is pleased to have as our guest Susan Wittig Albert. Susan's
award-winning fiction has appeared on the New York Times bestseller
list and includes mysteries in the China Bayles series, the Cottage
Tales of Beatrix Potter, and a series of Victorian-Edwardian
mysteries which she has written with her husband, Bill Albert, under
the pseudonym of Robin Paige.
She has also written two memoirs: An
Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Day and Together, Alone: A Memoir of
Marriage and Place, published by the University of Texas Press.
Susan is about to publish A Wilder Rose: Rose Wilder Lane, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Their Little Houses, the true, untold story of the writing of the Little House books.
She has been a full time novelist since she left her career as a university English professor and administrator in 1985.
Good day Susan and thanks for participating in our interview.
How did you get started in writing? What keeps you going?
I started out writing novels for young adults, working in the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series, among others. It gave me a chance to write regularly, for publication, and brought in a much-needed income. It also taught me how to work with editors, in series books. This was back in the 80s, when mass market YA was beginning to take off. I still work in series, two currently: the China Bayles mysteries and the Darling Dahlias, a 1930s Southern garden club mystery series. The books are published annually and I have deadlines to meet—which keeps me moving forward. But I vary the discipline that’s imposed by series work with other writing projects, memoir and stand-alone fiction.
Are you a plot or character writer and what helps you focus when you write?
Mysteries are tightly plotted, and I like books that have a beginning, middle, and end. (I’m old-fashioned that way.) But both of my current series are heavily character-driven. It’s the characters who shape the plot.
What has been the best part about being published?
Hearing from readers who enjoy the books! I also love being able to work at home (I’m a homebody), and I’m a researcher at heart. Writing is a way to indulge all my passions. I sometimes have to pinch myself : I have a blessed life.
Is your work improvisational or do you have a set plan?
I have a set plan for publication, and a schedule that’s set by contract deadlines. But within that, the books are highly improvisational. I’ve worked with the characters for a long time (21 years, in the case of the China Bayles mysteries), and I trust them to be able to create their own story. If I begin with a rich enough matrix of ideas, materials, and conflicts, the characters usually fashion the narrative in their own unique ways.
How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
I’m no city girl--I grew up on a farm, surrounded by animals. Now, I love my gardens and the wildlife here in the Texas Hill Country. That feeling for nature influences all my work.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Every project offers a unique challenge. The book that will be out in September, A WILDER ROSE, has been in the works since the late 1980s. It’s biographical fiction, which presents many challenges of its own: that is, the writer has to work within a world of facts and events. You can fictionalize but you can’t change. But A WILDER ROSE counters the accepted myth that Laura Ingalls Wilder was the sole author of the Little House books. It asks readers to learn a new way of seeing a beloved literary icon. That’s a challenge for them.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Everywhere. Personal experience, books (I’m reading 1930s and 40s history right now), films, television, the Internet. The world is full of ideas and information—the writer’s task is to be alive and alert to it.
Please tell our readers something about your soon to be published A Wilder Rose: Rose Wilder Lane, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Their Little Houses. As a follow up, what purpose do you believe your story serves and what matters to you about the story?
A WIILDER ROSE is
the true story of Rose Wilder Lane, a much-published writer of the
19-teens and 20s. In the 1930s, Rose fashioned her mother’s
unpublishable reminiscences about her pioneer childhood into eight
memorable children’s books—under her mother’s name.
This was a
strained and uncomfortable collaboration and succeeded only because
the two women did not actually work together. They kept this
arrangement secret from their agent, editors, and readers—a
literary deception that has persisted for some eight decades.
The novel is set during the Great Depression, on a farm in rural Missouri where mother and daughter were living. It’s a powerful story, based on 25 years of research. From a writer’s point of view, it’s a story that comes along only once in a lifetime.
What would you like to say to writers who are reading this interview and wondering if they can keep creating, if they are good enough, if their voices and visions matter enough to share?
You simply have to trust yourself—that you have something to say and the skill to say it. But like any other medium (dance, painting, film) you have to develop the skill set that enables you to take the best advantage of the ideas you have to offer. That development (being “good enough”) doesn’t happen overnight. I look back on my long apprenticeship as a YA writer (1984-1991) and thank my lucky stars that I had the privilege of learning through steady work, under editors who knew their business.
What is next for Susan Wittig Albert and where can our readers find out more about you and your books?
I’m working right now on the 2014 Darling Dahlias mystery and looking ahead to another China Bayles mystery, to be published in 2015, with Berkley Prime Crime (Penguin/Random House). Between those projects, I’ll start work on another author-published historical/biographical novel. I’m also looking forward to doing some short fiction for online publication, and to bringing back a couple of my out-of-print nonfiction books as author-published projects. You can keep up with my work at MY WEBSITE & Follow Here To View My Work
As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
I think we’ve covered the bases.
Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors
Follow Here To View Susan Albert Wittig's Works