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Interview with Susie Finkbeiner

Susie Finkbeiner is a wife, mother of three, and avid reader. She enjoys time with her family, coffee dates with her good friends, and quiet moments to read and write.

Susie, with the main character of Pearl Spencer being ten years old, is A Cup of Dust a coming-of-age story written more for an adult reader, or a Depression era historical for any age?
Thank you for this question, Anita. It is a coming-of-age and best suited for an adult reader. There are situations which younger readers might not be ready for yet.

What message do you hope readers take away from this book?
If anything, I’d like my readers to really know that where they come from isn’t who they are. And what happened in the past doesn’t define them, either. What is truly important is whose we are. We are defined by the fact that we are dearly loved by the Heavenly Father.

In researching this story, did you discover anything that elicited a strong emotional response?
I’ve been researching the Dust Bowl in one way or another for about twenty years. After reading The Grapes of Wrath I was intrigued and wanted to know as much as I could about the people who lived through and survived this part of history which isn’t discussed all that often.

What really choked me up was a clip from Ken Burns’s documentary "The Dust Bowl" (PBS). A man in his eighties was reflecting on his baby sister who died from what they called “dust pneumonia” (basically aspirating on dust). That man still wept about the loss of his sister even after many decades. Every time I think about that man and his shaking voice I tear up. What a tragedy.

Which part of writing do you struggle with?
Oh, this is easy. I struggle most with silencing the inner critic. Man alive, can that monster do damage. I’m trying to learn to give myself grace, to tell that voice to take a hike. Often I call or email a friend and they talk me off the ledge. Can I tell you, having writer friends is essential. They know the struggles and they understand the neediness. My writer friends are a gift from God.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
Hands down, community. When I first got serious about writing Christian Fiction, I found the Novel Matters blog. The ladies in that community encouraged and inspired me. It’s through that site that I was connected to my first publisher. Later on I attended the Breathe Christian Writers Conference in Grand Rapids where I met what I call my second family. It’s also where I found my agent.

Having a writing community, whether in real life or online, is essential to the writing life. The support and friendship is like nothing else. I feel that my writer friends spur me on to good works. My dearest hope is that I’m able to do the same for them.

What is your writing routine? Any quirky habits or must-have snacks?
I don’t necessarily have a routine. I just write a whole lot. It’s my only job while the kids are at school.

As far as a must-have. Coffee. Always. Lots and lots of it.

Who is your favorite classic author?
Now this is a brutal question! Who am I to play favorites?

I can’t just choose one, I’m sorry. As much as I like British Lit, I’m more enamored with American authors. Perhaps that’s because their work resonates with me more. I don’t know. But I will read anything by Steinbeck, Vonnegut, Whitman, Frost. I’m a big fan of Flannery O’Connor and Harper Lee. I have a love/hate relationship with John Irving. I love reading Wendell Berry and Kent Haruf. And I’m a really big fan of Stephen King.

See. I told you I could choose just one. For me, reading is like eating potato chips.

If you could have coffee with an author, dead or alive, whose work you admire, who would that be? What would you ask him or her?
I choose Wendell Berry. He seems such a gentle soul with so much wisdom to share. I think I’d ask him about staying grounded through the ups and downs of the writing life. About how he finds a way to write with such simple elegance. I think that, more than asking, I’d just sit and listen. I believe I’d like that very much.

What books are on your nightstand right now?
I’m a one-book-at-a-time reader. At this moment I’m reading Two Steps Forward by Sharon Garlough Brown. I’m not sure what I’ll read next. I like to go with my impulses when selecting from my overflowing to-read pile.

Any parting words?
When I got my first book contract a lot of people asked me what it was like to finally “live my dream”. I didn’t know how to respond. I’ve been living my dream every single day that I’ve spent writing stories. Publication isn’t my dream. Writing is. Publication is nothing to sneeze at, though.

Thanks for sharing with us, Susie.
Thank you, Anita. This was a lot of fun

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