Author’s Roundtable: Susan Buchanan

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing since I was very young. However, I have been writing novels for just over ten years. The first one took me nearly six years to finish, then I had a break of nearly three years before recommencing “The Dating Game” in April this year.

Has writing always been something you wanted to do?

Yes, but alas, time has made it very difficult. I actually wanted to translate books, as I am a linguist. I was told once, many years ago, in order to translate novels, I would have to have written my own. Something which, it now turns out, isn’t exactly true…

What books or stories have you written? Published? 

“Sign of the Times” is a full-length novel, which was published in March 2012. “The Dating Game” should be released by Sept. 30, if all goes well. There are already definitive plans for another five books. Those interested should keep their eyes peeled on my blog

Can you tell us a little about your books? What are they about?

Well, “Sign of the Times” is about 12 people whose personalities, character traits and careers are defined by their sign of the zodiac. It’s a story about relationships, friendships and family. There are 12 main characters, so it’s a relatively long book by today’s standards. 

Here’s the synopsis:

Twelve people. Twelve star signs.

Sagittarius – Holly, a travel writer, visits Tuscany to research her next book. Seeking help when her car breaks down, she gets more than assistance when Dario, a vineyard owner, puts temptation in her path. Disappearing without explanation, he proves elusive. Bruised, Holly tries to put it behind her until a chance encounter brings her feelings to the surface again.

Capricorn – Holly’s fiancé, Tom, misses her while she is in Italy and turns to an Internet chat room for solace. His construction business is under threat, but could foul play be at work?

Gemini – Holly’s sister, Lucy, a serial man-eater finally meets her match, which puts her long-term relationship and career in jeopardy. Cheating, she discovers, can have devastating consequences.

Libra – Holly’s uncle, Jack, an eminent prosecutor, juggles a difficult teenage son with his high-profile career and finds himself lacking. When his son’s school work starts slipping, he decides he needs to take control, but it’s not long before the balls all come tumbling down, and Jack finds his family on the wrong side of the law.

One event binds them all…

“The Dating Game” is about a recruitment consultant who has had a really crappy love life so far. So, she decides to join a dating agency for professional people, the type that sorts the wheat from the chaff. Here’s a mini-blurb for “The Dating Game:”

Workaholic recruitment consultant Gill McFadden is sick of her friends trying to match-make for her. Up until now her love life has been a disaster, and she’s going through a drier spell than the Sahara desert. Seeing an ad on a bus one day, she decides to visit Happy Ever After dating agency. Before long she is experiencing laughs, lust and… could it be love? But like everything in Gill’s life, nothing is straightforward, and she ends up wondering exactly who she can trust.

How did you get inspiration for the characters?

Well, with “Sign of the Times,” the idea for the 12 characters based on the signs of the zodiac came to me first. I then researched those signs, gave the characters their traits and then invented everything else around that. With “The Dating Game,” the idea was sparked by a friend who signed up to a professional dating agency, but the characters came about as a result of thinking of as diverse personalities as possible.

Are the books based on personal experiences?

Not per se, although there are anecdotes and places I have travelled to, which are depicted in the novels. For example, Bibbiena, Tuscany, features heavily in “Sign of the Times,” Barcelona in “The Dating Game.” I vacationed in Bibbiena and used to live in Barcelona.

Is there any advice you have been given that you could give to a young up-and-coming writer?

Write. Market. Get your second book out. Don’t get too caught up in the Twitter marketing and all that goes around that. It’s great as a tool, but also eats into your time. Strike the right balance. Have your cover professionally done. I didn’t have it done professionally initially and changed it a few weeks ago, and I love my new cover.

Can you talk a little about the benefits of getting your work professionally edited?

My editor is an old friend from the university, who doesn’t edit full-time. One thing I will say is not having your work edited leaves you open to not noticing mistakes you have made, repetition, as well as continuity errors. You are naturally too close to your own work – even your editor gets that way eventually. So, I would say, don’t just have your work edited, but engage beta readers, too. Hopefully they will pick up any minor errors you and your editor miss.

What are some of the hardest things you’ve had to overcome as a writer, in order to be published?

Well, I am indie published, although I did go down the traditional publishing route back in 2008. Once the indie route opened up, it only came down to hard work, and I am no stranger to that. I received rejection letters back in 2008 when I sent out “Sign of the Times,” and, of course, I was deflated. But I have to be honest and say I didn’t cry or anything. I am a very positive person, and I firmly believed that “Sign of the Times” would see the light of day at some point.

How do you find enough time in the day to write?

Well, I am currently working part-time from home. I found it difficult to get into a writing routine for a few months, as Twitter and marketing “Sign of the Times” was taking up a ridiculous amount of my time. Now I have seriously limited my Twitter time and made myself a deadline for when I have to shut it down – that goes for all social networking sites, blog, emails, everything. And I am much happier because I am writing!
How did you find time to write your books?

I used to only write when I was on vacation, which is why “Sign of the Times” took six years to write. After five years, I had only written half of it. I then took a year off work and finished it in five months. It took another five months to edit, and then I was good to start the next one!

Do you think writing has any benefits, and if so what would they be?

I love losing myself in the world I have created and in my characters. It relaxes me and makes me happier, so from a personal point of view it has benefits. I would say for those who wish to get into writing to make it rich, seriously, buy some lottery tickets instead!

Several of my guests have often said writing is therapeutic and relaxes them. Can you talk a little about how writing relaxes you? Any specific examples you can share?

Ah, this is where I should have read all of the questions before answering – yes, as you can see above it relaxes me. I can’t think of being stressed recently, so no specific examples of where it has helped me really relax spring to mind, but generally it’s escapism, in the same way that reading is.

Has writing made you a better person?

In many ways it has made me a worse person! Until a couple weeks ago, I had barely seen my friends for months, and my boyfriend complains that my laptop is surgically attached to me. But I am a happier person since becoming a writer, and I love the whole writing community and how we authors all help each other.

Do you like to read? If so, what are your favorite genres and why?

I love to read, and my only gripe about writing is it detracts from my reading and vice versa.

I prefer contemporary fiction, books like “The Book Thief,” “The Historian,” “A Thousand Splendid Suns.”

I also enjoy some chick-lit, as long as it’s not about a PR company, handbags, shoes and too fluffy!

And I love crime (but not true crime) and legal thrillers.

I also read other books, but those are the main genres.

Can you talk about how important reviews are to writers?

I suppose it depends on the writer; however for indie writers they are particularly important, because of how Amazon’s algorithms work.

For the rest I can only speak for myself. I love getting reviews. Of course, I prefer good reviews! But I love to know what readers enjoy about my work, and it gives me great pleasure that they have enjoyed the book and also that they’ve taken the time to review it.

Have you ever received a bad review? If so how did it make you feel?

Yes, of course, very few authors haven’t. Well, the first time I received a bad review, naturally I was upset. But, once you have time to reflect and realize that it’s not a personal attack and that your novel simply didn’t “do it” for that particular reader, you put things in perspective. I am very fortunate that the vast majority of my reviews are very good and four- or five-star.

Check out Susan’s blog, follow her on Twitter, be her friend on Facebook, and buy “Sign of the Times” on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

2 thoughts on “Author’s Roundtable: Susan Buchanan

  1. Great interview, Sooz! LOL about writing making you a “worse” person. I feel the same way sometimes. I’m still amazed by how clever the premise of SOTT is! Major kudos to you for juggling so many characters in your story. That takes skill!

  2. thanks Tracie & thanks again to Jason for having me on his blog – it’s been a busy writing week, so apologies for not replying on this earlier. Sooz

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