Author Interview with Suzanna J. Linton
By Shannon Leigh Rivera
Instead of my regular Friday Fantasy release, I wanted to do an interview post with my friend and fellow writer, Suzanna J. Linton. A few months ago I was running solicitations for guest writers for my site. Suzanna had contacted me asking for more details. Not to bore you with details, she clearly thought it would be a cool idea and I was treated to working with this wonderfully gifted writer. Not only that, I was introduced to her Indie published novels- Willows of Fate and Clara, both of which are available on Amazon.
The really awesome news is that sequel to Clara , Clara’s Return, is out today! So, in honor of its release I wanted to show my support by posting an interview session I had with Suzanna so you, the reader, could get to know her better. And, I also wanted to share more about Clara’s world and what you can expect in the latest release. I had a blast talking with Suzanna and getting to know her better. She is a spectacular person and I enjoy her enthusiasm for writing and her passion for her books, especially Clara.
Special thanks to Suzanna for allowing me to interview her!
I hope you enjoy! (LINKS to Suzanna’s works are at the bottom.)
Part I: About the Author
Question: Do you have any unique or quirky writing habits?
As a writer, Suzanna said she has trouble focusing. It isn’t a matter of writer’s block, but more like mental block. She recommends making tea as a way to shift into a writing mind frame. She also told me that on occasion she has evoked the spirit of Ernest Hemingway who mused that authors should “write drunk, edit sober”. So, she has been known to mix a cocktail or two before sitting down to write. (I had to agree with Suzanna that this was great advice. Cheers!)
The second thing that Suzanna told me was important in her writing process was reducing distractions. Since Suzanna has a focus problem she has learned how to focus on one thing at a time. When she is working on a book, whether it is promotions or planning or editing, she limits outside distractions as much as possible. She tries to work on a schedule as well, marketing with social media in the morning and writing in the afternoons.
Question: How has your environment & upbringing colored your writing?
Suzanna was raised in a home where she was close to her father, but not her mother. “She was a distant mother”, in Suzanna’s words. This upbringing impacted characters that Suzanna began writing early on in life. In fact, Mrs. Linton told me that she noticed a pattern of writing relationships for her characters that were similar to some of the things she experienced in her life. Growing up poor, Suzanna told me that her “characters tend to reflect that”. Often they start out with little and that colors her characters in a cloth that Suzanna herself is familiar with.
Suzanna also mentioned that she noticed a pattern in her writing, making the mother/daughter relationships strained in a singular fashion. She told me that she has been working on trying to get over that hurdle. In her recent writing, she has been crafting a different mother-daughter relationship where the mother is trying to get closer, but the daughter is distant and cold. These new developments she is trying in her character development have been challenging, but Suzanna told me it has been very eye-opening and rewarding to push herself in a new direction.
Question: What does your ideal writing space look like?
Often a question other writers love to talk about, Suzanna told me with great happiness about her home office. “We looked for a three bedroom home so I could turn one of the rooms into my office”, Suzanna told me. Of course, that is just what she and her husband did in their home in South Carolina. The room is decorated with items that inspire her. Besides bookshelves and other items expected of a writer, she has a white board and posters that inspire her as well as a cork board that she crafted herself, filled with quotes, poems, and writing inspirations. She also told me that she took her time picking the color for her office. She wanted a color that inspired creativity. In the end, she chose a color that really spoke to her, which was light lavender purple.
Question: Are you working on any current projects, other than Clara?
Suzanna told me that she has two projects currently in the works. The first is a reworking project that she is doing with a previously published series entitled The Bookwrym. She told me that she was not used to writing shorter fiction and the first published version of this series was written in what she called “haste”. “I had heard that other people were publishing serialized fiction and so this was my attempt.” Not mincing words, Suzanna told me she wasn’t happy with the first published results, and that her readers weren’t happy either. Her plans are to go back and edit this series, which is not currently for sale, but one that she hopes she can make into a much better novella series. (And given Suzanna’s talent, I have no doubt she will!)
She also mentioned her plans to work on the second book in The Land of Sun and Stone (no title yet). Book one was Willows of Fate (available now on Amazon). She is working on outlining and has a loose plot. Her goal is for this book to be available for publication sometimes early next year, 2017. Stay tuned to Suzanna’s social media feed for more news on that.
Question: What is the strangest thing you have ever had to research for any of your books?
Suzanna told me that she researched the typical questions that most writers do, knowing full well they might end up on the FBI watch list. For Willows of Fate, she had to look up more information on what a corpse would look like if left too long in the woods. She told me she was surprised by some of the answers, especially when it came to the bugs one could expect to find. She also told me she had considered asking a funeral home if she could come back and see what they did in the back, but she admitted she thought it would be too creepy and they would probably have hung up on her just for asking.
For Clara’s Return, she told me that there was nothing too weird that she had to google information on.
Question: What is something you are really good at that few people know about?
“Roses, I grow roses,” Suzanna told me. The cheer in her voice told me it was more than just a side hobby. Though she confessed she wasn’t a “rosarian”, something Suzanna told me that professional rose growers are called, she did tell me that she had quite a collection of roses growing happily in her back yard. Out of the eleven varieties of roses growing in her yard, the Queen Elizabeth rose is her favorite. “They are pink and they have a classic look,” but she told me not to be confused with the classic, old-timey look of roses, but the one’s you would expect in something like Alice in Wonderland. I made sure to tell her I was a horrible gardener when it came to roses. Her advice- “don’t pamper them too much, but don’t ignore them either.” She told me that a lot of people get roses with the thought process that they are high-maintenance and then they snuff them out with too much attention.
Writes amazing books and grows roses?! Masterful talent right there if you ask me!
Question: If you were deserted on an island, what three people would you want to have with you? Rules- one must be a fictional character from one of your books, one must be a fictional character from any other books, and one must be a famous person (not family or friend).
First on her list of needed island guests was: Jarrett, former Captain of the Guard in Clara. Why? She told that she would need “someone to make me laugh, and he is a decent hunter”.
Second up was Kell from A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. Why? Magic, of course. He could figure out how to get them off the island so that she could spend her time enjoying her third guest.
Who is number three? Pope St. John Paul the Second. He was an “outdoorsman” according to Suzanna. Second, she wouldn’t feel bad about missing church on Sunday with the Pope around. She also thought it would be fun to have discussions about politics or the Bible or life in general with the late Pope John Paul.
Not bad, Suzanna. I think it’s safe to say you might just make it out of there alive, if not well humored and spiritually healthy.
PART II: More about Clara and Clara’s Return!
Question: What was your inspiration for Clara, the character?
“I originally wrote Clara at 14,” Suzanna told me. No matter how many times Suzanna sat down to rewrite the tale of her life, Clara, the character, stayed basically the same. “She was inspired by who I wanted myself to be”. And she was also fashioned after a character that Suzanna and I share a passion for- Leesa from The Dragonriders of Pern series written by Ann McCaffrey. Speaking with a lot of passion for her lead lady, Suzanna mused that Clara had taken over a part of her writing self and that she had really developed a life of her own within Suzanna’s conscious. While some people might not get this, as a writer I immediately connected with what she said. Our characters become a part of who we are and the more we work with them and develop them, the more they seem to take on a life of their own. For Suzanna, this is very much a true statement.
Question: Can you give us an interested or fun fact about Clara and Clara’s Return, as far as the book process is concerned?
For Clara, Suzanna admits that she submitted this manuscript numerous times, each time receiving the dreaded rejection letter. She got the idea to hand up the letters on her wall in a sort of rejection montage. But the mass of letters had piled up to the point where they actually just started falling off the wall. The idea struck her, watching the letters sail to the ground, that her fate was in her own hands. She published it on Amazon, with “no idea how to make a book”, she confessed. She even told me she made the original cover herself. But eventually, she went back and revised her story and hired a really amazing cover artist. (It’s okay Suzanna, my art would have been stick figures the first time round.) And she has learned a lot from the process since then.
For Clara’s Return, Suzanna told me she has been working on the story for about 12 months. “It wasn’t planned” she told me of the sequel. “Clara told me the story wasn’t done”, Suzanna added happily. She really wanted to tell more of her story. This is a character, after all, that Suzanna has been creating for quite some time. Even though she had only ever planned one book in the series, she couldn’t leave it as it was. She left the end of the first book open ended and then the story grew out of the end of that first one sometime after she was in the process of releasing Willows of Fate.
Question: In book one, Clara, readers got the idea that Emmerich and Clara had this complicated love/like/hate/love relationship. Can readers expect a maybe happy reunion for the two, since Clara leaves on somewhat uncertain terms?
There was a lot of pausing before this question was answered. Suzanna only had to tell me “maybe” and “Emmerich’s need to protect Clara leads to fireworks, and not the sexy kind”.
I guess we will just have to pick up a copy to find out what that means. But, I am optimistic that Clara and Emmerich, especially Clara, will find some peace and love at the end of the messy rainbow of life.
Question: What can you tell us about Clara’s background? I got the idea that the culture of Tier was Fae or Elven? What can you tell us about the cultural influences in your book?
Suzanna told me that a lot of her ideas for her countries came from Asian, mostly Japanese, culture. In fact, the idea for the seers in her story came from the Japanese superstitious beliefs in auspicious days, astrology, and forecasting the future. The idea also incorporated some Greek influences, thinking about oracles and how they were important to the Greek governments and people. As far as the physical look of Clara and her people in Tier, they have a more ‘asianesque’ look to them, not so much fae or elven.
Question: What was the most difficult part of Clara’s Return to write?
“The fight scenes”, Suzanna quipped. “There was a lot of magic, throwing magic into a fight complicates it”. She told me she had some help fleshing out the finer details with a fellow writer. She wanted to make it fantastic but also make it believable and visceral.
Question: What would be an ideal date for Clara?
This question prompted a good deal of laughter from Suzanna. At first, I thought, good God, I have offended her! But then she told me that the question was a first. And quickly informed me that “Clara is not used to high class,” and she would want “anything that would be casual.” If she had to choose “between multiple spoons” or “dress up” fancy, it wouldn’t be much fun for her. She would want an authentic, honest experience with her date. Wildflowers, perhaps. Maybe even food from a street vendor and a walk through the city festival. Anything where she can walk and talk and not have someone shove their rich, high-class lifestyle down her throat.
Well, Clara, I heartily agree. Sounds like a girl I could be friends with!
Question: Is there anything else really special about Clara or Clara’s Return that you want to share with your readers?
“You don’t see it mentioned often or emphasized enough in fantasy these days, or at all really, but I wanted to address the after effects of war and the impact of war on fighters in battle. I wanted to ask, how they feel after battle, and then I wanted to address that in my book.” Suzanna also told me that she wanted to hit on PTSD, delving into a subject that is rarely talked about in fantasy novels. “A lot of times in novels like Tolkien and even in Dragonriders of Pern, your hero rides in and does his thing and rides off with the maiden, but you never see after, what does he feel like after iall the fighting is said and done?” It is never that simple to just return to normal, she told me. And that was her aim in Clara’s Return, to talk about and focus on some of the problems warriors face after the battles are finished.
She told me it was about putting “mental health in the spotlight” because it is something that more and more people are realizing is a part of our warrior culture. She wanted to give us a picture of the ugly, practical side of war and after the war. Two examples are her bringing in more of the issues that Emmerich suffers following the end of the war and him taking on more responsibility as a leader. He sort of pushes his PTSD into a bottle and that his how he survives.
As a veteran with PTSD, Suzanna’s message resounded with me. We talked for some time about it and I told her that she was releasing her book during Mental Health Awareness week. If that isn’t a sign of auspiciousness, I don’t know what is!
Of course, you can pick up an e-book copy of Clara, today, Friday May 13th through Sunday May 15th for free on Amazon Prime.
You can also grab yourself an e-book copy of the newly released Clara’s Return out today for only 99 cents! (This deal will only last a month so don’t wait!)
If you want to check out more about Suzanna’s work you can visit her through any of the links below.
You can also read her short story A Mother’s Lullaby on my website, HERE.