Monthly Archives: January 2013

Interview with Steve Vernon, and book giveaway!

Steve VernonToday it is my pleasure to introduce to you bestselling author Steve Vernon, author of Sinking Deeper OR My awesome brilliant Questionable Heroic Decision to Invent a Sea Monster.  Please read my review HERE.

Steve has published over fifty short stories, as well as the books Halifax Haunts, Wicked Woods, Haunted Harbours, and his children’s picture book, Maritime Monsters. He lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Steve, it’s my pleasure to welcome you to my author interview corner. 😉 I have been wanting to do this for awhile and now seems a good time. Please get comfy and tell us a little about yourself.  

Hi, Lynn. I’m happy to be here.

A little about myself?

I’m a storyteller – first and foremost. I grew up in Northern Ontario, raised by my grandparents, and came to Nova Scotia when I was seventeen years old to get to know my Mom. I fell in love with the Atlantic Ocean from the first time I saw it and have lived here ever since – although I have hitchhiked across Canada a couple of times.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Who or what inspired you?

The problem with a writer’s memory is it is a bit of a stew pot, in that has been constantly stirred. Trying to pinpoint a memory like that is a little like trying to hunt up my favourite chunk of carrot from somewhere within the middle of the pot. I do remember sending a story to Alfred Hitchock’s Mystery Magazine – back when I was eleven years old. I received an actual hand-written rejection letter – because I believe some slush reader had kids of their own.

I also remember the morning that W.O. Mitchell –  author of Jake and the Kid and Who Has Seen The Wind – came to our English class as a guest author. I’d say right then and right there I decided to myself that I was going to grow up someday and become an author.

I’m still working on that whole “growing up”  part of the equation…

Well, don’t worry, Steve; growing up doesn’t seem to be all it’s cracked up to be (although I still have a long way to go myself). As a writer, do you do much reading? Who were/are your favourite authors or books?

I read every day.

As a writer, I have to.

Whenever someone comes to me and says – “I want to be a writer” – the first thing I ask them is –  “What have you read?”

If they tell me – “Well, I’m not all that much of a reader” – I promptly punch them in the nose – or, if they know karate or are of any potential size I might just shoot them once or twice with a ball of high-caliber sarcasm.


You can’t a drive a car without gas.

You can’t exhale without inhaling good air.

A fire needs good firewood.

Say it again – WRITERS NEED TO READ.

My favourite authors include Stephen Hunter, Robert Parker, Brian Keene, Joe Lansdale, Bernard Cornwell, Gary Paulsen and Conn Iggulden.

I agree about the reading. Have you ever felt like giving up? When did you finally believe in yourself so you can say “I am a writer”?

For me, giving up has always been an exercise in futility.

The fact is – no matter what I tell myself – sooner or later I find myself sitting down and making up a story. I am a born storyteller – it is something that is genetic in me. So saying that I’m depressed and that life isn’t worthwhile and that I’m going to quit writing and storytelling is about as sensible as me saying that I’m going to quit breathing.

In fact – that’s another one of my rules for determining if someone is a writer or not. If they are driven to do this – to string words together and convey ideas upon the computer screen or a piece of paper – then they are most likely supposed to be some sort of a writer.

It’s like a fellow who wants to be a painter. Odds are – if he is any kind of visual artist at all – he will have already established a LONG career of doodling and crayon coloring.

Writing – for me – is a natural obsession.

I’ll give it up on the day that they dump about thirty or forty shovels full of dirt on my box.

Then we can expect many more books from you. 🙂 Do you have a motto or Bible verse or quote that you try to live by and that helps to keep you going?

“He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.”

And if anyone out there can’t peg that quote then you really need to make time to read a few more books.

I’m glad to say I recognize those words. 🙂 What do you remember about your very first time to be published, how did that happen?

First story I sold was to a biker magazine –  “OUTLAW BIKER”. They paid $150.00 and a contributor’s copy –  a magazine with more breasts, beards and motorbikes than I had ever seen together at any one time.

Now back then – in the mid-eighties –  that size of a check was about the same as I got paid for several days of flipping hamburgers at a fast food joint – where I was working at the time. So I remember thinking to myself – “Wow, I’m going to be rich.”

It didn’t work out quite as easily as that.

Interesting start! What have you had published thus far? Of those, what do you most enjoy writing?

I could fill a book with everything that I have written. I’ve sold close to a hundred short stories. I’ve got seven regional books out through Nimbus Publishing – (Haunted Harbours: Ghost Stories of Old Nova Scotia, Wicked Woods: Ghost Stories of Old New Brunswick among others). I’ve released about thirteen e-books through Crossroad Press. I have also released eight e-books independently.

Besides that I have written – and sold –  about one hundred fifty book reviews. I have written and sold about a hundred poems. I have written and sold several dozen author interviews. I have written and sold a couple dozen articles and have written and sold one radio play.

I like to keep busy.

Which do I enjoy the most?

Well – I really DO enjoy the work that I get paid for an awful lot. There is a real satisfaction in receiving an actual cheque in the mail for my words.

I could also tell you that I ALWAYS enjoy the work that I am doing at any point in time. Whatever story, novella, novel or script that I am working on – that is the one that I love the most.

However – if I really had to be pinned down to one particular work – I would have to say that Sinking Deeper OR My awesome brilliant Questionable Heroic Decision to Invent a Sea Monster was my absolute favourite work. I really enjoyed creating that young adult novel.

You are a very prolific writer! What process do you go through when writing and perfecting a book or article?

There are two processes that I can tell you about.

The first is the ideal process.

The ideal process consists of writing a manuscript and then putting it away for the next month while I work on something else. Then – after the manuscript has suitably cooled down and I have had enough of a chance to fall out of love with each little turn and twist of phrase and every single plot entanglement – I stomp through it with an eye for continuity and entertainment value.


I sometimes end up rattling something off at the very last minute, running my eyeball over the computer screen to see if anything TOO obnoxious happens to stick out, and then throwing it between two pieces of cardstock and calling it a book.

My usual procedure falls somewhere in between those two schools of thought.

What method do you use to keep track of your writing ideas?

I scribble them somewhere, put it under a likely looking heap on my desk and then forget about it. Years later, usually around the January resolution-making season, I stumble across that scribbled note while making an entirely-too perfunctory attempt to clean up this sorry landfill that I call a desk – and I think to myself –  “Hey, that would probably make a pretty good story.”

Then I most likely will put that note back under another heap of scrap paper to mature a little longer.

It is – in hindsight – sort of a compost-heap approach to writing.

Funny! 🙂  What inspired you to write Sinking Deeper OR My awesome brilliant Questionable Heroic Decision to Invent a Sea Monster?

That’s an easy question.

Let’s see if I can make the answer a little more confusing than it needs to be.

For starters – I wrote that novel because I REALLY wanted to write something for all of the kids that I visit through the WRITERS IN THE SCHOOL program. My ghost story collections are VERY popular amongst junior high and high school students – but I REALLY wanted to come up with an actual chapter-by-chapter novel for that age group.

So I came up with Sinking Deeper OR My awesome brilliant Questionable Heroic Decision to Invent a Sea Monster.

If you want me to get philosophical about it –  the book is actually my ode to the oral storytelling tradition. Granddad Angus is sort of a role model for myself – the kind of storyteller that I would like to grow up to become – assuming I ever get around to actually growing up.

I am VERY proud of this particular novel –  especially now that it has made the shortlist of BOTH the Hackmatack and the Silver Birch award. That is an awesome achievement for a writer who really did not know what he was doing at the time that he did it.

You have good reason to be proud of this novel. It looks as if you might have had fun writing this book. How long did it take you to write it? Did you have to do any research? 

I had a lot of fun writing this book.

Research was minimal. I had spent a couple of years – off and on – living in the town of Yarmouth. I worked in a fish plant, raked blueberries, worked in a cotton mill and indulged in all manner of small town activity. I woke to bagpipes every morning of the two years that I spent attending Kings College University. I even threw a caber quite a few summers back. Dropped it to a reasonable eleven o’clock position – which isn’t too shabby for a beginning caber chucker.

As for the sea monster – well, I had been thinking about that particular idea since I was a kid.

Did you write a little of yourself into any of the characters? Do you have a favourite?

I’d have to say that I want to be Granddad Angus – and I probably was Roland – as a child growing up.

Did you find any part of the story difficult to pull together? If so, how did you stick with it?

Writing for kids is HARD work.

Don’t let ANYONE tell you that writing for children is easy.

I put more sweat into the creation of that novel SINKING DEEPER and the writing of my children’s picture book MARITIME MONSTERS than ANY of my other works.

I stuck with it because I have bills to pay. If in doubt I ALWAYS apply a working man’s ethic to my craft. My muse wears work boots and punches that time clock like it was a religion.

That sounds productive. How did you go about finding a publisher?

Well – I’ve got several publishers –  but I’d have to say the publisher that has done the MOST to help make me the writer I am today is Nimbus Publishing. I connected with them on my very first ghost story collection – way back in 2004  – when I pitched my book at the First Annual Halifax Word on the Street Pitch the Publisher’s event.

Pitch the Publisher was basically a sort of Dragon’s Den for writers. You are given a very few moments to tell three different maritime publishers about your book – and WHY they ought to publish it. The event has gone on every year since 2004 – but as far as I have been told my book Halifax Haunts: Ghost Stories from Old Nova Scotia was the very first book to actually make the leap from a pitch session to a published work.

The book remains my bestselling work – with over ten thousand copies sold to date – which isn’t all that bad for a Canadian regional press.

Fantastic! Tell us what honours this book (Sinking Deeper) has received thus far and what is coming up.

As I mentioned – the book has made the short list for both the Hackmatack and the Silver Birch awards for Children’s Fiction. There is no cash prize involved – but both award committees have made certain that copies of Sinking Deeper have been bought and placed in school libraries across the maritimes and Ontario. That – in itself – is a huge benefit – and I am exceedingly grateful for this opportunity.

As a result I will be taking part in school and library readings across the maritimes – and possibly a few in Ontario – although transportation is an issue. I will be appearing at the OLA Conference this year – at the Follett Table on February 1st – at 11:30am. Any of you writer-types or librarians attending I’d be happy to meet with you.

I hope someone reading this can take you up on the invitation. Congratulations  on making the short lists! Do you have another job you go to daily? If so, how do you find time to write when you are busy with life?

Oh yes – I have a day job.

It pays the bills.

As to how I find the time to write – I get up early and drink a LOT of coffee.

What other interests do you have for a change from writing?

I garden a little, shovel snow – (hey, it’s Canada) – and work out a little. I read and I watch WAY too many old movies thanks to the Turner Network.

Fortunately we don’t have snow all year! I understand about old movies; I like the Turner Network, too. How do you consistently write? Do you have writing goals – daily? Weekly? Monthly? Long range?

Writing goals have unfortunately been relegated to the realm of forgotten New Year’s resolutions.

I write as often as I can – as well as I can – not nearly often enough.

And yet you are an accomplished author. Do you have another project in the works? Any hints you can share with our readers about that?

I’m currently working on completing a young adult serial/series that is available in Kindle and Kobo format. The work is entitled Flash Virus and it consists of six separate episodes that will eventually form a stand-alone book. I am currently halfway through Episode Five. The first episode is free – in both Kindle and Kobo – and I have given away about 8-10 thousand copies through both networks.

It’s basically the end-of-the-world as told by a teenager.

The protagonist – Briar Gamble – has to react when his school is “invaded” by evil cellphones and a creepy pale-faced mad genius whom the kids refer to as Captain Albino.

You want a taste of it – here’s the first sentence.

“So as near as I could tell the end of the world began roughly about the time that Billy Carver’s butt rang – about halfway through the War of 1812.”

Eight to ten thousand free copies? Wow! (I am reading one of those.) And that first sentence is a good hook. 🙂 Finally, do you have any advice for hopefuls?

Read every day – not just what you like to read – but read other stuff as well. Read action novels, political tomes, fairy tales, ghost stories, historical yarns, romance novels.

Feed the fire.

Grow yourself an iron-hard rhinoceros hide. This is NOT a profession for the easily discouraged.

Explore your imagination.

Don’t forget to tell a story.

Beginning, middle, end – save the artistic timelines for Quentin Tarrantino and the like.

Don’t give up the day job and remember to have fun.

If all else fails, go and fly a kite.

Great advice! Thank you, Steve, for this enjoyable and informative interview. You certainly gave us a different slant on things.  🙂

Sinking Deeper by Steve VernonNow for the giveaway: Are you interested in winning a copy of Steve Vernon’s YA novel – “Sinking Deeper OR My awesome brilliant Questionable Heroic Decision to Invent a Sea Monster”? Please leave a comment about this interview for your chance to win. At 6 PM EST on Tuesday, February 5, one name will be pulled from the basket and I will contact the winner for a mailing address so Steve can send the winner a book!   :) Be sure to check back.

 Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂


Book Review: Sinking Deeper OR My awesome brilliant Questionable Heroic Decision to Invent a Sea Monster – by Steve Vernon

Sinking Deeper by Steve VernonBook: Sinking Deeper OR My awesome brilliant Questionable Heroic Decision to Invent a Sea Monster
Author: Steve Vernon
Publisher: Nimbus Publishing
Date: September 1, 2011
Genre: Young Adult
Pages: 168
Price: $12.95
My Rating: a bizarre maritime adventure not to be missed

This book has the longest title of any I have reviewed so far.  🙂

Sinking Deeper OR My awesome brilliant Questionable Heroic Decision to Invent a Sea Monster could be called hilarious, or it could be called reminiscent of younger days – for those of us who are old enough to have “younger days” and who found themselves in impossible situations, or it could be called adventurous, or … well, you get the picture. This book is all of the above and more.

Steve Vernon, known for his very creative storytelling, has written this enjoyable story based in the fictional laid-back fishing community of Deeper Harbour, Nova Scotia. His main character, who is relating the adventure, is a fourteen-year-old boy trying to do the right thing, but – as a member of a rather dysfunctional but loveable family – he is persuaded to do the unusual and ofttimes the outlandish, by his two best friends – one being his grandfather!And it’s his grandfather who adds the most to the craziness.

The emotional thread is that this teen boy, whose name is Roland, is determined to find a way to stay in Deeper Harbour. His parents are divorcing and his mother has decided to move to Ottawa, Ontario, taking him along. He has to do something to change her mind. What he ends up doing is creating a sea monster, but – through events that grow and grow – what transpires is far greater than anything he ever could have imagined.

I would like to tell you more but I don’t want to spoil it for you. What I will say is Steve Vernon included everything – humour, adventure, suspense, sadness, mystery, hilarity, unexpected twists and turns to keep the reader involved, and did I say it’s funny? It’s funny.

Oh, and I will also say … I urge you to add this action-filled, entertaining book to your ‘to be read’ pile. It’s great for middle-grade readers right on up to, and including, grandmas. (I very much enjoyed it. 🙂 ) Its short chapters are very convenient when one does not have much time to read in one sitting, but you really won’t want the time between readings to be long.

This book has been noticed in high places, which the author will tell about, so … Please come back on Thursday, January 31, for my entertaining  interview with Steve Vernon. He is offering a copy of “Sinking Deeper  OR My awesome brilliant Questionable Heroic Decision to Invent a Sea Monster” for one of you who leaves a comment after that interview.  you’ll love it!

You can find Sinking Deeper  OR My awesome brilliant Questionable Heroic Decision to Invent a Sea Monster listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

How do you handle criticism?

Just a quick question for you tonight —  How do you handle criticism? 

  • Do you sulk, stomp your foot, pout?
  • Do you consider it carefully, looking for what may be the truth of what was said?
  • Do you get bent all out of shape and defensively confront the one who made the criticism?
  • Do you accept it gracefully and chalk it up to experience?

How do you handle criticism? With maturity or with ego?

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂


Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension” – part 1: Heart Breaker

Welcome, everyone! Have you ever wished you could sit in on one of Sue Harrison’s writers workshops? Now you can, a few minutes at a time. Over the next many months you are invited here for a writers workshop, the fourth Thursday of each month, for Sue Harrison‘s teaching about Writing The Third Dimension. Sue invites you to ask questions and leave comments, to which she will gladly respond. If you miss one segment, you can still have access to them all. Just mouse over Writers’ Helps & Workshops on my drop down menu, then click on Writing The Third Dimension.

When I asked her what it means to write the third dimension, Sue explained, “Basically, the concept is for writers to write their characters, scenes, and plots in such a way that they “pop” off the two-dimensional page and assume a three-dimensional presence in the reader’s mind – as if the reader had actually lived the story.”  Now we are going to learn how to do that.  🙂


“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 1: Heart Breaker

I love the story about the elderly Athabascan woman who was asked how to make moosehide moccasins.  Her reply?  “Well, first you kill a moose.”

moose (WITD)

In other words, have a seat.  This is going to take a while.

When I’m asked, “How do you write a novel?”  My answer is, “Well, first you break a heart.”

And not just any old heart, but the heart of the main character. When an author writes a novel, his/her goal is to tell a story so compelling that the reader doesn’t want to put it down. That means the novelist must establish a strong connection between the reader and the book’s main character. The only sure way to do that is through emotions.

I might not know what it’s like to live thousands of years ago in the Aleutian Islands, but I can relate to an Aleut woman who loses the man she loves in a vicious raid. I feel the emotional connection, and I want to read her story, live her life, and discover how she finds love again. Because she and I are sisters. We both know what it is to have a broken heart. (Okay, I admit it. I’m advertising one of my own novels, Mother Earth Father Sky.)

So, if you’re a writer, how do you go about breaking that main character’s heart? You do it by knowing your main character so well that you understand what is at the center of her soul. Ask yourself these questions: What is most important thing/person/belief in her life? What is the foundation of her self-esteem? What does she love most? Once you know that, then you’ve solved your problem, and what you must do is take that most precious thing away from her. Then she’s in the fight of her life as she tries to survive and win back what she’s lost. Suddenly you have a plot; you have a story. You’ve pushed your character off the two-dimensional page and made her come alive in your reader’s mind.

Tell me about your main character. What is at the center of his or her self-esteem? What does he love the most? What will break her heart?

Blessings, Sue    *Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy, and a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments.  Next installment February 28, 2013.

We have a Sue Harrison book winner! & Important announcement for writers!

This post is a doubly exciting one for me, a two-part privilege.


Announcing the winner of a Sue Harrison novel:

My young grandson came to visit us awhile this evening, so at 6 PM EST (7:00 for me) I asked him to draw one name out of the basket of entries — the name of one person to win a Sue Harrison novel, winner’s choice of title.  The winner is ……   ** drum roll **


 Bill G.!!

Congratulations,  Bill! Please check your email for my request for your mailing address and the title of the book you want to receive from Sue Harrison, if you haven’t already said that in your comment.  She will happily get that book into the mail for you. 🙂

THANK YOU, EVERYONE, FOR PARTICIPATING! It was fun for both Sue and me.


Have you been watching my countdown clock? It now says 2 days to go! I can’t stand the wait, so here is what I’ll be bringing you that I have been eagerly waiting to tell you.  🙂  On Thursday morning,  January 24, at 8:00 EST (9:00 for me) a new series begins here on my blog, then the fourth Thursday of each month the next installment will be posted. Curious?

This is for you, if:

  • you are a writer,
  • you are a writer of fiction,
  • you have been thinking about trying your hand at writing fiction,
  • you are a fiction writer who would love some tips about how to give your characters more depth,
  • you want to learn more about fiction writing but don’t have the time or money to spare right now to go to a workshop,
  • you are a Sue Harrison fan.

That’s right!  Sue Harrison has enthusiastically agreed to guest post here, but then offered much more than that. She will post here once a month, the fourth Thursday of each month, so that you can learn from her experience. How cool is that!!

Now you know why I am excited about this! Sue is going to teach us about Writing The Third Dimension Here is how she describes it: “Basically, the
concept is for writers to write their characters, scenes, and plots in such
a way that they “pop” off the two-dimensional page and assume a
three-dimensional presence in the reader’s mind – as if the reader had
actually lived the story.

I’m thinking this will be of help to me when I finally put my attention to the editing and revising of my NaNoWriMo novel – which I have to finish writing first. It should even help with writing picture books. I’m sure it will be of help to you in your writing.

I am also going to set up a page for this series so that not only can you find Sue’s posts here, but you can also click on the page WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION (under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on the drop down menu), and link back to whichever topic you want to study.

I   AM   EXCITED !!  I hope you will come back and check this out. For your convenience, you can sign up for emails to be informed of when there is a new post on my blog. (top left corner) I don’t want you to miss any of Sue’s teaching. Rest assured that I do not use anyone’s addresses for anything else. It’s all done automatically through WordPress, anyway. 🙂

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

Reminder: book giveaway January 22, and news!!

Hello everyone!  I have exciting reminders and news for you!

Picture_Cartoon_Character_with_a_String_Tied_around_Its_Finger_to_Help_Remember_in_an_Illustrated_Stock_Photo_111209-153839-316001REMINDER #1:

This is to remind you of the giveaway of one of Sue Harrisons books tomorrow. If you have left a comment, you have a chance to win!! If you have not left a comment HERE, what’s stopping you? You have until 6 PM EST, Tuesday, January 22 to do so. 


If you are keeping note of my COUNTDOWN CLOCK, you will see there are only three days to go!  To go? Go where, you might ask?  

hint 1: On the morning of January 24 the first installment of an exciting monthly feature will be posted.

hint 2: It is a help for writers.  You won’t want to miss this!

hint 3: It is offered by an accomplished author.

This is a great time for you to sign up for email notifications of new posts on my blog. 


If you have been following my blog, you will know that we have been under added stress with cancer diagnosis, surgery, recovery, and waiting for test results. Those results were received this morning — the lengthy pathology report summed up that my husband is cancer free! When I called and told him he laughed with relief. It is such a load off us with all else going on. I think when he walks in the door tonight I might cry with happiness. 🙂 What he doesn’t know until he gets home is that we are going out to celebrate tonight with our family (eight or nine of us) to dinner at Swiss Chalet. It feels like a new day.

I heard on the radio this morning that today, January 21, is known as Blue Monday. As my sister-in-law said: “Blue Monday debunked!!”  🙂  It also is known as International Hug day. I can assure you, my husband is going to be sufficiently hugged today, starting with me!  🙂 A big Thank you, to everyone who prayed.

Reminders: Leave a comment for your chance to win a book; sign up for email notifications to new posts on my blog; come back to find out what the special feature is all about.  Full details on that tomorrow when the winner of Sue Harrison’s book is announced.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂


Interview with Sue Harrison, and book giveaway

I’m pleased to introduce to you Sue Harrison, author of Mother Earth Father Sky which I reviewed HERE. Please read the review if you haven’t already.

Sue HarrisonSue Harrison was born and brought up in Michigan, USA, and graduated summa cum laude from Lake Superior State University. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. Sue is a Distinguished Service Award Honoree of the Michigan Delta Kappa Gamma Educator’s Sorority.  She is a member of the Society of Midland Authors, The Authors Guild, the American Christian Fiction Writers, and the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association. Her novels have been published in more than twenty countries and in thirteen languages.

Sue, I’m honoured to welcome you to my blog! You have been a faithful follower and commenter for some time here, but now we have a better chance to get to know Sue Harrison, the author of bestselling novels, in a more personal way. Please begin by telling us a little about yourself.

Just a rough sketch here, Lynn. I’ve been a Christian since I was five years old when a neighbor girl, about 8 years old, led me to the Lord. How’s that for “child evangelism?” When I was 9, I fell for the boy I’d grow up to marry. We were married when we were 19. We worked our way through college and our children were born when we were in our early 20s. Most of our married life, we have lived in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We have two daughters and a son. Our firstborn, a daughter, died in infancy. Our son is married and we have two granddaughters. Our daughter has just returned from 10 years of missionary service in Europe. I love books, reading them and writing them, and I love the outdoors. I’m a certified scuba diver, enjoy gardening, needlework and weaving, and travel. I play 7 musical instruments, although none of them impressively. I was raised in a very musical family. My mother was a professional musician from age 13, and her brother one of the conductors of the ABC symphony and also a composer best known for his Alaskan Symphony. I have four siblings.

Wow! At 9 you found your life partner? Astonishing! You live a very full life; when did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Who or what inspired

I decided I would be a novelist after falling in love with words at age 10. That was when my paternal grandmother introduced me to the work of Laura
Ingalls Wilder.

Another surprising fact! As a writer, do you do much reading? Who were/are your favourite authors or books?

I’m very eclectic reader, am usually reading four or five books at the same time, and read about 100 books a year. I have too many favorites to give them all space here, but at the top of my list is, of course, Laura Ingalls Wilder and also Dorothy Dunnett, particularly her Lymond Chronicles.

Have you ever felt like giving up? When did you finally believe in
yourself so you can say “I am a writer”?

There were times when I wondered if God wanted me to stop writing. That has
been a battle for me particularly in the last ten years, which have been very intensive parent care years for me. I don’t have to explain that to you, Lynn. You know exactly how that impacts your life and your career. For the first four and half years I was the primary caregiver for my mom-in-law who had Alzheimer’s. During that time, my writing was often limited to less than an hour a week. You just can’t write novels during an hour a week. It doesn’t happen. After she passed away, I was still caring for my father-in-law but able to reserve two to three hours a day a few days a week to write. Now I’m also caring for my parents, but that is less intensive. They are by nature more independent and also understand how important my writing is to me, so we’ve been able to bring in other caregivers and preserve much of my writing time.

As to the second part of that question. I first felt like a real writer when my first short story was published in a small college magazine. It happened again for me with the publication of each of my novels. In between and since then, I seem to have to prove to myself all over again – every day – that I’m a real writer.

Strange how even the most accomplished doubt themselves at times.
Do you have a motto or Bible verse or quote that you try to live by and that helps to keep you going?

I have a Bible verse taped to my computer screen. It is from Zephaniah 3:17.”The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy, he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.”

I also have two other quotes taped on my screen: Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Never
lose an opportunity for seeing anything that is beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting, a wayward sacrament.”

The last is a business-like quote that my husband gave me by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. “As an artist in today’s society, you are responsible for your own successes and failures. Do your best to capitalize on the former and survive the latter. You won’t always make the right choices, but now, at least, you have choices. And that’s a very, very good thing.”

Excellent quotes, and that Bible verse is one of my favourites!
What do you remember about your first book being published, how did that happen?

I probably remember every second of it, so I won’t bore you with a blow-by-blow description. I’d been trying to find an agent for my first novel MOTHER EARTH FATHER SKY. In those days there was no internet so I was
limited to finding agent names and addresses in books. I had one little book that I’d purchased. It listed agents in alphabetical order. I started at the A’s and went on through. Almost 5 years (and a complete rewrite) later, I was in the W’s and getting desperate. In November I sent a query to Rhoda Weyr of the Rhoda Weyr Literary Agency. A couple weeks later, she asked for a complete manuscript. In January she called and asked me to be her client. She also asked for some minor changes. I completed those in 3 days and sent the ms back to her. At the end of March she called and said some editors would like to talk to me. The first “editor” was the president of Random House. The second was a VP of Doubleday. My husband was sitting across the kitchen table from me when I took the call from Doubleday and he realized by my side of the conversation that she (Loretta Barrett) was trying to sell ME on choosing Doubleday. I looked at him and he had tears running down his cheeks. His crazy wife was actually going to sell that dang novel she’d been working on for 10 years. MEFS went to auction with 5 bidders. After 3 days, we still had 3 bidders and we chose to go with Doubleday.

How sweet to have such a supportive husband.  What are the novels you have had published thus far, and of those, which did you most enjoy writing?

Mother Earth Father Sky, My Sister the Moon, Brother Wind, Song of the River, Cry of the Wind, Call Down the Stars and Sisu. I can’t choose any one of them as my favorite to write. I loved writing them all.

What process do you go through when writing and perfecting a book or article?

With novels and articles, I basically go through the same process. I spend a
certain period of time getting it all in my head. I don’t write an extensive outline, just jot down ideas. I let my characters ride around in my head for
about a year before I begin writing the book, and then I sit down and write,
usually about 5 to 10 typewritten pages a day. At the halfway point, I stop, go back and read what I’ve written. Then I continue on and finish my first draft. With my novels, I rewrite at least 6 full drafts. My research comes before, during and after.

What method do you use to keep track of your writing ideas?

I have an idea folder.

What inspired you to write your trilogies? and stand-alone novels?

A number of factors influenced my decision to write the two Alaska
trilogies: my experience growing up in a woodsy, almost wilderness
environment; my father’s and my husband’s love of the outdoors; my
fascination with Native American cultures; my interest in Native languages;
the research of Dr. William Laughlin. My one stand-alone published novel is
for middle readers. My children’s lives influenced that book and my
experiences as a mom and wife. The novels I’m writing now – romantic
suspense for the inspirational market – are an expression of my faith and of
my love of reading mystery and suspense novels.

How long did it take you to write each book or set? What research
did you have to do? And how did you come up with the titles?

I began the research for all my Alaska books in 1978. I finished writing the
last book in 1999, and I estimate that I spent 9 of those years researching
to write the novels. The rest was writing time. My research included learning about the cultures, lifestyles, art, and languages of Alaskan Native peoples. I also studied influencing cultures, including many of the Native cultures of what is now Canada, the Native peoples in the northern and western parts of what are now the lower 48 states of the USA, and the traditions and some of the legends of Native peoples in eastern Siberia and SE Asia. I also studied geography, geology, the archeological digs in Alaska, and Native survival skills and artwork.

The title Mother Earth Father Sky is from a very well-known Tewa poem. The
other two Ivory Carver Trilogy titles – My Sister The Moon and Brother Wind,
just seemed to fit in with the family theme of that first title. My second trilogy was titled by one of my editors, Ellen Edwards. My titles for that trilogy were cumbersome, and she was afraid buyers might shy away from purchasing the novels. Her titles are Song of the River, Call of the Wind, and Call Down The Stars.

Did you write a little of yourself into any of the characters? Do
you have any favourites?

My favourite characters are both from my first trilogy, both lead charactersand both women: Chagak and Kiin. I think writers can’t help but put a bit of themselves into every character. My main characters are much more courageous and much stronger than I am. They are what I wish I were. My villains are what I hope I’m not!

Did you find any part of the stories difficult to pull together? Was any individual book more difficult to write? If so, how did you
stick with it?

I had the most trouble writing the third book of the first trilogy, Brother Wind. I was working with a new publisher with that book, and they preferred that I first write an extensive outline, which I’d not done with my first two novels. I wrote a 60-page outline, and by the time I’d completed the first half of the novel, I realized that I might as well throw that outline away. My characters had hijacked the story and sent it on a new course. I was a bit discouraged and set the novel aside for about a week. During that time I wrote the first half of SISU, a middle reader’s book, set in Michigan in current time. That seemed to break the gridlock for me, and I was able to finish Brother Wind. Later, my husband suggested that I finish SISU. I did, and, although my publisher William Morrow made an offer for the novel, we decided to go with a small Michigan publisher, Thunder Bay Press, to prolong the life of the book. Now more than ten years later, it’s still in print.

Tell us about the honours/recognition your books received.

The Alaska trilogies were very well received. Several of them have been chosen in top ten “reader’s choice” situations. Mother Earth Father Sky was selected as one of 1991’s Best Books for Young Adults as a crossover from the adult market by the American Library Association. It was also a national and international bestseller and received a boxed review in the New York Times Book Review. The Ivory Carver Trilogy was re-released in an omnibus edition in Sweden. Mother Earth Father Sky was performed as a radio drama in Japan and Norway. Brother Wind was selected as a Book of the Month by my German publisher. Mother Earth Father Sky and My Sister the Moon were both main selections of the Literary Guild. My Sister the Moon was a Baker & Taylor national bestseller and a bestseller to libraries. Sisu has been selected as Accelerated Readers Book in the US.

That is so amazing! How do you find time to write when you are busy with life?

Sometimes I can’t. That’s a great and distressing time for me when that occurs, but I believe it happens with all writers. When I had a fulltime job, I woke up at 5 in the morning, Monday through Friday, without exception other than Christmas and Thanksgiving. Then I wrote for an hour and a half until my family got up. Now I often put in 14- or 15-hour days in order to find time to write despite the care and housekeeping I do for our parents.

That’s commitment! What other interests do you have for a change from writing?

I’ve mentioned some of these above. I love to read, knit, sew, weave,garden, and I walk for exercise. I play 7 musical instruments: piano, flute, baglama, viola, double-bowed psaltery, mandolin, and mountain dulcimer. I have a hammered dulcimer, but make no claims yet to be able to play it. I participate weekly with a jam group. Lots of fun, and I’m also a vocal performer. I love to travel, and my husband and I try to get away for a week at least once a year. Prior to our parent care responsibilities we traveled extensively in Europe, the Caribbean and, of course, Alaska.

How do you consistently write? Do you have writing goals – daily?
Weekly? Monthly? Long range?

My writing goals are more along the line of trying to write at least 3 and preferably 5 days a week for 2 or 3 hours in the morning. I also spend quite
a few evenings writing blog posts. I try to finish at least one of my romantic suspense novels each year.

Do you have another project in the works? Any hints you can share with our readers about that?

I have two novels – BILLIONS and PRODIGY – with my agent, Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary Agency right now. I’m hoping she can find publishers for them in the inspirational market. BILLIONS is about a billionaire and a waitress who are both hostages in a con game for millions. PRODIGY features a young woman who is a luthier known for her exquisite handmade violins. Here’s PRODIGY’s “hook” – A kidnapped child. A violin. A closet.

The novel I’m working on at the moment is in the first-draft-half-finished stage. The working title is WARP. It’s about a young widow who has two young children. She weaves tapestry copies of masterpieces, but against her will has been drawn into criminal activity by her dead husband’s family. It’s all about survival, and I’m having a ball writing it.

Intriguing! I’ll have to watch for your new titles. Finally, do you have any advice for hopefuls?

Three simple things: 1. Read, read, read. 2. Write, write, write. 3. Learn
to believe in yourself by reaching out to the One who made you.

Oh, what excellent advice; thank you, Sue! And thank you for this  wonderful interview.

Check out Sue Harrison’s website: and click on “Appearances 2013” to find out where she is speaking. Perhaps she will soon be somewhere near you, or you can book her for a speaking engagement or writers’ workshop.

Now for our first giveaway of 2013. Are you interested in winning a copy of one of Sue’s books? Please leave a comment about this interview and also mention which of her books you would like to win if your name is drawn. At 6 PM EST on Tuesday, January 22, one name will be pulled from the basket and I will contact the winner for a mailing address so Sue can send the chosen book! How great is that!  🙂

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂