Thanks so much for inviting me to be a guest at Romance Bandits. I can’t hold a candle to some of the witty repartee I’ve seen other guests and Banditas post, so I’m not even going to try. Donna, please assure everyone my books are a whole lot more interesting than I am. Pretty please? Lie if you have to!
Somehow, I don’t think lying will be necessary. Before we start talking about writing, though. Why don’t you tell us about yourself?
I’m 27, descended from English royalty, and have often been mistaken for Angelina Jolie. Except that I’m better looking and have adopted 47 children from 3rd world countries AND cured cancer. And my husband was never married to Jennifer Aniston. Okay, only that last one is true. Unless he’s been hiding something from me…
Really, I’m just the ordinary housewife who still likes to climb trees, thinks snakes are cool, and writes Historical Romance. I also have an unusual fondness for chickens, and the color green. My family thinks I’m weird. It seems to be working for me, though. This past summer I won a Golden Heart, snagged an agent, and signed a two-book contract with Berkley Publishing. Plus, I have two beautiful, healthy children who only act like they’ve been adopted from a 3rd world country. Or Jupiter.
So, Donna, what else do you want to know about me?
I see the Golden Rooster has picked up interest. He’s a bit of a Romeo – but I suppose that’s to be expected when you hang out with romance writers.
Tell us about your background (I have some inside knowledge here) and how that affects your writing.
I have a theatre background, believe it or not. After bouncing through the Fine Arts, English, and Secondary Education departments in college I somehow landed in Theatre. It was a good fit, and about time, too, since Daddy declared I either must finally graduate or he would pull the plug on the ole’ money fountain. But during my last couple years of college I had a great mentor who encouraged me in playwriting and helped me find my wings. After college I landed a few low-paying theatre gigs—not to mention the various non-paying ones—but through it all I mostly supported myself with my brilliant typing and phone-answering skills. (Translation: I was the perky administrative assistant who made great coffee and spent way too much time chatting with the clients.) When wifedom and motherhood came along, I left the theatre and the administrative assisting but not the writing. I took my brilliant typing skills, my English department grammar expertise, plus what I’d learned in the theatre about timing, character building, pacing, humor, and life in general and focused it all on romance. Who’d have thought such a checkered past could eventually get so mixed up together into one constructive lump?
What was it like to win the Golden Heart?
Winning the Golden Heart really and truly is just as wonderful as I’d always imagined. It started one sunny day in March when my Fairy Godmother called to tell me I was a finalist. (Okay, it wasn’t my Fairy Godmother. It was an RWA representative, but you get the idea.) Suddenly it was as if I had an invitation to a royal ball at the shining castle on top of the hill. I was floating on air—no way it could get any better than that. Soaring on fairy dust, I rode a magic pumpkin all the way out to San Francisco. Then I swirled around in my fancy new gown and danced out my dream in the glow of agent and editor attention. Then, just when the clock began to strike twelve and I expected the magic to go away, the Prince looked deep into my eyes, handed me the glass slipper and told me get up on stage and deliver that acceptance speech I was supposed to have written. Oops—I sort of missed that part. Still, I’ve never been one to shy away from the limelight, so I muddled through the moment and absolutely loved every minute of it. I can’t adequately describe how honored I am to be among the ranks of so many talented and gracious Golden Heart Finalists, the 2008 Pixie Chicks as well as those from years past.
Then, shortly after San Francixco you had a very important call. We LOVE to hear call stories here in the lair. Can you share yours?
During the course of the months leading up to the RWA conference in July my manuscript was requested by an agent. Two editors had already requested it from other contests I’d won (and neither had rejected it, yet!) but this was the first agent to show interest. I was very excited to meet with her at the conference in San Francisco, but amazingly two other agents crawled out of the woodwork to express an interest. Yikes! Was I going to have to make a decision? I hate making decisions. I asked everyone to wait until I had time to go home, catch up on sleep and think clearly. In the end, though, it wasn’t a difficult decision. On the pumpkin, er, plane ride home I thought it through. It just made sense to go with the agent who loved my work the most, the one who offered representation even before I won that pretty little necklace. So I called Cori Deyoe with 3-Seas Literary Agency the day after I returned from San Francisco and gladly accepted her offer of representation. She’s done great things for people I know and trust, so it was an easy choice. And she doesn’t think I’m weird for collecting animals, so that helped. Turns out, signing with her was not a mistake. It was not a moment too soon, either. The very next day I got a phone call from Berkley Publishing! An editor there had been looking at my manuscript for months but finally they were ready to make an offer. It was a strange sensation; I remember hearing those words, but they just didn’t quite register in my brain. You see, I was sick. I had a raging head cold and jet lag and that euphoric Golden Heart meltdown. I wasn’t even sure what day it was, let alone be able to process this whole concept of actually getting an offer from a real, live New York publisher! So my groggy twenty-second The Call went something like this:
Very Important New York Editor: Susan? Hello, this is Leis Pederson from Berkley Publishing in New York.
Me: (Wonders if she’s ever met this person before. Remembers to be nice and tries to sit up. Gives up.) Oh, hey there. How ya doing?
VINYE: Very well, thank you. I’ve read your manuscript and I really love it. A lot. It made me laugh.
Me: (Blows nose.) Gosh, that’s nice. (Is fairly certain she sees pretty pink sparkles floating around her living room.)
VINYE: In fact, we’d like to make an offer for it. Would you be willing to discuss this?
Me: (Sniffles. Coughs. Gags. Grins stupidly.) Yeah, sure. I’m okay to discuss that. (Wonders if room really is spinning or if that cold medicine said every 6 hours instead of every 4 hours. But the pink sparkles are nice…)
Leis proceeded to say lovely things about my book and to make a really nice offer that would have had any normal person jumping up and down like a game-show contestant. I, sad to say, sneezed. I was totally happy on the inside, though. Somehow I remembered that people with agents usually let them do the negotiating so at some point I referred Leis to Cori. I’m hoping I managed to sound somewhat professional and not like I was blowing her off, but I probably sounded like I was blowing her off. I wasn’t—it was the cold medicine! Honest! But Leis did contact Cori and Cori had already contacted a couple other editors who’d expressed interest when I met them in San Francisco. All in all, Cori had five editors who asked to have a shot at the manuscript. Yeah, five! In the end, Cori negotiated a better offer from Berkley and I signed with them. I now have a two-book deal, the first scheduled for release in 2009 and the second in 2010. And that’s really nothing to sneeze at!
Can you tell us about your storyline?
MISTAKEN BY MOONLIGHT will be coming out in late 2009 through Berkley Publishing. This manuscript was my Golden Heart winner and I’m happy to say it’s also my first sale. I can’t wait! Hopefully readers will fall in love with Dashford and Evaline just like I did. The story starts out simply enough with a typical Regency setting—a lonely young lady alone in a moonlit garden meets a wandering lord who’s eager to avoid matrimony. It becomes somewhat less typical pretty early on, though, when we realize said lonely young lady is drunk off her gourd. Said wandering lord gladly tries to seduce her only to have her pass out in a sotted stupor. But he’s really a nice guy. He can’t just leave her to sleep it off out in the garden, can he? Of course not. He needs a quiet place to stash the senseless stranger. The only place he can think of, though, is his bed. When poor, senseless Evaline wakes up the next morning—with a killer hangover and no gentleman in sight—she thinks she’s done the unthinkable. She’s ruined for sure. Worse yet, she can’t even remember it! She’d like to remember it, though. She’ll just have to find this mysterious gentleman and try for another go ‘round, since the damage is already done. One good thing, however: at least he isn’t Lord Dashford, the dissolute scoundrel who wants to marry her for her money. Well, of course he is Dashford and of course he does want to marry her once he finds out she’s not just some random trollop, but he’s not nearly as desperate for her money as everyone thinks he is. That’s just a ruse because—well, it gets complicated. Eventually Dashford and Evaline do fall hopelessly in love, but their journey to happiness gets all mucked up along the way with meddling mothers, atrocious aunts, finagling former fiancés, sordid family secrets, multiple mistaken identities and—for good measure—a flood. But by heavens, the next time Evaline gets the chance to ruin herself she does end up remembering it!
This one sounds like so much fun, I can’t wait to see it on the stands. So what follows?
I’m just finishing up DECEPTION AT DAWN, another Regency Historical with characters from MISTAKEN BY MOONLIGHT. I really can’t say too much about it because some of the plot elements cross over between the two and I’m not into spoilers, but I’ve been having a blast writing it. The hero is hot and the heroine is a bit, er, unconventional. These characters carry some heavy baggage into this story, but I promise you’ll still find plenty of humor. So far my agent assures me it’s a great follow-up to MOONLIGHT. Hopefully we’ll see this one hit the shelves sometime in 2010. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a third and fourth book in this series, too, but that’s not etched in stone yet. A girl can dream, can’t she?
That she can – and this seems like a perfect note to turn the conversation over to our readers. Susan realized one of her dreams through her Golden Heart win followed by a sale. But we all carry dreams in our heart and hope that some of them will be realized in 2009. Tell us about some of your dreams, realized or not…or if not, tell us about your last drunken sotted stupor experience (grin).
In honor of Susan’s debut MISTAKEN BY MOONLIGHT, I’ll send a copy of THE TROUBLE WITH MOONLIGHT to the commentor she chooses as a winner.