Sipping Lattes with Suzanne Tierney

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Hello Suzanne, welcome to my Creekside Café. I am so excited to have you here.

Suzanne: Hi Sherri! Thanks for having me at your virtual café. What’s your drink? Mine is a vanilla latte, if you please.

Iced coffee with milk in vintage jar

Sherri: In this heat, I think I’ll have an iced cinnamon cappuccino, extra cinnamon, light sugar. They freeze the coffee and cream into tiny ice cubes so it doesn’t water down the drink.

Have you been to North Carolina before?

Suzanne: I went to school in North Carolina (Go Blue Devils) and my family and I like to explore New England. We were in Vermont last year and I fell in love with Lake Champlain. This past summer we were in Maine for a month and it was instalove. We lived in a quaint village for a month with an ice cream stand, a beach, a family owned grocery store, and a bakery that sold out by 8:30. We learned to rise early to catch the pastries!

Sherri: One of my dear friends is originally from Maine. Pastries, now that might be worth getting up early for. I am not a morning person. I am a night owl who is forced to get up and function. So we? Does that mean you are married with children?

Suzanne: Married + 3 kids and my dog, who I feature a lot on Instagram because, to be honest, I think I love my dog above all. He’s a Goldendoodle and he’s just so cuddly. Plus, when I come home from a trip, he’s the only one who doesn’t tattle on who’s been naughty and he doesn’t ask where his soccer uniform is and he doesn’t want me to go to the grocery store to buy the right crackers because Daddy doesn’t know how to buy crackers.

Sherri: Yes, I remember those days. Dad could be sitting right beside them and I be in the shower and who do they have to ask about changing the channel? I think that’s why I started writing suspense, I get my payback in black-and-white. I’ve told my sons, if they don’t behave, I’ll put them in my next novel and kill them off on page fifty. Most don’t think they’ll make it past page thirty.

Suzanne: I’m so excited to learn about your career. Romantic-suspense makes me bite my nails. Half the time I’m wincing and begging the words to move faster on the page so that my heart can slow down. And whoa, you are productive! Three books already? And six kids? And NINETEEN grandkids. Your life is FULL!

Sherri: Number twenty is due in November. I think I’m going to have to rethink Christmas. It’s always been one of my favorite holidays, even though we don’t get snow. Do you get snow for Christmas? Where are you from?

Suzanne: I’m from Oregon—that’s where I grew up (Go Sunset Apollos!) but I’ve also moved around and explored a lot of places. I adulted in the San Francisco Bay Area and then one day my husband came home and said he was done with the rat race and he was going to semi-retire.

To Oregon? I thought

He shook his head.

Washington?

He looked confused.

Ireland? (A girl can dream)

He rolled his eyes.

Nope, he’d set his heart on (drum roll please)…Jacksonville FL. I am going to tell you now, you cannot get any farther from my reality than FL. But we packed up the kids and off we went and here we are adventuring in the humidity (only six months out of the year), hurricanes (only three months out of the year), sunny (actually not as sunny as you would think), super rainy (soooo much rain), South. There’s swamp, forest, alligators, snakes, and our local beach has tons of shark teeth.

I should probably write horror instead of historical romance. Hmmm.

Sherri: Eastern North Carolina is a lot like Florida. We have a fossil museum full of sharks’ teeth.

http://aurorafossilmuseum.org/

Do you write full time now, or hold down another job as well as write?

Suzanne: I work. I write. I take long walks. I mother. I wife. I friend. I don’t think my life is much different from any other woman’s. We are all so busy. We’re master jugglers.

Sherri: Being master jugglers is what it takes to get things done. I don’t know about you, but I can’t not write. I could continue to write for my own pleasure but taking this step to become a published author has unleashed something I’ve kept chained inside me for years. It’s a lot of work but it’s what I am compelled to do. I’m hoping to make it a career but if not, then I’ll still write because I love writing. I’ve been writing since I was a child. How about you, Suzanne, how long have you been writing?

Suzanne: Oof! I’m a little embarrassed to say. I’ve been writing probably for seven years – my first novel took years to write because  I was learning to write. Then I took time off (e.g. moved to FL and met Humidity, my mortal enemy). And then the passion suddenly came back and away I went.

Sherri: The first novel in my Leeward Files Series took several years to rewrite. I’d written other things but writing for myself and writing to publish are two very different things. With each rewrite I learned more about how I wanted to tell the story.

What genre are the books you write?

Suzanne: I write historical romance. I’m a history nerd. I love details. I love researching really weird stuff like train tables in 1869 and smallpox vaccines.

Sherri: My first love is historical romances. I started writing the suspense series after losing our house to fire. I think it was my way of getting that fear out of my system. Now, I’m enjoying it but I do want to get back to historicals.

Are you traditionally or indie published?

Suzanne: I debut August 28 as an INDIE. I had some doubts about going INDIE because it’s a lot more work, but through the process, I have discovered how much I appreciate and enjoy the responsibility and the challenge. I love the books I’ve written and I’m so excited that I get to control the works – I have the editor of my dreams, I have the cover of my dreams, and I’m learning so much (ugh, FB ads? WHY?????).

Sherri: Don’t get me started on Facebook ads, we have a love/hate relationship, but for an Indie author, Facebook is one of the tools to get the word out about our books. Contests are another way to get your books noticed. Have you entered any competitions? Which ones? Have you won any awards?

Suzanne: Especially in my early writing career, I was a contest junkie. Romance writers have the opportunity to join RWA, which provides a huge resource for learning and also for contests. Contests give you a lot of feedback, good and bad. They also teach you to grow a thick skin.

My first historical romance, The Lost Chord did really well in contests, but the two that I’ll mention are: The Catherine (historical romance category) from Toronto RWA and it was a finalist in the Golden Heart, which is a national award for unpublished authors. It’s sponsored by the RWA and from the beginning of my career, it was a dream of mine to final. And then I did in 2017.

AND AGAIN in 2018, with my second historical romance, The Art of the Scandal. The Art of the Scandal also won the Pacific Northwest Writers Contest (Romance Category) and the Catherine (historical romance).

Since those wins, I decided to focus on publishing and to keep my contest addiction at bay. It’s easy to get caught up in contests when you’re having success, but contests generally judge only 25-50 pages of your work. It’s really important to polish not just the beginning, but the entire darn book.

You’ve written three, so you know all about the editing, polishing, sweating over a phrase, love-hate of the process!

Sherri: Ugh! Yes, and making lots of mistakes especially when you’re trying to do stuff in the middle of the night and getting frustrated. When that happens, walk away. Believe me. It will save you some embarrassment. I hit publish instead of proof and sent my last book out before it was ready. YUCK! I’m still trying to get it like I want. The fun times of being an indie author.

I’m trying not to stretch myself as thin as I have in the past. I’m the chairperson for the Pamlico Writers’ Group and I host a monthly writing challenge online for my local RWA chapter. It’s difficult not to be involved with the writing community. Even though I’m in a better place now, I still need advice and I hope, I’m able to help others the way I have been helped.

Tell us about your latest project?

Suzanne: I’m preparing to debut with The Art of the Scandal. It releases August 28. So, I’m learning a lot about the business side, but The Art of the Scandal is a book of my heart. It brings together a lot of my nerd passions – renaissance art and their forgeries; political history; and pretty ballgowns.

I’m particularly passionate about The Art of the Scandal because the story is also about social challenges and societal shifts. My heroine is the daughter of a Marques and engaged to the future prime minister. She’s at the top of the social food chain (before she suffers a rather spectacular fall). My hero is a foreigner and he’s Jewish. In 1849 Victorian England, he is a complete outsider. I wove in a lot of history including the election of Lionel Rothschild, a prominent and wealthy Jew, to the House of Commons. In The Art of the Scandal, a character inspired by him is the hero’s cousin. Anyway, in real life, Rothschild was elected, but barred entrance because he would not take his oath on “the true Christian faith.” And the thing is, he was elected more than once, and each time barred from taking his seat!

So, one of the struggles my hero and heroine go through is learning how to throw off the shackles of “society expectations” to create their place in the world through trust, faith, optimism, hope, and, of course, true love.

Here’s the blurb:

Jilted by her fiancé, abandoned by her father, and scorned by her friends, Lady Lydia Pierpont and her pregnant, 15 year-old sister will be homeless by midnight unless she can charm the deed of her family’s home out of the mysterious South African who won the estate in a poker game. 
 
Grieving over the death of his Jewish father and English mother, Simon Cohen has no time for gallantry. He’s out to reclaim his mother’s name from the aristocracy who humiliated her. With an art collection worth millions and the National Gallery begging for a donation, revenge is within reach. 
 
But when Lydia points out that Simon’s treasure trove includes at least one forgery, they strike a deal. She’ll ferret out the fakes and if the debut of his collection goes smoothly, she’ll win back her home. If she fails, she will take the blame and go to jail. 
 
Together, Lydia and Simon will feign an engagement, delve into the world of art forgery, and navigate the narrow-minded prejudices of London society to discover that love is forged, never faked.

https://geni.us/9RCu

Sherri: I want a copy. This sounds like all of the things I love about historical romances.

Do you plan to write any different genres in the future?

Suzanne: I’m moving from mid-Victorians to 20th Century. I’m currently working on a love story set in WWI. And eventually I may go so bold as to hit 1947 or so. We’ll see!

Sherri: I’m working on finishing a novella set in World War II for a winter anthology. It has inspired me to return to writing historicals. I wish I could write all of the time. I have way too many ideas, but unfortunately, I need the other job to pay the bills.

Tell me what you love about writing.

Suzanne: I love the characters who demand I write their stories. Much to my chagrin, I’m not a plotter, which means half the time, I have no idea where I’m going. But then suddenly, BOOM, a scene will come or my character will do something totally unexpected and my fingers will fly. I love those magic moments.

Sherri: I can relate, I’m a pantzer too. I love discovering the story and new characters. As a pantzer, that also makes things more challenging. What do you dread the most with your writing?

Suzanne: Plotting. Cutting my darlings—those pretty lines that don’t move the plot. Editing out my repeat words (have, face, hand, turn).

Sherri: Nods, bobs, shakes and rolls…my characters often resemble bobblehead dolls.

What are your writing strengths and weaknesses? What comes easy and what do you have to work harder to get?

Suzanne: UGH, it feels like everything is hard!

Sitting down is hard.

Focusing is hard.

The hardest part of writing is making my characters miserable. I want them to be happy. I want sunshine and rainbows. But I have to put them through the wringer to get them there.

Sherri: I went through that, try keeping everyone nice and happy and have a murder, it doesn’t work, AT ALL! I had to learn to let the characters be honest about who they are and how they would react. It was definitely a learning experience.

When things get too crazy, I’ll go in the kitchen and play with recipes. Well, that’s not true. I watch the Food Network, then I go into the kitchen and play.

I enjoy cooking and often post recipes, do you have a favorite food or restaurant?

Suzanne: I have the taste buds of a 7-year old. So, does Chick-Fill A count?

Sherri: Yes, and if you can learn their chicken recipe, I want it. I love Chick-Fill-A!

Do you have time for any hobbies or interests besides writing? Do these show up in your writing?

Suzanne: I walk, walk, walk. I try to hit at least 5 miles a day. Sometimes I get up to 10. I’m near the beach and I’m near a forest trail, so I get the best of both worlds.

Instagram has become a hobby. It’s where I got to meet you, so clearly Instagram is an excellent place to be. Taking pictures to tell a story has challenged me, because it’s only one photo and very few words. Photography (if you can call snapping a pic with your iPhone, photography) is about the details. I think my all-time favorite pic has been of sea foam that caught the sunlight and looked multi-colored. Or my dog in hats. He’s very photogenic.  

Art is definitely a hobby, and that shows up in my books.

Medicine. I can’t stand blood, and I cry if I get a paper cut, but I admire medical professionals and am fascinated by the history of medicine and how inventions and techniques developed. They also make their way into my books. The book I’m currently working on is set in an ambulance hospital in WWI and I am learning a disturbing amount about blood transfusions.

Sherri: For my novella, I researched a mobile hospital and followed them through the war. It’s fascinating to learn what people survived. What they learned, often because they had no choice.

Who are your some of your favorite authors or genres?

Suzanne: I actually love to read poetry the most. The word-smithing is stunning, so precise.

Then I’m always going to go back to Jane Austen. Because she was so detailed, nuanced and hilarious. Also, her heroines are both flawed and generous. A lovely combo.

If a book is set in London between 1920-1960, I’m totally a sucker. Barbara Pym’s “Excellent Women” is a book I love to read again and again. Also, anything buy Murial Sparks.

Sherri: Who or what inspires your writing?

Suzanne: Great writing inspires me. My fellow writers inspire me. Some mornings, a bowl of Apple Jacks inspires me (mostly because if I’m having breakfast, it means I’ve had ten minutes to myself, a luxury!).

Sherri: Setting is an important part of my stories, but I believe my stories are character-driven. How would you describe your stories, the mechanics?

Suzanne: I love settings. They provide so much atmosphere and texture to a book. Historical details also add a layer. And definitely the characters. My characters are flawed in ways we all are, and I write stories not where the characters necessarily defeat their flaws, but rather where they learn how to be better people through them. Does that make sense? I don’t want to write about people who become perfect, because none of us are. Rather, I want my characters to accept who they are, warts and all, and then learn and grow and cry to become connected.

Also, I throw in some hot kissing.

Portrait of kissing couple

Sherri: You can never go wrong with a little hot kissing, no matter where the stories are set.

Give us a little insight into you as a person and as a writer.

Suzanne: Errr, I sort of feel like I spilled my heart out to you already, Sherri! In real life, people mistake me for an extrovert because I’m chatty, but I’m actually an introvert. I like being alone (which is hard in my household!). But I am also a compulsive hugger. So if I ever get to meet you in a real café, expect an insane bear hug.

Thank you so much for inviting me to your café! I have had a great time!!

Sherri: Ahh, that explains it, we’re a lot alike. I love people and I enjoy talking but sometimes I just want to go into my corner and be left alone. I’m also a hugger, so, we will definitely get along just fine. Come on to North Carolina and we’ll do this in person. I’ll even take you down to the creek that inspired my virtual café.

I’ve enjoyed this chat and do hope to meet in person. Best of luck with your debut novel, and I’m going on Amazon to order mine. I can’t wait to read it.

If you have enjoyed this interview with Suzanne Tierney as much as I have, then follow her on social media and don’t forget her book is available for pre-order.

The Art of Scandal  https://geni.us/9RCu

Follow Suzanne on Social Media:

twitter: @notajaxgirl

FB: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100015822676693

FB Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/notajaxgirl/?modal=admin_todo_tour

Website: suzannetierney.com

Instagram: @notajaxgirl

Pinterest : @notagaxgirl

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/93753208-suzanne-tierney

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