10 QUESTIONS FOR…Susan Rosson Spain, author of mid-grade-to-young-adult & children’s books


Author interview with Susan Rosson Spainfinalfrontcovernospineheadshotatsigning

I’m Susan Rosson Spain, and I write mostly for kids, though young adults who will read my novel-in-progress (VEGAN RULES) in a year or two might not like to be called kids. My first novel, THE DEEP CUT, is a mid-grade-to-young adult Civil War story set in Virginia, was published in 2006. I was thrilled when ALA’s Booklist gave it a starred review. Since then I’ve been working on another young adult novel—very edgy—but recently put it aside (temporarily, of course) to write a picture book for which I already have a contract. I currently live in Conyers, Georgia, but my dream is to live in the mountains.




1.     Tell us about your latest book.

I’m currently writing 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN GEORGIA for Sterling Publishing. It’s a fictionalized tour-guide of sorts which follows two cousins around Georgia, visiting 12 unique and fun places. The twelve places are represented by “gifts,” just as the song does. “On the first day of Christmas, my cousin gave to me…” I’m having such fun with it!

2. How did you get started as a writer?

I have always loved writing, keeping journals and writing long letters to friends and family (yes, people really used to do that). But one day, I read the first sentence of John Irving’s A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANEY and was absolutely mesmerized. It’s the best first sentence I’ve ever read. “I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice—not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.” That sentence said so much so well and pulled me in so completely—it states one fact after another while raising yet more questions! Why was Owen’s voice wrecked? Why was he so small? How was he the instrument of the narrator’s mother’s death? What was it that Owen Meany did that made the narrator so sure of his beliefs? I wanted to figure out how Irving did so much so quickly. So I began taking writing courses and going to writer’s workshops and retreats, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I write particularly for children, I think, because I don’t want to lose touch with that child I used to be. There are things one “unlearns” as they grow up—good things—and I think that’s sad.

3. What does a typical day look like for you?

I get up, have coffee and read the newspaper, eat a little breakfast, check email, and play my move in the Lexulous game I’ve always got going with a friend or two (I’m sooo hooked!). When all those rituals are done, I get to work writing. I like to write in long stretches of time. In fact, whenever I have the house to myself for a few days, I hold writing marathons. I put the word out to my writers’ groups that if they want a quiet place to come write for the day, with numerous other writers setting a good “butt-in-chair” example, then to come on over. We call out for pizza to simplify things, and they go home in time for dinner. It works! And you’ve got the input of other writers if you need quick advice, though the rule is to talk minimally.

4. Describe your desk/workspace.

I have an office but it is also a workroom for my many hobbies, so I usually don’t wind up writing there. Rather, I’ll sit in the den or the kitchen to write. I do have lots of little mementos on my office desk—things other writers have given me that honor the craft—but I work best with only the things around me having to do with my current work-in-progress. For instance, while writing VEGAN RULES, which is set in the Florida Keys at a dive shop, I have photos of me scuba diving, and seashells, and other related things nearby. It keeps me in that world.

5. Favorite books (especially for writers)

I very much enjoyed STORY SPARKERS, from Marcia Thornton Jones and Debbie Dadey. I found the exercise called THE BIG IDEA incredibly helpful for characterization and plotting in both of my novels. BIRD BY BIRD made me laugh out loud, and I very much enjoyed Stephen King’s ON WRITING. I was never much on writing books where you have to work your way through by doing one exercise after another in a prescribed order, but changed my mind with Elizabeth Berg’s ESCAPE INTO THE OPEN: THE ART OF WRITING TRUE.

6. Tell us 3 interesting/crazy things about you

One: when I die, I want to be cremated and then have my ashes mixed with cement and made into one of those hollow balls with holes in it, then placed in an artificial reef.  Two: I ran a half-marathon last March to bond with two of my four daughters. Shortly before the race, one daughter dropped out. On the day of the race, I couldn’t find the other daughter. But I ran the race, and I’m still glad I did it. (I beat my daughter’s time, too. Ha!) Three: My hobbies are astronomy (looking upwards) and SCUBA diving (exploring the deep), and I’m not sure what this says about me—but through writing VEGAN RULES I think I’m finding out!

7. Favorite quote

“If we listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go into business, because we’d be cynical. Well, that’s nonsense. You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.” –Ray Bradbury

8. Best and worst part of being a writer

Best: You can do it in your pajamas? Maybe. Or finding that you can see yourself more clearly through your writing. Worst: There’s not much I don’t like except the pay scale.


9. Advice for other writers

Trust what it is that you want to say, then learn how to say it well.

10. Tell us a story about your writing experience. 

 Someone made a big point at a conference once that as the writer, you are your characters—especially your protagonist, and especially in your first novel. At the time, I had just published my first novel in the voice of a “slow” 13-year-old boy. I was confused all day.

 Where can people buy your books?

 You can buy THE DEEP CUT  online at Booksense (yay for independents!), Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Borders. These links are available on my website, www.susanspain.com, where I’ll soon be adding a whole new look, including a blog. I love to do author visits at schools to talk about anything from the writing life to historical fiction.

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