Editor's Choice July 2002

Beneath the Covers Past

Susan Squire's Interview
Review of Sacrament
SACRAMENT - A Masterpiece Almost Lost
An Interview with Susan Squire
By Suzie Housley
July 2002

Susan Squire's writing career began when she was a child, and continued  in school, but she started writing in earnest during one of her many mid-life crises. She had a story in her mind that needed to come out. She wrote on a typewriter before she had a computer, and she finished a book. She immediately thought it was awful! It was about 575 pages, far too long to be publishable. But her husband, a fine writer in his own right, encouraged her to join a critique group and re-write it. He actually typed the whole thing into their first computer and gave her the disks. This book turned out to be Sacrament in a later incarnation.

It was a long hard road to really get better as a writer. When Sacrament, even in its revised version, didn't sell, she went on to write Danegeld, and Body Electric. When Danegeld finally sold, her editor bought what she had in the drawer---which included Sacrament! She was very thrilled to see my first-born work see the light of day.....


Suzie Housley: I was amazed to learn you had a difficult time publishing SACRAMENT.  What do you feel was its primary reason it wasnít immediately accepted?

Susan Squire: Well, I must admit that the first time I sent it out, I wasnít very sophisticated about the publishing business. It was just too long. I believe it started out at more than 200,000 words. In the modern world of publishing, paper just costs too much for publishers to risk that kind of investment on a first time author easily (in spite of Diana Gabaldon!).  I had an agent interested in it, who suggested massive cuts, including plot, secondary characters, etc.  I did make changes, but not enough, and she lost interest in me. In the meantime, I had written Danegeld, and took some master classes in writing through UCLA extension. I learned a lot about self-editing. When I finally sold Danegeld, and my editor asked what else I had in the drawer, I was able to be more objective about cutting Sacrament, and more skilled at it too. Iím embarrassed to say, it was a much better book. Even when my editor bought it, I STILL had to cut 80 pages out! But knowing it would get published is an incredible motivator....
 

Suzie Housley: I have just recently discovered Paranormal Romance, do you feel this gene is catching on as quickly as modern day romances?

Susan Squire:  I donít think it has as wide an audience, YET. But it is definitely on the rise and crossing over to mainstream audiences. It also pervades our movies and television. Paranormal is very much in our collective consciousness right now.
 

Suzie Housley: Before you became a published author did you ever consider trying the unconventional methods such as electronic publishing?  If so, what held you back from pursuing this avenue?

Susan Squire: I did consider electronic mediums. In fact, my husband published his first book that way.  But in reading about electronic publishing, and going to writerís conferences, I was held back when I discovered one thing--only three percent of books are sold that way.  While people were talking about the incredible potential for the future, and the electronic reader base is loyal and prolific buyers, it just did not seem to have the potential to reach the widest audience. E-books are difficult to promote as well, outside the web-enabled group who already owns Readers. Indeed, this was my husbandís experience, even though his book got rave reviews. So, since mainstream publishers even then were not taking previously published e-books very often (if at all) for subsequent paper publishing, I decided to hold out. I knew that I wanted to build an audience and a career, and if I was going to do that, I had to reach more than 3% of the readership.
 

Suzie Housley: How important is a critique group to an inspiring authors writing?  Do you have to be a published author before you belong to such a group?

Susan Squire: You definitely donít have to be a published author to join a critique group! And they are invaluable to unpublished writers in three ways. First, they provide a deadline! You donít know how important it is to get pages out regularly when you are learning to write. You canít improve until you produce. When you go to a critique group regularly and share pages, you have to produce. Itís great motivation. Secondly, they help you toughen up your skin and begin to take criticism about your work. This was very hard for me at first. Before my first group  meeting (a group led by a teacher at UCLA my husband had taken) I threw up in the bathroom I was so nervous. People still donít believe that of me, since I negotiate contracts for a living and do regular public speaking. But itís scary to read your personal work. That said, when you get into a position where you have an editor, an agent, and readers, you have to be professional, and taking criticism is part of the job. Finally, they help you improve your work. When everyone tells you the scene doesnít work--it wonít work for your readers either. The only danger critique groups hold is that you have to not be TOO amenable to the varying suggestions. You have to know what you want to write, or you will change your work with every suggestion until it doesnít sound like you anymore. That said--I think they are great. I belonged to several--though I donít belong to one now.
 

Suzie Housley: The cover art for SACRAMENT is very appealing.  Could you tell us how much input you had for the final design?

Susan Squire:  Thatís an easy question. Almost NONE! On my first book they did not even consult me, except to ask for hair color, etc. On Sacrament, my editor told me what he had in mind, and asked if maybe we should put a chalice in the foreground with blood in it, and could I punch that up in the text (I was still doing revisions). I did, and they put in something in the foreground, but to me it looks more like a ďflowerpot of bloodĒ than a chalice.  That said, I like the cover, and I like the one for Body Electric even better (wait Ďtil you see it!) Iím glad they take care of the covers. I would never have thought of anything half as good.
 

Suzie Housley: You have such a unique talent for writing Gothic Romance, will we see more similar novels to come in the future?

Susan Squire:  Well, I tend to write in very different styles, and I havenít settled down yet. Iím sure thatís bad for my career, but I just write something I can stay interested in for the nine months it will take to complete it, and that means I move around a little.  My next is sci-fi set a little bit in the future. After that, I am returning to Vikings and Saxons in the England of Alfred the Great in a sequel to Danegeld called Danelaw--out in 2003.  I am working on a novella which will follow Magdaís story from Sacrament to be published in an anthology with Christine Feehan and Susan Grant. Then, for my fifth book, itís back to present day for a nice little paranoid sci-fi thriller of a romance. Eclectic--yes, whether I want to be or not.
 

Suzie Housley: For any future author would you suggest they go with the going trend of what is hot in the best selling market or to break out into something entirely different and hope for the best?

Susan Squire:   NO! Donít try to go with whatís hot. People generally donít understand how long it takes to get published. By the time you write it, submit it to several places each of whom takes six months to look at it, it sells, it gets on a publisherís schedule and actually comes out it is easily two years. Whatís hot now may be yesterdayís oatmeal by then. So, write what you feel. I know that sounds trite. I hate writing it. But itís true. When I first wrote Sacrament, there were no vampire romances, but when they got hot--it sold.
 

Suzie Housley: Your first book DANEGELD was a finalist in the 2000 Golden Heart.  Could you tell us more about this award?

Susan Squire:  The Golden Heart is the largest contest for unpublished romance novels in the U.S. It is sponored by the Romance Writers of America. The nice part is that the contest is judged in its final stages by editors, so your work gets attention, and many Golden Heart winners sell their novels (though not all, I admit.) Itís wonderful, as are all the contests sponsored by RWA chapters around the nation. Danegeld was bought off a contest from my local chapter where it was read by an editor after I had already entered the Golden Heart. Enter contests! They provide great feedback even if you donít win.
 

Suzie Housley: Could you give us a preview of your August 2002 novel Body Electric?

Susan Squire: Itís a change-up for me, but one I really enjoyed writing. Itís a sci-fi romance about a brilliant hacker who falls in love with with the Artificial Intelligence she has created. It has a bit of a cyberpunk feel, and a bit of a thriller feel, but at the core, itís a romance where two beings redefine themselves in the face of an impossible love. Donít worry, it isnít about cyber pen pals. Our hero gets a body. That was a really fun part, the exploration of the physical by an intelligence that has never known a body.
 

Suzie Housley: I was able to sense the darkness that set the tone for each building scene.  How do you go about creating the perfect tone to blend the reader into the story line?

Susan Squire: This is a hard question (and a good one)--one I may not be able to answer adequately.  I think for me planning is important--but not necessarily planning the whole plot. I try to decide on tone, theme, and character before I start the book. Then, I just try to ďgoĒ to the place I have created in my mind and look around to describe what I see, what I feel.  Sometimes I end up wandering a little in the first hundred pages, as I get secure in the world I want to create. In that case, I have to go back and redo those pages after I have the voice and the feel more stable.
 

Suzie Housley: Of all your books, which one was the most difficult to create?

Susan Squire: The most difficult to create is the first, for me, which was Sacrament. As you begin writing, you are less sure of your way through the maze of plot and character. It does get easier. But the mistakes I made that I had to go back and correct were fairly painful.
 

Suzie Housley: Will we see other dark heroes such as Julien Davinoff in up and coming novels?

Susan Squire:  Frankly, I love dark heros, the more tortured the better. Of course, they are all saved by love. So I definitely think you will be seeing more of them. Jodie is the hero in Body Electric who needs a physical incarnation--heís definitely dark and tortured. Then itís back to Alpha Vikings tortured by their past in Danelaw.......
 

Suzie Housley: Since you are experienced writing both modern day and paranormal writing, which is your favorite to write?

Susan Squire: I like paranormal because it allows the writer to create situations which are more extreme than those possible in real life.  Thus far, no matter what the historical period, all my books have a paranormal element, whether that is the ďmagicĒ of very advanced technology, or the magic of  Britta, who canít decide whether she is a witch or a saint. 
 

Suzie Housley: What direction do you see Womenís Fiction going towards?

Susan Squire: I see Womenít fiction expanding in all directions! I think thatís a wonderful development. Womenís fiction has room for everything an author wants to write somewhere in the the market. That means you donít have to stick to a formula. Write what you feel, and somewhere there is a market for it.
 

Suzie Housley: My greatest desire is to one day write my own novel and see it published.  What advice, doís/doníts can you offer my readers and me to help break into the business?

Susan Squire: Well, we all know that there is a certain amount of luck in getting published, but I believe you must help yourself in order to be prepared. That means being willing to do anything you can to write as well as you can, in spite of the fact that this is difficult. Critique groups, classes, rewriting when asked, going to writerís conferences to become familiar with the business, entering contests, and doing the research necessary to understand where you should submit your work based on the characteristics of the editor and the Publishing House. This isnít always going to generate praise. Thatís hard. But you have to be willing to take the criticism and work to improve. And you must understand enough about the business angle be sure you arenít giving editors a reason to say no. (Remember my first try at Sacrament that was much too long? That was a perfect reason to say no!)  I personally believe that perseverence is the most important quality for a writer. Much more important than genius (so who of us is a genius?). And I know lots of writers of beautiful prose who never stuck through the first disappointments to get published. My advice in a nutshell? Hang in there and keep writing. 
 

Suzie Housley: What is the most difficult part of writing a book?

Susan Squire: There are a lot of parts to choose form here. I think the hardest part is suppressing the panic that you arenít going to be able to do it. Give yourself permission to be awful in the first draft--otherwise youíll never have the courage to get a first draft finished. My favorite quote (which I will get wrong here) is by Ernest Hemingway. He basically said that good books arenít written, they are re-written. Believe me, I cling to that. I layer in lots of elements in subsequent drafts. I have a little mantra that I say to myself when I start hyperventilating-- ďI can fix it in the re-write, I can fix it in the re-write.Ē And you know what? You can.
 

Suzie Housley: Is there anything that we have not covered that you would like for fans to know?

Susan Squire: There are a lot of parts to choose form here. I think the hardest part is suppressing the panic that you arenít going to be able to do it. Give yourself permission to be awful in the first draft--otherwise youíll never have the courage to get a first draft finished. My favorite quote (which I will get wrong here) is by Ernest Hemingway. He basically said that good books arenít written, they are re-written. Believe me, I cling to that. I layer in lots of elements in subsequent drafts. I have a little mantra that I say to myself when I start hyperventilating-- ďI can fix it in the re-write, I can fix it in the re-write.Ē And you know what? You can.
 

Suzie Housley: How can fans contact you?

Susan Squire: I love to hear from fans. For the web-enabled, my website address is www.susansquires.com. My snail mail address is P.O. Box 479, Redondo Beach, CA 90277.


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SACRAMENT
By
Susan Squires
Love Spell Ė March 2002

ISBN:  0505524724 Ė Paperback
Paranormal Romance
Regency, London
E for Explict scenes

Reviewed by: Suzie Housley, MyShelf.Com
Buy a Copy

Behind ever dark tunnel there is a light at the endÖ

Sarah Aston, Lady Clevancy, stumbles upon a gruesome murder scene.  There she also finds the mysterious Julien ĎDavinoffí as a bystander near the horrific crime scene.  His dark enchanting eyes seem to entrance her as she first gazes upon them.  Those same mystic eyes follow her thoughts as she continues on her journey to Bath for the season.  Once she arrives at Bath she is surprised to see her path once again is to meet with Davinoff.  She finds he is able to invoke feelings that are both intriguing and frightening.  What secrets does this mysterious man hold?  Will she be able to uncover the darkness that surrounds him?  Or will she be placing herself in harms way by allowing herself to get close to him?

Julien Davinoff is the optimum of all that is dark and unholy.  He hides the secret that he walks with the undead as a Vampire. He is unmoved at the acquisitions that suggests he is responsible or the growing numbers of serial murders.  Upon meeting Sarah Ashton, he knows she has the power to have him seek out the light that has been denied from him for centuries.  Her smile radiates a beam that penetrates his hardened heart.  Will it be fair to drag her into the madness that he calls his world?

With dark emotional passages, Susan Squires writes a very compelling paranormal romance.  Her writing style will not only delight you, it will shock you at what unspeakable limitations she has had her characters face.  She has definitely made her mark in the paranormal gene Ė one that will not easily be forgotten!




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