A Book and A Dream: An author’s adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl

Magnifying Voices: An Interview with Suzanne van Rooyen

September 28, 2020 Megan O'Russell Season 1 Episode 45
A Book and A Dream: An author’s adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl
Magnifying Voices: An Interview with Suzanne van Rooyen
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A Book and A Dream: An author’s adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl
Magnifying Voices: An Interview with Suzanne van Rooyen
Sep 28, 2020 Season 1 Episode 45
Megan O'Russell

In this episode of A Book and A Dream, Megan O'Russell speaks to author Suzanne van Rooyen on topics ranging from the struggle of switching from writing short stories to novels to the importance of LGBTQ+, genderqueer, and transgender representation in books. 

From finding a book that reflects your journey to using fiction to become a better ally, this interview is one you will not want to miss.

Links from episode:
Myth and Storm: https://amzn.to/3ibatVr
Suzanne van Rooyen: https://www.amazon.com/Suzanne-van-Rooyen/e/B0061NT89E
FB: https://www.facebook.com/SuzannevanRooyenAuthor
IG: https://www.instagram.com/suzanne_writer/?hl=en
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Suzanne_Writer

Suzanne's Books:
I Heart Robot: https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Robot-Suzanne-van-Rooyen-ebook/dp/B075V7WL1Q/
The Other Me: https://www.amazon.com/Other-Me-Suzanne-van-Rooyen-ebook/dp/B01HL3WBDM/
Scardust: https://www.amazon.com/Scardust-Suzanne-van-Rooyen-ebook/dp/B01AGHEO6C/
Obscura Burning: https://www.amazon.com/Obscura-Burning-Suzanne-van-Rooyen-ebook/dp/B073Q9LWSV/

Note: Not all books are young adult. Don't forget to read the blurbs before gifting these books to your favorite Tweens!

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender: https://amzn.to/30bpQa4
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi: https://amzn.to/2Gk6Zm4
Anna-Marie McLemore: https://www.amazon.com/Anna-Marie-McLemore/e/B00W2GDN2M
Invisible Boys by Holden Sheppard: https://amzn.to/36clTFX
The Tensorate Series by JY 'Neon' Yang: https://amzn.to/3cEiHEc
(Dark Themes) The Deep by Rivers Solomon: https://amzn.to/368VskJ
(Not YA) Danielle Cain series by Margaret Killjoy: https://amzn.to/3mZ5hHF
I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver: https://amzn.to/2EDxHps
The Salvagers series by Alex White: https://amzn.to/3kPBMX9

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of A Book and A Dream, Megan O'Russell speaks to author Suzanne van Rooyen on topics ranging from the struggle of switching from writing short stories to novels to the importance of LGBTQ+, genderqueer, and transgender representation in books. 

From finding a book that reflects your journey to using fiction to become a better ally, this interview is one you will not want to miss.

Links from episode:
Myth and Storm: https://amzn.to/3ibatVr
Suzanne van Rooyen: https://www.amazon.com/Suzanne-van-Rooyen/e/B0061NT89E
FB: https://www.facebook.com/SuzannevanRooyenAuthor
IG: https://www.instagram.com/suzanne_writer/?hl=en
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Suzanne_Writer

Suzanne's Books:
I Heart Robot: https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Robot-Suzanne-van-Rooyen-ebook/dp/B075V7WL1Q/
The Other Me: https://www.amazon.com/Other-Me-Suzanne-van-Rooyen-ebook/dp/B01HL3WBDM/
Scardust: https://www.amazon.com/Scardust-Suzanne-van-Rooyen-ebook/dp/B01AGHEO6C/
Obscura Burning: https://www.amazon.com/Obscura-Burning-Suzanne-van-Rooyen-ebook/dp/B073Q9LWSV/

Note: Not all books are young adult. Don't forget to read the blurbs before gifting these books to your favorite Tweens!

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender: https://amzn.to/30bpQa4
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi: https://amzn.to/2Gk6Zm4
Anna-Marie McLemore: https://www.amazon.com/Anna-Marie-McLemore/e/B00W2GDN2M
Invisible Boys by Holden Sheppard: https://amzn.to/36clTFX
The Tensorate Series by JY 'Neon' Yang: https://amzn.to/3cEiHEc
(Dark Themes) The Deep by Rivers Solomon: https://amzn.to/368VskJ
(Not YA) Danielle Cain series by Margaret Killjoy: https://amzn.to/3mZ5hHF
I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver: https://amzn.to/2EDxHps
The Salvagers series by Alex White: https://amzn.to/3kPBMX9

Megan: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to episode forty-five of A Book and a Dream. Now, just a few days ago, I had the opportunity to interview Suzanne van Rooyen, who is the author of I Heart Robot, Obscura Burning, Scardust, and The Other Me.

 

Megan: [00:00:16] Now, I got to talk to Suzanne about her journey in writing, the difference between short stories and novels from an author standpoint, and, of course, representation for our LGBTQ+ genderqueer and trans characters. Now, it was a very interesting conversation and some of the best things that we got to talk about were how the representation has changed over the years, how the market is looking now, and most importantly, how you as a reader can support the LGBTQ+ genderqueer and trans community.

 

Megan: [00:00:49] And it involves reading some really great books. So that's awesome. You'll see some links with this. Make sure that you check them out before you just go buying all the books on the list, which I know you're going to want to do because some of them are marked as not YA. Now, that doesn't mean that they're necessarily like erotica or anything like that. But, you know, maybe read the blurb really carefully before you hand them to your favorite 13-year-old, that kind of thing. So make sure you check out all the links.

 

Megan: [00:01:15] On a personal author's note, I am thrilled to announce that preorder for the...book two in the Guilds of Ilbrea a series Myth and Storm is now available. You will also find that link with this. Now, before I send you into the interview, I do have a quick word from our friends over at Prince Fan Pod.

 

Commercial: [00:01:39] Hi, I'm Bethany Finger, the host of Prince Kai Fan Pod, a Marissa Meyer Book Club podcast. Join me every week during my read-along journey through all of the books by author Marissa Meyer. One chapter at a time, spoiler free. Each episode will feature a different guest, new fan art, and laughter and joy through reading. You can find Prince Kai Fan Pod on Apple podcast, Spotify, Google podcasts and all other listening platforms. And now back to the show.

 

Megan: [00:02:13] But yeah, I spent a lot of time near the Into the Wild bus. That's...

 

Suzanne: [00:02:18] Oh my goodness. I'm envious. I'd love to go there. Just as a...this monument to this paradigm shift.

 

Announcement: [00:02:28] Welcome to A Book and a Dream with Megan O'Russell: an author's adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl.

 

Megan: [00:02:40] Hello, Suzanne, and thank you so much for joining me on today's episode of A Book and a Dream.

 

Suzanne: [00:02:45] Thank you so much for having me.

 

Megan: [00:02:47] Now, where are you exactly where we're recording this?

 

Suzanne: [00:02:52] I'm living in Helsinki. In Finland.

 

Megan: [00:02:55] That is amazing. You were actually my first non-North American guest to have had an A Book and a Dream. So this is very cool for me. I've only been to the Helsinki Airport was my only trip there. So that's amazing. It was a beautiful country to fly over. So thank you for making the time differences work so you could chat.

 

Megan: [00:03:16] So...now, we've sort of been in the same author-sphere for a while because you are also a YA author and I know the blurbs of your books and I know sort of your genre. But what got you interested in becoming a published author and becoming a published author?

 

Suzanne: [00:03:42] That's a tricky one. It's...I didn't really have that aspiration. I didn't grow up wanting to be an author at all, and then a friend of mine sort of got me into NaNoWriMo. And I had no idea what this was. And up until that point, I'd only ever written short stories. And then, kind of at his encouragement and urging, I attempted to write a novel and failed dismally. But it kind of sparked something in me that this was something that anybody could actually do.

 

Suzanne: [00:04:17] This wasn't preserved for some special sect of ultra intelligent, untouchable people. Like, you can write and you can put words together and create a story. And it was through that experience of NaNoWriMo that I started exploring what it would actually take to get published or how to be published and what that kind of meant. And I think as...as many people do, I started in the world of publishing through short stories and getting a few short stories published before I ever had a novel published.

 

Megan: [00:04:51] What was the biggest challenge in transitioning from short stories to novel writing?

 

Megan: [00:04:58] It's always so interesting to me because I never wrote short stories. Writing short stories is like pulling my hair out. I can't figure out how to make everything fit. So what is it like going the other direction?

 

Suzanne: [00:05:14] One of the...one of the hardest things in going from short stories to novels, I think is just the level of world building required, particularly when you're writing science fiction and fantasy. In a short story, it's just this snapshots and you don't really, well, things should work and they should be logical, but you don't really have to figure out everything. And if if it doesn't quite...or if you don't really know how your whole world comes together and all the ins and outs, it's not really that important to the short story because it's so confined. I mean, especially like I'm talking short stories under ten thousand words, under five thousand words, you know? And having to really delve into world building and understanding politics and economics and like how to actually construct these worlds, that was probably the most intimidating thing between transitioning from short story to novel and then also just plotting. Like I, I used to "pants," and that's fine for a short story. But when you start pantsing fifty, seventy, ninety thousand words, it can, you know, you can lose your way, you can lose your way pretty easily, and I used to do that and now...Well, actually for the last few years, I didn't really write short stories. I had a bit of a short story hiatus from around 2015. And I was only writing novels and I kind of refined my process for writing novels. And it was only at the beginning of this year that I was like, you know what? I'm going to write short stories again. And I had to transition back into writing short stories.

 

Suzanne: [00:06:52] And it was so hard.

 

Megan: [00:06:53] (Laughs)

 

Suzanne: [00:06:55] I have to I have to make everything smaller again. And I would have these ideas where I would just start expanding and expanding, and I was like, no, it's not a novel. It's not a novel. Like, it's just five thousand words, even less. Umm, and I found that's been kind of the reverse challenge for me this year, is getting rid of all of the excessive worldbuilding and character development because I'm so used to that, right?

 

Megan: [00:07:19] Yeah, I...I love worldbuilding, so that's probably actually my problem. And I just never realized that it just won't go in the hole. But it's so hard.

 

Megan: [00:07:29] So we are both Y.A. authors and I. I love the young adult genre. It is, it is my favorite place to be. What drew you to the the teen and young adult demographic?

 

Suzanne: [00:07:48] I think because I've always been drawn to very dark literature, there was...there was something that was sort of refreshing in Y.A. when I started to read it, that I was like, oh, you don't have to be so cynical or jaded or nihilistic in your world views, because I was reading, like, pretty heavy and grim science fiction and fantasy for the most part. So that was just something inherently hopeful or positive that these stories ended kind of on more uplifting notes, which was kind of good for my psyche at the time when I, when I discovered YA. And then also just just to be able to kind of see the world through fresh eyes. Like, for teens particularly starting to figure out the world, figuring out who they are, and you get to kind of live vicariously through that in a way of if...if I knew now or if I'd known then what I know now. Right? Like, how would I have made different choices or what might my choices be?

 

Megan: [00:08:59] It would be so different!

 

Suzanne: [00:08:59] Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:08:59] I'm not even that old. I'm in the thirties and I'm like, oh, what about so different 15 years ago if I had known this.

 

Suzanne: [00:09:07] Oh yeah. For sure. For sure.

 

Suzanne: [00:09:10] I had a pretty sheltered upbringing, so I did not really get to explore the world until I got into university, into college. I was at a Catholic, all girls school, extremely protected life growing up in South Africa. So yeah, getting to just sort of live vicariously through through my characters and see the world differently and explore these "what ifs" almost like traveling back in time for myself and exploring these different what ifs. That's kind of what I what I really like about it.

 

Megan: [00:09:46] That's and that is a very cool way to put it. I don't think I've ever had someone answer the question with the what ifs for themselves. That's very cool. And do you find with your...your YA books...I mean, I'm not sure how much you know about your audience demographic, but do you find most of them are teens, or do you have a lot of adult readers?

 

Suzanne: [00:10:09] Oh. I have interacted with mix, so I've definitely had interactions with teens, generally older teens, because, again, I do tend to write dark as well. I'm not sure if I can actually answer that, because a lot of the people who give me the feedback tend to be adults, because they're people within my...my writing/reading circles who read my work, or critique partners, things like this who I tend to interact with. But then I have initially, you know, I was reading Goodreads reviews and those--

 

Megan: [00:10:49] Oh, that's dangerous.

 

Suzanne: [00:10:50] Yeah, that was terrible. But I think I think they're like a probably slightly younger demographic than others that I've had some feedback like messages from from older teens, maybe like 18, 19 year olds, which I guess is kind of. The the upper the upper teenage read is readers is who I've of for, so that makes sense.

 

Suzanne: [00:11:18] But then I've also, 'cause I'm a teacher, and in in the school that I was teaching in Sweden, I was the school found out that I had written a book and it was my YA book I Heart Robots. And the next thing is that I saw that it was making the rounds with the grade five students.

 

Megan: [00:11:35] Oh, no!

 

Suzanne: [00:11:36] No! You're 10 and 11. I'm I'm not sure this book is aimed at you all about like a rebellion for like campaigning for human rights for androids. But it's very much like a trans allegory. And there are trans characters, and it's like fight for basic human rights, essentially, and equality. But it's kind of dark. It can get pretty grim. And then there were these 10, 11 year olds reading my book and enjoying it...presumably because that's what they said, and I don't know whether they were just trying to make their teacher happy or enjoying it, but yeah, so I guess some some surprisingly younger readers also.

 

Megan: [00:12:19] It is always a little scary when you see readers who are below what you aimed for and you're like, oh, I mean, I don't know, outside of the U.S., if it's as big a problem with parent censorship, I don't know if that's just a special thing we do here.

 

Megan: [00:12:36] But I always have this terror of, like the parent leaving me a horrible review or the parent, like contacting me on Facebook and me being like I marked it as 14 and up and you gave it to your nine-year-old! I don't know what to tell you, but I that is such a real fear for me.

 

Suzanne: [00:12:54] It is scary. I mean, in in Europe in general, there's a lot more of a relaxed attitude towards sexual content, but a more strict censorship when it comes to violence. So the the issue parents may have is probably not if there's teen sex scenes, but if there's, like, really graphic violence or like cruel violence in a book that's aimed at younger readers. 

 

Megan: [00:13:21] That, I mean, that system makes so much more sense to me because one is, you know, an inevitable part of life and the other is something we can really hope we always avoid.

 

Megan: [00:13:31] But--

 

Suzanne: [00:13:31] Exactly.

 

Megan: [00:13:31] --that's that's a problem with writing, you know, for the YA market. I know for me, most of my readers are adults, which is, you know, pretty standard for my niche of YA, but it's...it always makes me feel better until I see, like, a little tween holding my book on an Instagram. And I'm like, oh, no, I'm so sorry. Please don't tell your parents I'm sorry. But yeah. And just a real quick note for listeners on Goodreads. Goodreads can be terrifying, but just know that we have all been in the Goodreads Hole where you want to, like, curl up because people have said some nasty things.

 

Megan: [00:14:13] So just, you know, scroll them if you must, but never let Goodreads ruin your publishing dreams. Just move on. It can be pretty harsh there. So just, you know, don't be terrified.

 

Suzanne: [00:14:25] And there's an audience there as well. You know, most people are more likely to be vocal and very vocal about things that they hate than things that that they like. You know, just just OK, right? So you're always going to skew towards either the really hateful stuff or the super positive.

 

Megan: [00:14:42] Yeah, that's...I love looking at BookBub reviews are actually my favorite because they usually won't even bother if they didn't like it. And then sometimes they'll just click like...it has the options like "I liked the action," "I liked the romance." And so they don't have to say anything. So you get a five star review that's like "good action, good romance, compelling," and then it's. That's just it.

 

Megan: [00:15:05] So you can be proud of yourself without having to worry. So it's always a nice little ego boost to look at those.

 

Megan: [00:15:12] So--

 

Suzanne: [00:15:12] I like that.

 

Megan: [00:15:13] Yeah, it's it's great. So you mentioned in I Heart Robot that you have a...a positive message about the transgender community, and I asked you to come chat with me before, you know, the the world sort of blew up with the controversy, which is should never be a controversy. But I guess some people just have to be cruel. So most of... Is it most of your books(?) Have LGBT plus and trans themes. Is it just I Heart Robot.

 

Suzanne: [00:15:51] I would say most of them have definitely have LGBT plus characters and I guess LGBT plus themes because it's hard to separate one from the other. I mean, The Other Me is a trans story. It's about a trans teen realizing that they're trans and what that is, which is very much drawing from my own personal experience growing up in South Africa, where that sort of vocabulary just didn't really exist at all. I didn't really understand what what transgender was until I was into my university years. And, yeah, I Heart Robot definitely has that undercurrent, as I said. It's not really a trans allegory. I think people who read it understand that it's a story about human rights, basic civil rights in general,umm, but there are comparisons made between this...this call for giving human rights to androids that have become very sophisticated AIs and what does it take to make us human? And the parallel that's made between the fight for rights with transgender individuals in the world.

 

Megan: [00:17:12] And I...so, and this could be me. Living as, you know, a cisgender, heterosexual woman who lives in, you know, that that very privileged set to the side and just like living with, you know, some chauvinism but doing pretty good, it could just be my naiveté, but I feel like there aren't a huge number of books in the YA genre when compared to like all the other niches that we're pushing towards that really have that message or if not, message undercurrent pulling towards that direction.

 

Megan: [00:17:55] What has that been like for you as an author to to reach out into that realm that desperately needs more books, that needs more representation?

 

Suzanne: [00:18:08] Yeah, I mean, I think it's it's something that's always well, not always, but it's something that's been there a very long time on the indie circuit. So indie publishers have been doing incredible work, publishing diverse voices for almost 10 years. And that was where my books initially found a home was with indie publishers, I even had agents just tell me categorically they had no idea how to sell this, my, my book, The Other Me, at that time. I just don't know how to sell it. This transgender story, and it's set in South Africa. What do I do? It just it wasn't a thing that they believed could sell to traditional, you know, the big, big five houses then. But there's definitely been a shift. And this year has seen so much fantastic literature bursting onto the YA scene. Just recently, Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas, who's a trans writer made The New York Times best seller list.

 

Megan: [00:19:09] That's amazing.

 

Suzanne: [00:19:10] Yeah, like, really that was absolutely epic. And is Felix Ever After, which was written by is written by Kacen Callender and Kacen Callender has written other books before, but hasn't really been noticed the same way that this book, Felix Ever After, put Kacen Callender on the map. And that is a...that is a trans story. And there's some diva and. Oh, gosh, just like so many and Anna-Marie McLemore, who wrote When the Moon was Ours and The Weight of Feathers, recently came out as non-binary. So all of their books, which have always had these themes of genderqueer, gender fluid. It's just I think they're there, but they maybe haven't received as much mainstream attention until perhaps given the shift in paradigm with black lives matters, with all this Rowling nonsense that's come about, it's like it's shifted the spotlight onto these books. And that's fantastic because we are getting more and the Big Five publishers are realizing that there's an audience and that these books sell well. It's not necessarily just the trans group of readers who are reading them, but it's actually got a big market for these books because they're fantastic.

 

Megan: [00:20:40] I...I, I mean, obviously, like what Rowling has done is completely abominable and, you know, damaging and it's a betrayal, but it is kind of nice to hear you say that at least this, this bright spot of getting the the trans-positive books more out into the world and gaining them more attention. At least, though I'm sure it was not her intention, at least it is having that positive impact, so that...that adds a little brightness to the world, even though, you know, it's coming from a bad place.

 

Megan: [00:21:15] And so as a writer within this community, how have you ever had any interactions with your readers that have made you feel...I hate to say important, because obviously you're important, you're a human being, but that have made you feel like, you know, this is this is making a difference. This is this is worth it. Have you ever had any of those sort of grand moments that make the toil go?

 

Suzanne: [00:21:50] I mean, yeah, I've had a couple moments like that, I've had some some really personal feedback from from some readers for whom my books have meant a lot and have kind of they've had some aha moments maybe reading my books. But I think every every artist who creates authentically is going to get that reaction from the people who consume their art, because there's a there's an honesty to if there's a vulnerability in it and that resonates with people. So it doesn't necessarily make me feel important. It's certainly validating and it makes me feel good and it makes me think, OK, I keep going because people are enjoying what you're creating. Yeah, I think I think anybody can have that, and I think it's important for people to realize that even if they're creating something that feels really strange, like, I don't know, banana skin memes just something completely [inaudible] tiny percentage of the population is going to be into, you're still going to be able to reach your audience and people are going to resonate with that and love it and be your fan and want more. And it's going to be meaningful to them, really deep and meaningful to them. They're going to be other people who just completely hate it or not, even hatred, which is worse. It's just like be ambivalent and they're just not going to care about it either way.

 

Suzanne: [00:23:27] But yeah, I mean, it is nice when you get positive feedback from from people who've read your stories and say, uh, you know, thank you for putting into words what I couldn't, or you made me realize this thing about my life or you just just had some sort of positive effect in the world because there's so much negativity that if you can bring like this tiny little spark of goodness to other people's lives, I think that makes you feel really good at that.

 

Megan: [00:23:53] That is always a very nice feeling. And I. For me, in like my author journey, it's it's always a little bit strange because I... I mean, yes, like every person has their own unique perspective, but I don't have a unique perspective, really. I, I'm really like middle class, college educated. There you go. Like standard. Got it. But it is always nice when someone says, you know, oh, this is something I haven't seen before. Oh, this is something I hadn't realized. And that is great. Now, I have from you and the pre-interview list that I said I have just to let the listeners know a full list that she created of books that she would recommend for people who want to give more financial backing to authors who work in the genderqueer and transgender books.

 

Megan: [00:24:50] And so I have, it's a great list, and I am going to put all of that in the show notes and on the social media posts, because in recognizing that we need more of these books because, you know, it is a human experience and it should be represented in fiction the way it's represented everywhere else. If you want to support that writing community and support publishers putting more of those books on end caps Barnes and Noble and giving them good placement so that more people can find them then, you know, invest in these authors and purchase some of their books, because that is one of the ways we can help get this out there is by proving that it is commercially viable.

 

Megan: [00:25:33] Now on an author sort of slant. And I'll give you a little backstory as to why I'm asking this early. This is 10 years ago, which is sort of when, you know, the publishers are telling you that there is not really a place for transgender storylines. There was a lot of you should not put LGBTQ+ characters in your book, unless that is specifically what your book is about, was what I was told through like five of my different publishers, was that that was just not allowed. And so my way of dealing with it was always knowing in my notes that, you know, well, you know, he's gay, she's gay, like I have it. It's implied, but never going to say it because otherwise they're just going to edit it out on me anyway. And so as we have lost those sort of restrictions and were able to include them in books because people have realized that that's ridiculous, it doesn't need to be the theme in order to have representation. What advice would you give to authors who are not necessarily writing transgender, genderqueer, queer-focused books, but want to include these characters? How would you recommend they go about writing it in an honest and inclusive way?

 

Suzanne: [00:26:51] I think it's I think it is tricky, especially if if those authors are not part of the LGBTQ+ community themselves. So if they are cishet authors wanting to include these characters to include diversity in their books, it would be similar to how white authors don't want to create token characters of color in their stories. And a good rule of thumb seems to be that if you're not writing a story that you or a character that you share an identity with is maybe better not to choose them as the point of view character, and I think I don't know any authors, particularly white authors, who haven't made that mistake in their career at some point with really good intentions, but I think we know better now and we can do better now. So perhaps just like the first rule of thumb is you don't have to make the transgender character your point of view character and try to write them as your main focus of the story if you don't share that identity, because chances are you're going to get things wrong, even if you do all your research, even if you have trans friends and sensitivity readers, it's maybe just not your story to tell as a cisgender person, but that that leaves the door wide open for all of your secondary characters.

 

Megan: [00:28:14] We should absolutely populate your world realistically with a diverse cast of characters, but then you do need to be sensitive and you need to be self aware of how much you know, how much you can you can write authentically from a from a place of personal knowledge, like maybe you have trans friends or trans family members you can check in with to make sure that you're using appropriate language, considering different perspectives and the way that you approach certain material in your story, and then just make sure that you get sensitivity readers from outside of your sphere as well. Because if you give it to a family member or a close friend, they might not say what needs to be said, umm, in terms of if you if you get something wrong or maybe they just share such a similar worldview, they might not even pick up on something that somebody comes from different socioeconomic backgrounds or different ethnic cultural background might see potential harm in. And that's also, it's, it is tough. And I think authors these days have the responsibility to do better when they write characters outside of their lane, but at the same time shouldn't be discouraged and shouldn't then like whitewash or straight wash their stories out of fear of getting something wrong, but rather try to do your best. And if you don't get something right, listen to that criticism and learn and then do better next time.

 

Megan: [00:29:48] I think that straight washing is something that at least in the the United States book community is something that we face so often. And I I know that it has been very damaging to to some of my friends in the LGBTQ+ community of all of their favorite books growing up. They didn't there wasn't even like someone you meet at the grocery store for three lines, like there was no one. And so I think that that is something that, you know, we as authors, we need to do better. And it's it is going to be a process. But I, you know, challenge all of the authors out there to to take the steps and do better because, you know, that is not only our obligation, but it should be a challenge that we lovingly take on to to help and protect the next generation, find representation in, you know, whatever the next Harry Potter is. There should there should be more inclusion so that we don't ever face this disappointment again.

 

Suzanne: [00:30:53] Absolutely.

 

Megan: [00:30:53] So on that same note, people who are just starting off, they have not even gotten to populating their worlds with any kinds of characters yet, what would you give to, what advice would you give to an author who is just beginning their writing journey?

 

Suzanne: [00:31:12] Oh wow, don't don't rush to have patience because the industry is convoluted and complicated and there are so many different paths you can take towards publication, and they're all just as valid as they are different. And I think there's so many resources now online that help you understand exactly what each of those paths looks like, what each of those paths take, and what the what the outcome is likely to be. And you really have to be honest with yourself about what you want and how much work you're prepared to put in, because trying to get into traditional publishing is a very different game, almost lottery kind of situation.

 

Megan: [00:32:04] Yep.

 

Suzanne: [00:32:05] Yeah, and I think that's that's hard. Like this is a bitter pill to swallow for many of us because it doesn't always matter how good your book is, if it's the wrong timing or if it's something that's too similar to what an editor has already on their list, or there are just so many so many reasons why a good book might not sell. But then if you're going to go into indie publishing and find a small press, you have to be so aware of reputation and what what are the hallmarks of a good press and a reputable press and responsible press, because you can sign away your rights and end up with nothing for it, and it can be a complete soul destroying experience if you end up signing with a press that just takes advantage of you.

 

Suzanne: [00:32:52] And then with self publishing, you have all the control. And so it's a wonderful feeling to be in control of your artistic creations. But it takes so much work and there's so much business acumen that requires to really excel in self publishing. So there are lots of different avenues. And my my advice to anybody who's starting out is do your research into what these look like, what. Yeah. And how to navigate it and ask for help. As I said, there's so many resources online now. When I started out, I didn't know much of anything, and I was just happy to sign any contract that was going to make me published. That was the important part. And I made some some pretty awful mistakes early on that I wish I wish I could go back and fix. But, you know, there it is.

 

Megan: [00:33:49] Yeah. That the earlier mistake fear is, err, experience is is so real. It's it's hard. And, you know, there are, if you're interested in indie publishing, make sure you check out Joanna Penn creative. Yeah. Joanna Penn, The Creative Penn podcast. If you're interested in submitting, there are entire textbooks on how to get that done.

 

Megan: [00:34:12] But there are a lot of great resources. And the basic one of my favorite things about the author community is how open they are to sharing their knowledge.

 

Megan: [00:34:25] There's really not a lot of like this is my little chunk of knowledge and you shall never take it from me.

 

Megan: [00:34:30] People are very open to say, oh, don't do this. Oh, like this is maybe not the best way to query. Oh, you should go about this. Have you read this book? Go to this blog. Join this Facebook group. And so I think in a lot of other artistic industries it can get very competitive and people don't want to share their their golden chunks of knowledge. But in...in the author community, you may not always get an answer, but never be afraid to ask the question, because chances are someone's going to lovingly guide you in the right way, even if they're only sending you a hyperlink. So that is, you know, it's great.

 

Megan: [00:35:05] So for the final four questions, if you could only recommend one book, which would you choose?

 

Suzanne: [00:35:13] Yeah, you know, I saw this question and I've been thinking about it, and I'm no closer to finding an answer. I was like weeks ago when this question was posed to me because there's so many different reasons to recommend different books, you know, like if you just want pure escapism or if you want something that's thought provoking. But I will say, and this is kind of strange to maybe recognize it as fiction. This is a nonfiction book, one of the books that dramatically changed my life and really kind of made me take stock and do a hard reset on a lot of my my views and goals in life was Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild. And it's been made into a movie, which is fantastic. The movie is really great, beautiful film, but somehow reading the book, it just yeah, that that really sort of shook up my my view at the time, like the definition of success or how we judge ourselves based on these sort of very strange societal constructs. That aren't really real. So, yeah, that's maybe one book that really changed my life.

 

Megan: [00:36:32] Funny story. I spent four summers 20 miles from that bus.

 

Suzanne: [00:36:38] Oh, wow.

 

Megan: [00:36:39] Yeah. So some people would hike out to it, but it's a very dangerous, people have to get life lifted out of there all the time, hike. But yeah, I spent a lot of time near the into the wild bus.

 

Megan: [00:36:50] It's

 

Suzanne: [00:36:50] Oh my goodness

 

Megan: [00:36:50] Yeah

 

Suzanne: [00:36:51] I'm envious. I'd love to go there. Just as a...this monument to this paradigm shift.

 

Megan: [00:36:57] They actually recently this summer, I believe, airlifted the bus out.

 

Suzanne: [00:37:02] Oh right.

 

Megan: [00:37:03] They moved it because so many people had gotten hurt and had to be rescued. And I think a couple even died trying to get to the bus. So they finally, they airlifted it to somewhere people could visit it more safely. And that's wise.

 

Suzanne: [00:37:17] But at the same time, a little bit sad it's gone.

 

Megan: [00:37:20] It is. But it's they had a perfect replica of it at the local brewery so people could take a picture if they didn't want to hike.

 

Suzanne: [00:37:31] That's definitely safer.

 

Megan: [00:37:31] Yes, it was great. You could have a beer in your hand and visit the into the wild bus. It was the one from the movie.

 

Suzanne: [00:37:37] Ok.

 

Megan: [00:37:38] So what song can you count on to pump you up and lift your spirits?

 

Suzanne: [00:37:45] My goodness. like music is such a huge part of my life that I have very specific playlists for how I want to feel, very specific songs for how I want to feel and, I think...Hmm...Well, you know what? Imagine Dragons is always kind of guaranteed to make me feel happy, and even Spotify realizes this, like if I'm having a day where I just keep skipping tracks, I don't know what I want to listen to, Spotify will start spinning Imagine Dragons close to me. And it works because I'm like, oh, listen to that. So, yeah, Imagine Dragons, which is not the most unique or interesting band maybe, but I really like them. And Dan Reynolds, the lead singer, does fantastic work for LGBT+ youth.

 

Megan: [00:38:32] Oh, nice. I didn't know that.

 

Suzanne: [00:38:34] He's a really positive force there and a huge activist for LGBT+ youth. So extra bonus points for supporting Imagine Dragons. And of course Linkin Park. That's just such a solid favorite from my formative years, early teenage years growing up. So that's.

 

Megan: [00:38:53] I love that. I love Imagine Dragons. It's...they're, they're great. So what do you want the tagline of your life to be?

 

Suzanne: [00:39:03] So there's this band called Explosions in the Sky, which is this sort of post rock, shoegaze-y, kind of ambient strange music, which I love, and I always include them in my writing playlist. And they have the song called Remember Me as a Time of Day. And I've always just been completely enthralled and enchanted by that, like, yeah. So I always thought like if I had to have a memoir or if they were going to like chisel something into my gravestone, which they wouldn't because I want to be buried in one of those like seedpods so that I could get into a tree.

 

Megan: [00:39:42] Nice. That's a good that is one of my top three options for what I want. So that's cool.

 

Suzanne: [00:39:48] But if I was ever going to have this epitaph or whatever, then I would have this "remember me as a time of day," because I think it's just kind of whimsical and poignant without being sad or...and it says a lot without saying much. I don't know. I just like that.

 

Megan: [00:40:05] You know, that's great. I think it's it's beautiful and it works. So what is the most inspiring thing anyone has ever said to you?

 

Suzanne: [00:40:16] So it's actually fairly recently, that's...well, this is like, inspiring specifically for writing. Not like...life in general, but specifically for writing, was that I read an interview with this Australian writer called Holden Shepherd who wrote a really good YA book, Invisible Boys, which I forgot to put on my list. He's a gay author, and he wrote this book about these four gay boys, and in this interview he was talking about how his writing mentor had told him the problem he was having with one of his manuscripts that just wasn't working was because he had written from too-recent trauma. And this mentor told him and and he was relating the story that you should write from the scar tissue, not from the wound. And it took me a little while to unpack that, and I think that's amazing, write from the scar tissue, not from the wound, because if you're still you're still bleeding, if you're still raw after a life experience, you're not going to have the distance and the perspective to be able to write well about that thing.

 

Suzanne: [00:41:26] You're still dealing with it if you're still in it yourself. So that was a really big like aha for me, with writing.

 

Megan: [00:41:36] That's that is an amazing piece of advice. I've never actually heard that, but it makes so much sense.

 

Suzanne: [00:41:45] Yeah. I just love the way that it was worded. And it definitely makes sense because we do tend to write from our life experiences. And sometimes I definitely try to write about things where it's just it isn't working. And suddenly this clicked for me. Yeah, because it's too soon, it's too soon to try to put this into into fiction when I'm still dealing with it myself.

 

Megan: [00:42:08] Yeah. That those are very wise words. Now, before I let you go, where can listeners find you, your books, your social media, all those wonderful things?

 

Suzanne: [00:42:22] Yeah. So my books are mostly available wherever you find books. So definitely on Amazon, across all the Amazons, wherever you are in the World. Book Depository. And then I think some of the titles, at least Scardust, which is published with Entangled, that should definitely be available in most of the North American stores or at least be able to be ordered. Umm, uh yeah, I think the others should be available generally around. I Heart Robot because that was that was published by the indie press and then I got the rights back and have since self-published that. That might be the only one that is not as widely available, but that's definitely on Amazon as an e-book. And all my books are available as ebooks and paperbacks and a couple are available as hardcovers as well.

 

Megan: [00:43:15] Oh, fancy.

 

Suzanne: [00:43:18] And I Heart Robot is also in Chinese. So if you can read Chinese and want to read, I hope not in Chinese that's available too.

 

Megan: [00:43:27] You know what? I'm having a Skype meeting with some students from China on Monday. So perfect.

 

Suzanne: [00:43:33] Oh. Brilliant! Brilliant. I can send you some links for that if you want.

 

Megan: [00:43:35] Sure.

 

Suzanne: [00:43:37] Yeah, and then to find me, I'm most active on Twitter and on Instagram. And my my handle is the same on both of those. It's @Suzanne_Writer.

 

Megan: [00:43:48] Perfect. So I will send people I will also put those links in the show notes for everyone to make sure that it is easy for everyone to find. And thank you so much for joining us today. This was wonderful and, you know, very educational and informative, too, which is great. So thank you so much for coming on A Book and a Dream.

 

Suzanne: [00:44:08] Absolute pleasure. Thank you for having me.