In the first of my author interview series, we’re talking to former high school English teacher and department head of British descent, Suzanne Craig-Whytock. She was raised on lively debates around the dinner table in Canada and who includes a love of coaching rugby as one of the highlights of her career.
She shares her time between writing a weekly humour blog which she started as self-therapy to help her get over a difficult time, called mydangblog and writing Young Adult Fiction, the first book of which, called Smile, was released by Bookland Press (www.booklandpress.com) of Ontario in November 2017.
Firstly I’d like to thank Suzanne for joining me for this interview.
So how did you come in to writing?
I’ve been writing since I can remember. My first poem was published in a local newspaper when I was about 8. In Grade 12, we had to write a short story. Mine was a novella, 30 pages long. I still have it, with the teacher’s feedback! I hated high school, but loved university, growing my passion for literature and doing an English Lit degree.
Can you tell me a bit about your writing, how you write?
I write in my office at home and I have to be alone. Even if my husband isn’t making a sound, I need him to be in another room in the house! I use Microsoft Word and Google as my main tools. I general write and edit at the same time, spending lots of time thinking about what I’m going to write and taking notes, so by the time I sit down, everything is pretty well in my head. I edit as I go to ensure plot continuity (The new book is very complicated, so I do a lot of back and forth). You can defiantly describe me as a planner, not a pantser.
Then when it’s ready it’s off to my first readers, my husband and son for content, then my parents, my mom is an excellent proofreader.
Tell me a bit about your blog?
I started it four years ago when I was going through a horrible situation and was extremely depressed. I decided to focus my energy around all the good and funny things that happened every week instead of the negative stuff. It really helped, and even though the situation is long over, I’m still writing it! I post weekly humorous essays which allow me to focus on the weirdly wonderful aspects of my life. Each essay is stand-alone–no chronological knowledge is required.
What have you found to be your biggest challenge in the whole process?
Despite being traditionally published, once it was accepted, it is a major challenge to get it promoted. I’ve being doing a lot of that myself, calling up bookstores and arranging book signings and TV appearances etc. Here’s a link to my local cable appearance!
How was it being on the TV?
The TV appearance was quite different. I went to the studio and met the two hosts of the show “What’s Up, Oxford.” I had no idea what they were going to ask me ahead of time. I had been told to provide some questions that they could ask if they wanted to, but the conversation quickly moved from “Tell us a bit about the book” to questions I wasn’t prepared for. Luckily, I was able to think on my feet and not make a complete shambles of it, but at one point they asked me to hold the book up so that people could see the cover, but I had no idea where the camera was. So if you watch the clip, you can see me looking around a little wildly, trying to decide where I should look!
Do you have any advice for new writers?
Read the classics. They’re classics for a reason. Then read 20th century fiction. Read poetry. When you have something you believe is worth publishing, send it out to anyone who accepts unsolicited manuscripts. Don’t be worried if you get rejected once, twice, however many times. There are a lot of publishers who are only looking for a certain thing on a certain day. One day it will be your day. I submitted my first novel to 3 publishers before it got accepted. Don’t worry about finding an agent, a lot of publishers don’t require you to have one. Just get your work out there! A lot of publishing contracts include a right of first refusal on your next book. I’m almost done my second novel, and after submitting some sample chapters, my publisher wants it too, so I’m working really hard to get it finished!
Tell me a bit about your Young Adult Fiction book?
It’s a coming of age story about the protagonist, Cassandra Wilson. Her life has been difficult, spending most of her teenage years taking care of her much younger brother, working to support her widowed mother, coping with high school and its pressures, and still grieving over the death of her beloved father. The smile on her face has become an easy way of disguising her true feelings and the fact that she really isn’t sure who she is anymore. Her life suddenly begins to change when she learns that her mother has been secretly dating a co-worker for months and plans to introduce him to the family. Feeling betrayed, and fearing that her mother’s new boyfriend will try to take the place of her father, Cassandra decides it’s time to start living a little herself. That impulsive decision marks the beginning of a series of suspenseful twists, turns, and revelations involving a strange cast of characters who may just help her find what she’s looking for—a real reason to smile.
A Big Thank You!
A big thank you for Suzanne for taking the time to talk. You can take a look at Suzanne’s Young Adult Fiction book, Smile, on amazon.com and her blog here. We wish you the best of success and hope you keep in touch to let us know how you get on with your next novel in the pipeline!
If you enjoyed this interview then why not follow my blog and I’ll be posting more interviews soon. If you have a question you would like to ask Suzanne please let me know in the comments and I’ll get them to Suzanne.
If you’re an author, or you’ve just got an interesting story to tell and you’d like to be interviewed, just drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org