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Monday, July 14, 2008

Come meet the 2008 RITA inspirational finalists

This week we're visiting with Susan May Warren and hearing a little about her super cool cowboy covers and the woman behind these great stories!

1. Describe your RITA phone call.

The truth is, well, I had FORGOTTEN about the RITA. I’ve never finalled. Never even remotely thought I would final. So, there I am, reading my email, sipping coffee, sitting in my pajamas, and in comes a call. I see it’s RWA and think, uh oh, I forgot to pay my membership or something. Because WHY would they be calling me?

You could have pushed me over with a puff as the voice on the phone told me that Taming Rafe finalled in the RITA. In fact, I think I uttered an incredulous, “HUH? What?” Thankfully she repeated her news, slowly and clearly.

And then dancing started.

2. Tell us about the RITA book and why you think it stood out it the crowd.

Taming Rafe is about a bull-rider who finds himself at the bottom of his game, even his life. He’s lost everything and has made some pretty bad decisions. Into this mess walks Kat Breckenridge, a philanthropist who is trying to fill her deceased mother’s big, fashionable shoes. She’s got some mystery to her past that draws her to cowboys, but most of all, Rafe had decimated her latest charity event, and owes her big. As they sort out blame, and eventually come together with a game plan, they discover each one offers the other healing in ways they could never imagine. It’s a mulit-layered story, with a subplot romance, and a story within a story that illuminates the emotional plot of all the characters (and has it’s own plot). It was my most ambitious story to date, a challenge to write, and I loved it. I’m so thrilled that the RITA judges liked it!

3. How many books have you written?

Twenty-two, including novellas.

4. Do you have a favorite?

Oh boy – I love my first story, Happily Ever After – I wrote it from such a pure place, it’s still the story of my heart. And then there’s Everything’s Coming up Josey, my chick lit story – finally got to tell the truth about being a missionary. And then Rafe…well, who doesn’t like a cute Bull Rider?

5. Describe your writing process.

I’m a detailed plotter, plotting out the story, the subplots and even the epiphany. My character is pretty fleshed out when I start the first page. However, after that it gets really messy. I slap down the first draft without grammar or spell checking, just a download from my brain every day for a month or six weeks. At the end of the day, I simply save and crawl out of my mess of research books lying open around my writing chair. The next day, I crawl back in. I don’t cook. I don’t clean. I do shower. But my entire brain is on Book. My family calls it (kindly) being under my “Thought Blanket.” THEN, after the book is roughed out, I go back, chapter by chapter, adding in all the elements I’ve forgotten, as well as texture, and richer description. And then I go through again, smoothing it out and polishing it. THEN I print it, and read it, adding in final proofing or edits. By the time I turn it in, I’ve read it four times, at least.

6. When did you decide to become a writer and why Christian fiction?

I LOVE to write. I would rather write than eat (my children occasionally bring me food). And, I was a missionary for years, and I truly believe that the best stories engage the spiritual element in us. I love to stir up issues of the soul, and let the reader ponder them with the character, hopefully long after they put the book down. My hope is that my readers, regardless of their spiritual background, would see God at work in their lives, loving them, giving them grace, just as He works in the character’s life on the page.

7. Tell us about your next or upcoming projects.

I just finished a book called, “Here Comes Trouble.” It’s a novel about a girl who returns home after ten years to discover the mess she left behind. But she’s a different person now. Can a girl change her stripes in her own hometown? Or will she always be labeled Trouble? Funny, and romantic, with elements of mystery and suspense, it’s the first in the PJ Sugar series.

8. Do you have any advice for unpublished writers?

Yes – Read books in your genre, take notes, analyze, write, then continue the cycle….forever. *g*

Learn more about Susan May Warren, award-winning author of...soul-stirring fiction at Susan May

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