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Q&A: Vampire author on juggling full-time job with novel writing June 13, 2009

Posted by Diana McCabe in Authors.

So you wanna write that great paranormal romance but need to hold down a full-time job to pay the rent? And how do you find the time to do the research for your novel? I asked Susan Squires, who has successfully balanced her writing and 9-5 job to create vampire novels that are filled with historical details, strong heroines and great romance, to tell us how she does it. Her TIME FOR ETERNITY is due out in September. CLICK HERE for Part 1 on my interview with her: “Author of vampire series on strong women, kinky things, time travel.”

Susan Squires

Susan Squires

(Up next: Alyson Noel talks about EVERMORE and her next release in the Immortal series: BLUE MOON.)

Q. Your husband is a successful writer, too. (Harry Squires, who writes under the name H.R. Knight) Does he read your work and vice-versa? Do you help each other out? (Is it hard being married to another writer?!)
A. We absolutely help each other. As I write, I’m turning in TWIST OF TIME  (about a real, live Viking who lands in modern day San Francisco)  and his comments have been invaluable in making it the best book it can be. He’s really talented, and I respect his opinion. I help him with his projects too. Now, it hasn’t always been easy to take comments from each other. We’ve grown into it. And we have rules (first say something nice! Don’t give suggestions that are outside the direction of the story, etc.) We spent many years in the same critique group, which honed our thicker skins. It’s great to live with someone who understands being on deadline, helps with plot over dinner at the local sushi bar when you’re stuck, etc.

Q. How do you juggle your full-time job with writing?
A. I work for a Fortune 500 health and life insurance company, and believe me, it isn’t always easy doing both. I often do weeks of 50-55 hours or even more. I’m the queen of scheduling. I know exactly when I can write during a week, and I plunk my butt in a chair when that time arrives. There’s no time to waste. In some ways that’s a blessing. Also, if the writing isn’t going well, sometimes the day-job is, and vice-versa. However, when I’m having trouble on both fronts, look out!

Q. Your novels are chock full of history and European cities. How much time do you devote to this research? And how do you do it? (Books/academic experts/travel?)
A. I would love to say I’d been everywhere I’ve set a book. I have been lucky enough to travel many times to England over time. companionI’ve been to Italy. But I’ve never been to France or to North Africa. In that case, pictures, travel books, good maps, on-line research tools, and books that tell about everyday life in the time and place I’m writing about are crucial. I’m the one scouring Amazon and B&N for books about what life was like during the French Revolution. That’s much more important than the dry facts of political factions, etc. I read outlines of those too — just to provide anchor points, but you end up making very few references to those, and many more to what people were wearing or eating or how they were making a living. For THE COMPANION, I read Patrick O’Brian’s MASTER AND COMMANDER series, because HIS research was so good on ships, warfare and the Navy in the Regency. He really gave you a flavor of life. That’s what you look for. In my current book, I needed to know about sailing. So I read SAILING FOR DUMMIES, and the guy across the street took me out in his boat and let me sail it. Voila.

Q. How do you craft your love scenes? Are they difficult to write or the easiest part of the manuscript?
A. I find them pretty easy, as long as I let them grow from character. Like any other scene, a character comes into a love scene with “baggage”– things they feel, about themselves and their partner, beliefs and needs, fears and insecurities maybe. I think what makes a good love scene is not only the body parts and what they do, but what the experience means for the character at the time.

Q. Do you write everyday? At a certain time of day? (Do you have an outline or just write top down?)
A. I write whenever my schedule allows — almost never every day. In any given week, I look ahead and say — I’m going to write Monday night, Thursday night, and Saturday afternoon. And then I do.  I can write a sex scene in the middle seat of an airplane, because I have to. My laptop is my space, and I open it up, play three games of La Belle Lucie solitaire, and then ask myself, “so where was I?” “What am I trying to do in the next scene?” That’s about the extent of the ritual. I admit I’m better in the mornings than at night. I have to write off a brief synopsis, because my contract requires me to submit one to get paid (they know me! –I hate synopses). Usually it’s about three pages single spaced. I admit that now that I’ve learned to write that way, it saves me time, and getting quite so tangled up in directions.

Q. Deadlines? Usually hit ’em or miss ’em?
A. Almost always hit them. (Sometimes I ask for an extra weekend like on the one that was due on May 1). The only deadline I missed — by a month — was the time I had broken ribs from falling off my horse. I spent two months on some pretty strong drugs, which is not conducive to writing. The hard part was that I was in the middle of a three book contract, and all my deadlines were pre-set. So I had to catch up on the next book.

Q. Any advice to newbie writers with a manuscript …. how to get noticed?
A. This is the sixty-four thousand dollar question. I’m going to assume that an author handles language well, understands the timeforeternityrhythm of a story. Then I think the author constantly has to ask herself, how can I make this MORE of whatever kind of book it is… funnier, scarier, more emotional, etc. How can I make it worse for my characters? How can they be placed in situations where they must do things they’d never normally do? How can my dialogue sound more like people talk (or talked in some historical period)? How can my scenes feel like the reader is really there? One great way to get deeper into the book is to ask “why would the character do this?” and make sure you have great answers. The process of answering those questions and getting the answers into your manuscript is what makes a book you can’t refuse. I see a lot of contest entries where the author sort of skims over the surface of a scene, without really letting you know how it would feel to be in that situation (and of course I mean showing, not saying “this was really scary” or “the heroine was really embarrassed.”) I know this sounds a little vague, but the answers actually SHOULD vary from book to book (or they wouldn’t stand out!). Just keep asking those questions.

Q. Any other advice?
A. I know it’s a cliche. But you have to keep at it. Don’t rework that first book for the ninth time. Move on and write another one. That’s when you know you’re an author. That’s when you progress in skill. Know that hardly anyone sells your first book until you’ve sold another book, and they ask you what else you’ve got because they like your work so much. That’ what happened to me. SACRAMENT was only published because DANEGELD and BODY ELECTRIC got bought and they wondered what I had in my trunk. I reworked it, and it was a much different book after I had developed my craft writing two others.  Good luck!

Suggestions? Have an author you want me to interview? Let me know. Just post in comments section.


JENNIFER LYON: ‘Blood Magic author talks about her hero and Hugh Jackman’ and CLICK HERE for her writing tips.

SHANA ABE: ‘Author of Dragon series on next book and its renegade lovers’ and CLICK HERE for her writing tips.

LINDA O JOHNSTON: ‘Her Alpha wolves practice safe sex’ and CLICK HERE for her writing tips.

SUSAN SQUIRES: ‘Author of vampire series on strong women, kinky things, time travel’ and CLICK HERE for her writing tips.


1. melissa - February 14, 2010

i love your guardian series and would like very much to get the new book free im posting in an attempt to do just that as my daughter and i read them together. your stories are our mother daughter time. and we love it then we finish the books we talk about them. and wait forever for the next one.

2. Q&A: Lucy Monroe on her Medieval Scottish werewolves « Paranormal Romance - March 2, 2010

[…] Susan Squires: TIME FOR ETERNITY […]

3. Q&A: Author of ‘The Body Finder’ on echoes and serial killers « Paranormal Romance - July 20, 2010

[…] Susan Squires: TIME FOR ETERNITY […]

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