An educator for over twenty years, Susan has worked as an adult education teacher, an educational coordinator, and an academic interventionist at both the elementary and secondary levels.
She has published short stories, poetry, and has published two novels.
A Mentor and Her Museby Susan SagePublish: Dec 31, 2017Women's Fiction Literary Fiction
If I were to move back to Detroit, it wouldn’t be the same place I knew growing up there, so while my roots tug at me emotionally, I know that it’s place which no longer exists except in my memory and imagination. Shortly after getting married—a little over thirty years ago—my husband and I moved here. Flushing’s a quaint river town and was a wonderful place to raise our daughter. While I loved aspects of Detroit, I still don’t miss not having to deal with rush hour traffic, though I continue to miss living in a more cosmopolitan setting. We’ve made the decision to move back to the Detroit area within a couple years, primarily because it will be closer to our families.An educator for over twenty years, what inspired you to start writing?
I began writing long before I became an educator, though working in schools has certainly been good fodder for stories. I was around age twelve or so when I began writing poetry. This may sound silly, but what inspired my first poem was the succulent aroma of turkey being roasted for Thanksgiving dinner… I credit my interest in writing to my love of reading. My parents loved reading, as well as my two older sisters. We’d spend a lot of time talking to each other about what we were reading. I recall my dad being upset with me because I wasn’t yet interested in reading the classics when I was only seven!How do you think working as an adult education teacher, an educational coordinator, and an academic interventionist helped you shape into an author?
My various jobs in schools have helped me not only to understand young people better, but I think, also to be more empathetic – especially with children who don’t come from privileged backgrounds. With most positions I’ve held, I’ve had the luxury of being able to work with small groups of students or one-on-one. Once trust has been established, students have usually allowed me to peek into their lives in ways that teachers often are not able to. Many poems and stories I’ve written were inspired by students.How would you describe your experience of teaching at both the elementary and secondary levels? Have your students read your stories?
I’ve always shied away from sharing my writing with students. I’m not sure why, maybe because I’m an introvert and have always been more about getting them to realize their talents. I felt a little—braver—with my first book, though I didn’t do much to promote it. It was a contemporary fantasy and actually had more appeal to teenagers, so I gave readings to some of the classes. I was a little more reluctant to talk to students about A Mentor and Her Muse. It’s primarily about a middle aged woman and I didn’t think most teens would connect with her. Still, once word was out about the book, several teachers and students bought copies and have been supportive. I’ve had less experience teaching at the elementary level, although I once had a great, though brief, experience teaching creative writing in an after-school setting. During that time, I loved writing with them, and then sharing what I’d written, as they were my target audience. It was great for immediate feedback and something I’d definitely consider doing again.Having published short stories, poetry, and having published two novels, what do you enjoy writing more?
Like many writers, I mostly enjoy writing initial drafts, no matter the kind of writing I’m doing. That being said, I find writing short stories and poetry to be more satisfying. Regardless of type, I love exploring how people perceive and react to their inner and outer worlds. A limitation for me with poetry is that my poems usually wind up being about how I’m feeling or perceiving. I gravitate toward fiction writing out of a longing to view the world through characters that are unlike me. Presently, I’m working on a novel that I spent a good deal of time planning. It’s such a slow crawl with novel writing and I don’t like how I can’t always see the work progressing day- to-day, the way I can when writing short works…While I like the challenge, I always feel a little like Sisyphus, you know?How much did you research to write a compelling psychological novel about social norms, artistic ambition and obsession?
I don’t know that I’ve actually done all that though I loved my publisher’s description! As well as reading a lot of contemporary fiction, I’ve always read articles related to psychology and sociology. I’ve also taken several college courses in those areas. I did very little direct research for the book. Since I’ve always enjoyed reading about gray areas of morality, I wanted to write about someone who walked a fine line between the world of right and wrong. The only real research I did was to find out about the cities and places Maggie and Taezha visited in the South.How do you decide the setting of your books? Have you been to Flint, Michigan?
In most of my short stories, as well as in A Mentor and Her Muse, the setting is in Michigan because I’ve lived there my entire life. However, I’m drawn to the mountains, so part of the book takes place near Asheville, North Carolina. The book I’m currently working on is set in a mountainous setting, too. I worked in Flint for several years, and while I don’t presently work there, I still spend a good deal of time at local places in the downtown area. Also, it’s only fifteen minutes away from where I live.What was your reaction on being a recipient of Wayne State University’s Tompkins Award in Creative Writing? How did it motivate you?
At the time (I won’t say how many years ago), I was thrilled even though I was a runner up. The award was for a series of poems I’d written. My excitement soon gave way to nervousness when I had to read aloud following the award ceremony. At the time, I hadn’t had much experience and reading my work aloud is still something that I’m not wild about doing. That being said, it did motivate me to begin submitting my poetry to journals and magazines which sometimes resulted in getting published.What inspired your daughter, Sarah, to become an author? Do you review each other’s work?
Sarah has always loved books and began writing at a very young age. I’d like to think that my love of reading and writing inspired her. No, we don’t review each other’s work. Within the last couple years we agreed not to discuss our own writing with each other. I feel sad about this because at one time we did. My hope is that at some point in the future we’ll be able to talk about it again together.How did you come up with the character of Maggie Barnett in A Mentor and Her Muse?
I guess you could say that Maggie is my alter ego. She’s like a larger-than-life version of me, way more assertive. But along with her assertiveness, there’s sometimes a reckless disregard of others around her. She wants to do what’s right, but is impulsive in her decisions, even criminal. I would never abscond with a young person across state lines, whether I was related to them or not! Like me though, she carries the guilt of white privilege, a passion for writing and on-the- road adventures. Also, many of the issues she faces at middle-age, however, are much like the ones I’ve faced.What inspired you to start writing A Mentor and Her Muse? What were our expectations for this book?
Initially, I asked myself the question: If I were to go on a road trip, who would I take and where would I go? The next question I asked was: What if it wasn’t me, but a middle-aged white woman who took a young bi-racial teenaged girl with her? At the time, I’d been working as an educational coordinator for a school program. The teenage girl, Taezha, is based on a girl I met at school who had just discovered her love of writing. My expectations were to publish the book and, like other authors, to sell as many copies as possible!What challenges did you face while publishing your first book?
Insominy, my first published book, is a contemporary fantasy novel, no longer available for purchase. It was published in 2010 through a Print-on-Demand (POD) company. It was a little before the time that Social Media played a big role for unknown authors. I had no idea how to market it and didn’t wind up selling many copies.Share with us the best advice you’ve ever received. When it comes to writing, what are some of your hopes and ambitions?
Probably the best advice I’ve received is to be tenacious and not give up on a book you’ve written – provided you believe in it. Also, make sure to have your book professionally edited. Don’t expect family and friends to be equally supportive. If you do, and some loved ones don’t seem there for you, don’t think it’s because they don’t love you or care for you. They have known you in a role other than that of being an author, so you shouldn’t necessarily look at them as your biggest fans…My hopes and ambitions for the future include finishing the present book I’ve been working on, publishing it, and then beginning another one – possibly a sequel to A Mentor and Her Muse. I would also like to publish a book of finished poetry and short stories. Next time around, I would love to find an agent to represent me; I’m well-aware that it’s not easy, but it might make the daunting process of writing, publishing, and promoting – a little less so.Which book are you currently working on? When do you plan to release it?
For the past year, I’ve been working on a multi-genre novel. It’s primarily a story about a postal worker who organizes a community to search for a lost dog in a pre-apocalyptic setting. It’s also a mystery with elements of Magic Realism tossed in. I’m planning on finishing the first draft by this summer, so maybe six months to a year after that it will be ready for release. That’s probably the best case scenario, seeing as I’m not the speediest of writers.How did you come across AllAuthor? What made you sign up and what has your experience been so far?
I’d noticed books being promoted by AllAuthor on Twitter and was impressed with how professional the ads looked. Also, I’ve always enjoyed reading the author interviews. My experience so far has been a lovely one. Thanks SO much for this opportunity!!
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