Susanne is a prolific and talented self-published writer, who takes time from her busy schedule about once a month to sit in a restaurant drinking and waiting for me to finally show up. I know from her Facebook page that during the time she is not writing, she is traveling to a variety of interesting events to promote her books, hobnobbing with celebrities like Scott Wilson, who portrayed Hershel from AMC’s The Walking Dead, and most recently, Eric Roberts who I fell in love with in King of the Gypsies and The Pope Of Greenwich Village and James Lee Burke’s Heaven’s Prisoners, even with the unfortunate character name of Bubba Rocque, and who has done a bunch of stuff since and I’m still kind of pissed that she didn’t get me an autograph.
Most importantly, she is the author of the Dead Hearts series, and she is exploding with words and stories and sometimes, blood and gore. Check them out here:
Last week, I decided to use my interviewing skills to distract her from how late I was.
- One piece of advice you would give to an author looking to self-publish?
Right now, Amazon.com is the number one book seller in the nation. That means more folks buy through them than any other source. They also offer a way to publish your own books at an affordable cost. CreateSpace is the best and easiest way to self-publish. There are three prices ranges that include editing, book designs and layout. Anyone serious about being publish should consider going through CreateSpace. This how I started. I had my own book covers ready and the book was edited, so all they had to do was format the interior design. I then bought 600 books and have gone to conventions selling them in person, as well as signing consignment agreements with local and out-of-state book stores.
With the publication of my second novel, Forsaken Hearts, I was picked up by Wyverns Peak Publishing. DC McGannon and Michael McGannon, our fellow authors and have started their own small publishing house for horror and sci-fi writers. I now publish through them, they edit my novels and promote me. This has made a huge change in my writing career. Having a publishing house behind you, even a small one, works miracles. Check out the McGannons, father and son, who write the Charlie Sullivan and the Monster Hunters series. You’ll love this series.
- What is one of your favorite scenes you have written, and from which book?
Forsaken Hearts is the second book in the Dead Hearts series and my favorite. In this book, the human survivors at the Seven Falls in Colorado Springs wake up to find zombies are being herded to their gate at the end of the box canyon. Vampires have arrived at Colorado Springs Air Force Academy and are herding zombies to their camp. They are also abduct the best fighters among the teenagers and force them to fight in the Death Games, which are televised. The Shadowguard are the names of these evil vampires and while they are responsible for bringing the electricity and phone on-line, including cells phones, they are rounding the human survivors up nationwide, later internationally, and either turning them, feeding on them or forcing them to fight in the Death Games.
My favorite scene in this book, however, is a duel fought at the Citadel (this is the new name for the CSAFA) between the hero, Dragon, a young Asian boy who fights with two katanas and Lt. Aldarik of the Shadowguard. Aldarik is German and fights with a saber, groomed in the dueling style, considering him Prussian, not German. The duel is fought between the Kaiser, the leader of the Shadowguard and his elegant vampire guests, including vampire lords from throughout the US and Italy (the only European country that is not taken over by zombies). While Aldarik struts about showing off with his saber, Dragon chooses a nodachi, a longer version of the katana. This particular nodachi is an artifact and was used in battle by the famous samurai named Miyamato Musashi. Dragon worships this samurai who in 1612 fought a famous duel against his nemesis, master swordsman Sasaki Kojiro. Kojiro, like Lt. Aldarik, was exceptional in his precision and speed. Musashi heckled Kojiro into attacking first and killed him with one blow; Dragon does the same thing to L. Aldarik, which is way to pay honor to his idol.
- How could you NOT have gotten me Eric Robert’s autograph?
I met Eric Roberts at Crypticon in Kansas City in August, 2015. Knowing my sister was in love with him, not you, I walked right up to him and told him this. He was delighted. Most people have to pay for celebrities signatures. But Eric gave my sister two autographs. He drew on a large piece of paper and drew doodled all over it, both times. I think he had more fun being goofy and drawing pictures, like hearts with arrows through them, knowing that someone his own age thought he was still wonderful, handsome, sexy and a gentleman. I had my picture taken with him and he came right up behind me, threw his arms around me and smiled. He had to be one of the nicest actors I have ever met; and I have met a lot and have tons of stories about many of your favorites that aren’t so nice. But Eric is – The Best of the Best. Had I know you loved him, I’m sure he would have scribbled a stick lady and stick man, drawn a heart around them and written, ‘Renee, I’m told you have beautiful blonde hair and had you bothered to come to Kansas City to meet me, I would have hugged you, too.’
- Of all the characters you have written, which one would you choose to have a beer with and why?
This is the craziest question I have ever been asked. Yet, not so crazy. Many times an author will fall in love with the characters she writes about and after the story is over, it’s like a breakup or a divorce. And it’s hard to walk away from beloved characters. But to pick one. Now that is very hard. I like to base my characters on people I have met, my own alter-ego (and I have more than one), and celebrities who I disguise in the story.
However, I have just finished a high fantasy trilogy called Taliesin: The Seeker of Magic, The Mistress of Magic and the Queen of Magic. The hero in this story is first introduced as a member of the Raven Clan, scavengers who go to battlefields and pick the bodies clean to sell the items at market. His name in the clan is Grudge. He is tall, muscular, bald and hairy. He wears a dirty leather vest and mold grows on his pants. In battle, he is fearless and brutal. But he’s not who he says he is. Since this book has not been published, I won’t reveal who Grudge really is. I can say that Grudge was modeled after Judge Richard T. Ballinger of the Sedgwick County District Court. I was romantically involved with Richard for many years. The face most people saw was the judge, an honorable man who resided over many cases through the years (this is the other face of Grudge). Richard also rode a motorcycle and we went to many biker rallies together, and at these rallies you tend to get dirty, smelly and that’s really the whole point. This is the personification of Grudge, that tough guy who would defend you when there is trouble, drink a beer with you, not wash for days and yet still look handsome. Add to yet another heartbreak in life, my dear friend died this year from ALA, quite unexpectedly. The last time I saw Richard, I told him I was writing this trilogy and my hero was modeled after him – the character of Grudge – and though I knew he did not have long to live, in the book, the hero and heroine would ultimately be together, and in a way, we could be together forever. It still makes me cry to think about losing Richard, it’s a hole in my heart that will not heal, but at least I know in the trilogy he does get the girl of his dreams, and Taliesin, of course, I modeled after me.
Frankly, I’d give anything to be able to have a beer with Grudge, since he is really Richard. I think most of us would love to be able to spend time again with someone who has died in our family or among our friends. And what greater homage can you pay to a loved one than to immortalize them in a novel. Richard, the Trilogy of Taliesin is for you.
- How angry does it really make you that I am always late?
The problem with you being late at lunch, Renee, is that I end up buying a beer and spending more money than you. This means I also have about 20 mins. to waste. I am always on time. You are always late. Now, if I was smart, I’d show up 30 mins. late to lunch and make you wait. But the problem is, when you mess with fate, what will happen is you end up on time, wait 20 mins., think I’m dead and leave, and then I come in and find you’ve left your tab for me to pay (to teach me a lesson).
But it doesn’t really make me angry. You can’t expect perfection from a dizzy dame who is blonde. Crap. Wait a minute! I’m blonde, too!
Just remember I’m charging you $1 for every minute you’re late from now on. So take all the time you want. Lunch will always be on you.
- Do you ever experience writer’s block? What inspires you?
When I have writer’s block, it’s because the scene isn’t working for me or the character is not being allowed to do what they really want to do in the story. Many authors allow their characters to write the story, that’s what I do, but when I try to do what I want to the story, I run into problems. If you have writer’s block of this kind, this means you need to stop what you’re doing, have a think, and approach the scene from another angle.
To help me process this, I will read other books or watch movies. Usually, something magical happens. When I’m least expecting it, someone will say something random that inspires me or I’ll watch something on TV that has nothing to do with what I’m writing and the solution presents itself.
This is the same advice I give to folks who have another form of writer’s block – they just can’t put the words to paper. When this happens, pick up your favorite novel and flip through it, or just any book and read a few pages. You’ll realize you can write. Sometimes you’ll be inspired and the words will suddenly start to flow. Dreams can help in this regard. I also find when I help edit a friend’s novel or give them a critique, I can turn around and start producing many pages in my own novels.
Another form of writer’s block is having too many ideas and not knowing which one to write. This is a weird block that I don’t have. I have many ideas, but I’m usually motivated to write one particular story at a given time. However, I did just write two trilogies on two different genres at the same time. If you can do this, then go for it. It’s hard to do, but writing is being disciplined. You actually have to find the time, sit your butt down and just let the story flow from your brain without thinking too much. Over-thinking kills stories. Over-thinking causes writer’s block just as surely as making excuses so you don’t write. You can always write. If you have writer’s block on your story, then write about something else; but you can always write.
- Where will you next be promoting the Dead Hearts series?
If you visit my website, you can find which comic cons I will be attending next. I go to at least once a month, every month. My next big con is at Wizard World in Tulsa in October. The line-up of celebrities is mouth-watering, to say the least. But I’m really looking forward to Galaxyfest in Colorado Springs in Feb., 2016. I am a celebrity at this event. Colorado Springs is the home town of Dead Hearts, this is where the series takes place. I blow up their city and turn everyone into zombies, vampires or werewolves and the folks just love the whole idea. Galaxyfest is a wonderful convention. It’s sci-fi. And they show indie films from Colorado and most of the indie directors are present. Though I’m from Kansas, they treat me like a queen and this year I’ll be made an honorary member of the Colorado Springs based S.T.A.R.S., Resident Evil fanatics – and now – Dead Hearts fans!
Thanks for taking the time to ask me a few questions. I have a question for you.
Have you read Morbid Hearts, the first book in the Dead Hearts series? If this is the reason why you are late at lunch, because you just can’t put the book down, then all is forgiven.