Suzie Waltner is one of those incredible authors who not only writes her own books but is just as generous about sharing her expertise with fellow novelists. All while rocking a full-time day job.
I’ve learned so much from Suzie over the years and know you’ll enjoy meeting her, too.
Christa Banister: Your first novel with Anaiah Press, Midnight Blue, released recently. How did the idea for this second-chance romance come about? What made you want to tell Scarlett and Jake’s story?
Suzie Waltner: In the writing world, we’re told over and over to write what we know. Since I’ve lived in Nashville for over 20 years now, I wanted to set a book here. And what’s Nashville known for? Country music, of course. As I thought about the band and where they are with their success, I wanted to explore where they’d come from, starting with the lead singer. And that’s when Scarlett emerged. These two have plenty of things between them—hurt, heartache, regret, and a daughter—and I wanted to see their relationship redeemed and set back on the course they’d dreamed about when young.
CB: As someone with a full-time day job, how do you make time to write? Especially when you’ve got an entire series in the pipeline with quick turnarounds?
SW: It’s tough to balance, for sure. Not only to have have a day job and fast turn times with my novels, a few evenings of my week are taken up with other commitments. For me, I find that dedicating Saturday and Sunday afternoons to longer writing sessions works well. If I can get one or two in during the week, even better, but blocking out that Saturday/Sunday time keeps me (mostly) on track. I definitely have to be intentional, though, or I find myself finding too many ways to procrastinate.
CB: You’re a regular part of a critique group. For our aspiring writers out there, how does this community add value to your process? Do you have any other tips for writers who want accountability and feedback on what they’re working on?
SW: I am so blessed by my critique sisters. We each have different strengths in writing, which allows more depth to characters and scenes. Often, one of my crit partners points out something or makes a suggestion that turns an entire scene around. But there’s so much more than just the writing. The three of us have become great friends over the past two years we’ve been together. Even though we all live in different states, we text and email each other pretty much weekly and once a month we meet virtually for a few hours to catch up, ask questions, and just share what’s going on in our lives. This year, we’re also reading through a craft book together and discussing it during our monthly hangouts.
And now for the Banister Questionnaire:
What’s the first book that made you crazy about reading? I did not start out a fan of reading. In fact, I struggled with it at first. At the end of second grade, my teacher challenged me to read ten books over the summer. That encouragement started my love of reading, and that’s when I read a book I still remember decades later. That book was called Nobody’s Fault? by Patricia Hermes, which is out of print now. The quick synopsis of the book on Goodreads is: Emily likes to play baseball and tease her brother, but her happy life is interrupted when her brother has a fatal accident.
Characters or plot? One hundred percent characters. I want to connect with the hero and/or heroine in a story so much that I want them to be real and friends of mine. Last November I was at a writers’ conference, and there was a panel with an avid reader, an editor, and a literary agent. When they were asked what makes a book memorable for them, each one of them answered that it was the characters that stuck with them in their favorite books.
Which authors’ books do you always buy no matter what the story is about? I have a lot of these, so I’m going to stick with the top five that came to my mind (and they all write in very different genres): Amanda Barratt, Nicole Deese, Jen Turano, Pepper Basham, and Lynette Eason.
Are you a plotter or a pantser and why does that method work best for you? Oh, I am 100% a pantser. I’ve tried to plot a few times but the story always ends up taking a turn and that outline I wrote is left behind. I usually have an idea of where I want to start and where the story needs to go along with a couple of things that may or may not happen in the middle but other than those highlights, I don’t plot anything. I enjoy letting the story and characters take me where they please. But there is a downside to being a pantser and that is the fact that editing tends to be much more intense because there’s usually something that got dropped or missed or messed up in the storyline (for me, that’s usually the timeline…but I’m working on it and keeping a calendar of events as I write).
Actual book or digital download? While I enjoy having a paper copy of a book on my shelves, I’m getting older, and I love being able to adjust the font on my eReader so I don’t have to keep my reading glasses on all the time.
What’s your favorite bookstore? Location, please. There are a couple of great independent bookstores in the Nashville area. Parnassus Books is probably the most well-known because it was founded by author Ann Patchett. The other is a little shop in a residential area in Franklin called Bound Booksellers. While the store doesn’t carry a ton of books, they’re always willing to special order. They also have some fun puzzles and games and are wonderful to local authors.
Describe your ideal writing environment. I often write at home on my couch with my kitty curled up beside me, but there can also be a lot of distractions such as the dishes that need to be done or [insert any chore here]. When I need to get out of the house and away from distractions, my favorite place to go is my local library because I can reserve a study room there, close the door, and settle in with a couple snacks and my story for a few hours.
Coffee or tea? Tea. I’ve never been a fan of coffee, but a good Chai or peppermint tea is always welcome.
What’s your favorite way to procrastinate when you know you should be writing but don’t feel like it? I often find myself going down YouTube rabbit trails. And when I close the computer, I can easily get lost in whatever book I’m reading.
What are you working on at the moment? I just wrapped up content edits for the second book in my series. Red Velvet is coming this April. While I wait for my copy edits to come back to me and my content editor to work her way for the third book in the series, I’m spending my time writing the fourth and final book in the Love in Color series.