Where Writers And Authors Meet Interviews:
Susan Mihalic was our Featured Spotlight author on the week of November 4th and visitors were encouraged to ask Susan some of their own questions! Here is a link to that Spotlight! Feel free to ask more questions, and we might just be able to get Susan back for a follow up interview!
That’s an impressive curriculum! When writing do you find yourself editing as you go or do you manage to resist until the first draft is finished? You mentioned you try to stick to a writing schedule of an hour a day. Do you have a special place you write from each session or do you change location? e.g. always in your home office or do you take your laptop out and about. What, for you, is the best thing about being a writer?
Answer: Jo, thank you for asking such thoughtful questions.
I can’t altogether resist editing when I’m working on a first draft, but I try not to let it get in the way of writing. I know that finishing the first draft is only the beginning and that exhaustive rounds of revision, rewriting, and editing await, but if a scene doesn’t work at all, I can’t leave it alone until it’s at least somewhat functional. Then I can move on to the next scene.
The hour-a-day schedule was just how I established my schedule initially. I usually write longer than that, and occasionally I put in less time. I used to think that unless I had an immense block of time stretching before me, I couldn’t possibly write, but I’ve learned that I can work in shorter bursts, although I love marathon writing sessions.
Sometimes I work in my studio (I refuse to call it an office because “studio” feels more creative), and sometimes I work in bed. Writing in bed started when I was working on the first draft of DARK HORSES, and sitting at a desk made me feel so restricted that the feeling translated into the writing. As I became more tightly wound, I became less able to write my way through difficult scenes. I started second-guessing myself—which is not the thing to do in a first draft. So, I moved to the bed, and somehow it freed me to be looser in my approach to the work. I don’t usually work in a public place, such as a café; I can make notes or do writing exercises anywhere, but when I’m working on the manuscript itself, I need solitude.
For me, the best thing about being a writer is that I have entire worlds in my head, populated by flawed characters with whom I love spending time. I’ve heard that in dream interpretation, every person in your dreams represents a part of you. I think this is true of the characters a writer creates. I love putting on my protagonist’s skin and seeing the world through her eyes.
I like the diversity in your career, and the way it is quietly threaded together. I would love to work that prison gig for a semester!
Answer: Melanie, “diversity in your career” is so much more tactful than how I usually think of it: “my checkered career history.” The prison workshop was very short-term, only a couple of sessions, but it was memorable. The head of social services said he and his staff had learned more about the inmates from the workshop than they’d learned about them in hours of counseling sessions.
What was your first story about (the one you wrote when you were 5)? With your day job, editing work and an hour writing a day – do you have time for any hobbies or relaxing?! How do you go about looking for agent for your books?
Answer: Hazel, the first story I wrote was about a baby squirrel that fell out of its nest and was rescued. Riveting stuff, huh?
Balance is something I struggle with, so I’m not a good example of someone who leads a balanced life. I ride horses and enjoy photography, but I have trouble relaxing; part of my mind is always working. In 2010, I found myself in the ER with pneumonia and masses of blood clots in both lungs—and in the manuscript I was editing at the time, I had a character who’d broken a rib. I turned to my partner and said, “You know that scene where she breaks her rib? She needs to be in a lot more pain.”
Finding an agent is a rollercoaster ride, and not in a whee-put-your-hands-in-the-air kind of way. I signed up for Writer’s Relief’s a la carte service. I filled out a questionnaire about my manuscript and provided them with a summary (and sample pages, I think), and using that information, they sent me a targeted list of agents.
A note: If you use a service such as Writer’s Relief, crosscheck the contact information they send you and the preferred method of submission by visiting each agency’s website before you submit your work.
What are your personal pet peeves when editing a manuscript?
Asked by Stephen Ward
1. I find your career path to be intriguing. Has it been satisfying?
Answer: 1. Yes, it’s been satisfying, if a bit unorthodox.
2. How’s the luck in getting an agent?
I’m still looking!
3. Dark Horses makes me think of a bunch of hapless junkies, but that’s just me. What is it about.
A bunch of hapless junkies. Just kidding. It’s about an equestrian prodigy who is completely controlled by her father, who is also her trainer and coach.
4. Could you give me a clear definition of erotica vs. porn.
I define erotica as written and porn as visual, but those are just my distinctions.
5. I have my own thoughts about indie “writers” using an editor, but what exactly do you do as an editor? Is it all misspelling and grammatical errors or do you dig into uprooting plot holes and the like? I have a reputation for asking, shall we ay, bizarre questions and Virginia would never forgive me if I didn’t ask you a few of those. (From The Admin: No Comment)
As an editor, I do both a content edit and a copyedit. Some clients will come back to me for a copyedit after I’ve done a content edit, but with some of them I have only one shot, so I try to be as comprehensive as possible. The content edit includes spotting plot holes and suggesting possibilities for ways to plug them. I look at the story arc and how the characters are drawn. (I’m big on complex characters; no one is all good or all bad.) Editing is satisfying in so many ways. I really do want to help the writer make the work the best it can be, but I’m not invested in my editorial suggestions; every decision is up to the writer.
6. Will you marry me?
I’m not the marrying kind, but thank you.
7. Does everyone you meet fall in love with you?
Oh, no. Far from it.
8. Are you afraid Janet Evanovich out of jealous will have you done away with?
Janet Evanovich doesn’t have a thing to worry about.
9. When one of your books gets made into a movie, can I play the gruff, but caring bartender that hands out sage advice?
Sadly, I don’t have a gruff but wise and caring bartender in any of my work.
10. Will you marry me?
Still not the marrying kind, but thank you again.
From Admin Virginia- I enjoyed reading your answers Susan! It was an awesome way to get to know you!
- Come Ask Susan Mihalic Some Questions (wherewritersandauthorsmeet.wordpress.com)