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Interview with Susan Sleeman

Susan’s stories are an equal blend of romance and suspense that readers have come to love in the romantic suspense genre. She writes from a wholesome viewpoint, specifically heart-stopping suspense and heart-warming romance, with a message of spiritual hope. With two books published in 2010 (Nipped in the Bud and High Stakes Inheritance, book one of The Morgan Brothers Series) and two books (both The Morgan Brothers Series) scheduled for 2011 (Behind the Badge, released June 2011 and The Christmas Witness, available December 2011), Susan has been busy!

Congratulations on the release of Behind the Badge. Could you tell us how you came up with this particular book idea?

Since Behind the Badge is a romantic suspense book and a sequel to High-Stakes Inheritance, I knew the book would feature Russ Morgan, the second brother in a trio of brothers, along with Sydney Tucker who had a cameo appearance in High-Stakes Inheritance. Knowing the backstory for both characters, that they were both police officers and had something in their past that they wanted to resolve but had never been able to do so, made coming up with the actual plot quiet easy. I also knew I wanted the book to be about trusting God’s good and perfect plan for our lives so the plot had to bring Russ and Sydney to the end of what they could do for themselves and be forced to rely on God.

Why do you write suspense?
I write romantic suspense because that is what I like to read. I like the action, mystery and unanswered questions that keep me turning the page. I like trying to solve the mystery and figure out the villain and as a writer, I love coming up with intricate mysteries with a surprise twist at the end so the reader can’t figure out the villain before he or she is revealed. Plus I like a little romance thrown into the mix.

I love your website about suspense novels and author interviews ( , it is a great resource for readers. How do you balance your writing time with this involved website and all your other responsibilities?
Balance is such a hard thing to achieve. There are times when I have a deadline that I am struggling to meet when pretty much everything else in my life stops. At that time, there is no balance. The writing takes over. My children are both grown so they don’t need the kind of attention a young child might. My husband is super supportive, and he takes up the slack. Still, even in these times, starting my day in prayer helps me to make it through the stressful time. Prayer focuses me on the priorities. When I start to become overwhelmed by all that I have to do, prayer reminds me that God is with me and He will provide what I need to achieve that day’s goals.

How do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
My writing wouldn’t exist if not for my spiritual life. I started writing a book because I’d always wanted to do so, but I learned my real purpose in writing when I was struck with a chronic illness. As my health deteriorated, I was able to do less and less, I needed to rely more and more on God. My faith grew. My relationship with God grew. And my desire to tell others about our wonderful God grew. So it was natural to use writing fiction as a way to convey a spiritual message in an entertaining way. I really think if I could not show others in my books about what God has done in my life and can do in the readers’ lives, I don’t think I would write.

Can you share with us how you plan and plot a novel?
Since I write romantic suspense, all of my books start with figuring out the two main characters’ backstory and how issues in their past can lead to a romantic conflict. Based on their issues, I choose a Bible verse and mesh the romantic conflict with the spiritual conflict. With an idea of who the main characters are, I then look for a plot idea in a file I keep of interesting things I have seen on the news or events unfolding around me.

I take that idea and start asking what if questions. I then create a bare bones list of potential scenes and get to work writing the book. In the event that I am writing a series, like the Justice Agency Series I just began writing for Love Inspired, I do this process for all of the books in the series before beginning book one. That way when I introduce the main characters, I can characterize them correctly.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
There have been so many things that were significant on the road to publication that it’s hard for me to narrow it down to one thing. But as I look back, I have to say what made me move forward and in the direction that ultimately led to publication, were my failures. All writers fear rejection, bad news, harsh critiques, but in my case that is where I can see the greatest growth. I hated the bad news. Hated hearing no again. I still hate it. But when I take the time to reflect on what I did wrong or why something didn’t work, it helps me to learn to be a better writer. And most importantly, it’s the time I am reminded that God can change me most and bring me closer to Him. I do not want hardships. I do not ask for them. But I am a better person for going through them.

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career?
Without a doubt, the greatest moment was receiving my first email from a reader who was touched by the spiritual message in High-Stakes Inheritance. So many bad things had previously happened to the heroine in High-Stakes Inheritance, that she wanted to control everything and she struggled with letting God take control of her life.

The reader was going through a tough time and she shared her difficulties in the email, really opening up and letting me know how hard this time was for her. My heart broke to read the challenges she faced, but then she also shared that the book gave her strength to trust God while in this trial and my heart filled with joy.

This was the reason I wrote the book. I had achieved my goal. I was content. God used my words crafted only after having been through the fire myself and coming out the other side in victory to help someone else.

Do you have any parting words?
I just want to say thank you for the interview and to remind readers if they are just beginning their writing journey and aren’t a member of ACFW, join today. It’s a wonderful organization where you can learn the basics of writing, fellowship with and learn from published authors, and meet other writers on the same journey and at the same writing level as you are. Everyone is so supportive and helpful. You can’t go wrong.

Thanks for sharing with us Susan!

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