Saturday, February 13, 2010

Interview With Susan May Warren By Catherine West

I've had the blessing of meeting Susan several times now, sitting in her classes at conferences, and also working with her on one of my manuscripts. I'm excited to welcome her to the International Christian Fiction Writers blog today!

You’ve been writing a long time, in almost every genre imaginable, although I don’t think you’ve written any vampire-eating werewolf stories yet. (Have you?) Can you share a bit of your journey to publication with us?

I’ve always been amazed at the journey God has taken me on. I always loved to write, but being a missionary in Russia, I never dreamed about being an author. I just tried to do the best with what God had entrusted to me, and for me that meant writing missionary newsletters. I honed my skills through my newsletter, and then, after a number of years, began to write devotionals and magazine articles. Although I tried my hand at writing novels (I wrote 4 before I ever had one published), I never thought I would get anything published. But I diligently studied craft and analyzed books, even though I was hidden away in Siberia. I’ll always be grateful that Tyndale and later Barbour, Steeple Hill and Summerside took a chance on me! I’m still learning, and still trying to be a good steward of what God has entrusted to me.

Here at ICFW we have a love for stories that take place on foreign shores. You’ve written a few of those yourself. I’m thinking specifically of your Mission: Russia series. I know a bit of your story, but others may not. Can you tell us how these books came to be birthed?

Living overseas allowed me the rare view of seeing heroes of all nationalities. I knew a number of brave Russian policemen, as well as Christians where even worked for the FSB! So, I longed to write about these heroes, as well as the Americans I knew.
In Sheep’s Clothing
was birthed from an actual event when two missionaries were murdered in our town. I dreamed up a scenario where a missionary witnessed this – and then was on the run from the murderer. In the story, I also got to introduce a team of heroic friends – Russian and Americans – who helped save the day. It led to the Mission: Russian series, a set of international thrillers. The first three books are In Sheep’s Clothing, Sands of Time and Wiser than Serpents. The next three come out next year.

Oh, I'm pleased to hear that!
Was it difficult to pitch a novel set in a foreign country to a US publisher?

Since I brought so much authority to my subject – having lived there for 10 years as a missionary, they were open to hearing what I had to say. And, I had incorporated Americans as well as Russians into the cast of characters, so it wasn’t completely foreign. Finally, I picked a publisher who was already publishing internationally-themed books. It’s important to find the right publisher, one who is already open to foreign settings. Because I did these things, I found a pretty good reception.

I really enjoyed Wiser Than Serpents, the third book in your Mission: Russia series. I hadn’t really heard much of trafficking before I read this novel, and it really opened my eyes to the world beyond my own little environment. Do you have plans to write more books that educate as well as entertain?

I always try to educate as well as entertain. ☺ I love to sprinkle my books with spiritual truth, but also to raise awareness about something. Right now, I am writing World War 2 historicals for Summerside, and loving the way I can showcase some of the lesser known heroes of that war.

How much research was involved in your foreign setting novels?

My secret is that I only write about countries I’ve actually visited. That way I can make it as real as possible. But I also always do considerable research. I want my reader to feel as if they are actually standing in a market in Taiwan, or Old Towne Square in Prague. Everything from the smells to the sounds to the kind of street food available is essential to create this storyworld.

Would you take on the task of setting a book in a country you haven’t visited first hand?

I would – but only with the time necessary to research it, and I’d for sure tap into first hand accounts. And, honestly, probably I’d just give in and visit the place.

Okay, lets talk about all the genres you write. Do you have a personality disorder? Just kidding. But really, why so many? Do you have a favorite?

LOL! Yes. Actually.
I love all my genres, they’re all special to me. But I love to be stretched as a novelist, so diving into a genre that I haven’t spent as much time in is always intriguing to me. I am currently writing historical, but I’m also experimenting with voices and literary techniques (like an epistolary novel). I always want to intrigue my reader, give them the solid storytelling, but perhaps change up the format or the genre. As far as favorites – I love my romantic comedies like Happily Ever After, the new ones I’m writing for Tyndale – the Northwoods series.

I’ve had the pleasure of sitting in on a couple of your classes at past ACFW conferences. What do you like best about teaching?

I love to see that moment on a student/author’s face when suddenly they realize what is missing in their story. It’s a wonderful Aha! Moment and I know that I’ve been a part of the creative process for them, and in some small way helped them accomplish their dreams. (and hopefully an amazing work of fiction!) I really love to teach.

You wear many hats as a wife, mother author, and your editing service as well – how do you manage your time, especially under deadlines?

I have a very forgiving family, and I focus on the essentials. Sorry, I just don’t believe that a clean house is an essential (although my house is clean, I don’t obsess over it). I focus on being at the football and BB games, going to my daughter’s theater productions, attending church, and going out swing dancing with my hubby on Friday night. Other than that – well, it’s sometimes frozen pizzas two days in a row, and maybe even ramen noodles on a Saturday night. Thankfully, my hubby is a great cook!

You’re a great inspiration and mentor to many aspiring authors. What’s the best piece of advice you would give to somebody just starting out on the journey toward publication?

The journey is just as important as the destination. Savor the journey and what God will teach you in it, fill up with Him, and the words will pour out onto the page, and embrace teach-ability.

So what’s next for Susan?

Sons of Thunder and Double Trouble are just out!! Here are blurbs for each:

Double Trouble:
Susan May Warren's delightfully funny heroine is at it again ... P.J. Sugar finds herself in Double Trouble this time!
With one solved case under her belt, PJ Sugar is ready to dive into her career as a private investigator. Or at least a PI’s assistant until she can prove herself to Jeremy Kane, her new boss. Suddenly PJ’s seeing crime everywhere. But is it just in her head, or can she trust her instincts? When she takes on her first official case—house-sitting for a witness in protective custody—Jeremy assures her there’s no danger involved. But it soon becomes clear that there is someone after the witness . . . and now they’re after PJ, too.
The book’s blog tour will run the entire month of February and features a super fun social sharing contest! Go here to enter the "Double the Sass" contest - you won't want to miss your chance to win an IPOD gift pack - The Super Sleuth prize package – everything a ‘sleuthing’ gal needs!

Sons of Thunder:
Sophie Frangos is torn between the love of two men and the promise that binds them all together. Markos Stavros loves Sophie from afar while battling his thirst for vengeance and his hunger for honor. Dino, his quiet and intelligent brother, simply wants to forget the horror that drove them from their Greek island home to start a new life in America. One of these “sons of thunder” offers a future she longs for, the other—the past she lost.

From the sultry Chicago jazz clubs of the roaring twenties to the World War II battlefields of Europe to a final showdown in a Greek island village, they’ll discover betrayal, sacrifice, and finally redemption. Most of all, when Sophie is forced to make her choice, she’ll learn that God honors the promises made by the Sons of Thunder. For more info and up coming promotions got here!
Read an excerpt here: Sons of Thunder

Thanks for visiting with us, Susan and we look forward to reading your new books!
To learn more about Susan, visit her website!

Catherine West writes contemporary romance and women's fiction. She enjoys life on Bermuda with her husband, two almost grown children, and one rambunctious Border Collie. When she's not writing you can find her in the garden or out on the Agility course, pretending she knows what she's doing!
Catherine's work is represented by Rachelle Gardner of Wordserve Literary. You can check in with her anytime at her new website!


  1. Thanks for coming by, Susan! I really enjoyed your novel Happily Ever After, but I didn't realize the full spectrum of what you write. Enjoyed the interview. Thanks, Cath.

  2. Cath, fascinating interview! Susie, thanks for giving us an insight into the genres you write and I like your idea of research :-) I recently read you first P.J. Sugar novel and loved it! Thanks for sharing the blog tour info for Double Trouble :-)

  3. Catherine, a super interview, thank you. Susan, I've read so much about you and learned so much from you, through the years and yet we've never met. I think it's time we rectified that. I think you need to join us at the Florida conference next month. How about it?
    Thanks for all your input over the years.