This week we’re going to find out a little about author Susan Fox. July’s theme is ‘Marketing’ so Susan will be talking about marketing tips. She’ll also tell us a little about herself and her writing, and answer some fun questions.International bestselling author Susan Fox, who also writes as Susan Lyons and Savanna Fox, “knows what women want in a contemporary romance” (Publishers Weekly). Her books have won numerous awards and Love Somebody Like You was a RITA® finalist.
Susan is a Pacific Northwester with homes in Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia. She has degrees in law and psychology, and has had a variety of careers, including perennial student, computer consultant, and legal editor. Fiction writer is by far her favorite, giving her an outlet to demonstrate her belief in the power of love, friendship, and a sense of humor.
Beverley: How important are settings to a story?Susan: I think that depends on the story and on the writer’s voice. Let me expand on that in my answers below.
Beverley: When you think of settings what do you think of? (locales, houses, rooms, weather)
Susan: Everything from the grand scale (e.g., like you, I’m Canadian and set my stories in Canada, which is a different place than the United States or anywhere else) down to the tiny scale (like the aroma of fresh cinnamon buns coming from a nearby bakery, or the rough caress of a callused finger against sensitive skin).
Beverley: Do settings contribute to the mood of the story? (romance/ conflict/tension) If yes – how?
Susan: I think they do, but it’s on a “more or less” scale. At the “less” end, for example, if two girlfriends are having a meaningful conversation, it may not be terribly significant whether that happens in a bookstore, a coffee shop, or one of their kitchens. There will be small differences, like an awareness of others around them in a public setting, but the focus of the scene is on the conversation. On the other hand, at the “more” end – well, let me give you an example from Fly Away With Me.
Voice breaking, she said, “I have to let you go. We can’t keep doing this.”
He sucked in a breath but didn’t speak. Nor did she. It was so quiet, no breeze to rustle the tree branches, the birds all nestled somewhere for the night. And yet, as she’d learned, it was rarely entirely silent here. Tonight, even though the air was so calm, she could hear the ocean breathing in soft sighs against the rocky shore below. It ebbed and flowed, not pausing for one moment to acknowledge that her heart was breaking.
I used the setting as a counterpoint to Eden’s emotional turmoil.Beverley: Do you have any examples of the great use of settings in books you’ve read?
Susan: Maybe it’s because I live in the Pacific Northwest where our environment is so fresh and young and rugged, but I’ve always loved books set in the southern United States, like Pat Conroy’s, where the settings are lush and luscious. I love the way authors like him describe the places and the people in language as rich and languid as a southern drawl.
Beverley: How do you use settings in your books? Or do you?
Susan: Yes, I sure do. My first books were set in Vancouver and had the vibe of that city: cosmopolitan, West Coasty, diverse, a unique combination of energetic and laid-back. My Caribou Crossing books are a total contrast: ranch country in the interior of British Columbia, with the whole vibe of a small, close-knit community (though also with diversity, because I’m only interested in settings with a diverse population). Horses and country music figure prominently in the Caribou Crossings.
Now I’m writing the Blue Moon Harbor series, which is set in the Gulf Islands near Victoria – a setting I’m quite familiar with because we go boating there. I get to use the ocean, of course, the ruggedly picturesque scenery, the fact that island life is quite different from mainland life, and also the eccentricity of the community I’ve created on an island that draws dreamers, dissidents, and independent spirits. (Diversity again!) The books are small community ones as with Caribou Crossing, but the community has a quite different character.
Beverley: Can you share an example from one of your books?
Susan: This is from Fly Away With Me. Eden is a lawyer from Ottawa – responsible, reliable, perfectionist – who has come to Destiny Island on a mission for her mother: to try to find her mom’s long-lost sister. When Eden tells her seaplane pilot Aaron about her quest, he offers to help. He has a mission of his own, too: to help the city girl loosen up and have fun, preferably with him.
He takes her kayaking. These paragraphs use setting to reveal aspects of Eden’s life and character.
Aaron paddled more quickly, heading to shore. She didn’t try to match his pace. In the bay, the water was even calmer, the surface like deep, bluish-green glass. She almost hated to disturb it with the dip of her paddle, and after each stroke she paused to watch a crystal cascade of droplets tip off the end of the blade and splash onto the ocean’s surface, creating rings of ripples. The sun warmed her back and the top of her head; gulls soared and cried overhead. She stopped paddling, closing her eyes for a moment to simply drift with the tide. Utter serenity. Had she ever experienced anything like this before?
By the time she arrived at the shore, Aaron had pulled his kayak up on the beach and was waiting to guide hers into shore and help her out. She caught his arm for balance, raised herself, and then gingerly stepped out into the water. “Brrr.” The soles of her feet met a strange surface, and as she splashed ashore she studied the grayish-white particles that made up the beach. “It’s not sand.”
“Shells, mostly. Pounded by waves.”
The beach felt coarse underfoot but pleasantly so, like an exfoliating massage, if such a thing existed. She’d never had time to spare for massage or mani-pedis. Nor did she have much occasion to wear a bathing suit, and she felt exposed, even though her tee was long enough to cover her bikini bottom. It would be silly to put on shorts, though, because that bottom was damp.
She freed herself from her life jacket and wandered down the beach, picking up a pebble here, a shell there, a colored bit of weathered glass. If she were back in Ottawa, she’d be busy at her desk, dressed in a suit and low-heeled pumps.
Beverley: How long have you been writing?Susan: For a very long time! For at least ten years (and probably ten books) before I sold my first book to Kensington in 2005. Since then, I’ve had more than thirty romances published.
Beverley: What genre do you write in and why?
Susan: I write romance/women’s fiction, for a couple of reasons. One is that, as a writer, I feel a sense of responsibility, to share values I believe strongly in, like equality and respect, and romance is a perfect forum to do that. Also, I’m fascinated by people, character growth, and relationships. I get to explore all of those things in romance, as well as any other issues that interest me. And in romance, I know that my characters and my readers will always have a happy ending.
Beverley: Who influenced you the most in deciding to become a writer?
Susan: I have always, always been addicted to books, so of course I was inspired by all the wonderful writers whose novels I had enjoyed. But it was actually a friend who had the strongest influence, when he gave me a copy of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. It had never occurred to me to write fiction until I read that book.
Beverley: What obstacles did you have to overcome to begin creating your work?
Susan: When I started writing my first book (which will never be published), it just felt right. This was the career passion I’d always been searching for. As well as being creative, I’m also a practical person, so I did my research and realized it was difficult to get published (this was in the days before indie publishing) and even more difficult to make a living at it. I knew I would have to persist and persist and persist, so I did. I also prepared – like by paying off the mortgage because I doubted writing would give me a sufficient income to do that (and sadly I was right!). The “obstacle” was in writing a manuscript that connected with the right editor at the right time.
One thing I thought might be an obstacle turned out not to be, and that was the setting of my books. As a Canadian, I wanted to write Canadian settings, but the conventional wisdom was that American readers and publishers had no interest in Canadian settings. I wondered what I’d do if a publisher said they’d buy my work but only if I changed the setting from Vancouver to Seattle. Fortunately, that never happened.
Beverley: What gets your creative juices flowing?
Susan: People. My characters, characters in other authors’ stories, and people in the real world. I love mulling over people’s issues and dilemmas, their character quirks, their interactions, their sorrows and joys, and how we grow and change as we get older.
Beverley: What will stop your creative muse the quickest?
Susan: Pain and tiredness. I have back issues that can slow me down, so I do my best to stay fit and healthy, always building exercise time into every day. Other than that, if I get stuck in the middle of a book (which invariably happens), it’s usually because I don’t know my characters well enough. I’m not sure what they’re thinking and feeling, so I don’t know what they’ll do next. It usually helps if I go for a walk and sort of mull, but in a casual way, not too intensely (more like it’s fun, not work!). Somehow, the motion and the mulling usually lead to an insight that lets me carry on. And the walking loosens up my back!
Beverley: What do you have for breakfast?
Susan: Fat free vanilla yogurt with fresh fruit cut up in it, a home-made bran muffin (mixed fruit, or banana, or pumpkin), and either a cup of tea or a café latté.
Beverley: What do you wear when you are writing?
Susan: Capris in warm weather, fleece yoga pants in cold weather, a t-shirt, and in winter a fleece jacket. It’s expensive to heat our house!
Beverley: Where do you do most of your writing?
Susan: At my desk, with my full-size monitor and wireless keyboard and mouse. But sometimes, for the sake of my back, standing at the kitchen island, lounging in a recliner with my laptop, or sitting on one of those big balls. Occasionally, for a treat, I write at a coffee shop or nice bar with a latté or a glass of wine.
Beverley: Do you have a favorite cartoon character? Why?
Susan: Snoopy. I’ve always been a Peanuts fan. Who can resist Snoopy on top of his doghouse, typing a “dark and stormy night” story – or happy dancing?
Beverley: Who would you love most to meet 'in person' and why?
Susan: The author Mary Stewart – though sadly she’s deceased. I fell in love with her books when I was a teenager. Loved her heroines, heroes – and, since we’ve been talking about setting – her fantastic settings. She made me long to go to Greece – and I have, twice. I even wrote a book, Fly Close to the Sun, that’s set on Crete and is my modern-day homage to her fabulous romantic suspense stories. Anyhow, I would like to thank her and to talk writing with her.
Beverley: If you had an unexpected free day what would you do with it?
Susan: Go to a botanical garden with my camera and roam for hours – with a break in the middle for a lovely lunch and a glass of wine.
Beverley: What are you working on now?
Susan: I’m finishing off the fourth title in my Blue Moon Harbor series. Fly Away With Me is the first (July 2017), then “Blue Moon Harbor Christmas” in Winter Wishes (October 2017), a holiday anthology that also contains novellas by Fern Michaels, Jules Bennett, and Leah Marie Brown. After that, there’s Come Home With Me (December 2017). The fourth story is Sail Away With Me. Iris Yakimura is a shy bookseller (and romance reader!) who only feels safe in her own tiny community, and who dreams of finding love. Julian Blake is a celebrity musician who suffered childhood trauma that impaired his ability to trust and to love. It’s a book about digging deep inside yourself to find the kind of courage you don’t believe you possess.
Thank you so much for this interview, Beverley – for the great questions and the opportunity to discuss my writing and my books.Blurb for Fly Away With Me
Known for its rugged beauty and eccentric residents, tiny Blue Moon Harbor is big on love...For busy lawyer Eden Blaine, a trip to a Pacific Northwest island she’s never even heard of is far from a vacation. Eden’s ailing mother has tasked her with finding her long-lost aunt, who once had ties to a commune on the island. Still reeling from a breakup with her longtime boyfriend, romance is the last thing Eden is looking for. But her gorgeous seaplane pilot has her wondering if a carefree rebound fling is exactly what she needs…
Aaron Gabriel has no illusions about happily ever after. His troubled childhood made sure of that. But he does appreciate a pretty woman’s company, and Eden is the exact combination of smart and sexy that turns him on. Still, as he helps her search for her missing aunt, the casual relationship he imagined quickly becomes something much more passionate—and much harder to give up. Can two people determined to ignore romance recognize that their heated connection is the kind of love destined to last?
You can find Susan at:Website [http://susanlyons.ca/]
Don’t forget to check back next week for another author interview and more discussion of settings.