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Interview with Susan Baganz


You can call her “Baggins” as in Frodo and Bilbo, if you want to. Susan Baganz believes writers can learn a lot from hobbits. She has three of her own and a pooch that writes book reviews on her blog.

Her books feature a variety of foods in the titles, including some upcoming stories with a distinctly Wisconsin flair. Read on to learn what Susan does to keep her dialogue accurate to the time period when she’s writing historical fiction.

What role does the Lord of the Rings trilogy play in your life? How do you feel about second breakfast and elevensies?

Many moons ago, I did workshops with ComedySportz in Milwaukee and when we did a show they couldn’t pronounce my last name so they introduced me as “Susan Bilbo Baggins.” A few years ago when I started teaching at conferences people would ask how to say my name. There are about five different ways to say it but we pronounce it “Bah-gahnz”.

But, I tell people that if they want me to be a hobbit, that’s cool too. I married into it and my husband said in the Air Force you didn’t correct anyone no matter how they said your name, you just said “Yes, sir!”

My middle son has blonde curly hair like Sam in The Lord of the Rings (no hairy feet yet, but he is only 14). I refer to my children as hobbits on social media to protect their identities and it adds fun to my “Silly convo with hobbit” posts that I sometimes write.

I love The Lord of the Rings! I even use clips from it in one of my talks about how to survive as a writer. We all need a Sam (and a fellowship!) to make it to our publishing goals. I’m cool with second breakfast and elevenesies, as long as my hobbits get it themselves.

The books in your contemporary series all have a food item in the title, including your new release Feta and Freeways. What's the significance of that?

When I wrote the first book I never intended on a series. I wanted to try my hand at contemporary after writing historical. Pesto & Potholes was really a metaphor for the journey my character takes.

My hero was an Italian chef with the requisite big Italian family and pesto is a favorite sauce in our home. “Potholes” illustrated a concept I use to describe the rocky growth we sometimes experience. God doesn’t always heal our physical and emotional pain all at once.

A friend suggested the second book be titled Salsa & Speed Bumps and I figured, game on! Challenged accepted! I took the roommate from book one and gave her a story with a Hispanic love interest, and a bit more heat! She had a big speed bump to overcome.

With Feta & Freeways, there’s a bit of the cultural bent represented again in the title as my leading man is Greek. Freeways—they definitely take a journey. The cultural aspect of the food does not continue. Since my stories take place in Wisconsin they’ve become a bit more “Americanized” and the next book is Root Beer & Roadblocks due out February 2017.

Sprecher root beer is brewed in Wisconsin and is awesome! After that is Bratwurst & Bridges, which has a slight German flavor but definitely a Wisconsin food. I’ve also written Donuts & Detours and just finished book #7 called Truffles & Traffic simply because a gal in my ACFW group kept begging me to write one with truffles so I could do a book signing in a chocolate shop. Sounds good to me!

As a native of Wisconsin, what is one thing you wish people knew about your state?

One? There is more to us than cows!

I’m also really pleased to hear that when people encounter Green Bay Packer fans they find they are friendly—even to competitors. There are a lot of things unique, but I think that’s one I’m most proud of.

Your guest reviewer of books on your blog is a pooch! How fun! Tell us about him. What kind of books does he like and why is he responsible for reviews?

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer

I gain more new viewers to my blog with book reviews than anything else and figured my rescue Maltese/mix, Spatzle, could be a fun way to spice them up and make them more unique. I need to change those reviews when I post them to Amazon though. I guess I could make him his own account.

Spatzle is especially partial to books that have dogs in them, of course, but he’s good with any great story that inspires me to sit down and snuggle with him as I read.

In addition to contemporary romance, you write historical romance. Why did you pick the Regency era? And what challenges do you face writing in both genres?

I started writing Regencies first because that’s what I loved and there were few written in the inspirational market. I loved the innocence of the era (but there was a lot of decadence then as well). The challenge was to write faith-based stories that were real to the period of history because faith was expressed differently then. Then to take that and make it palatable to the modern reader.

My stories are not Jane Austen but have more suspense to them and a darker overtone as there is an overarching spiritual battle that threads through the five-book series. The first book will release in 2017 but I did write a prequel novella this past year called The Baron’s Blunder which was a fun romp of a story.

Writing Regency gives me a different vocabulary to work with as well. I can get away with using bigger words because the vocabulary of that time period was far more varied than what we use now. Playing with the language is fun.

The biggest challenge is not letting contemporary language seep into the writing. Sometimes to switch gears I’ll watch a little bit of Mansfield Park or Pride and Prejudice to get my mind oriented to another world.

Which do I like better? I’ve written more contemporary stories, but enjoy them both. My regency series is complete—but then I thought that before I wrote the prequel. Maybe I’ll be inspired to do some off-shoot stories or come up with some new ones in time. There are a few characters I haven’t married off yet, so there are possibilities.

What fuels your creativity?

Feta & Freeways and Root Beer & Roadblocks were actually fueled by a real-life story of a band I love, Burlap to Cashmere. Because of that, their music was my soundtrack to writing those stories. The lead singer, Stephen and his cousin, Johnny, are aware that they were the inspiration for my characters and the story.

The best fuel is brainstorming! I might come up with a basic idea but I’m a panster, so hanging with my “critter” (critique partner) over dinner or on the phone bouncing ideas off each other is the most fun.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I just finished book seven in my Orchard Hill Romance series (contemporary) during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), so the story is now with two beta-readers. I won’t look at that for another couple of months. I’m at various stages of editing on two contemporaries and two of the regencies. I’m keeping my editor hopping, but she loves it. When I told her all I was juggling she said, “Bring it on,” and I have. I love the variety and have to juggle that around the projects I edit for other people.

How has your writing changed over the years?

I started out writing for fun, but it quickly became ministry. I try to think of how my unbelieving neighbor will be impacted by the stories of faith in my books. She reads them and has really enjoyed them. When someone tells me that a book challenged them to grow in their faith, that’s better than a five-star review.

I had a mother use Pesto & Potholes to help her fifteen-year-old daughter understand the concept of purity and boundaries and how important those are in relationships. There’s a weight and responsibility that comes with telling each story that wasn’t there when I started, and instead of being fun—it’s grown more in joy, if that makes sense.

Any parting words?

No matter where you are on the journey, you will face moments of discouragement. I often forget that this is a spiritual battle and the words we write are not something our enemy wants people to read. I do struggle with depression, but knowing that God is at work can be a comfort. And having great writing friends who understand that struggle is a blessing beyond compare.


Lisa Bartelt is a child of the flatlands fulfilling her dream of living near mountains in Pennsylvania. She loves reading, writing and listening to stories—true ones, made-up ones and the ones in between—preferably with a cup of coffee in hand. Wife, mom of two, writer, ordinary girl, Lisa blogs about books, faith, family and the unexpected turns of life at

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