Susan Wingate Interview
Susan Wingate has graciously agreed to answer a few questions about herself and her new book, Bobby's Diner.
Marilyn: First off, I love the title and cover. Will you tell me how you happened to come up with the title, Bobby's Diner? And what's the story behind the cover.
Susan: Yes, I love the title and cover too. Well, as these things go, the story started with a different title. My starter title was “Sunnydale”. Then, it became “Kiss of a Doe” which changed to “A Doe’s Kiss” and finally it changed to “Bobby’s Diner.” I felt “Bobby’s Diner” was more representative of the metaphor and action surrounding the story. Also, I think it prevents the reader from forgetting why the two main characters, two women – Bobby’s widow and an ex-wife – are at odds.
Now, the cover art was something the editor at ebooksonthe.net came up with. Shelley Chase asked me if I had any ideas or images I wanted to use or, at least, have them consider using. When I did not she told me she would “come up with something” and, boy, did she. I showed my husband the cover art at a minimum fifteen times when I first got the galley from her. I was so excited. But, Shelley Chase gets complete and total credit for that genius. I LOVE the cover art. I’m so glad you asked about it.
Marilyn: Your book has been compared to Fannie Flagg's Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle stop Cafe. I loved both the book and movie, did either have an influence on the writing of Bobby's Diner?
Susan: I loved the movie and book also but, no, that story (Fried Green Tomatoes) had no influence on the writing of Bobby’s Diner. In fact, it was after I finished and read the book that I could tell it had the same “flavor” (excuse the pun) as Flagg’s. I just set off on another adventure and Bobby’s Diner is what unfolded.
Marilyn: What is the inspiration behind your book?
Susan: Well, my inspiration became my husband, Bob (note the similarity? Ha!). So far he’s been appearing more and more in my writing but the actual idea came to me in a dream. I woke up with a scene playing out in my head about this young woman arriving in
I’d visited several small towns in
Marilyn: Would you say the book is more character driven or plot driven? And who is your favorite character? Do you ever base a fictional character on someone you know?
Susan: The story doesn’t lend itself to being plopped into any commercial genre such as mystery or sci-fi, it’s more mainstream women’s fiction about a relationship between two women and, so, I’d have to say Bobby’s Diner is a character-driven plot with Georgette as the narrator AND main character.
Who is my favorite character? That’s a toughy. All my characters, throughout the writing of any novel, become objects of my love. However, I had most fun with the Mayor and his wife, Helen. In fact, I think there’s another entire story Helen should have written about her. That may take me a couple more years to get to but she definitely left a lot of questions floating around in my mind.
I usually do not have someone in mind when a character presents herself but I do bring people I know into characters I create. Usually, any one character is a mix of several people I have either seen or know somehow. With Bobby, his physical “being” is definitely my husband but he’s nothing at all my husband’s personality – not much anyway. I think it’s very important in character building to be able to see someone when you’re working. It seems easier for me to add character traits and background about the character after I actually lock-in on a visual.
Marilyn: You have an amazing background. And it sounds like you are very busy now. Tell us something about your writing schedule.
Susan: Well, yes, like any working writer I’m busy. I consider writing to be a job, one I get up and begin immediately and continue to work until the end of the day, just like any other person’s full-time job. When I’m involved in writing a story, my day goes like this: I usually edit the work from the day before which allows me to “catch up” on where I left off in the story. Then, I write new work for the rest of the day. I basically work non-stop until the inevitable stall-out when I get to around pages 40, 100 and 160. At these points I do different things. At page 40, I ask myself “Where are you going with this story and where will it end?” I make a very skeletal synopsis of what I think the rising conflict should be and the ending (I already have the beginning). This sets up a basic road map for me.
When I answer those questions, I can write without stopping until I get to around page 100. At that point, I make a chapter outline with brief notes about it and look to see if my organization is correct or if chapter 2, say, should actually be slotted somewhere else. I always find my story changes slightly around this point and that’s okay. If I realize I have to bag a couple of chapters, so be it. But, being able to see if you’re on the right track or completely changing something integral to the story line at page 100 is a much easier pill to swallow than finding out that at page 250 you took the wrong turn.
At page 160, I’m almost to the finish line and so I read the entire piece again and put post-it notes on pages with changes and also on pages that need more information and layering. After doing this, it’s a matter of getting to the end and then doing a little back filling with subplot and smoothing out.
Marilyn: Do you have any writing tips you'd like to share?
Susan: Yes! I do! The most important part of writing is writing. I’m not being coy. You’d be amazed how many people say they are writers (or who want to become writers) who don’t write. My motto is this: If you don’t sit on your butt and type, nothing will appear on the page! Plus, finger curls are good if you’re not used to typing a lot – not really, I’m being a jerk. Seriously, however, if you think about it, if you wrote one page a day by the end of the year you’d have 365 pages and just think what it could be during a leap year! J One page a day is not a lot of time for those people who must work another job to support their home and family. It’s a very doable goal. Sit down and write!
Marilyn: I'd like to know more about your online newsletter, "Sincerely, Susan." How does one become a subscriber?
Susan: Oh, yes. Sincerely, Susan is a great source for writing tips and also a great promotional vehicle for my writing. I had a bit of a slip on its regularity last year when I got super busy but I’m back in the swing of things. It’s once again a monthly eNewsletter thanks to some wonderful software that made things go a bit smoother for me. The software, if anyone would like to know, is called Constant Contact and no, I have zero interest in that company.
Marilyn: When you're taking a break from writing, what do you do for fun?
Susan: Well, Bob and I have five beautiful acres of land and we love to entertain here. So, when I’m not busy with writing we have some lovely parties. We travel too. In fact, outside of a 2-week business trip in October, we’ll be heading for
Hmm, what else do I do? I watch anywhere from five to thirty movies a week. Movies give me great ideas for moving into conflict scenes quickly. Plus, I just love movies. Oh, and of course there’s always reading. I spend a bunch of my free time reading. Right now, and for my 2 weeks in October, I’m on a reading binge – twelve books!
Marilyn: A woman after my own heart. I love movies too.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with any of my blog visitors?
Susan: Maybe just one thing. When I first started out I had the fortune of meeting Michael Collins who mentored me along for almost two years. Now, we’re dear friends. If anyone can meet an established professional writer, editor or agent and they are willing to help you, take them up on it. They won’t offer if they don’t think you have value so always but always agree to contact them. And, maybe more importantly, when you do become a full-time established writer, offer the same consideration to someone else. We can only make it in this business with help and mentorship so keep the ball rolling and your eyes open to new talent.
Marilyn: Thank you so much, Susan.
Susan: Thank YOU, Marilyn. These are some great questions and I had a lot of fun answering them. Take care.
Susan Wingate’s website - www.susanwingate.com
Susan Wingate’s blog - www.susanwingate.blogspot.com
For more information about Susan Wingate’s virtual book tour and her full schedule at http://virtualblogtour.blogspot.com/2008/08/bobbys-diner-by-susan-wingate.html