Interview with Susannah J. Bell

What are you working on now? (Spring 2017)
I've just published the fourth novel in the Fleet Quintet and now I'm typing up my handwritten novel that I wrote last year in autumn. It has been through several working titles and the latest is "Jacaranda Falls" - I'll see how long this title will last! It's a new direction for me, not one I'm sure I'll stick to, but it is an interesting challenge. Not my usual sci-fi!
Describe your desk
My desk is awfully old and rickety, with a heavy bottom drawer that has lost all its rollers. I'd love a new desk but have to make do, even though it's the wrong height - the chair is awful too! I try to keep it as tidy as possible but there's always a little pile of papers under my moleskin diary. I have a white fancy mesh container for pens but only ever use the black bic fine-point. I've also got a small statue of Nike, a blue glass paperweight (which could kill someone) and a very heavy marble pyramid (which could also kill someone.) Malachite bowl of semi-precious stones, handmade wooden cup holder from New Zealand and a very tall block of notepaper. Large red lamp, like the Pixar one. And quite a lot of dust, since my desktop computer attracts it with great enthusiasm. My desk in the corner of the lounge, looking towards the window, though all I can see out of it is the building opposite (I live in a fourth floor flat). I have a print of the Beguiling of Merlin on the wall next to me and this is my little space. My computer, a rather large touchscreen (many decades away from the prehistoric Amstrad I started on), is my connection both to the outer world and to my inner world - and from them, I draw my inspiration.
What are you working on next?
I'll be working on V.GOMENZI later this year, the third in the Fleet Quintet. At the moment I'm working on the eighth short story for the first volume of the Exodus Sequence (there will be nine in total).
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Kindle and Nook - I love them both.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Begging...?!
When did you first start writing?
When I was a kid, I used to draw stories until they became very word-heavy. At the age of twelve, I made a conscious decision to be a writer though it took several decades before I felt I was one. As a teenager I wrote horrific short stories - both in style and content. My first novel was completed when I was eighteen, the first draft entirely handwritten.
What's the story behind your latest book?
I'll be working on V.GOMENZI later this year. It will be the third in the Fleet Quintet and covers both TRANSFERENCE and FLESH FOR SALE in terms of time - just how the main character gets to live in two eras was quite a challenge. It took me two years to write the first draft, an immensely complex task as it has three distinct threads and I had to ensure the reader won't get lost, particularly as the one thread covers several million years.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Phenomenal lack of interest from mainstream publishers and agents. Years of agonising rejection. But most of all, a desire to move on with my writing - I felt I was stuck on my old novels because I couldn't get them published. I wanted to get them "out there" before starting new projects - and I have MANY new projects lined up.
What do your fans mean to you?
A great deal, though currently I have so few that I can deliver personal service!
Who are your favorite authors?
This changes so much that it's hard to say. I used to always put Dan Simmon's Hyperion Cantos at the top of my book list but I haven't actually read much of his stuff recently. I passionately adore the Harry Potter series but my admiration for JKRowling has decreased rather rapidly in recent years. Authors that I return to again and again are Sue Grafton, Lindsay Davis and Agatha Christie. My favourite author has also been Robert Harris on many occasions and I admire Tolkien greatly though I wish he could have had access to a Word programme so that he could have done the editing he might have wanted to do! I also read everything Carlos Ruin Zafon writes with delight. And as for dippy romance, Trisha Ashley works for me. I'm still looking for my favourite author - someone out there that I can agree with.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Getting my daughter to school on time so that she doesn't get detention. That and the cup of tea I'm keen to make (rooibos with soya milk.)
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I have a job, though it's very small. Aside from endless chores, I like to read most of all. My favourite occupation is "armchairing" - book, tea, chocolate and a hot water bottle in winter. To armchair, in this house, is a verb.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Considering that I was about ten when I wrote it, I'd have to say no! The heroine had red hair, no doubt. I don't even recall the name of the first novel - I've written at least ten novels that I've lost along the way and many, many short stories, long forgotten. My second novel was called The Soft-Corn Movie. The title was the best thing about it.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I don't, exactly, but I do remember the first story to have an impact and that was "Pookie" by Ivy Wallace and "Pookie puts the world right". Pookie is a white rabbit who had some magic and left his family to seek his fortune because he didn't fit in. He met several fairy folk and then nearly died - but was rescued by Belinda (I see where I got THAT name from for "Transference"!) This story touched me greatly around pre-school age and later. In hindsight, it also seems to reflect my life somewhat!
How do you approach cover design?
Desperately. I have great ideas in my head which I don't have a budget to execute. One day my books will have the covers I really want.
What do you read for pleasure?
Detective fictions, Young Adult (though I loathe that label), anything slightly bizarre if I'm lucky enough to find it. I tend to reread a lot - I go through several phases a year in which I can't stand any book I start and find myself ditching book after book after only a few pages. This problem seems to be getting worse as the years roll by. I do, also, read the occasional sci-fi book - less keen than I used to be. Envy, I think.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in South Africa and the only way it influenced my writing is that most of my characters seem to be trying to escape from something, trying to get away, not fitting in, hating the people around them...
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Being able to create worlds that I can occupy. Creating characters that have a chance to express the things I can't. Creating the romance, adventure and heroism absent from my life. But best of all - the freedom to create ever-more surreal and dreamlike situations that make more sense to me than the "real" world.
Published 2017-03-13.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

V. Gomenzi (Third in the Fleet Quintet)
Series: The Fleet Quintet. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 191,570. Language: British English. Published: December 4, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » General, Fiction » Science fiction » Space opera
Vincent Gomenzi is a mindwalker. He is also the first. Unable to mindwalk, he hunts down other mindwalkers for the Fleet - until he has to catch his own brother. Unable to live with himself, he flees Sigma and only then begins to learn the truth about the Fleet's plans and the reluctant role he has to play.
Flesh for Sale (Second in the Fleet Quintet)
Series: The Fleet Quintet. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 133,910. Language: English. Published: March 13, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Apocalyptic, Fiction » Science fiction » Space opera
Sistia Scarpora's father has sold himself to the Fleet. Fifteen years later, he still hasn't come back. To find him, she has to infiltrate a secret Fleet world, but is the price she has to pay too high? How great is the sacrifice for heroism?
Transference (First in the Fleet Quintet)
Series: The Fleet Quintet. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 150,000. Language: Commonwealth English. Published: February 15, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Space opera, Fiction » Science fiction » General
Gomenzi is a mindwalker on the run – if he starts mindwalking again, he’ll get caught. And when mindwalkers get caught, they can bring down entire solar systems in their wake...
A Doorway into Ultra
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 109,160. Language: English. Published: December 15, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » General, Fiction » Science fiction » Utopias & dystopias
When a missing child is returned without her memory, only her abductor knows who she is – and who she isn’t.