Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Guest Blogger: Susan Wiggs

Today, I am so excited to welcome Susan Wiggs, author of THE OCEAN BETWEEN US to Booking Mama. I reviewed this novel earlier today, and as you can see, I found it to be a touching story. Ms. Wiggs has written numerous bestsellers and it's quite an honor to have her stop by with this fantastic guest post.

I am grateful to part of the Susan Wigg's Blog Tour. Be sure to swing by The Ever-Changing Life of a Military Wife on Friday for the final stop of Susan’s Blog tour!

Writing in Different Genres

As a reader, I’m an omnivore. That means I like all kinds of books, not just a single genre. You might find me reading romance, mystery, literary fiction, bestsellers, thrillers...I love it all. I’ve even started taking a keen interest in narrative nonfiction.

As a writer, I love to experiment, take risks and try new things. For me, that means dabbling in different genres. I have the best readers in the world, because so many of them are willing to read my books, whether they’re historical romances, contemporary love stories, or mainstream fiction.

When I was new to the craft, I knew it was important to focus, so I gravitated toward a genre I knew and loved–the historical romance. The first book I ever read in this genre was Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss, a story that saved my sanity when I was in college and working at a desperately boring summer job. I adored every word of it, and went looking for more, discovering a whole host of favorite authors–Laurie McBain, Roberta Gellis, Jennifer Blake, Rosemary Rogers, Rebecca Brandywyne...these were sweep-you-away romances that took me to another place and time.

More importantly, they pointed me in a direction I wanted to go as a writer. They say to truly learn your craft, you might have to write a million unpublishable words. It’s all part of a writer’s education. I certainly did that, writing terrible sagas about the Dutch revolt, Swabian knights and Mongolian hoards. Eventually, I figured out how to tell a story readers would actually like. My historicals, like my personal interests, spanned the globe, from the old west to medieval France. I loved everything about writing historical romance–the fascinating research, the intrigue and life-or-death conflicts. In this genre, I scored my first RITA finalist (The Raven and the Rose), won a Holt Medallion for At the King’s Command and a Dorothy Parker Award for The Charm School. The Mistress won the RITA and Lord of the Night was the RWA Favorite book of the year. My first New York Times bestseller was The Horsemaster’s Daughter. These books are defined by a sense of escape and fantasy.

Much as I love the historical romance genre, I’m also keenly interested in the lives of modern women–their issues, families, relationships and emotional journeys. Ideas for contemporary novels started coming to me–women dealing with parenthood, career matters, aging parents, and of course, matters of the heart. My first top-15 New York Times bestseller was Summer at Willow Lake, which launched the Lakeshore Chronicles. Lakeside Cottage won a RITA award and many others have been finalists. The defining elements seem to be a sense of emotional honesty and realism, but one that is burnished by nostalgia and hope, portraying a woman on a journey to become her best self.

I feel so lucky that readers have embraced these books, and my brain is stuffed with ideas for future projects in both genres!

I’d love to hear from readers about what draws them to a particular type of book. Do you pick by genre? By author? By storyline? What about cover art? Looking forward to your responses!

*****
When Susan Wiggs’s recent novel Fireside debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, the author responded by jumping into her swimming pool fully clothed, despite the freezing temperatures of February. Why? “Because I never wanted to forget that moment,” she said. “It’s such a singular sensation. And so often for a writer, the good news comes during the odd time of day, when no one is around but the dog and the seagulls on the beach.”

Wiggs credits the book’s popularity to her loyal readers, whose unflagging interest has steadily propelled her sales upward over her twenty-year career. From the very start, the author’s stories have illuminated the everyday dramas of ordinary people. She self-published her first novel at the age of eight (and it can be seen on the author’s blog here—http://susanwiggs.wordpress.com/about). A Book About Some Bad Kids was based on the true-life adventures of Susan and her siblings.

Today, she is an internationally bestselling author with millions of copies of her books in print in numerous countries. Her novel Table for Five has been optioned as a feature film by Zimand Entertainment. She continues to draw inspiration from her friends, family and the nuances of human nature that make the headlines every day.

Susan, who holds a graduate degree from Harvard, confesses that the first romance novel she ever read was Shanna, by the late Kathleen Woodiwiss, which she devoured while slumped behind a college textbook, studying to become a math teacher.

How did a math teacher become a bestselling writer? Susan says the real question is how did a writer turn to teaching math? “I was born to write. I always knew it. When I was in college, I took a career aptitude test that said I should be (a) a writer, (b) a teacher or (c) a speech

pathologist. So I decided to go for two out of three. I chose teaching—and the subject of math specifically—because it was something I knew I’d love and be good at. Also, a math teacher can make a living. This is not always the case for a writer, not right out of the gate.”

Susan appears at writers’ conferences across the country, speaking to aspiring novelists about the profession. She’s been an instructor and workshop presenter at the Maui Writers’ Conference, an intense retreat for published and unpublished authors. She is also a key organizer of the prestigious Field’s End Writers’ Conference closer to home, on Bainbridge Island, Washington.

The author has won three RITA® Awards for her novels Lakeside Cottage, Lord of the Night and The Mistress. Her recent novels have all placed high on the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today and Publishers Weekly lists. The Charm School was honored with the Dorothy Parker Award of Excellence and was designated a Favorite Book of the Year by Romance Writers of America. Wiggs belongs to the Authors Guild, Romance Writers of America and Novelists, Inc. She is often interviewed in the media on the topic of writing popular novels for today’s women, having appeared on Talk of the Nation and in the Seattle Times and Portland Tribune. Her blog, “The View from Here,” (susanwiggs.wordpress.com) is filled with her photos and observations and was featured in Publishers Weekly. It has quickly turned into a huge hit with readers.

When she’s not writing, Susan can likely be found hiking with her dog, Barkis, listening to music, seeing the world, reading books and doing what she calls “extreme crafts”—Fair Isle knitting, impossible faux-finish paint projects, furniture refinishing and upholstery.

Susan lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and family. Her lively Web site can be found at www.susanwiggs.com.

5 comments:

Sandy Nawrot said...

This is one of those situations where I would say that historical romance is waaaaay down on my list. That being said, I do love the Outlander series, which probably falls in that category. Just a reminder that I really need to get out of my comfort zone.

bermudaonion said...

Wow, I'm jealous that you scored such a great guest post! I think the first thing that grabs me about a book is the storyline, but I have to admit I'm a sucker for a great cover, too. I know that's shallow, but it's true.

pareynolds26 said...

I too am an omnivore...I love to read it all!!I am never without a book to read, they are my escape and relaxation!
Susan I am not sure which of your books I read first-Lakeside Cottage or Table for 5...but I love all of your books Charm School and Horse Master's Daughter loved them as well. I find that I find an author I like and read all of the author's work.

susanwiggs said...

I am nodding my head along with all these comments. Like Sandy, I adore the OUTLANDER books. Such a glorious series. BermudaOnion - I DO select books based on cover art. Not always, but sometimes the art just draws me in. Which is crazy since the author had nothing to do with it! It's a publisher's talent to find the right look and tone. And I would be happy to guest-post with you anytime! Blogging is easy. Novels are hard! And PA...I follow my favorite authors from genre to genre, although an extreme switch, like from Regency romance to steampunk might throw me off!

Nikki said...

Hi Susan! LOVE your books!

I'm a big fan of historicals and I find I gravitate towards anything European. I started reading romance because I was having a difficult time finding good historical fiction and then got hooked on the character driven plots and HEAs. I like being swept away into another time and place. I have my own modern love story, so contempories have a hard time matching up! lol

I have my authors that I buy without ever reading the blurb on the back, and I'm very visual, so covers play a huge role in attracting me to a book. I'm usually shopping with an uber- wiggly 2 yr old, so I've learned to grab books and toss them in the cart quickly by scanning for keywords such as highlander, duke, and the like.

What a great post! Really got me thinking!