LifeOfWriters.com have had the pleasure of interviewing Indie Author Susan May and reading her newest thriller Deadly Messengers.
Susan May has written dozens of stories and novellas many of them published in USA, Australia and UK.
First I would like to congratulate you on your new book Deadly Messengers. Read the review here
Thank you and thank you very much for having me on The Writer’s Life site. I really appreciate it.
-How did you come up with the idea and characters in your book?
I’d just finished Back Again my time travel novel, and I’d really enjoyed being inside the head of the antagonist, Kylie. She was an anti-hero really, not an evil person. So, I thought, what about a story where I could jump inside the head of really bad people, mass killers, and not just one, but multiples. In the end, I managed to get six mass killers’ viewpoints into DEADLY MESSENGERS.
I’m a panster (fly by the seat of your pants, no plotting), so I just started with the opening scene and went from there. My muse, whoever the heck they are is very kind to me. They always give me characters to play with that perfectly suit the story. I don’t know the characters when they arrive, but I listen to them carefully, and begin to get to know them as we travel through the story. For me, writing a story is like following behind characters and eavesdropping, then writing it down as quickly as I can. So the whole story, like all my stories, started with a simple idea and went from there at a hundred miles an hour.
-Do you plan before you start writing?
Nope, I never plan and I never plot. Everything is organic. It’s scary sometimes and I usually approach each day, where I’m not sure what happens next, with some trepidation. However, after years of writing like this, I’m growing accustomed to that feeling and I push on anyway. If it turns out to be rubbish, I can always edit it later. You can’t edit an empty page. Key for me, is to just keep pushing forward.
-How many times did you edit your book?
This book took my usual process. A throw-it-on-the-page draft, which took 27 days to get 74,893 words down. Then three edit passes after that. Then off to the editor, who pulls and pushes at it for a few weeks, then back to me to read through the whole thing and work with her edits. A little rewriting, but not much. I never have to change anything structurally. Just rework sentences at this stage and fix inconsistencies and typos. Sixth draft is where I almost get to read it like a reader, so not line by line, but reading. This took me 9 days still. (I’m a mom on the side and a film critic (or visa versa, I’m a writer on the side—it gets muddled.) From my early readers’ feedback, there’s also been minor fixes and typos. Ultimately, it’s one draft, five edits.
-Do you have any writing habits?
I try and write every day when I’m writing or editing. I work with a spreadsheet that tells me how many words I need to write to get to the goal of the book’s finish date. I’m on track to publish a minimum of two books a year and probably three, so I have to turn up regularly or it just doesn’t get done. One of the things you do find when you build a habit, is that you want to write. When I don’t write, I get really itchy to be back in a story and banking those words daily. Presently, I’m doing promotions for Deadly Messengers, and I haven’t been able to get to the second edits of my next book The Troubles Keeper, a supernatural thriller. It’s been amazing to connect with all the readers, but downside is I’m not getting my writing done. However, it’s important to be among readers, so I don’t beat myself up too much. Promotion is also part of the writing process for an indie author.
-Describe a typical writing day.
I work from home, so I’m lucky. You would think my time is my own, but I do have a very busy mom life with two boys, aged 13 and 15. I’m in the taxi-service stage. I’m also a film critic, so I’m out at cinemas on average 3 times a week, then I have to write the reviews and I do a weekly film spot on a local radio station. Always seems to be hours of emails to answer. So I kind of have a job. It amounts to around 170 films on screen a year.
Anyway, I like to have a clear mind not worrying about the things I need to do. I get all my emails and chores out of the way in the morning, and then try and squeeze in an hour to two hours during the day before I pick up the kids. After they’re home, I can’t get much work done. However, I steal time everywhere. If I’m waiting for my son at soccer practice or at a school sports carnival or waiting at the dentist, I have my laptop and I work. When you’re banking words on a daily basis, every minute counts. I’ve taught myself to write anywhere and for any length of time. I can be chatting to someone at a noisy swimming carnival, then put my head down and write, then stop five minutes later if I’m interrupted. It’s what you do if you’re determined. Steal time, from everywhere.
-Are you working on your next book now?
Yes, I am. I’m always working on the next book. The draft is done and I’m halfway through 2nd edits. It’s a supernatural story about a bus driver Rory Fine who has the gift of taking people’s troubles away with a touch. Sounds great, right? It’s a great gift, until he unwittingly takes the troubles of a terrifying serial killer—a serial killer who has set his sights on our hero’s love. He must discover the killer’s identity and stop him before he strikes again and takes Rory’s girlfriend.
-Do you have any writing advice?
Yes, it’s very simple. You can do it, no matter what stage you are at in the process. You can write a book or short stories or whatever you want to do. The big secret to writing is to just read, write, repeat. Get into a habit of writing something every day until it’s in your blood. Then you’ll turn around one day and discover your holding a book in your hands with your name on the cover. Believe me, it’s worth the journey.
Have you read any of Susan May's book or do you have a question for her? Leave a comment below.