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Interview With Susan May Warren

1. Tell us a little about yourself? Married/single, children, how many books authored, etc.

I'm married – 16 years, with four incredible children. Currently, I have eleven books on the market, but by the end of 2005, I'll have fourteen!

2. How many years have you been writing?

Like all writers, I've been writing all my life! But I've been writing for publication about seven years – from the date of my first published article. My first full length novel (Happily Ever After – Tyndale/Heartquest) came out in 2003.

3. How much time do you spend writing daily? (Do you consider yourself full-time or part-time? Do you write in the mornings or evenings?)

I'm a full-time writer. I am at my desk by 9am, and usually work until 4pm. However, during that time, I might have two-three hours of actual writing time. The rest is editing, plotting, researching, answering mail, critiquing and preparing proposals.

4. Do you set daily goals for your writing? (Number of hours, pages, word count) Tell us how you set your goals.

I write one chapter/day. Usually that is about 3000 words, but sometimes it's more, or less, depending on the goals of the chapter. When I’m really in the "groove" I can write up to 5000, but I’m pretty maxed out after that. I also have personal goals for proposals, etc., that I map out on a calendar. That keeps me focused during my non-writing time.

5. Where do you write? Do you have an office or a corner? Tell us about your space and what makes you most comfortable.

I used to think I was so odd because I needed a number of places to "create." When I lived in Russia, I had a special chair, and worked with my keyboard on my lap. In America, I have a laptop for "creating" and I do my editing on a desktop. I usually write in an oversized leather chair I picked up for a deal at a closeout furniture store. It's huge, and makes me feel like I'm in a "protected zone" of creativity. I also have an oversized ottoman that I use as a "desk" with my's usually piled with plot lines and research notes and my reference materials. I'm a horizontal organizer, which means I have to see my material around can't be filed. So, you can use your imagination about what my office looks like!

6. Do you plot or not? Expound briefly on your methods or theories in the plotting department.

I'm an extreme plotter. I usually start with a big idea, and I like global ideas (because I lived overseas, I tend to gravitate toward global plots!). Then I make the issues personal to my characters. From there, I look at my characters needs, desires, fears and goals and I put together a step by step plot. I highly recommend Brandilyn Collins' book, Getting into Character, for plotting and characterization guidance. I usually have two synopsi – a chapter by chapter synopsis that is my road map, and the shorter one I send to my editors. Within that chapter by chapter synopsis, I have goals, motivations, conflicts...but I want to add that as I write, I also allow myself the freedom to deviate if the characters so choose. So, while I lean toward plotting, I also have a touch of "seat of the pants plotting" in me!

7. Is your first draft rough or do you aim for a polished manuscript the first time through? How much time do you spend on rewrites?

My first draft is just a mess of ideas and spitting out of words. I NEVER show anyone my first draft because it's so awful. Misspelled words, wrongly named characters, basically horrible writing. I consider the first draft just a brain dump designed to get the words out of my head and onto my hard drive. This is why I can "write a book" in about 6 weeks. However, as I write, I keep a journal of ideas and texture, even plot twists that I'll add in during rewrites. I spend about a month rewriting, and layering in texture. Then I print it and read it, editing it as I go and implementing the changes. This takes about two weeks. Finally, I print it again and proof it. So, in total, it takes me about three months to produce a book I’m happy with. (I should add here that I never send off a book that I haven't prayed over, and with which I have the peace that it is ready for my editor's eyes. I like to know I’ve done my best).

8. How does your Christian walk influence your writing? Any advice for integrated God and writing?

I hope my Christian walk spills out onto the page. Invariably, I write about things close to my heart, and issues that God is working on in my own life. I consider my writing as ministry, an overflow of what God is doing in my life. Yes, I also want my books to be entertaining – but I believe they can be both entertaining and edifying to the spirit. Every day I'm on my knees about my plots, my characters, my themes, I'm journaling about the books, spending time in the Word. I guess that my only advice would be to invest in knowing God, and then see what He does in your life.

9. What was your biggest obstacle in regard to writing and/or getting published? How did you overcome it?

I was in Russia, so much of what I wrote I considered therapy! But I did feel that the distance was discouraging. But God continued to confirm in my heart that He was at work, whether I was published or not. I committed my dreams to Him, and continued to work hard on craft. I figured, I'd just keep writing, in obedience, and let God be in charge of my future.

10. Do you have any advice for a new writer?

Learn, learn, learn. Read, Read, Read. *grin* Seriously, I gobbled up every writing book out there, and tried to find those techniques that worked for me. Also, I read books in the genre I wanted to write in, then dissected them to discover what worked and what didn't. I kept a journal of phrases that made me smile, or that were particularly descriptive or ingenious. And I kept writing, trying to apply what I'd learned. I also made friends of like writing ability, and we committed to help each other grow.

Susan has two new books on the market -- Marina, book 3 of the Heirs of Anton series, co-written with Susan Downs and published by Barbour, and Flee the Night, the first in a search and rescue series called Team Hope, published by Tyndale.

I'm immensely proud of both these books...Marina is a story of courage and faith during the dark days of WW2 – it's full of espionage, romance, suspense and history, and it's about an OSS agent, his plan to thwart Hitler's advance on Russia, and the brave and beautiful partisan who helps him. And, for readers who have read the first two Heirs of Anton books, they'll get to meet Magda!

Flee the Night is a contemporary story about national and personal secrets, betrayal, redemption and waiting for the one you love. It's about an ex-spy who, when her daughter is kidnapped, must turn to the one man who can help – the same man who wants to see her go to prison. It's fast-paced, suspenseful and oh, so romantic. It's also a good introduction to Team Hope, a group of Search and Rescue adventurers whose stories make up the series.

I love these stories God gave me and feel they both have messages to encourage readers. I pray they are fun to read, as well as a blessing to those who read them!

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