Friday, November 04, 2005

Q&A with Susan Crandall

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1) Can you give us a blurb about your current release?

PROMISES TO KEEP (March 2005) is the fourth in the Glens Crossing series. Those of you who haven’t read the first three, never fear, you can read them in any order – but I would suggest reading THE ROAD HOME before this one, if you plan to read them all. BACK ROADS, THE ROAD HOME, MAGNOLIA SKY, and PROMISES TO KEEP all have independent plot lines.

In PROMISES TO KEEP, Molly Boudreau (the youngest and the last of the Boudreau siblings to get her story told) has the career she’s sacrificed for all her life; she’s a doctor. Yet something is missing. She yearns for a soul-stirring connection – and her prayers are answered in a way she could never have predicted…

A pregnant woman with a past cloaked in secrecy shows up at Molly’s clinic, only to be murdered after she gives birth. Molly made this young mother a promise, and now risks her career and safety as she flees with the baby to her hometown. With everyone assuming the infant is hers, she has no trouble hiding the much more explosive truth – until Dean Coletta, a reporter, arrives in town and starts asking probing questions. Dean has his own agenda and a shocking secret that threatens Molly and the child she loves more than life itself.

Click here to read an excerpt of PROMISES TO KEEP

2) BACK ROADS, your debut novel, won the 2004 RITA for best first book. Congratulations! Was that the best moment ever? Was there a time where you wondered whether that book would ever sell, let alone win the top award in the industry?

Oh yeah, that was one fabulous conference! Not only did BACK ROADS win a RITA, it also received two National Readers Choice Awards. I’d never in my wildest dreams imagined such things could happen to me. Needless to say, I was floating around in shock for days after I got home.

For the second part of your question: The road to publication was long and … well let’s just say long. I’d been writing for about eight years. My first five manuscripts are still collecting dust – I like to think of them as my “education.” I started out writing with my sister. She took off to bigger and better things. BACK ROADS was my first solo work. I’d decided if this one didn’t sell, I was throwing in the towel. (Of course, I’m a writer, I could never actually quit writing. But I was threatening it really loudly.)

Shortly after I finished the manuscript, I landed an agent who was very enthusiastic about the book and about me as a writer (which isn’t to say several agents didn’t reject both me as a writer and that manuscript). There were a few publisher rejections that followed, too. I ended up selling to Warner Books before they started the Warner Forever line. Once they decided to do this major push into romance and women’s fiction, they moved my pub date back by eight long months to put BACK ROADS in that line. It was very much worth the wait.

So all you writers out there take heart! It can be long and it can be hard – but you can make it. And, writing is a reward in itself (I know, easy to say from this end of the ordeal – but it’s true), try not to lose sight of that. As many of my writer friends say, “This business ain’t for sissies.”

Click here to read an except of BACK ROADS

3) You’re from Indiana, and PROMISES TO KEEP is set in an Indiana town. How much of the story is based on real places, and how much is fictional? How do you decide how to balance the two?

BACK ROADS gave birth to Glens Crossing, Indiana, the setting for three of my first four novels. I decided to use a fictional town in a fictional county because I wanted a small town setting. And small towns and rural counties are much different than big cities; there’s much less anonymity. That being the case, it’s more difficult to name a real place and not have people looking for the truth in the fiction.

Glens Crossing is an amalgam of many small towns. People who live in my home town will see things that they recognize, but this town, this county and its sheriff are all purely products of my imagination. It’s the spirit of the small town that I draw from reality.

4) When you read for fun, do you evaluate the books your reading? What do you look for? What books have you really enjoyed lately?

Once you start writing, you can’t help but evaluate the books you read. I take each book that I read as an opportunity to learn more about the writing process. However, sometimes I’m halfway through a book and realize I haven’t been watching for how the writer constructed the story and engaged me as a reader. That’s when I know there’s something really special about that book – I’ve been so distracted by being entertained that I’ve forgotten to study.

I look for all sorts of things. How does this author connect me with the characters? How do they evoke emotion? How did they present the story, what tense, what point of view – and what are the advantages to that particular presentation for that particular story. And sometimes I just sit back and am in awe of some authors’ skills.

Now, as for books I’ve enjoyed lately, let me see … I’m currently reading The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd and really liking it. I liked Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl. I’ve loved all of Deborah Smith’s books, Saving Grace being the most recent.

5) How did you decide to become an author? Was it something you’d always dreamed of, or did you fall into it at a later date?

I’ve always loved words and been an avid reader. I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but I never dreamed of writing. Writing actually found me … via my sister. She came to me with something she’d been working on and asked my advice, which led to editing her work, which led to collaborating, which eventually led to writing on my own. Now I’m as addicted to writing as I am to reading.

6) How about a sneak peek at your next book?

ON BLUE FALLS POND will be released in January, 2006. This story has love, family, dogs, secrets, betrayal and just a hint of danger.

Nearly two years after tragedy drove Glory Harrison from her Tennessee hometown, she finds herself called back to care for her ailing Gran. The serenity Glory draws from Blue Falls Pond is short-lived as she is haunted by buried memories of the brutal fire that took her husband and unborn child. Glory finds herself assaulted by reminders she’d rather avoid … including fire chief Eric Wilson, the man who saved her life that fateful night. Eric’s strength and kindness conspire to break down the walls Glory has built around her heart – and each moment in his powerful embrace makes it that much harder to tear herself away. Can she gather the courage to face the dark truths lurking in her past and build a future with the humble hero who made her believe in herself – and in love – once again.

Click here to read an excerpt of ON BLUE FALLS POND

Susan Crandall


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