Susan Kietzman, recently answered a few questions for our Novelicious readers. Susan's debut novel, The Good Life, is out now, and is described as 'a deeply satisfying and beautifully written story about the complex relationships between parents and children—and the gap that often lies between what we seek, and what will truly make us whole'.
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
I’m an early riser, so I am out of bed before it’s light (easy to do half the year)! I have coffee right away and sit down at my desk. I work for about an hour and then go to the gym, to burn away the previous day’s calories and (with any luck) crank up my cerebrum. I get back home by 7:30 or so, have breakfast, and then sit down again and work until noon. The afternoons are dedicated to other things: household stuff, errands, walking the dog.
When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
Celebrities no, but people I know, undoubtedly yes. I don’t think I’m making conscious comparisons; instead I am writing from my experience. And characteristics and behaviors and mannerisms of all the people I know well or have met even briefly are occupying the same space in my head as the characteristics, behaviors, and mannerisms of my characters. There is bound to be some cross over. But if the question is whether I use others intentionally, then no, I do not.
What is your favorite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout because Olive is so real. She is big and awkward, unlike many female protagonists. She can be mean and unfeeling, obtuse and stubborn, flawed like all of us are. And yet she can be kind and loving and nurturing and patience, all the things we want to be. As readers, we admire her and despise her. We question her actions as well as her thoughts. We wonder about her relationships. To readers, she is like a curmudgeonly aunt, dressed some eccentrically, full of unsolicited advice, and able to find the right size Band-Aid for the scrape on your knee.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I plan my novels in my head rather than on paper. I typically know the narrative arc and the main characters before I type a single word. And then I sit at my computer and start writing. That’s the easy part. The hard part for me is revising, adding more detail, more color, so that my readers know the characters as well as I do. So I go through the novel several times, revising individual characters and then revising the work as a whole.
What was journey to being a published author?
For me, it was a long one. I have been writing fiction for many years, but it was never my primary occupation. I raised three sons. I volunteered. I worked. I wrote on the side, an hour each morning. Once I found the right agent, and she found the right publisher, the process gained momentum and speed.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
When people think about novelists, they think about the big names, the way they think about Hollywood actors or professional athletes. People see them on talk shows or hear them interviewed on the radio. People see wealth, power, manicured nails, white teeth. Most novelists, like most actors and athletes, aren’t like that. We’re regular people who happen to have interesting jobs
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Patience is very important in this line of work. I am not, by nature, a patient person. But I have become one by practice. Be patient with your ideas because they often come slowly. Characters develop over time, not overnight. And make time to write. Take breaks when you are frustrated or tired, but allow plenty of time to write.
What are you working on at the moment?
The Good Life looks at relationships within and surrounding a family. The novel I am working on now examines a marriage born of a college relationship. The couple starts their union like many other couples, in love, committed to each other, optimistic about their future. After thirteen years, two children, business success for him, and a new job for her, the marriage is different, the relationship has changed, and expectations have been altered. This new novel is about what makes a good marriage – and what gets in the way.