WG: Welcome and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month. To start off, please tell us about yourself.
SF: Originally from Columbus, Ohio, I now live near Dallas, TX. In Columbus I studied nursing and became an Obstetrics Nurse. I've helped deliver thousands of babies in my thirty-plus years, including more than two hundred I've delivered without a doctor. There are lots of funny stories from all those deliveries, most of which are best told over cold drinks in a bar! My husband and I are now empty-nesters except for our 80 pound boxer/lab named Rocky. Or as I call him, Rocky-the-wonder-dog.
WG: Let's talk about your own personal road to publication:
Is there some individual, group or event that you can point to as the catalyst/impetus that set you on the road to becoming a writer? Explain.
SF: Boredom. No, really. When I get bored, my mind starts to wander and if I'm in a place where I can't find anything to do or read, then I start to daydream. Poof! Next thing I know I'm writing down a story scene.
That's what happened with my first book. I was trapped in a nursery with two babies who needed special, but not constant, care. I could sit between them and read while keeping an eye on them. Which was going great until I'd finished reading my book and the four magazines I'd found in there. So, I pulled out some paper and started doodling, which led to me writing a scene, that turned into a chapter, that turned into a book.
WG: Tell us about your journey.
SF: It's been quite a journey to publication, that's for sure, with some interesting twists and turns. I started writing in 1996. I wrote my first historical western then, quickly followed by a second and many rejections for both. Then I wrote a contemporary, (that's the book that will never see the light of day!). A second contemporary followed. Then I wrote a Romantic Suspense titled Jake's Kidnapping, that I entered in Harlequin Intrique's first chapter contest. It was a "what the heck?" moment. The darn thing won. However, it did not sell to Harlequin.
We'd moved to Dallas by now and I joined DARA, Dallas Area Romance Authors, where I met Sandy Blair and Julie Benson. Both these ladies became critique partners and helped me learn a lot about the craft of writing stories. I'd been entering and began to final in quite a few contests, but no sales. Then I met Jo Davis, who also became a critique partner.
At this time I had another "what the heck?" moment and entered KIDNAPPED, (Jake's Kidnapping revised) and it's follow-up book, HUNTED, in the Golden Heart. Surprise, surprise, they both were finalists. That was in 2006 and it was also where I met the 19 other writers who would eventually start a blog and became known as The Romance Bandits. (www.romancebandits.com)
WG: How many books did you complete before you sold your first? Have all/any of them sold since?
SF: Seven. After I sold two books to Ellora's Cave, I self-published my two Golden Heart books, KIDNAPPED and HUNTED this summer, with designs to self-publish two more and offer another of the seven to EC's Blush line as the sequel to the current release, Cantrell's Bride.
WG: Can you tell us something about your experience in getting 'the call'?
SF: Well, it wasn't a "call", it was an email. Remember those "what the heck moments?" After my friend Jo Davis, (who writes as Jo Carlisle) sold her first book to Ellora's Cave, I thought to myself, "Can I write an erotica? If so, what would it be about?"
I'm not one of those people who can just throw a couple or gang of people together and have them start having sex. My characters have to have a reason for what they're doing. There has to be a plot. So why would my characters decide to behave this way? I also love historicals and feel there is a lot of room for natural submission and dominance in them due to the male/female relationships of the times. So I wrote what I'd want to read in an erotic western historical. Let me tell you, THAT was a very scary process for me. Many times I felt like I was on a tightrope with no net. But the end product, The Surrender of Lacy Morgan, was so worth all the work!
I entered Lacy into several contests, which she won and started submitting her to several Big NY houses and agents. More rejections!! Frustration was my middle name!! So, I decided, "what the heck?" I didn't need an agent to submit to Ellora's Cave, so I did.
That's where the very smart and highly intuitive editor, Jillian Bell found my book. She fell in love with Lacy, Quinn and Dakota's story.
Next thing I knew she was offering to contract TSoLM for EC's Lawless line.
(Yippee!!) Lots of jumping up and down, fist pumping and sheer joy was felt throughout our house. The bottle of expensive champagne I'd been saving was cracked open!!
Finally! Finally!! Finally, someone in the publishing world "got" my voice and wanted to publish one of my books!!!
WG: How has being a published author impacted your life?
SF: First, it gave validity to all the hours I've spent writing stories. It made all the effort worthwhile...to me!
Secondly, I'm starting to see the financial benefits of it too!
I think it also is a testament to anyone who knows me, and especially my kids, that hard work and perseverance, along with a healthy dose of positively paying things forward and back, eventually will pay off.
WG: What aspect of life as a 'published author' surprised you the most - either in a good or bad way?
SF: LOL, the demands of readers for..."the next book". People have emailed me wanting the next in the Los Hombres brothers books, (TSoLM was the first.) I am diligently working on it, I promise!! I hate to disappoint people, so getting the pressure to finish the next book has been a surprise I wasn't expecting.
WG: What about your writing process:
Do you maintain a set schedule? Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?
SF: Winnie, you are so funny!
Set schedule? Uhm...No. See, here's the problem, I work 12 hour nights 3 nights a week, which varies based on the needs of my L&D unit. So my writing schedule is all wacked out!
If I am off I try to get up at 8 am and work on some PR/email stuff for about an hour to help me wake up. Then I try to write for the next 2-3 hours, including blog writing. If I have to work that night I have to go to bed by 1 pm at the latest, so I have a good nap before going in to work. It's important for my patient's safety that I am awake all night. IF I am off, I still need a shorter nap in the afternoon, because after 25 years of nights, well, I'm basically part vampire! That does leave me with the option of writing in the wee hours of the morning on my night's off, which often when some of the best stuff hits the pages!
WG: Do you set writing goals for yourself?
SF: I try not to use the term "goal". Mostly because in Nursing School we had these things called careplans that you had to write a "goal" for each body system for each patient. There are 9 of those! Yep, hate the word!
But I do set priorities.
1. Write every day
2. Make my weekly word count (right now that's at 2000 wrds a week)
3. Get as many of my works out for people to read as possible. I've focused on sending my historicals and eroticas to EC while self-publishing my contemporaries
4. Pimp other people's books that I like to help them achieve their...goals. (Right now I'm pushing Susan Sey's book Kiss the Girl, which I loved, Jane Graves' Tall Tales and Wedding Veils, Sandy Blair's The King's Mistress , Kate Carlisle's Bibliophile Mystery series and Jo Davis' Alpha Pack books beginning with Primal Law. All those are great reads!)
WG: Do you have a 'mood setter', something (music, ritual, environment, etc) you use to get you going when you sit down to write?
SF: I have several playlists on my iPad. I love to listen to driving rock and roll to keep my fingers moving and my brain engaged. I also have the sound tracks from the Last of The Mohicans and The Hatfields & McCoys, along with some acoustic Johnny Cash for more sensual scenes. Don't ask me why those more melodic and mournful tunes work for that when I'm writing sex, it just does! :)
WG: Do you do a lot of up front plotting before you start or do you just dive in?
SF: Nope. I generally have an idea or starting sort of scene and just dive right in. As I go along the plot usually shows itself as the characters develop and grown on line.
WG: Do you normally start with storyline or with character or with some combination of the two?
SF: I guess with characters and the inciting incident. Nothing like starting with "the dead elephant in the middle of the room" and how the characters react to it steers the story along. I'm very linear in my writing. Scene A determine what happens in scene B, which in turns affects scene C all the way to the end.
WG: Do you find certain themes or character archetypes making recurring appearances in your stories?
SF: Hmm, interesting question. I love big alpha males who are in control of their lives in some way. I also seem to be writing these everyday sort of women who when push comes to shove can dig down deep inside for strengths they didn't know they had, often becoming just the woman the hero needs to round out his life and help him solve the major problem in the book. Does that make sense?
WG: What do you see as your own personal strengths as a writer?
SF: Writing characters who readers connect with. In my night job I deal with the rawest of emotions. I have the privilege to study men and women at the extreme highs and sometimes lows of their lives. I've learned to gauge pain, both physical and psychological, in people even when they believe they have it well hidden. Being able to take those observations and allow my characters' inner demons and strengths to come forward is something I believe I do quite well.
WG: Are there any obstacles/conflicts, specific to your particular lifestyle, that get in the way of your writing? If so, how do you try and overcome them?
SF: Well, there is all the work hours and late nights! Insomnia is sometimes my friend and sometimes my enemy. It takes me half a day to recover from 2 or 3 night shifts in a row. I cannot write then. The brain is too exhausted. Sometimes I push through it. Other times I have to accept the fact that no good words are going to come onto the page. That's when I catch up on whatever I've DVR'd during the week. Often that is enough to stimulate my brain to focus on what needs writing.
WG: Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about your process?
SF: I have what I term, WADD, Writer's Attention Deficit Disorder. I work in a steady pace on a project, getting pages done, meeting my word counts and poof, my brain does a "squirrel" move and I've got another book idea in my mind. I have to at least write down the premise, scene or story idea in case I should forget it. It takes all my will power to then go back and work on the first project, which doesn't always work.
But I look at it this way, while my conscious is off playing with the new story, my subconscious is mulling over the older project, working out the kinks so to speak. When I get a resolution to whatever the problem might have been, I can quickly switch back and resume that story. The benefit? Well, once again the subconscious will take over and mull over the second project. So it's like writing two books at once!
WG: Do you have a favorite sub-genre as a writer? as a reader?
SF: I always like to have a little suspense or mystery in each of my books no matter the genre.
WG: Is there a genre you haven't been published in yet that you'd like to try your hand at someday?
SF: I love to read all sub-genres of romance, but I really don't write paranormal. It's the whole suspending my disbelief to get sucked into the story. I can do it for most good paranormal writers, but I can't do it enough to really write it. At least, I haven't tried it, yet. The closest I've come is having characters in two different books have visions of the future, or premonitions. This is a paranormal element I can get into, well, because I have a mother who has these woo-woo moments, too. Yeah, she's freaky spot-on with them and I've learned to respect them.
WG: Do you have any advice to offer writers still striving toward publication?
SF: Persistence and practice. The best way to learn the craft of writing is to write. Listen to the critiques of people even if they tell you your baby is ugly, they might be right. Don't be afraid to change your story, but not your voice. Submit to the NY houses and agents and contests. The fire of rejection will strengthen the steel of your work, make you stronger and better. Know the business end of publication, too. Make wise decisions about your career based on knowledge, not just hurt feelings. There are so many doors open to writers, but you always have to turn out your best work.
WG: Is there a specific 'ah-ha' moment you've had as a writer that you would like to share with us?
SF: My critique partner, Julie Benson, recommended I read Scene & Structure�by�Jack M. Bickham. It was an eye-opening book. I had tons of sticky notes pasted throughout the book, little epiphanies throughout about how books were constructed, the rhythm and cadence of a well-honed book. It was one ah-ha moment after another! EVERY writer should read it!!
WG: Rejections, notes from unhappy readers and less than stellar reviews are all part of this business. What is your own method for dealing with these and moving on?
SF: I'm still new so some of these can be heart-breaking, but I keep reminding myself that everyone has an opinion and not everyone is going to love my babies like I do. LOL, I did have one reviewer comment on the sex scenes in The Surrender of Lacy Morgan, being one degrading sex scene between the submissive heroine and the two dominant heroes after another...which she read every single one of them...hehehe...okay it still makes me laugh!
Oh, and she missed the point, that each time there was a sexual encounter at least one of the characters was changed until there was respect and love and a HEA at the end.
WG: Is there some piece of advice you received or bit of 'conventional wisdom' that you wish you had ignored?
SF: Not really. I've been blessed to have very supportive people around me. There's a group of writers that are my closest friends, (we call ourselves the Writer Foxes) and I've learned a lot about writing and the business of writing from them. I also have a group of international friends in the Romance Bandits who again are very savvy about writing, the business of writing and promoting our work. I also tend to listen to my gut and go my own path even if it's a bit of a radical one.
WG: What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about being a writer? What aspect do you struggle with the most?
SF: A sense of fulfillment. When a story starts to gel and the characters become real to me, I feel like I'm creating something special. When I type The End at the end of the story, (something I always do), it is a feeling that I've accomplished something worthwhile.
I struggle mostly with focus. It's that whole WADD thingy again!
WG: When you're not writing, what do you do for fun or what is your favorite self-indulgence?
SF: I read. I believe all good writers are avid readers. I read about 250 books a year. I love to cook and watch cooking shows like Top Chef and Chopped for ideas. And I love to spend time with my kids and grandkids.
WG: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
SF: A lawyer, I loved to argue. A doctor, I love science and anatomy. A nurse, because Hot Lips Hoolihan was cool and so was my mom. A history teacher, because I love reading about history. A writer.
WG: What would your readers be most surprised to learn about you?
SF: Geesh, besides what I've spilled in this interview?
I have a pool in my backyard and from early May, when the water isn't polar-bear cold to mid or late September I try to swim 20 laps a day. Rocky-the-wonder-dog is my swimming partner.
WG: What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?
SF: NCIS is a must see for me. LOVE me some Leroy Jethroe Gibbs and his gang. He's sort of the anti-hero, reminds me of an old west cowboy or sheriff! I love the two Sherlock Holmes movies with Robert Downy Jr and Jude Law. Action, intrigue and witty dialogue. What's not to love?
WG: I love to collect quotes, all kinds of quotes - inspirational, quirky, motivational, profound, etc. Do you have a personal favorite you'd like to share.
SF: "Panic is never your best first option."
It's something I've learned over the years as a nurse. You can't think when you give into panic. No good decision will ever come from it. Someone has to be level-headed.
SF: I'm working on a second full-length historical western erotica for Ellora's Cave. It's the story of Will Danville and Mercy McCarthy. Mercy's lived her life as an heiress in a gilded cage in New England. Breaking the social chains and emotional ones placed on her by her grandmother, she travels to Texas to meet her estranged father. There she meets Will, a man of color who runs her father's Los Hombres ranch. Will is the first man Mercy has ever been attracted to and agrees to submit to the lessons in passion he offers her. Darker forces gather around them that threaten Mercy's new found freedom and the future of Los Hombres itself.
WG: Please tell us about your current project.
WG: What sort of research, if any, did you have to do? Did you stumble across any unexpected interesting/fun tidbits along the way?
SF: Last year at RWA National I went to a workshop on Victorian Period clothing for women. It was an eye-opening, as well as fun, workshop. The lady who gave it was dressed in pantaloons and a chemise. She then began donning all the parts of a well-dressed Victorian woman's outfit. OMG. It would take you 45 minutes and at least one maid to get dressed daily! But I learned things I could use when making my heroine move to a ranch in Texas, what I would have her wear and what I wouldn't.
WG: Tell us about your upcoming plans.
SF: I'm sort of a free agent. I don't work under contract for some of my books and I only contract with Ellora's Cave once a project is finished, so I can work on whatever tickles my fancy. (There's that WADD thingy again!). I just submitted an American Historical erotica novella to EC. The hero is a wounded Civil War vet and his former fianc�. I also have a RS novella in my head and two full length stories one RS and one small town RS. (Aren't you glad you don't have my brain?)
WG: And before we close, tell us how your readers can get in touch with you.
SF: Anyone can contact me through my website, www.suzanneferrell.com. You can also sign-up for my newsletter there, which I intend to only put out quarterly. I'm on facebook @ http://www.facebook.com/suzanneferrell.author or follow me @ https://twitter.com/SuzFerrell
WG: Thanks so much for spending time with me and my readers this month. It was fun 'chatting' with you, as always!
SF: Thanks for having me, Winnie!