Monday, April 07, 2008
Make-Believe Mondays With Susan Lyons
Today on Make-Believe Mondays I'm pleased to introduce Susan Lyons.
Susan, first, tell us a little bit about the manuscript you’re working on now.
Susan: I’m working on three projects – all very spicy, and none of which has been contracted yet. (So if you know of an editor who’d be interested, be sure to let me and my agent know!) One’s called Wild Ride, and is a 3-novella sexy anthology about three single sisters traveling home to their baby sister’s wedding. Each meets a guy on the way and has a wild ride – one by plane, one by train, and one by battered van – and finds love on the journey.
The second is Red Garters, a 3-book series set in gold rush days. The minister of a boom town decides to import marriageable young women (i.e., brides), hoping to civilize the miners, but three of the girls aren’t exactly the sweet innocents he had in mind.
In the third project, Going Down, the heroine, who comes from a background of poverty and neglect, has reinvented herself and is working her way up the management ladder in a ritzy hotel chain – so she accepts a job in Whistler (the ski resort) even though she hates winter sports. There, she’s torn between two men. One’s wealthy and successful and seems a perfect match for her reinvented self. The other’s a ski instructor who encourages her to come to terms with her past, to play, and to take risks – on the ski slope and with her heart.
Debra: I certainly will. They all sound intriguing.
Ray Bradbury said, “We are cups, constantly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.” How do you keep your creative cup filled?
Susan: I do all the usual things such as brainstorming, chatting with friends, reading, watching movies and TV, going some place different, listening to music. But the most important aspect for me is, I need to keep my imagination/muse alive. This is hard to explain, but it seems like my brain can work in one of two ways. Maybe that’s because I have a very logical, analytical side as well as a creative side. Anyhow, when I’m in one frame of mind, I’m practical and efficient; when I’m in the other, I’m full of ideas. I guess in one frame of mind my muse is sleeping and in the other she’s wide awake and wanting to play.
When she’s awake, I’m very open to ideas that come along. Brainstorming is so exciting when I’m in that state of mind! Even a boring article in the newspaper can trigger an idea without me putting any conscious thought to it. But when my muse is asleep, I have to consciously try to wake her up. It’s like I poke at her and say, “Hey, I’m a writer, I’m supposed to have ideas. That’s your job so would you haul butt and get at it? Here I am, trying to brainstorm about a new story, and I need you!” She may be a little grudging at first but usually once I’ve dragged her out of bed and told her I need her, the energy begins to build and we start having fun.
Debra: How dare that muse think she can lounge about all day sleeping! :-) If only they would be somewhat predictable. Mine picks the oddest moments to decide to play.
Is there a point when your characters begin to come alive and you can see and hear them?
Susan: Yes, absolutely. I don’t plot my books, so in the beginning it takes me a while to really know my characters and figure out what’s going on with them. I’ll write in little bursts as they reveal things about themselves, then I’ll get stalled and not know what happens next, which usually happens because I don’t know the characters well enough. So I use a variety of techniques to get in better touch with my characters. For example, brainstorm with other writers or with non-writer friends, read through Heroes & Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes, go for a walk and muse (or maybe that should be, go for a walk with my muse!), talk to my characters in my head. As they become more clear to me, then they start taking over the keyboard. I love it when that happens.
Occasionally I’ll even argue with them because I don’t agree with where they want to take the story, but in the end they’re usually right. That happened with my April release, She’s on Top. About 2/3 of the way through, I didn’t know how the book would end. The hero told me what was going to happen and I disagreed, but he won out and yes, he was right.
Debra: Yes, they can be stubborn that way. :-)
As a child did any particular book or author pull you into their imaginary world?
Susan: I’m an only child and spent much of my childhood alone with a book – or, rather, living in an imaginary world. Books were the best part of my life. I was a really bright, precocious child and read more widely as a child than I do as an adult. I kept winning book prizes at school and got some really odd books I’d never have picked up myself, but still I devoured them. Okay, here are some that I remember. I loved horses and read every horse book I could get my hands on. I fancied myself a detective and read Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden and the Hardy Boys. I read biographies, history, archaeology, etc., and I’m not sure I really distinguished fiction from non-fiction because the non-fiction also took me to new (or very old) worlds. The only books I didn’t enjoy were fairy tales – and even now I’m not much into paranormal, fantasy or science fiction. I love fiction but prefer fiction I can identify with – e.g., I could imagine myself being Nancy Drew and today I can imagine myself being a contemporary romance heroine, but I had trouble imagining being Alice down the rabbit-hole and now I have no desire to imagine falling in love with a vampire.
Debra: It's interesting to hear you say that. Non-fiction can transport if it is written in a voice that allows this. Some of the reading I did back when I owned the travel agency did exactly that. Allowed me to travel from the couch.
Is there anything else you would like to add about the role of imagination, and dreams in creating fiction? Any other message for our readers?
Susan: For me, a story usually grows out of one or more “what if?” questions. There’s some initial trigger, be it a dream, a snippet of conversation, something I see on TV or read in the paper or in a book. The trigger is something that resonates with me. Something another person might think utterly boring, but it tweaks my imagination. That tweak wakes up my muse, who says, “Okay, that’s interesting, but what if . . .?” And then it’s kind of like she and I carry on an internal dialogue, playing with all the “what ifs” until the beginning of a story, or a character, emerges and I get excited and think this may turn into a book or novella or short story.
Debra: "What if" is the ultimate story generating question.
Susan: Visit my website at www.susanlyons.ca. I have excerpts, insights into my writing process for each book, trailers, review quotes, a monthly contest, give-aways, a newsletter and lots of other good stuff.
Susan, thank you for joining us here on this Make-believe Monday to share a little bit of the magic of writing with our readers.
Debra's news/Debra is watching:
This week I've been working on promotional items for the Romantic Times convention. My book cover isn't done yet, so I designed the bookmarks myself. My husband helped and as he is a perfectionist and I used to work in advertising, it was interesting working together on that project. I also ordered a promotional give away item for the 80 gift bags Samahain Publishing will hand out at their spotlight. So if you are headed to RT next week, you might want to pop in on that one. I'll be there from April 15th to the 21st, so there will be no Make-Believe Monday interview on the 21st. If you are going to RT you will find me at the eBook signing on Wed. and Samhain's party on Sunday. Be sure to come up and say hello!
Other exciting things this week: I received my first author quote for A Desperate Journey and what a thrill that was! And late last night I got a sneak peak of the first draft of my book cover! Exciting days here, celebrating all these firsts.
Over on Title Wave this week, I am blogging today, Gina is blogging on Wed. and Jeanmarie is blogging on Fri.