired an editor who helped bring my first baby home.
4. Have you ever wanted to give up and what stopped you?
Yes, at rewrite fifty-one, after my shiny new editor came back with notes. . . a lot of notes. But I chugged through and finished my first novel twenty pounds heavier and with a lot less hair. But I got it out there, darn it all!
5. Who is the most supportive of you and your dream to be a writer?
My husband Cerphe and my close friends have been amazingly supportive. They read every draft, offer excellent advice, and listen with non-judgy faces when I talk about my characters like they are real people . . . uh, because they are. My friends Helen and Christina spitball ideas, with Helen offering creative ways to make my villains squirm. (She really seems to enjoy that, and I don’t ask.) Cerphe never rolls his eyes when I burst into a room (where he’s working) to announce, “Oh! Oh! listen to this!”
6. Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Yes, and I know you hear this from people far more intelligent than I, but never give up! There were times when I thought I would never be done with The Summerlands. There were times when I sobbed into my ice cream. There were times when I felt like hucking the computer across the room and telling novel-writing to take a hike. But I sucked it up and persevered and whamo! I was staring at a book with a beautiful cover and actual words that I wrote inside! It was the most surreal experience of my life.
7. What is the best advice given to you (book or otherwise), and by whom?
See the “never give up” comment above. I’m sure many people have told me that, but my husband repeats it often, so he gets the credit.
8. What is your target audience and what aspect of your writing do you feel targets that audience?
I write metaphysical fiction, so not everyone’s cup of tea. But I have been delighted to find an audience with readers from every walk of life, religion, and belief system. There’s a message of love in my books that resonates with everyone, I think, no matter if you believe in Goddess, God, or nothing at all.
I’ve been told my books are appropriate for “New Adults.” One reviewer deducted a star because she felt my book was “YA.” And yes, that hurt. Besides, my protagonist is a twenty-two-year-old goddess who has lived a million lives. So the fact she was over eighteen, plus a few billion cosmic years, kicked her out of the “YA” category before she could stamp her multi-life goddess foot in protest.
But in my mind, I write for people my age; we fifty-somethings trying to get a handle on life, spirituality, and mortality, and everyone trying to make sense of the crazy world around them, no matter their age.
My books are filled with love and hope for a brighter tomorrow. So there is a message in there for everyone.
9. Did the cover evolve the same way, or did you work with someone to make it come together for you?
Oh, boy. I designed my first cover, and it was sort of a disaster. Okay, strike “sort of.” So I hired a professional cover designer, loved what she did, and hired her for books two and three. A great cover is essential, so cover design definitely falls into the “don’t try this at home” category. Lesson learned.
10. What are you working on now? Can we get a peek, an excerpt?
Ooooh, I thought you’d never ask! I’m working on book three, Angel Fire. I’m about two-thirds done with the first draft and am gearing up for the adventure piece of the story to finish it up. Hmm. Let’s see what kind of an excerpt I can lay on you that won’t be a spoiler if you haven’t read the first two books . . .?
Mind you, it hasn’t been through my editor’s meat grinder yet. I’m sure she’ll be horrified I let this wild thing out into the world, but here goes: 😊
Excerpt form Angel Fire by Susan Butler Colwell
A short while ago, and at the fevered request of the pilot who threw up a quick prayer to his Maker, mind you, I’d been mentally steering this craft through this heavy asteroid field. Somewhat comfortably, I might add, while enjoying a late-night snack in my home on the Earth plane.
Of course, I’m not his Maker. Goddess is. But human prayers go through a lightning-speed chain-mail system, touching each arc and elemental’s soul. Sort of like tapping us on the cosmic shoulder to alert us of the request and the type of danger the human faces.
Each of us has our specialty.
My eternal mate—and soon-to-be-human-style husband, Archangel Michael—takes care of warfare calamity, protecting soldiers who find themselves on the wrong end of something sharp or explosive.
Raphael deals with medical fiascos, car crashes, and the like. Kricket, Raphe’s mate and the goddess of air, takes care of anything brain-related, though. She also saves living beings from tornados and hurricanes, of course.
Helena deals with water emergencies, being the goddess of that element and all. And Andrea, goddess of earth, oversees anything ground-related; earthquakes, mine collapses, quicksand, that sort of thing.
None of us are allowed to intervene in environmental issues and global warming. Goddess wants humans to learn to avoid them without divine assistance. But I try not to think about that.
Anyway, fires, explosions, volcano eruptions, and galactic rescues are my jam. So the other arcs and elementals let those requests glide on by to land with me. Besides, Helena steers clear of anything “spaceship,” water-related or not, since she let a whole armada through her West Gate, and the Earth plane ended up with a dinosaur infestation.
11. Any last words before we wrap things up?
Just to thank you again for the opportunity and to wish you love and light, joy, peace, and abundance by the truckloads!
Angels & Elementals Seires: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B093J2GQXY
The Summerlands https://www.amazon.com/dp/B093TWBRK4
The Summerlands Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/kRZ8x8Dwd18
Demon Dagger https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B093G432XF
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Thank you, Tricia. I love blogging authors. Please let your favorite writers know I love to do this.