Before becoming a novelist, Susan Goldsmith was an undercover private investigator, worked as an outside sales representative, and spent five years in pharmaceutical sales. In this interview, she talks about her journey as an author and her exciting road to publishing. He also talks about his creative process and offers advice to aspiring writers.
Q: It’s wonderful to have you here, Susan. Why don’t you start by telling us a bit about your background and how you started writing?
A: The stories are what helped me get through my childhood. When real life was overwhelming, I would drag myself into my imagination where sick mothers could get better with a magic potion, or crazy parents weren’t really crazy. They were just more evolved than the rest of us. He could see whole words and realities that we couldn’t. Bad teachers? Witches, all of them. I soon branched out, and after sitting on Stephen King’s head for a while, I decided that my life was a Disney movie compared to the things his characters endured. Poor Carrie. Now that girl was in trouble!
I loved stories, and I had an endless supply of original ideas that would make great books, but damn, no matter how much I wanted those ideas to be osmosis from my brain to my favorite authors, it never happened. There they sat, alone in the dark, withering away, while I pursued all majors except writing, and no, graduating in Journalism definitely doesn’t count. Journalism and imagination are two words that do not go in the same sentence.
A creative imagination was also frowned upon in my brief stint as an undercover private investigator with Pinkerton when I was placed with a company (no, I won’t say which one!), And was told to write down my observations. Uh oh, I had a captive audience but I couldn’t beautify what I was seeing and my imagination was creating really good things. Actually, he was bored silly. Eventually that boredom made me shake things up … but that’s another story entirely.
Several races later, fate intervened and I found myself at home, a full-time mother and wife. Suddenly, I was looking at the blank computer screen, not typing, just looking. I’d make sure to pass him on the way to the bathroom, between Barney episodes, or during those times when my kids actually fell asleep during naps.
Eventually, I turned on the computer and have been writing ever since.
Q: Congratulations on the release of your first novel, Abithica. That is an unusual name. How did you come up with it and what does it mean?
A: Abithica is a word that I made up. Without revealing too much, it is the name of the main character, so it had to be unique and otherworldly.
Q: What is Abithica and what was your inspiration for it?
A: Abithica must borrow everything that belongs to others: names, lives, even bodies, but only for periods of time that she cannot control. What is she and why is she forced to fix the lives of the people she inhabits, even despicable ones?
When she changes into the turbulent life of Sydney Turner, she ends up breaking the only rule that has sustained her, the only thing that is in her control: never fondling, and she learns the pain of loving and being loved in return.
My vacuum cleaner, Thomas Moore and my very persistent imagination were the inspiration behind Abithica. Maybe I should explain that. You see, all my best thoughts have come while sucking. Now enter Thomas Moore. He wrote a book called Soul Care. In it, he asked a very profound question: what is your worst fear? Hmmm, what is my worst fear? I wondered. Naturally, I grabbed said vacuum cleaner and unleashed my imagination.
Losing my husband and children was the answer. Oh, but what if they took me away without their knowledge and they didn’t even know I was gone? Oh! That would definitely suck. But what would suck even more is if another soul took my place and I was there, unseen, invisible, watching their lives go on like it never existed.
I was getting close to my worst nightmare, but it wasn’t there yet. He needed something more. Understood! What if the body I was in had never really belonged to me in the first place? What if I was the one who had been the intruder all along? He had been borrowing the woman’s life … and now … she wanted her back.
The question became an obsession, and my vacuum cleaner and I spent a lot of time together. Soon, the idea of ”change” was born. He grew legs and arms and even acquired a face, the face of Abithica.
Q: What is your protagonist like? Tell us something irresistible about her.
A: She is you and me. She is someone who has ever asked the questions, why am I here? Is there a God, a purpose, a cosmic plan? She perceives herself as a victim, a pawn in a cosmic joke, only to find that in the end it is oh so much more!
Q: Who is your target reader?
A: My target readers will surely be urban fantasy lovers, romantics at heart, and those of us who like to ponder all those huge, unanswerable questions about life and what the heck are we doing here.
Q: How would you describe your creative process in writing this book? Was it stream of consciousness writing or did you write an outline first?
A: You have no idea how funny that question is! My “creative process”, if you insist on calling it that, was tantrum after tantrum. I wrote and wrote and wrote, but the words … didn’t match the woman in my head. The tone was wrong. The voice was wrong. The action was wrong. The whole damn story was wrong. It wasn’t Abithica, not even close.
The problem I learned early on was that I didn’t have an outline so I ended up rewriting the first chapter in 30 different ways and each of them was the start of a completely different story. It was like an artist standing on an empty canvas. Was he going to use pastels, pencil, or paint? Was it going to be a scene from nature or a portrait? Why not an elephant? Did it have to be on a canvas? Why not the side of a building or a sidewalk? I had no idea, so I kept trying a bit of everything, until finally nothing worked and I found myself pinned to the ground, screaming man.
At the same time, I was acutely aware that some of my best writing had come about by accident when I inadvertently allowed the characters to tell their own story. They were the writer, I was the recipient. Every writing session after that is what I tried hard to duplicate. I would sit in front of the keyboard, clear my mind and relax enough to release the characters. On a really good day, they would talk for eight hours straight and take me to places I had never imagined. Eventually I got better, started setting an alarm to remind me to eat. I then set it up to remind myself to make dinner and then again to remind myself to pick up the kids. This was the reason I wrote, and the reason I kept coming back for more.
However, I had a problem. What I needed was something to keep Abithica on task, without restricting the creative flow you yearned for. The answer: a summary of the plot. I spent the next two days building on that concept until I had an incomplete beginning, middle, and end. I now had a direction, but Abithica still had a lot of leeway to be creative and I was still willing to follow her in whatever path she decided to take me.
Q: How is your writing schedule?
A: My writing schedule revolves around my family. When the girls are in school, my husband is at work and I am alone (if it is possible to be alone with 3 dogs, 2 cats and a bird!) I unleash my imagination and hold on to my life. My favorite part is the ending, when I get to read the crazy places that my imagination took me that day.
Q: How did you find Twilight Times Books?
A: Twilight Times Books was recommended to me by my mentor, Gerry Mills, who helped me put some “magic” into my writing. It also didn’t hurt that TTB was recommended by Predators & Editors, or that the water cooler discussion on Absolute Write had nothing but positive things to say about TTB and its founder, Lida Quillen.
Q: What has been the most surprising aspect of the post for you so far?
A: I was delirious. In fact, when I wrote The End, I thought it was over. Oh contrary! That was just the beginning. The hardest writing I’ve ever done was condensing 95,000 words into a one-sentence summary!
Now, I am learning the wonderful world of marketing. All I can say is, God bless Goodreads! If it weren’t for that website, no one would know that Abithica exists, and trust me … she’s sick of it!
Q: I heard there is a sequel on the horizon. When does it come out?
A: Yes, there is a sequel. I have 40,000 words in it. The beginning and the end are done. All I’m doing now is filling in the middle.
Q: What’s your best advice for aspiring novelists?
A: Don’t just talk about it, do it. Write it yourself, and then when you’re convinced it’s a masterpiece, put it in a drawer and forget about it, the longer the better. So read it with new eyes. Fix all the problems and then repeat, over and over and over again …