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Interview with Susan Sleeman

Susan Sleeman is a bestselling author of inspirational romantic suspense novels for Love Inspired. She prays for guidance before beginning a new book and says "only with God’s guidance can we become everything He has created us to be."

You are a busy woman. You write and you host The Suspense Zone. Tell me about that.
When I first began my writing journey and I had time when deadlines didn’t beckon, I wanted to write suspense novels for the Christian market. I also wanted to read books that would give me a feel for the market, but I couldn’t find many. So I started searching the internet and compiled a list of over 300 books. I was ecstatic with the opportunity to find new authors with riveting novels. I couldn’t keep this wonderful news to myself. I had to share. So I hatched, er, gave birth to TheSuspenseZone.com. You can find new releases, new authors, read reviews, interviews and win books all with the simple click of your finger.

Our database of books has expanded in the last few years to thousands of Christian Suspense tiles and I’ve had the opportunity to promote many wonderful suspense and mystery authors. In the near future, I will be expanding the site to include clean reads, too. These will be books without a spiritual message that don’t contain profanity, sex, or graphic violence.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
I guess the single event that changed my publishing future was signing with an agent. Though there were still a few publishers who still took non-agented manuscripts at when I first became published, I think manuscripts submitted by my agent got more attention than if I had submitted directly. And now that my ninth book is releasing this month, with six more scheduled, I can resoundingly say that an agent makes developing a career in this industry much easier.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
Wow, is this a loaded question that doesn’t have a real simple answer. Writing is my job, so you’d think I’d have plenty of time for everything else. But it’s precisely the fact that writing is my job that creates the biggest challenge. You see, to make a good living as a writer, I need to complete many books a year and write for several publishers. This means I’m often writing the rough draft of one novel, plotting another, putting the finishing touches on another, and completing edits for my publisher for yet a fourth book. All at the same time as promoting the release of another novel. Honestly, my head spins at times and I don’t remember what characters are in which books. Especially with The Justice Agency series that I am finishing the last book in right now. This series features five adopted siblings who work together in a private investigation business and all five of them are in all of the books. So when I’m working on two of them at a time, I’m not sure who said or did what in which book.

And as you can imagine, the work is NEVER done so it’s hard to leave it behind and do something else. I have learned, though, that if I schedule every day and give myself word count goals that I must achieve, number of chapters I must edit, etc., that I can achieve it all. And on the rare days when I’ve completed it all before the workday ends, I can take time off. All of that said, I love writing and if I didn’t I couldn’t possibly generate so many books in a year.

And how do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
I look at myself as a Christian who writes novels so my books are all written from that perspective. My characters’ internal struggles always relate to a spiritual struggle they are experiencing. They work through their internal struggles in part by learning or employing a spiritual truth. Often the truth they learn is something I have struggled with or still struggle with in my own life. This is about to change, though, as I have contracted to write a three book general market FBI series called Agents Under Fire. I will still be true to the principles that guide my life, but the books won’t carry a spiritual message. I’m very excited about this opportunity as it gives me a chance to broaden my readership and provide riveting suspense novels to people who don’t want to read pages filled with sex and profanity and yet don’t want the spiritual message.

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career?
Oh, wow, that’s a hard one. There are so many great moments that mean a lot to me. I was tempted to say when my first book, High-Stakes Inheritance made the ECPA’s Best Seller list or when The Christmas Witness was named as a finalist in the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence. Or even signing with a well-respected CBA agent. Or the day I held my first book in my hands. The list can go on and on, but as I take the time to really ponder the question, I realize the greatest moment in my career reoccurs on a regular basis. That moment is when I hear from readers who tell me the book they’d just finished touched their lives in the way I hoped it would. And many times, the impact goes well beyond what I could ever imagine including bringing a Christian who has strayed back to their faith. Can there be any greater moment?

Who/What spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?
I’m an avid reader at heart and I have a passion for stories that move rapidly with twists and turns, all mixed with a good romance. Trying to provide this kind of a story for readers is what spurs me to write. That and improving my skills. I want to grow as a writer making each book better and better.

My story ideas come from the news. I see a story that most people view and move on, but part of the story resonates with me and a suspense plot is born. For example, I read an internet story about people (mostly women) who keep cell phone accounts active for loved ones who had died so they can call the loved one’s voicemail to hear their voice. As usual, my mind took a weird twist and I asked the question, what if the grieving loved one called the phone number and someone answered the phone? In Dead Wrong, Kat Justice’s friend does just that. Mourning the loss of her brother who committed suicide, she calls the voice mail and a man answers. She knows it’s not her brother on the end of the line, but she’s long thought her brother wouldn’t end his own life, and she’s now certain that the man who answered the phone is her brother’s killer. She hires the Justice Agency to find the man who possesses her brother’s phone.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
When I read books in my chosen genre of romantic suspense, I often find a riveting suspense story with minimal romance or I find a good romance with minimal suspense. I like an equal blend and that’s what I bring to my books. Breathtaking stories with a satisfying romance.

Anything else you'd like to add?
Just my thanks for taking the time to interview me and to say thank you to the many readers out there who not only purchase my books, but support so many authors in the Christian suspense genre. A big hearty thanks.

Thanks for sharing with us, Susan.




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