Happy Spring and welcome to my blog today where I'm visiting with author Susan Coryell. Hi, Susan! Your cover gives us a nice, green, Springy feel.
Thanks for inviting me to be your guest. I am excited to share my writing journey, and, especially, to highlight my just-released cozy mystery/Southern Gothic BENEATH THE STONES published by The Wild Rose Press.
Excellent! So let's get started. So, Susan, when did your love of writing start?
My mother always said I was born with a pencil in my hand. By early elementary school I was writing poetry and stories and even penned letters and mailed them to my friends in my classroom. When they would call to tell me they received my letter, I said to my mother, “What is wrong with these people? They are supposed to write back to me—not call on the phone!” Her answer: “They’re not all writers like you, Susan.” My maternal grandfather was a published poet and a prolific writer of children’s stories; I believe writing is a part of my DNA. Both of my brothers are published, all three of my children are published (one actually writes for a living) and several of the grandkids exhibit scribe-ish tendencies. My theory is that writers know who we are and writers have to write.
What is the best thing you’ve learned about writing and/or the publishing business?
The writing/publishing business has taught me several “best” things. First, I’ve learned to look around me and see what others might be interested in reading about. I need an “inspiration” for my novels and I find ideas are everywhere if we just open our eyes. For example, EAGLEBAIT, my first published novel about school bullies, grew quite naturally out of my observations where I taught middle school—a petri dish for the bully germ. My writer’s antennae perked up when I toured an ancient, historic estate rumored to be haunted—resulting in A RED, RED ROSE, my cozy mystery/Southern Gothic. The idea for BENEATH THE STONES, a standalone sequel, occurred to me as I was reading an article in the local paper about a Civil War property that was falling into financial ruin.
Another “best” is discovering the amazing resource of author collegiality engendered by technology. I have “met” and become “friends” with so many writers around the world as a result of blogging, social media contacts, and the Worldwide Web. The support and help these professionals render is a real factor in my continuing to write.
So true. That's how you and I met! What is something you struggle with when you write?
I have a tendency to wordiness; consequently, I have to delete, compress, and tighten my prose at every turn. One way to deal with this problem is to simply write, then go back and place parentheses around every unnecessary word—then hit the delete button and move on. Another is to read a passage from someone with a terse style (like Robert Cormier) and let it sink into my pores before sitting down to write. Good editors help, too. This is where a writing family comes in handy!
That is handy! My daughter actually helps me to proof, too. Speaking of kids...how do you balance the demands of your everyday life and your writing life?
Now that I have retired from full-time teaching and all my children have moved on to their own homes, I have the luxury of time—and it is a blessing! A morning person, I usually compose and create early in the day—saving editing and revising for afternoon or evening. The only thing that gets in my way is frequent travel—which my husband and I enjoy. But keeping up with a writing/promotion/marketing schedule far from my usual tools and using a tiny portable computer is tricky, at best.
But who knows when the next place you might visit may show up in a book! Please give us a brief glimpse at your road to publication.
EAGLEBAIT (bully book) came out in hardcover, published by Harcourt (now Houghton Mifflin). It won a national and international award and was well-received, but it was my editor’s last work there and after she left I had no one to champion my book. I was disappointed that they pulled it after 14 months when the publisher had said it would take two years to get through the library review system. Later I brought it out in paperback through Author Guild’s BACK IN PRINT program and recently I updated the book with cyber-bullying and self-published. It’s a great resource for schools, community and church anti-bullying advocacies.
A RED, RED ROSE was published by L&L Dreamspell, which folded a year or so afterwards. Fortunately, it was picked up by The Wild Rose Press—an awesome publisher. BENEATH THE STONES is also a TWRP publication and I hope to stay with this group of outstanding professionals.
Where do you live or could you please share a little about your family.
My husband and I live on the water at Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia—a pristine pastoral setting conducive to creativity. My writer’s loft overlooks the lovely lake, which soothes the soul even in the worst of times. Recreational and civic activities abound here. We boat, ski, kayak and golf—attend concerts and art shows and work with charities, religious and political groups. We roam around the country visiting our three married children and seven grandchildren who live in Virginia, South Carolina and Hawaii. . I belong to two writers’ groups, two book clubs and the GRITS (girls, raised in the South). I am lucky to live in such a congenial corner of our state where I’m asked to speak about my writing and my topics in all sorts of venues—libraries, civic groups, churches, schools, museums—to name a few.
Sounds ideal! Thank you for sharing a little bit about yourself. Now let's hear about BENEATH THE STONES.
Ashby Overton has everything to look forward to, including a promising writing career and her wedding at summer’s end. But, Overhome, her beloved historic family estate in Southern Virginia, is in financial peril and it is up to Ashby to find a solution.
Interfering with Ashby’s plans is a dark paranormal force that thwarts her every effort to save Overhome. Supernatural attacks emanate from an old stone cottage on the property rumored to be a slave overseer’s abode, prior to the Civil War. As the violence escalates, Ashby begins to fear for her life. Who is this angry spirit and why is his fury focused on Ashby?
Mystery, suspense and romance flourish against a backdrop of Civil War turmoil and ancestral strife--where immortality infiltrates the ancient air breathed by all who inhabit Overhome Estate.
I moved downward, one step at a time, leaning against the wall for support.
I was half-way down when it happened—so suddenly that I had no time to react. Frigid air swooshed down on me from behind, freezing my face so that I screwed my eyes tight shut at the same time something strong and determined pushed against my back violently—so violently that I stumbled, then, tumbled forward, to be caught in Luke’s outstretched arms from several
“Whoa!” Luke exhaled from the impact of my body on his. “My God, Ashby. What happened?”
I slumped against him, unable to utter a single word, my breathing shallow and rapid. At last I found my voice. “Something pushed me, Luke. I don’t know what—or who—but it was powerful and deliberate.”
Luke glanced up to the top of the stairs. “Nothing there. I’m going back to the loft to look.”
I stopped him. “I doubt you’ll find anything.” I sniffed the air, expecting a new infusion of foul odor. “And what would you do if you did find
Just then we both heard it. Hollow, chilling, trailing away from us with every syllable: “Go away. He’s dead. He’s dead. He’s dead...”
One more thing I’d like to share is my author’s note for BENEATH THE STONES:
The Civil War letters included in Beneath the Stones are based on actual letters written from battle fronts by family ancestors, Joseph Franklin Stover and John William Stover. After my mother-in-law’s death, the family found a nondescript box in her file cabinet. Inside we were amazed to find fifteen letters handwritten in beautiful, flowing script. Since this occurred as I was in the midst of writing Beneath the Stones, I immediately seized on the idea of using excerpts from the letters in the novel. Though, for practical reasons, I omitted many details, overall the letters reveal a haunting picture of life for the Confederate soldier. A final note: The flute mentioned in one of the letters is very likely the same flute on display at the Museum of the Confederacy in Appomattox, Virginia.
I have long been interested in Southern concerns about culture and society, as hard-felt, long-held feelings battle with modern ideas. The ghosts slipped in, to my surprise, while writing cozy mystery/Southern Gothic A Red, Red Rose and its sequel Beneath the Stones.
Buy links: BENEATH THE STONES:
A RED, RED ROSE: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_23?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=a+red+red+rose+by+susan+coryell&sprefix=a+red+red+rose+by+susan%2Caps%2C910