Interview With Author Suanne Schafer

BRIEF BIO: Suanne Schafer completed the Stanford University Creative Writing Certificate program in 2014. Her short works have been featured in multiple magazines, literary journals, and anthologies. Her debut women’s fiction novel, A Different Kind of Fire, explores the life of a nineteenth century bisexual artist living in West Texas and will be released November 1, 2018. Coming in 2019, Hunting the Devil explores the heartbreak and healing of a biracial American physician caught up in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Suanne is a member of San Antonio Romance Authors, Romance Writers of America, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, the Historical Novel Society, and the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. She has served as an editor for a mainstream/romance publishing house and as fiction editor for an on-line literary magazine.

Please introduce yourself and your book(s).

I am a family practice physician who retired to write women’s fiction. My first book, A Different Kind of Fire, takes place at the turn of the 19th century. Based very loosely on my grandmother’s life, it looks at creative passion, physical passion, and the lot of women during America’s Gilded Age. Women’s rights were coming into the foreground with suffragettes. In it, Ruby Schmidt juggles her love for a female fellow art student, marriage to her childhood beau, children, and painting while living on the West Texas prairie.

My second novel is due out in September 2019. Hunting the Devil deals with a biracial America physician caught up in the Rwandan genocide. Much of it stems from my adopted black son’s reactions to being in Africa and being considered white. It, too, started out as a romance, but because of the emotional changes of the protagonist, the romance aspect couldn’t be maintained.

What inspires/inspired your creativity?

My inspiration varies widely. A Different Kind of Fire started out as my attempts to document my grandparents’ love story, but as I researched the era and saw the influences of first-wave feminism, I realized that my story had to be more than a romance. Hunting the Devil also started as a romance, but then I decided to drop my protagonist, a very in-charge physician, into a world she had absolutely no control over—the Rwandan genocide—and the romance aspect bit the dust as she clicked into survival mode.

How do you deal with creative block?

I usually have a couple of projects going at the same time, so bouncing back and forth between them gets me out of my writing funk.

What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?

I started out thinking I would write romances and found that, whether as a consequence of my own series of failed relationships or a genetic distrust of happily-ever-after, my heroines are strong women who battle tough environments and intersect with men who might—or might not—love them.

What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?

Boring your reader. Not that every book has to be a thriller, in fact, some of the most intriguing books I’ve read are set in a small town over a period of a few days. But I think the old adage that “in every scene someone has to want something, even if it’s just a glass of water” describes those books that resound with readers. A micro-tension that plays beneath the over-arcing is critical.

How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?

So far I have not had a seriously bad review other than trolls on Goodreads who “reviewed” the book before it ever came out. It was difficult to take them seriously; I mean when the same review—word for word—appears under several peoples’ names and the book hasn’t been released yet, it’s obvious trolls are at work. Also, you can’t please everyone all the time, so you’re bound to run into people who hate your book or read it on a bad day.

How has your creation process improved over time?

I’d like to say that I’ve become more organized and plot out my novels or use the Snowflake method or something, but no—I carry around a story for months, working through the details while I wait to drift off to sleep. Even once I start writing, I revise constantly, striving for the perfect word to express what I want to say.

Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers?

I please myself and assume readers will come.

Do you have any creativity tricks?

I usually have several works in progress at the same time, so if I get stuck on one, I can switch to the other.

What are your plans for future books?

I am working on another women’s fiction novel, set in small-town Texas, with a horse-shoeing cowgirl heroine and an Air Force surgeon as dual protagonists. It’s more women’s fiction than romance, but they eventually get together. I have a file of several dozen ideas that remain to be explored. Some are no more than a jotted line or two while others have a few thousand words written and are waiting patiently for their turn in my writing queue.

Tell us some quirky facts about yourself.

I’ve picked cotton, worked in bookstores, made the now-extinct toy called “clackers” in a 1970s sweatshop, was an assistant in a nursing home, sold paintings in an art gallery, and made beaded necklaces for a head shop in West Texas. I facetiously describe myself as having long-cycling attention deficit disorder because I am now on my umpteenth career. I started as a medical secretary, turned into a travel photographer, then a medical photographer, then became a physician, and now am a writer/editor. I’ve travelled extensively, having been around the world the equivalent of two and a half times and have lived for extended periods in multiple foreign countries.

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Member: Romance Writers of America, San Antonio Romance Authors, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, Women Writing the West, Association of Writers & Writing Programs


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