Today I'd like to welcome Susan Craft as she shares about her new book, Cassia and her writing life. How did you develop a love of story?
As a child, the cadence of my grandfather’s deep voice sent me off to a sleep filled with dreams of adventure. I must have caught the storytelling bug too, because when doing chores around the house, like sweeping the walkway or washing dishes, I’d take myself elsewhere, fantasizing characters and faraway places. Often I found myself studying people, watching emotions change their faces. I was such a good mimicker of accents, my family knew exactly who I was copying. I guess part of good storytelling is being a good observer. I love it when a reader tells me that something I’ve written made them laugh, or cry, or ponder. When they say they feel as if they have been transported a particular scene … well … it’s as if they have given me a gift.
How long have you known you're a writer?
My third grade teacher, Mrs. King, was writing a book about a Cherokee brother and sister, and she would read to us from it each day in class. She made me realize that authors aren’t “lofty individuals living way up there in ivory towers.” They are people like me. That knowledge threw open a gate to my creativity and inspired me to write my first “novel,” a ten-page, handwritten Nancy Drew-type suspense entitled The Mystery of the Whistling Cave. I bound the book with pieces of cardboard box and sewed it together with dental floss. My writing lay dormant until college, when I majored in Broadcast Journalism. My first job was writing, producing, and scheduling promotional ads and public service announcements for South Carolina Educational Television. I used my writing skills during my 45-year career for professional articles, books, and speeches.
As for writing historicals, my seventh grade South Carolina history teacher, Lucia Daniel, brought history to life for me, and it’s fascinated me since. Francis Marion became a real person when Ms. Daniel explained his heartbreak upon losing his dear nephew Gabriel, his intended heir, who was killed by the British when they discovered his connection to General Marion. After that, I began to see the figures in history not as names I had to memorize, but as real, sometimes ordinary people who rose to the occasion (or not) when called upon during extraordinary circumstances.
LOL. I remember the first story I wrote and making a cover although I stapled mine together. :) Do you have a favorite scene in your newest release?
There’s a scene in Cassia when Lilyan Xanthakos and her daughter Laurel and son Paul have been captured by pirates. Lilyan realizes that she and her daughter may be assaulted and she tries to find a way not only to warn Laurel but to encourage her despite their dangerous circumstances.
“We don’t have long. Grab some shells and make an arrow pointing south.” Nauseated from the nerves that heaved in her stomach, Lilyan peeked up over the sea grass to find the men busy filling the boat. She clasped Laurel’s hand. “Paul contemplates escape. I know not when, but we must be alert. And dear one, know that your father will find us. Whatever occurs. If we are separated—”
“Oh, Ma.” Laurel stopped placing the shells and gripped Lilyan’s hands. Her normally graceful body was taut with tension that accentuated the cords in her neck.“If we are separated. Never despair. However long it takes, we will be together again.” Lilyan gulped, unsure how much she should say.
“If they harm you, remember it is your earthly body. God has made our bodies such that they heal wondrously. But he has made our spirits indomitable. No one can touch what belongs to the Lord. You understand?”
Her eyes wide with fear, Laurel worried her bottom lip. “I do.”
Lilyan pulled her precious daughter into her arms and breathed her in—the trace of rose water in her hair, the sweat, and the sweet aroma so uniquely hers that permeated her clothing.
Lord, you gave this treasure to me. Spare her, please. Give her—give all of us—strength to endure whatever comes.
That sounds like a gripping scene. What advice would you give to new authors?
Read, read, read. Hone your craft. Sharpen your writing skills so finely that you can edit with the proficiency of a diamond cutter and make your work shine with a blinding brilliance. Attend writers’ conferences, but be careful, some of them are costly. Find the ones with workshops that address your level of skill. Many workshops are offered online without the expense of travel, etc. Join a critique group or find a critique partner. Write about what interests you and what you are passionate about. Writing about something you think is popular or might sell doesn’t work, and it shows in your product.
For Christian writers, pray about and for what you are writing. Ask yourself, will this glorify his name? Will it lift up your readers? Will they be a better person for having read what you’ve written? Have you done your absolute best to honor the absolute sacrifice that was made for you? Will you handle rejection with grace and accolades with humility?
Great advice. When do you fit writing into your day?
I retired this past October, and my answer to this question is very different today from what it would have been before that. I worked fulltime for 45 years in stressful jobs, the last as a proofreader for the SC Senate. My husband of 45 years and I have two adult children. When the children were young, my husband traveled a lot for his job, so it was almost like being a single parent. During those times, I’d rise in the morning, get the children ready for school, work all day, pick them up from daycare, feed them supper, help them with homework, bathe them and put them to bed. If my husband was home, I’d spend time with him. I usually didn’t sit down to write until 11 p.m. and would often write until 1 and 2 a.m. I couldn’t do that now!!! Thank heavens for my mom, who moved in with us when the children were 6 and 11. She was my dearest friend and a lifesaver who believed in my writing. I regret that my first novel wasn’t published until 2006, five years after she passed away. Though, I imagine she was smiling for me in heaven.
Today, with all the time in the world for writing, I often find myself with the very-odd-to-me feelings of writer’s doldrums. Ironic, isn’t it? Before retirement, I knew I had only a small window of time to get it done, so I did it. Oh well, it’s been only 10 months since retirement, maybe I will come around and start writing like a house on fire.
It sounds like you are on your way to find that writing groove though. :) If you are traveling to a deserted island for a month, what two items would you take along?
This question is meaningful to me because that’s exactly what happens to my characters in my novel Cassia. When Lilyan Xanthakos and her family are marooned on a deserted island in the North Carolina Outer Banks, she insists on taking her medicine kit wherever she goes. She is not only a portrait and mural painter she is also a healer who has spent years gathering the herbs and medicines in her kit. Lilyan reads the Bible to her family, and they draw comfort from it.
Following Lilyan’s example, I think I’d take a First Aid Kit and my Bible that serves me not only as God’s written word but as a journal. Over the years as I have attended Bible studies, workshops, and conferences, I have written notes throughout my Bible. So for me, when I read a passage and see a note in the margins, it reminds me of the study leader or of a friend who sat beside me, or of a particularly poignant moment shared during discussions.
Two great things to have on a deserted island although I think I'd want to bring some food and water too. :) One final question, how can your readers connect with you?
http://historicalfictionalightintime.blogspot.com (personal blog, Historical Fiction a Light in Time)
http://colonialquills.blogspot.com (Colonial Quills blog, post the fourth Monday of each month)
http://stitchesthrutime.blogspot.com (Stitches Thru Time, post once a month)
http://www.hhhistory.com (Heroes, Heroines, and History, post on the 31st of months that have a 31st)
Thanks again for stopping by, Susan and congratulations on your new release.
Be sure to check out next Wednesday when we'll learn more about Patrick Craig. Also, all comments this month will be entered into the drawing for: