SUSAN SLEEMAN is a best-selling author of inspirational romantic suspense and mystery novels. She grew up in a small Wisconsin town where she spent her summers reading Nancy Drew and developing a love of mystery and suspense books. Today, she channels this enthusiasm into writing romantic suspense and mystery novels and hosting the popular internet website TheSuspenseZone.com. Susan currently lives in Florida, but has had the pleasure of living in nine states. Her husband is a church music director and they have two beautiful daughters, a very special son-in-law and an adorable grandson. You can learn more about Susan at:
Welcome, Susan! Did you see yourself becoming a writer as a child? If not, what did you dream of being?
Never, not even in my wildest dreams did I think of becoming an inspirational romantic suspense writer. Honestly, all I remember wanting to be was a twirler for a marching band—lol— but as far as I know, twirling is not considered a profession. Still, as a child, it may have seemed like one.
How long did you write before you sold your first book?
I wrote for five years before selling my first book and before settling into my chose genre of inspirational romantic suspense. In that time, I wrote many complete novels that did not sell and are still deep in the archives of my computer where they shall remain.
Many of the people who follow our blog are aspiring writers themselves. Can you share your favorite writing tip with them?
Only one, huh! I guess I would say to be teachable and willing to make changes in your work even when it feels as if you’re killing your child. I chose this area because if you aren’t willing to let someone critique your work, and then grow from this critique, you cannot make it in the writing world. Not only is it the best way to learn from an experienced writer, it’s a part of the job that will never go away. Even when you’re published, others will analyze your work. Readers review, editors make revision suggestions, and so on. So get used to hearing the suggestions and be ready to implement the ones that are necessary.
Now for the readers…many times, it’s easy for them to connect with the characters in a book, but not so much the authors themselves. Share something about your day-to-day life that might help a reader to feel as though they know you a little better.
I have a chronic illness and struggle some days to get out of bed and or to sleep at night. Though this limits the things I can do, it is also a blessing. The pain and frustrations have made my walk with the Lord stronger than ever before. When you come to the end of what you can do for yourself, when only God can make a difference, you learn to rely on him more and let him take the lead. And also, if the illness had not set in, I would never have stopped working and sat still long enough to write my first book. Since I consider writing the best profession in the world, I would never have known such joy in my work. Praise God for all things, even those things we do not like.
Now that you are published, do you still experience rejections? If so, how are these rejections different or similar to the ones you received before becoming published?
Great question. I really thought once I was a published author, rejections would stop. And in some respects they have. I haven’t had a proposal rejected by a publisher since then, but revisions have been suggested to make these proposals and books stronger. Still, I never know when I submit a proposal to my editor if she will like it or not so the same insecurities and uncertainties still plague me as when I was unpublished. Actually, the pressure is even greater as I now know being published doesn’t mean that the door will not slam closed again in the future. When I long for those naive days when I thought getting that first contract solved all of life’s problems, I place my uncertainty in God’s hands and keep working.
Tell us a little about your latest release:
Behind the Badge is a romantic suspense title from Love Inspired Suspense. In this book, a killer is threatening the life of rookie cop Sydney Tucker and her sister-unless Sydney turns over evidence from a drug bust. But she doesn’t have the evidence. Not that the thug believes her. She and the sibling in her care are under the watchful eye of Logan Lake police chief Russ Morgan…but will his protection be enough to keep them alive?
This book is special to me as the characters deal with some very difficult things in life. I have had some tough times in my own life. Times when I wondered if God knew what I was going through and if He did, why didn’t He rescue me from these hardships? But when I look back on my difficulties, I can see how God used those trials to make me a better person and to allow me to use what I’d learned in these trials to help others. And I hope the readers of Behind the Badge will see the same thing.
If you could only share one line from BEHIND THE BADGE, which one would you choose and why?
I struggled with answering this question. Every line I initially chose revealed something in the plot creating major plot spoilers. I couldn’t do that so I chose a text message the heroine receives on her phone. This text is the first moment in the book when she and the hero have proof that a killer wants something from her, and if she doesn’t provide it, he’s willing to hurt her or her sister to get it. Here’s the message.
Good evening, Deputy Tucker. This isn’t over. I want what you took from this house. I will get it back even if someone else gets hurt in the process.
Writers often put things in their books that are very personal—like a funny story that happened to them, a spiritual truth they learned through difficulty, or even just a character trait that is uniquely theirs. Is there something in BEHIND THE BADGE that only people close to you know is about you or someone you know?
The spiritual message of this book goes along with my answer above where I shared about my chronic illness. In the early years of my illness, I struggled with why God allowed this disease in my life. I couldn’t make sense of the intense pain, the limitations placed on my life or the loss of income when I had to quit working. It just made no sense. But then I realized how much it made me call out to God. How much it made me rely on him when I’d always been so independent. How it made my life richer from the deepening of my faith. So it was natural for me to write about this struggle in a book.
The hero of Behind the Badge doesn’t have a physical illness, but he still needs to learn that adversity in our life can be a bridge to a deeper relationship with God if we let it lead us in that direction. The hero, like us, had a choice. He could let the adversity drive him from God by blaming him for the problem, becoming bitter and cynical or he could draw closer.
Readers often talk a lot about the hero and heroine of a story, but today I’d like to know something about your villain. Does he or she have a redeeming quality? Why or why not?
My villain does have redeeming qualities, but I can’t get into specifics without giving away the villain of the story. So I will just say that a villain needs a redeeming quality or the reader can’t identify with him or her. No person is either black or white. All good or all bad. Villains aren’t any different.
What kind of research did you have to do for this book? Can you share some articles or website links you found particularly helpful?
Since this book features both a police chief and a sheriff’s deputy as the main characters, most of the research I had to do revolved around police procedure. Fortunately, I have a friend who is a retired police officer and he is simply a phone call, email, or short visit away. And even more fortunate, he loves to talk about his prior work and shares great details with me to make writing the men and women who serve to keep our country safe in a realistic way.
Tell us what new projects you’re working on.
I’m working on edits for my December romantic suspense release from Love Inspired Suspense called The Christmas Witness. I’ve also just started writing a new series for Love Inspired Suspense. This series is called The Justice Agency – When all else fails. It’s about five adopted siblings who work in various fields of law enforcement until their adoptive parents are murdered. When the police can’t figure out who killed their beloved parents the Justice siblings come together to solve the case. They discover in the process that they like working together and they form an investigative agency called The Justice Agency. They dedicate the agency to helping people who traditional law enforcement is either unable or unwilling to help. The first two books of this series will release in 2012.
The most common thing I hear when people learned I’ve published a book is, “I’ve always wanted to do that.” Faced with this statement, what advice would you give to someone just starting out in this business?
I would tell them to join a writing organization. Either an organization online or in person. If they are wanting to write Christian fiction, I’d refer them to ACFW, (American Christian Fiction Writers). Much of what I learned about the publishing world is from listening to other writers. They share a wealth of information you can’t find in a textbook or in college course on writing.
What is the one question you were afraid I would ask…and how would you answer?
Since I’ve done tons of interviews from your side of the fence for TheSuspenseZone.com and have asked hundreds of questions of authors, there is really no question I thought you might ask and I would be afraid to answer. I know it sounds like I’m dodging the question, but honestly, I had no preconceived idea of what you might ask.
So let me share a question asked in another interview that I’d rather not have to answer. I was asked for a one-line summary for Behind the Badge. As a writer, I know it’s important to have a one-line sentence that describes the book so you can give a concise answer to others when they ask what the book is about. However, I really struggle to pare it down to one line for promotional use.
Here’s what I came up with:
Will police chief Russ Morgan protect rookie cop Sydney Tucker and those she loves from a killer, or will Russ fail and she’ll pay the ultimate price—her life?
Hopefully your blog readers can tell me if I succeeded and piqued their interest in the book.
Susan is giving away a copy of her book Behind the Badge. Be sure to stop by The Borrowed book on Friday for your chance to win!