Interview with Susan May

What is the best bit of writing advice you ever received from another writer? Or a reader?
I was fortunate in early 2013 to interview the poster-boy for indie publishing, Hugh Howey the author of Wool. We had quite an email conversation during the interview and I shared with him my husband’s suggestion I self-publish my work. Hugh’s reply changed my whole view of my future publishing path. This is what Hugh wrote and I treasure it:
“I think your husband has sound advice. You already have massive advantages in understanding the book trade, being well read, reading for critique, understanding promotion, and possessing a grasp of grammar and editing pitfalls.
Literary agents are often asked how difficult it is to get out of the slush pile, and they are fond of saying that if you take your craft seriously, you are already in the top 1%. That's even more true of self-published authors. If you produce a steady stream of polished work, you are putting yourself at the top of the heap. True, it may take a long while to be discovered, but you'll stand out once you are. You aren't competing with millions of books a year but thousands.
Traditionally published authors have even longer odds. Even if they get into a bookstore (which they probably won't to any great degree), they won't be on display; they won't be promoted; and nobody will be looking for them. The worst disadvantage they suffer is that they only have 6 months to sell. Self-published works are available forever. They never go out of print. You never lose your rights to them.
It's a marathon. Run it to enjoy it. And dare to hope you turn a corner one day and find a yellow streamer pulled taut across the street, thousands of readers on the other side waiting for you with lemonade.”
Now isn’t that something to hang on any writer’s wall to inspire them every day.
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from Behind the Fire?
My arson loving couple who may be heroes or may be insane are parents and seriously in over their heads, so I would cast Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire) because he has a look that he is carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) for her ability to show strength and doubt in the same moment.
If readers want to find out more about you and your works, where can you be found on the internet?
I have four blogs. Yep four! Each blog covers a different topic: films, books and children’s books and my main blog discussing writing.
When did you decide to become a writer?
Age four I set off to school with my bag packed desperate to learn to read and write and from age six I told everyone I would be a writer. I dabbled on and off, but life pulled me in other directions. It took me another forty-four years to sit my behind down seriously.
How do you decide on the main character for your story and do you ‘create’ them first or discover them as you write?
I am one of those lucky writers. Writing is easy for me and I write by the seat of my pants. So, when I sit down I know very little about the story or the characters. As I write they evolve and reveal themselves. So, I am getting to know them organically by their reactions and behavior to the drama into which they’ve been thrown. When I rewrite, I edit the beginning having a lot more knowledge of them and their behavior. Strangely though, they don’t change very much as if they were always in my head just waiting to get out.
List your three favourite books and why you love them so much.
• Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier swallows you up in the mystery and
suspense. It is credited with the greatest first line ever written (I agree), and it is one of the most beautiful, haunting novels I’ve ever read.
• Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell because she created characters that lived and breathed. If it wasn’t for the bravado I learnt from Scarlet, having read this book in my teens, I don’t believe I would have enjoyed such amazing adventures in my life.
• The Stand by Stephen King. Isn’t it everybody’s favorite?
What do you love most about writing?
Many writers stare at a blank page with fear but I stare at it and marvel at the possibilities. From nothing springs amazing adventures. My thrill is to travel to the possibilities and take others with me.
Where do you see publishing going in the future?
Publishing has entered an exciting era. Through reviewing I get to peek behind the gate-keeper curtain and the publishers really are not as proactive as they could be. They’d like to be but they just don’t know how to be.
Eventually I see them as distributors who are there to move books, not participate in the creation process. At the moment, they are scrambling around throwing as many books out there as they can to defend their position. Sometimes, that diminishes the quality of the books. The lack of quality is the very thing that indie authors are told is lacking in their mode of publishing. Yet many indie authors, like myself, self-publish to maintain the quality because we are not convinced publishers can deliver the highest standard as they once did.
The scrambling by the publishers won’t work. The horse has bolted and access to readers is now squarely in the hands of authors.
There are still many kinks for self-publishing kings Amazon and Apple to work out; such as creating a way for readers to differentiate between quality, well-edited books and other unpolished work which is not ready for consumption.
Eventually, everyone will end up being where they are meant to be, no matter how much all concerned squabble about the other. Literature is not dead; the mode of delivery is just being reborn.
The good news is that short stories and novellas are making a big come-back. Since most magazines over the past twenty years stopped carrying short stories, short story writing has declined. Now, thanks to independent publishers and indie-publishing, the short story is once again alive and well.
It is an amazing time to be a writer and I am jumping into Indie Publishing with gusto.
Why do you write short stories?
They are a great exercise for writers. There is quite a skill in crafting a story and creating credible characters with only a few words. Then you have to provide the payoff at the end with a good twist. However, it is great fun and quite a relief to get a story idea out of your head and on to the page without expending too much time. With the advent of self-publishing, too, stories can be the exact length they need instead of stretching a short story or a novella into a novel and bogging it down with filler chapters. I think of my short stories as my little babies and they help to keep me sane by getting these characters and plot ideas out of my head. Otherwise they swirl around in there and bother me constantly.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
My other job is film & book reviewing and I pinch myself every day that I see films and read books for free. So you will find me at the cinema at previews many times a week. It’s like a second home. I am, also, the mother to two monsters entering teenagedom and they take up a huge amount of time while I yell at, laugh with, and clean up after them.
Published 2013-09-03.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Back Again (The Short Story)
Price: Free! Words: 31,810. Language: American English. Published: June 17, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories, Fiction » Fantasy » Short stories
(5.00 from 6 reviews)
Between life and death lies fate. COULD YOU WATCH A LOVED ONE DIE TO SAVE THEIR LIFE? "Dawn had lost count of the number of times she’d lived through this. Every time it hurt as much as the time before. Eventually, she thought that she must become immune to the events, and that her heart wouldn’t shatter into a thousand, million pieces— But it always did."