Interview with H. Schussman

What are you working on next?
I always have a few books on the back burner, but right now I'm writing another conspiracy/action adventure with the same main characters. This time they end up in Guatemala. As you know from my other work, I like to incorporate behavioral and cultural differences into my writing. I feel it’s important to feel challenged by a story. This story takes the reader to the people group living inside the Guatemala City garbage dump.

I also deal with the complex subject of drug trafficking. This is a world-wide issue, but my focus is the drug trade through Central America. Who is the bad guy? isn’t always an easy question to answer. In this case it’s degrees of bad. Guatemala’s incredibly corrupt government makes them an easy target for my dark creativity.
Who are your favorite authors?
This may come as a surprise, but I love the classics; Alexandre Dumas, Jane Austen, Lyman Frank Baum, Nathaniel Hawthorne, George Orwell, Louisa May Alcott, C.S. Lewis. I just started Dracula by Bram Stoker, and am impressed with his crisp clean style. I like truly good literature.

I do read modern novels such as; The Hunger Games, The Woman of Sin, Water for Elephants, The Shack, Under the Tuscan Sun. Have read most of the work by Patricia Cornwell, Robin Cook, James Mitchener, and Francine Rivers.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Wow, what a great question! The first thing that came to mind is a saying; I want to be the kind of woman who wakes up, puts her feet on the floor, and Satan says "Oh crud! She's up!"

But seriously, the first thing on my mind is working out. Before I even brush my teeth, I go for a speed walk, or go to the pool and swim laps. I truly enjoy a lot of things. My job is amazing. I am a geriatric physical therapist. I specialize in dementia and psychiatric disorders. Super interesting. I obviously enjoy writing. My garden is my escape. I love sitting out back with my husband and drinking a glass of red wine, but he makes fun of me because I keep getting up and pulling a weed or snipping a rose.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
No, not really. I started writing pretty young. I vaguely remember a science fiction book when I was in elementary school. I tried romance and historical.
What is your writing process?
I get this question a lot. I have the creative side and the analytical side. For the creative side, I am more of a secretary for my characters. They live in my computer, or brain, or somewhere. Occasionally they all seem to take a nap, so I’ll prod them by starting to write what I think they would do. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been surprised at something a character will do, or the introduction of a new character. I don’t know the majority of the storyline or the ending.

I have control of the names and I actually spend time researching names. At the end of my document I keep a running list of all characters and their attributes for my cross-reference.

My major role is ‘the skeptic’. I will stop writing and complain out loud that my characters are being unrealistic. That will kill my story for days, as I try to circumvent their story and play devil’s advocate until they behave.

I research the technical aspects of the book; Firearms, military, technologies, locations (which means a lot of travel), and controversial issues (which can be uncomfortable). I will interview veterans and police, handle guns myself, and collect current brochures on guns.
How do you approach cover design?
My first goal was to do something different. When I scrolled down the choices of books I wanted mine to stand out. I noticed most covers were busy, so I went for simple. I design my own covers, and that design must resonate with both me, and the book.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I still have my Nook from the second year they made them. It works. I'm not one to throw something away that still serves its purpose.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I’m not very good at marketing. I think the two main tools I’ve used are business cards and the free book give-away to our deployed military (Operation eBook Drop). On the back-side of my business card, I have the link to my travel blog, ‘dashingboldadventure.blogspot.com’. When I travel, which is frequently, I meet a lot of people who want to know about the blog. It’s sort of a way for them to remember their trip where our paths crossed. Once they get to my blog, they learn about my novel.
Describe your desk
I answer this with a laugh because I rarely sit at a desk. The one in my office is actually a table, but that’s for my big computer. My writing is all on my laptop, which is . . . on my lap. I typically write on a lawn chair in my back yard, or my couch. I can be found at a Starbucks a couple of days a week (my favorite is at a Marriot Hotel near my house with a waterfall and pool). I write during hurricanes in the Bahamas, in Guatemalan coffee shops, Mexican bars, Italian cafes, Costa Rican beaches. I write everywhere.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in a small cliff-side town in Northern California. We moved about twenty minutes inland when I was five. Then down here to Sacramento. My childhood was spent camping up north. Our family was active, we invited all our friends over to swim, hike down to the ocean, or go waterskiing. We were always doing something outdoors, or arts and crafts indoors. My father was a policeman and I learned to shoot when I was about five years old with wax bullets. On Thanksgiving and Christmas we'd all climb into our various SUVs and trucks with our guns, and go target shooting in the forest.My dad would save coffee cans to hang from trees. My mom would sit on the tailgait with a thermos of coffee.

We had a retired police-dog, and a hundred other cats, dogs, birds, hamsters, and whatever else we'd drag home.

I think that my rough-and-tumble childhood greatly influences my characters, especially Sport. We would have been great buddies.
When did you first start writing?
I became a serious writer after an intense nightmare. I woke up, went into my office, and wrote down the dream. My first novel, Counterpart, is the result. If you’ve read that book, it was the scene where the old lady in the attic scared Sport to death by saying “Hello”. That’s when I woke up.

Since then it has been non-stop. I still have dreams that I include in my stories, but now much of my story structuring occurs while I swim laps (this is when I can be critical and skeptical). I think that is why my work reads super-fast, like a movie script. I am writing as fast as I can to try to keep up with my characters.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Sean is still a CIA agent. He went down to Guatemala to set up a surveillance op. His target is a drug lord in the wealthy colonial city of Antigua. As he gets too close, El Jefe strikes back by kidnapping his wife, Janet, from California. What follows is a cat and mouse chase. She, not surprisingly, escapes. But she is helpless in her pajamas in Antigua.

Shift scenes to El Basurero, the garbage dump in Guatemala City. This community inside the dump has been there for generations. There are 11,000 people, 6,000 of which are children. Amongst this tragic situation rise the true heroes of this book. The Guajeros hide Janet, protect her, and become a critical turning point in this drug battle. I had expected it to become unbearably sad when I realized Janet had ended up there, but instead, the characters of the dump surprised me with their strength and ragged nobility.

The people of Guatemala whom I interviewed had various opinions regarding the dump. Some said the Guajeros worked and made money on recycling. Others said the dump was the news center of Guatemala . . . If you wanted to know anything you could ask a Guajero. Most people were pretty cagey when I asked too many questions.

I hope this novel sheds light on the poverty at El Basurero, but also respects their hard work and contribution to society.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I became too frustrated with the difference between what the agents and publishers wanted, and the opinion of my readers. Each proof reader pushed me to publish Counterpart right away. One proof reader (an amateur) handed it back to me with one correction, and stated that she couldn’t put it down all weekend (and obviously couldn’t focus on all the errors). However no agents, or publishers were interested.

I came to realize I had no talent for poetry, short stories, or query letters. Therefore I decided to publish as an e-author. I did my homework and chose Smashwords because they are able to aggregate to such a large audience. Now I have a long list of reviewers who are giving me great feedback and encouragement, especially at Barnes and Noble.

Because of my lack of interest and talent in marketing, I doubt I’ll ever get a rep but at least I’m writing. Even better, people are reading my work. That’s the most important thing.
Published 2013-10-08.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

El Tiburon
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 89,620. Language: English. Published: December 31, 2015 by vinspirepublishing. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Suspense, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Action & suspense
CIA Agent Sean McGee is on a drug trafficking case in Guatemala when his wife is kidnapped in an attempt to stop him. It has the opposite effect. McGee follows a trail of corruption leading him back to the USA. He will rescue his wife no matter the stakes, but will this be his final fight?
Counterpart
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 104,840. Language: English. Published: July 24, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Action/adventure, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Spies & espionage
(5.00)
Sport witnesses the murder of a family friend, and escapes into Sean’s protective custody. When a plot by Russia to infiltrate our nation is uncovered, Sean finds out too late his direct boss is the enemy. Sport has the evidence to prove it. The dilemma is how to keep Sport safe and resolve the escalating danger to the USA. When they realize the President is the next target, they join forces.