SUSAN WINGATE’s poem entitled “The Dance of Wind in Trees” appeared in the April 2013 issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review. Her award-winning, Amazon best seller, DROWNING is now available in audio book version and book one, SPIDER BRAINS, of her 3-Book “Susie Speider” YA Series is Available Now (Astraea Press). In 2012, two of Susan’s books made it onto the Top 10 Amazon Best Seller list, twice. DROWNING (contemporary women’s fiction) won 1st place in the 2011 Forward National Literature Award for the category of Drama. DROWNING also won a finalist award for the category of Women’s Fiction/Chick Lit in the 2011 International Book Awards and reached #1 on the Amazon’s Best Seller list. A vibrant public speaker, Susan offers inspiring, motivational talks about the craft of writing, publishing and marketing, and how to survive this extremely volatile ePublishing industry. She presents these lectures at writing conferences, libraries and book stores around the country. She also loves to visit with book clubs for more intimate chats.
Thank you for joining us at Scribbler’s today, Susan.
What is your book about?
SPIDER BRAINS is a story of a high school nerd, Susie Speider, who transforms into something amazing.
What character or person inspired the creation of Susie Speider?
I can’t remember this poor girl’s name but someone who used to wander the halls of high school, back in the day, at my high school in Phoenix. That school has since closed and is just a memory now. Although I did see they had a thirty year reunion. They posted the photos on Facebook.
Is it difficult to incorporate romance when you may have to censor because the book is targeted to a specific age group?
Not at all. This questions goes to the issue of knowing your character inside and out. The age of the protagonist and her background, her experiences in life don’t allow her to get into situations that might be inappropriate at her age. Although Susie is a very smart fifteen year old, she’s mostly naïve, as one will see when they read SPIDER BRAINS.
How deeply do you flesh out your characters before sitting down to write?
Mostly, they know me and wheedle their way out to the crosshairs of my sight. After they step out onto center stage, I ask them questions, like this interview is asking me questions. Some questions go so deep that I can build an entire short story out of them. That’s when I know I’m getting somewhere. I also write out checklists and review them before writing each day.
Which secondary character was your favorite to write?
I think Tanya, which is pronounced Tănya, not Tonya. Although her part is small, she’s an awesome juxtaposition for Susie. I think Tănya’s agent wants her to have a main role. J
When brainstorming an idea do you begin with character or plot?
Character. Always. If you don’t know the character, how can you know the plot. Plot is character. The storyline follows the character’s thoughts and actions, her hopes and dreams.
Would you share an excerpt from Spider Brains?
Love to! This is excerpt is Chapter Two of SPIDER BRAINS, where we see Susie after her transformation into a spider.
TWO – Transformation & Invasion
The air felt crisp and rustled my spiky leg hairs as Delilah galloped along the streets, me hanging onto her like a cowboy holding onto the reigns of his trusty steed. Finally, we reached Morlson’s home.
Delilah jumped up high to the dumpster there behind Morlson’s bedroom window. Then she launched herself, I nearly fell off but a spear of silk shot out, like, automatically, and attached itself to her ear. Delilah caught the edge of the fire escape ladder, me hanging off as if I were the next great Flying Wallenda!
But. Are you hearing what Delilah did? I mean, she got up to the ladder! That’s amazing. Azin’ amazin’!
Cats astonish me. They can get anywhere they want.
Without silk rope to do it!
Still, I had turned into this black hairy-headed, lanky, spiky black body-suit-wearing, wall-climbing dynamo! I could hear and see and feel and taste and smell and sense every miniscule thing around me. But, even though it was me, it wasn’t, ‘cause I had shrunk to the size of a nickel! It was as if I had become some ultra-athletic gravity-defiant whiz of a teenager who could leap and scurry and had the strength of fifty teenagers all bundled up into one, me, the magnificent, you guessed it…
The soft distinct cadence of a saxophone hung loose in the night, like someone dancing under the stars the way mom and dad used to, on top of their roof, listening, perhaps to John Coltrane… possibly the greatest, most incredible sax player out there! I nearly forgot the task at hand when pussy hiked her way to the top of the ladder, like a lion scaling the side of a mountain.
Then there we were. On the landing. Outside Morlson’s.
Holy Fish Lips!
And, there she was, fish lips, lugging around inside her apartment, vacuuming, hair in curlers, SMOKING a longer than normal brown cigarette, like something a Frenchman might smoke.
Every so often she stopped, took a puff, drawing the cloudy air into her lungs and holding it. When she couldn’t hold it any longer, she’d open her lips into a big round circle and poke out a series of wobbly smoke rings, like, thirteen of them! Ghastly. The rank odor wafted its way through the window where me and pussy watched. I coughed a tiny little spider cough and pussy sneezed. Morlson turned to the window although the vacuum cleaner still sputtered away.
We ducked lower than the sill to avoid being found out.
When we resumed our position, Morlson’s cigarette hung off her lower lip, all slack, like.
Her level of toadiness just ratcheted up about four trillion notches on the scale of toadiness.
“Wait here, pussy.”
Delilah sat and began washing her face with her hands. I knew I’d best be moving to avoid being washed off her ear and into her kitty mouth. Horrors of horrors.
I crawled up the front of her brownstone and in through the window where we’d been staring at the QUEEN OF TOADS.
Everything felt so incredible as if my entire body could sense every tiny fissure of the hard red clay of the brick wall. Every microscopic sensory nerve ending seemed to be on high alert, like how ex-President George W. Bush was with the Iraqis and the Afghans.
Like… when in trouble, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout! A bit high-strung. That was me that first time out as Susi Arachnid.
After slipping through the crack in Morlson’s window, I ventured down the wall onto her baseboard and waited for her to stop vacuuming. She was heading through her bedroom door and into the larger expanse of the apartment.
Looking around the room, the colors of her furniture, her shag carpeting, her linens, and the wall paint exhibited tones in varying shades of cigarette ashy-ness. As I was focusing on the boring qualities in her home, she lumbered back into the room withOUT the vacuum cleaner. And, this time, instead, with a glass of whiskey, it looked like to me. The cigarette had been puffed down to a mere inch from its butt and looked as if she were going to get all of its worth out as she pinched it nearly flat between her thumb and index finger, the way I’d seen some of the stonies at school do with their cigarettes.
I wondered, right then and there, if they made teeny spider-sized cameras that I might snap a pic or two of our lovely teacher so that I might plaster them all over Facebook, MySpace and Twitter! Te he! Wouldn’t that be funny?
Definitely the stuff of losing votes for Teacher of the Year Award! W00T. And, just as I had begun to fantasize about all the possibilities of inventing a camera for spiders, she plopped into bed, adjusting the pillows behind her like the back of a chair, picked up the remote, turned on Biggest Loser, tapped out another ciggie and began to down her cocktail of choice.
It was a sight to behold. Stunning.
As she watched TV, every minute or so she’d utter, “Mmm. Mmm. Mmm,” in diminishing chords, and wipe a tear from her reddened eyes. After about three times of her doing this I simply got fed up with her, and, if a spider can roll all four eyes together? I did.
I’d had enough.
She deserved a great big smack down.
Do you have a particular daily writing schedule or process you stick to?
Yes. I get up early, usually by 6:30 in the morning and after I get my cup of tea, I sit down to write. I take my career seriously. I work a good eight hour stint and then by the time my husband gets home from work, I can stop and enjoy our family life.
How did you connect with your agent/editor?
Fortunately, a friend of mine, Anthony Flacco, read my second novel “Bobby’s Diner” and liked it so much that he referred me to his entertainment lawyer, who also represents writers’ work.
What Author has had the greatest influence on your writing?
This is always such a difficult questions because there are so many amazing authors out there who have influenced my writing. I’d have to say a combination of three—Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe and Kurt Vonnegut. Although I now have to add one more, Leo Tolstoy to that list. “Just reading Anna Karenina is like a lesson in writing.”
What was the best piece of writing advice you have ever received?
Sit and write.
If you could sit down to dinner with any of your favorite fictional character’s whom would it be?
That’s easy, Kilgore Trout, Kurt Vonnegut’s main character in “Breakfast of Champions.” He’s a hoot.
One by Isaac Asimov, “If the doctor gave me only six minutes to live, I’d type a little faster.”
Go to snack while writing?
Chips and salsa.
Do you have a sure fire method of dealing with writers’ block?
I write something else. I walk my dog Robert and I sit and pray. No lie. I pray all the time. When our hearts are anchored in our faith, we can go forward into the world with peace. I pray. I walk. I write. Not always in that order.
Can you share what project is coming up next for you?
I have to complete the next two books in the Susie Speider Series for my publisher Astraea Press. Those books are titled “Ant Brains” and “Chicken Brains.” But I’m currently working on a special story called “Way of the Wild Wood.” It’s a story about a young girl, eleven years old, who, after her mother dies, gets lost in the woods.
What is the strangest characteristic about yourself? (that you are willing to share)?
I think this is a better question for my husband. He’d tell you! LOL. But sitting here thinking I can’t see one strange thing about me. That must mean I’m pretty darned perfect and, of course, normal. What is normal, anyway? I don’t think I’ve come upon it in my life. Okay. I’ll answer it. I’m as close to normal as one can get. That makes me peri-normal, right?
What one piece of advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
Don’t listen to anything negative about our industry. Keep your blinders tight to your temples and focus only on the page, your story and the character. Sit and write and don’t get up until you’re done.
Thank you for joining us today at Scribbler’s, Susan.
To keep up with Susan check out:
Official Website: http://www.susanwingate.com
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/authorsusanwingate
Twitter Page: http://www.twitter.com/susanwingate
To purchase your own copy of Spider Brains:
Amazon Book Link: http://amzn.to/12ue1FV
All Books Amazon Page: http://bit.ly/xg3P4P