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Interview With Susan Page Davis

Several years ago, I was asked to proofread a novel by a debut author with Heartsong Presents! That author was Susan Page Davis. And since then, I’ve always enjoyed reading her books. My favorite are her mystery/suspense books because they always provide a good read. The Crimson Cipher, an historical romantic suspense, is Susan’s newest release. After reading the book, I was glad for the opportunity to interview Susan.

You write in several genres, Susan. How did you know you wanted to write fiction and why the genres you’ve chosen?

I spent many years writing nonfiction articles for magazines and newspapers, but I’ve always loved fiction and wrote stories from the time I was a child. I never thought it was possible for me to have a career as a fiction writer, however. At the age of 45, I knew the story in my head was a novel, and with Jim’s encouragement, I wrote it down. I was immensely proud of myself for finishing such a large project and began collecting rejections. That police procedural/mystery/romance was never published, but five years later I saw my first book in print—a historical romance. Needless to say, a lot of hard work filled the interval.

I started with a mystery, and I’ve always loved to read mysteries. My favorite reading material is one that mixes mystery and romance, whether in a contemporary or historical setting. I wrote several contemporaries before I finally sold that first historical—the first of those I’d written. I found that the market at that time seemed more open to historical romance. After breaking in there, my next several books were also set in the 19th century. I usually put action, mystery, and suspense in my historicals. About two years after I sold that first book, one of the contemporaries I’d written sold—a suspense novel with a military setting, Frasier Island. That turned into a three-book series with Harvest House. I also sold two children’s books, a contemporary and a fantasy. I went on to do several more books in suspense, historical romance, contemporary romance, and cozy mystery.

From the outset, I’ve been torn among genres. My new book, The Crimson Cipher, in my opinion brings together all the best—history, romance, and suspense.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
I started out feeling isolated, not realizing what a large community of Christian writers was out there. Finding ACFW online and attending my first-ever (small) writers’ conference in 2003 opened my eyes. In 2006, I was able to attend my first ACFW conference, and from that point on, my view of the industry and my career was altered. I met my current agent there, and editor Kim Moore handed me the cover mockup of Frasier Island in the hotel hallway. I met dozens of incredible people who have remained friends, mentors, and colleagues. Even though I was already published, that first ACFW conference was a watershed for me.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
It’s always been a challenge. I homeschooled my six children, right up until this year—almost thirty years. During most of that, I worked part time for a newspaper. The balancing act has always been a struggle. One thing that’s really hard for me is finding time to prepare well-crafted proposals for next year’s books.

>b?How do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
All of my books have a faith thread, though in some it’s not overt. I’ve had two or three complaints over the years that not all my books have a salvation story. But then, I’ve had a few saying my romance in some books wasn’t prominent enough, too. I write from a Christian worldview, and my characters consider their spiritual situations. I think a character who doesn’t ever think about ethics, morals, repentance, forgiveness, or eternity is not a realistic character.

Who/What compels you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?
The bills that come in the mail are a great motivator, especially since my husband retired and I’m now the main wage earner. However, I was writing when we both held down jobs, and I think I will be always, for the rest of my life. It’s part of who I am.

I’ve had ideas spark from conversations, news reports, and trips to the museum. Sometimes it starts with an offhand remark or something I read while researching another story. If an editor comes to me with an idea—as Rachel Meisel of Summerside Press did last year with “Love Finds You in Prince Edward Island”—I start researching. After a couple of weeks, I gave Rachel short summaries of plots I’d envisioned for two different time periods on P.E.I. During both of those time periods, interesting things happened, and I’d developed two very different ideas. She chose one (the royal tour of Prince Albert Edward in 1860) and that became my book, to release in April 2011.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
My background. I was the eighth generation of my family in a tiny town in Maine. My father (a game warden and small farmer) gave me an ingrained sense of history and heritage and a love of animals and the outdoors. My mother was a lady, and from her I learned manners, values, work ethic, knitting, bread baking, and so many other things that I don’t even think about but are now part of who I am. She was also a teacher and a reader. Both of my folks were big readers and blessed us kids with a house full of books.

Finish this question. The best piece of advice I can give to a new author is . . .
…read all the time, in many disciplines, and write something every day.

What’s next for you, Susan, as an author?
I have just contracted to do a three-book series for Barbour. Prairie Dreams will begin with an English noblewoman and her maid joining a wagon train as they search for the lady’s uncle. He’s now an earl, but doesn’t know it—he disappeared into the American West ten years ago, and Lady Anne is determined to find him and see that he fulfills his duty as an aristocrat. The Lady’s Maid is the first book, releasing in October 2011. Lady Anne’s Quest will follow, and A Lady in the Making will complete the trilogy.

Any parting words?
I’m in the middle of preparations for one of my favorite events of the year—the ACFW conference! Jim is going, too, for the first time. I know we’ll have a ball and get some good work done. I’d encourage all attendees, when you return home pumped up and ready to work, to go over your notes and recordings of sessions and prayerfully put into practice the things you’ve learned. For non-attendees, buy the recordings if you can, and don’t be discouraged. Sometimes it feels like you’re alone at your desk. Well, you are, in one sense. No one can write your book but you. On the other hand, there’s a big, loving, helpful community out there for you. Reach out and get some fellowship from your fellow ACFW members.

Thanks for sharing with us, Susan!

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