Welcome to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with fiction author and poet Susan Shevlane. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Sue. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Sue: Hi Morgen. I am a mother of six children & have thirteen grandchildren, who usually refer to me as ‘crazy nana’ as I do tend to mishear things, forget where I put my glasses or dance to music I like in the supermarket. I live in Nottingham in the midlands of England, and have been writing for as long as I can remember. As a child I would fill exercise books with the adventures of a girl called Victoria, who I imagined doing all the things I could only dream about. I would also write poetry as I could write about things I could not express verbally. This is a trait I carry till this day, I seem unable to tell people how I feel, the words just will not come out my mouth. But I can write it in verse or make a story about a third person to express what I feel.
Morgen: ‘crazy nana’, I love that. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Sue: I write fiction, but I tend to call it ‘Philosophical Fiction’ as if you read between the lines, most of my work has a message about what is going on in the world today. I do a great deal of research about different topics, then weave a fictitious story around it and add a bit of adventure, and hopefully it will make the reader think about real life facts.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Sue: Apart from my book ‘Through Crystal Clear Waters’ which is my first novel, I have written articles for a website (Helium), usually under the heading of philosophy or theology; I was once a reporter on a local newspaper, covering events, cultures, special interest stories & the city policing. I write under my own name apart from when I did the stars for the newspaper, and used the name ‘Chiane’ which strangely, is also the name of the main character in my book (no surprise there!). I have also had my poetry published.
Morgen: You’ve self-published, what lead to you going your own way?
Sue: When the manuscript was all but a few months complete, I set about looking for a publisher, I checked out a few traditional publishers, but the waiting game did not look as if I would be able to attain my deadline of June 2012 to release the book. I settled on a big name Traditional / POD publisher in the USA, who was very enthusiastic about the manuscript. I was over in the States when I finished the draft, and sat waiting for the yes or no to go ahead before returning to the UK. They kept me waiting for around six weeks, then the day I was due to fly home, they came back with an emphatic yes, but there was a catch… They wanted me to pay over $11,000, I wasn’t expecting that, I thought their name was reputable, but after checking around, I found this was a common practice, so I soon showed them the door. On returning home, my son told me to try Amazon, and I have not looked back since. To get the book into paperback only cost me a tiny fraction of what I was asked for before, they are on hand every step of the way, and my book was released on the 3rd May 2012, well before my deadline.
Morgen: Are your books available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Sue: Yes, Amazon’s Createspace converted the book for Amazon Kindle Select, so that process was all done for me. I myself do not own a kindle, and I am not that technically minded, but I do want to join the eBook crew, as I am finding it very hard to find space for all my physical books. When I move house they tend to stay packed in boxes, then there is a frantic time trying to find the one I want, so I definitely will get a kindle or iPad, it is the way forward.
Morgen: What / who do you read?
Sue: I love to read the classics, Jane Eyre being my favourite since a girl. I also enjoy books by James Redfield, who seems to have a similar mindset to myself.
Morgen: I did Jane Eyre at school and loved it (although I’m not a classics fan – we also did Macbeth, which I also loved; hence why I write ‘dark’). 🙂 I’ve not heard of James Redfield. An author to explore. Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Sue: As the main character of my book is semi-autobiographical, I would have to say the character of ‘Dusty’ is my favourite, as he is based on my brother, whom I only met for the first time four years ago, (but that is a story of its own!!) He was very inspirational for me, making me remember the girl I was and what I wanted to do. He lives over in Texas, and provided me with the means to finish my book, by encouragement and setting up an office in his house. He took me to research my cultural links, three years ago in the Yucatan to speak to Mayans, and last year came with me when I met the Cherokee Elders. Life with my brother is an adventure in itself, and from the feedback of some of the female book reviewers, he is getting himself quite a fan club, which is really good, as the next book holds a lot more adventures for Dusty. If a film were to be made, it would have to be after the release of the second book, as the first one sets the scene for an adventure packed second book. People, who have read Through Crystal Clear Waters, liken it to an Indiana Jones type of adventure, and I have had several reviews describing Dusty as Indiana, and Chiane as either Lara Croft or Jessica Fletcher. So something along those lines, but with middle aged main characters would be an absolute dream come true.
Morgen: Lara Croft or Jessica Fletcher – wow, there’s a contrast. Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Sue: The title was in place long before the manuscript was complete, as to the cover, it is all my own design. I submitted my design, which I made form three pictures merged into one, to capture the essence of the book, Amazon designers also did a cover, which was ok, but it didn’t portray what I wanted, so I stuck with my own design.
Morgen: It’s a great cover. I don’t blame you for sticking with your own. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Sue: I have started on the second (follow on) book. I also am gathering information & ideas for a spin-off of the two books, which will be about the 13 planets referred to in the first book. I am also compiling my poetry for an eBook.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Sue: I try to do some basics, even if it’s only brainstorming, or setting plots. At the moment it is hard as I am trying to market the first book, which is a full time job of its own. I do suffer from writer’s block sometimes, when real life fills my brain. When this happens I take myself off, sometimes for a few months, to a relaxing place, far away from the maddening crowd, and then there is no stopping me, I just get stuck in.
Morgen: <laughs> I’m the same when I get going (usually for NaNoWriMo). Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Sue: I do several drafts, but basically it is just fine-tuning, or just deciding what’s needed & what’s not.
Morgen: Do you have to do much research?
Sue: I think I do as much research as writing, I can get obsessed with research, as when you find out one thing it leads to so much more to discover.
Morgen: Turning to your poetry for a moment, do you write to form or as it comes? If to form, what are your favourites? Are some easier than others?
Sue: I usually write as it comes, I can find poem or verse in any topic, and when something springs to mind, I have to stop what I’m doing to jot it down on any paper available. I write about things that have deep meanings or feelings in life today and sometimes quite political. I do not use fancy or flowery descriptions, as I believe good work comes from hard facts of life. Myself as a person, find it hard to say the things I feel, but have no problem what-so-ever in writing it down as poetry. My inspiration comes from events I have experienced, things I see that move me, along with my life & political beliefs. All in all if I think the world needs a message about a subject, I will put it in verse. Sometimes I put it down in a straight forward way (as it is) other times I will weave a story around the message, a sort of cryptic clue to its meaning. I have been known to scribble a poem down on tissue paper, whilst pushing the pram to the post office, because I pass a house on the way that has a story attached to it! Or I get up from my bed in the night and jot something down that has just ran through my head, fearing I may forget it by the morning.
Morgen: Do you generally write rhyming or free verse?
Sue: I do tend to rhyme quite a lot, but like to vary styles, it all depends on my mood, and what I want to express. My poetry does not follow a set pattern of lines and tempo, but most has rhyme in it somewhere.
Morgen: Do you enter poetry competitions? Are there any you could recommend?
Sue: I entered only one competition, back in 1997, which resulted in the poem being published in the International Library of Poetry. I was given an ‘Editors Choice Award’ & nominated for an award in New York, which I wasn’t able to attend, as the children were young. I am not too sure I could recommend any, as I think most competitions are geared to feed the writers ego, rather than get you noticed as a poet.
Morgen: I guess any form of success doesn’t look bad on a CV. Do you go to poetry slams?
Sue: To be quite honest, I have not heard of poetry slams, but they sound quite intriguing.
Morgen: Do you think eBooks will change poetry? If so, how?
Sue: I do believe eBooks could be a lifesaver for poetry, as it will make it more accessible for everyone, and make things easier for poets to get their work out, without the expense of producing a physical copy.
Morgen: I agree. Do you have a favourite of your poems or topic to write about?
Sue: There are some I like better than others, but do not have a definite favourite. I do tend to write a lot of political stuff, but I find inspiration for a topic from just about anything.
Morgen: Presumably you choose the titles of your poems – do you get to keep them or are you ever overridden?
Sue: I will be able to tell you that when my poetry book comes out as eBook, but I do not foresee a problem. Some of my poems have not got any titles, so I will have to work on them. I don’t think it is something you automatically do when composing, but will title each one for the book.
Morgen: Do you show / read your poems to anyone before you submit?
Sue: I show some (not all) to my daughters, who are my biggest fans. I also encourage them to write as well, and have some combined works with them.
Morgen: Why do you think poetry is such a difficult market to break into?
Sue: I think it may be considered old fashioned, the modern way to market poetry is through ‘rap’ or song. Maybe we have not been encouraged in our schooling to read poetry. I remember when I was at secondary school. We were made to read poetry as a PUNISHMENT! This did not deter me, from brushing my hair or eating in class, as I loved poetry.
Morgen: Are there any tips you could give to someone wishing to write poetry?
Sue: Poetry is something that comes from the heart, it is not something you choose to do, rather is something you are compelled to do. Most poets don’t worry about who sees their work, but if you do want to make it public, post them one at a time on a poetry website or network, where you will get an appreciative audience.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing of your poems or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Sue: I never edit my poetry, I just go with the flow.
Morgen: I used to write a lot of 60-word stories and found the more I wrote the closer they came out to the word count. It’s obviously not a direct comparison but do you find your poems come out at similar lengths, or do they really vary.
Sue: My poems vary quite a lot, from 3 x 3 liners, or a traditional 4 liner in varied lengths to an almost epic couple of 7 liners. Some are almost like songs with a chorus, but I think my longest fills two pages, most would fit nicely onto a standard book page.
Morgen: What advice would you give aspiring poets?
Sue: Keep on composing, you know you have to!
Morgen: 🙂 Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Sue: I think every writer, has work in the closet, some things are just personal, not written for public view, some work done not deemed good enough for the world to see. But who knows, one day they might see the light of day!
Morgen: I feel like that about my older short stories. I now have the experience to whip them into shape. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Sue: When I first began submitting to publishers (several years ago) I had a few rejections, but I took on board any criticism, and cut my cloth accordingly. I do respect corrective criticism, and use it as a learning curve. I believe it is not just about the writing, but is equally about what people enjoy reading.
Morgen: Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Sue: I do not have an agent, but if I could afford one I would, as it would free up a lot more time (and brain space) for writing.
Morgen: Time you currently use for marketing perhaps. How much marketing do you do?
Sue: It is very much trial and error with marketing. When we first embark on publishing a book, once it is complete, we think that is it, on to the next. But that could not be further from the truth, and I personally was not prepared for this whole new world of marketing & promotion. I am trying my best, but it is one step at a time and something that is very much needed before going on to a second project.
Morgen: What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Sue: The most surprising (even amazing) thing was even when writing fiction, as I went out to do research; I found some purely fictitious ideas were grounded in reality, the crazy became sane. Things I had loved and believed in all my life suddenly became achievable. I had one moment, whilst in my kitchen, I looked at pictures I had on my wall, and had to immediately phone my daughter, to tell her “The writings on the wall”, everything I was writing about was there in pictures, and I had not noticed it before. This led me to think this is meant to be.
Morgen: 🙂 What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Sue: Follow your dreams and never give up.
Morgen: Absolutely. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Sue: Que Sera Sera
Morgen: And a great song from… oh wow, Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much. I’d never have guessed that. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Sue: Family time and travel. When I was younger there were a lot more things, but as I get older, the children & grandchildren are where my time is spent and enjoyment gained, when I am not writing.
Morgen: Are you on any forums or networking sites?
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Sue: Reading a good story will never go out of fashion, but it is a big arena, with many players, so it is not easy. But if that is what you love doing, it is worth the hard work.
Morgen: Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Sue: My website http://www.through-crystal-clear-waters.oneuk.com.
anything else is a work in progress. I can also be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Morgen: Thank you for joining me today, Sue.
I then invited Sue to include an extract of her writing and this is from chapter 16…
On the way back, Dusty told me of his concerns about Ben, saying something was not quite right, Ben was acting out of character, obsessed with finding the crystal, not even bothered about the find under the pyramid. He spoke of his time alone with Ben, prior to reaching the chamber, of how he had asked him, where along the passage had he found the parchment? But Ben could not tell him, saying he had forgot the exact location, Dusty said he had checked the whole passage on his way in and out when working with Ben, and had found no such alcove that could have concealed the parchment. He had also asked Ben, who had sponsored the dig? Who was paying him? And again Ben was allusive, becoming angry with Dusty, saying why all the questions?
Dusty could see no reason why Ben’s sponsors had to be a secret or the fact that any archaeologist would ‘forget’ where he had found an important parchment, and not be interested in the cache he had found. He could however understand the need to keep the existence of the parchment secret, at least until finding the crystal, but not the edgy fear for his life Ben seemed to have.
I expressed my disappointment at not finding the crystal, as it would have much more cultural interest than even the artefacts found, and was a mystery. But I had enjoyed the whole experience.
Dusty was not his usual jovial self, telling me, “See what you think when Ben comes back, I don’t trust him, something is wrong in all of this!” We made some coffee, and sat smoking and chatting about the wall painting and artefacts till Ben returned.
Dusk was setting in when Ben came back to the camp, he was in a foul mood, cussing and pacing up and down, making statements of ‘That’s it, my life is over!’ and ‘How can I justify not finding the crystal!’ Dusty and I looked at each other, justify to whom? Ben seemed to go completely crazy; Dusty couldn’t even calm him down.
and a synopsis of her book…
A woman in her late fifties, Chiane, who has had precognitive dreams since abandoned at birth, embarks on a journey to the Caribbean. Having no ancestral roots of her own, she has spent a lifetime trying to discover who she really is, despite overcoming all the many obstacles life has thrown at her.
Guided by her dreamtime mentor/ spirit guide, ‘Izacal’, she lands for a one month stay in Jamaica. On the second day there, she meets up with the great-great grandson of Izacal, who takes her on mystical journeys to discover past, present and future revelations of mankind, events are about to mystically change her life.
She travels to Mexico, accompanied by an old friend, Dusty, a well known archaeologist, find an artefact that holds the secret of the 5th Mayan calendar, and the truth about 2012. They are kidnapped by a drugs cartel, escape and return to the States. The next adventure is to find where to take this precious artefact, which leads the two friends on a journey with the Cherokee across the Indian Territories of North America. Chiane finds out who she really is, and discovers her destiny!
This fictional story blurs the edges of fact and fiction, taking the reader on a soul searching, adventurous, educational journey.
And finally one of her poems…
He’s a man
Every day he’s screaming.
But no one ever hears.
He must be strong.
So no one sees his tears.
At night he dreams.
Of a life that may never be.
Of an ideal life.
That in a sense he may be free.
He has this feeling.
That life is passing him by.
His lifespan creeping.
Towards the day he’ll die.
What’s there in between.
The cradle and the grave.
But to work and to struggle
To scrimp and to save.
He’s been a provider
Put a roof over their head
Fought all there battles
And kept them well fed
But do they appreciate
Just what he has done
Or do they ever realise
His life was no fun
No, they just criticised
They took all and ran
Their eyes were shut tight
To the fact; – he’s a man
For it is far too easy
To take for granted what’s there
Look at the husband and father
And tell him – you care
Susan D Shevlane born in 1953 is the mother of 6 children, living in the Midlands in England, also spending time in Texas with her brother, using the tranquil setting to write.
Writing poetry and short stories from an early age, Susan has been published in the International Library of poetry, gained an Editor’s Choice award and was nominated for a poetry award in New York. Susan writes articles on a writer’s website on topics such as Humanities, Religion & Philosophy and has had success with her poetry; she has spent time as a journalist on a community newspaper, “The Inner Nottingham Gazette”. Having had many articles published about local events, cultural diversities, politics and stories about people from all aspects of life, Susan is launching her first novel after being encouraged to do so from people familiar with her work.
“I am sure we are going to see more work evolving from this talented Author.” Paul C Hackett project specialist
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