I grew up in Maine, the youngest of five children, on a small farm. My father was a game warden. It was a wonderful childhood, and I have many good memories. I’ve always loved horses, reading, and writing. As an adult I developed interests in history, embroidery, genealogy, and education. I’m a long-time home schooler. My six children have all been home schooled. Four have now graduated from college, and two are working on ninth grade at home. My husband Jim is a news editor at a daily newspaper, and we have four grandchildren.
BG: That sounds like a full and busy life. I home school as well, and I’d love to hear how you balance the writing life with ministry, family and home schooling?
During the school year, I spend part of the morning with the children. Most days I can write during the afternoon. If an opportunity arises at other times of the day, I snatch it. If I need to make a research trip, I’ll often take my kids along as a field trip. While I was writing Finding Marie, the whole family took a trip to Mystic Seaport, Conn. But a lot of other family commitments have come up for me in the past year, such as being executor of an estate. I found I had to give up some activities and organizations in order to get everything done.
BG: You have five books releasing this year. You are one prolific writer! Tell us about your writing journey.
Between signing book contract #1 and book contract #2, two long, anxious years elapsed. During that time I signed with an agent and wrote several more novels and novellas.
In 2005, things exploded. Shortly after book #2 was contracted, I was asked to write more for Heartsong. Then came a contract for a children’s book with JourneyForth. By summer 2006 I was selling enough to quit my day job. I had books published or contracted with four publishers. Some of the books I’d written during the dry period were bought, and other new ones were contracted. Today I am scrambling to meet my deadlines, but I love it.
BG: When do you feel like it all began to come together for you as a writer—was there a particular moment?
Way back in 1999, when I told my husband I had a complicated story going round and round in my head, and he said, “Write it down!”
BG: Who has influenced you most as a writer and why?
My husband for encouragement, and my father for instilling in me a love of history. For writers, there are many, but I’d say historical author Janice Holt Giles and suspense author Dick Francis were influential. They both tell such great stories!
BG: What is your favorite movie?
That’s a toughie. I don’t really watch many movies, but if the kids have the video of Lord of the Rings on, I can’t walk through the room without saying, “Is this where the eagles come?” and pulling up a chair. I’m also a sucker for old musicals like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and White Christmas.
BG: Tell us about the writing process for you? Does it begin with a character, setting, or plot?
For a suspense book, I try to start with the plot. If the crime and its motive and solution don’t work, you might as well not write the book. But sometimes I have the characters first (this is unavoidable if you’re doing a series). Then you have to come up with a crime that can impact this person severely.
For a historical, I like to choose the time period and historical events I’m working around. Then I research the period. A lot of the action usually flows from this.
BG: In terms of genres, you’ve written children’s, historical romance, romantic suspense and cozy mysteries. How do you approach these different genres?
All of my books have relationships as a main focus, whether child-guardian, heroine-hero, or protagonist-villain. I want all of my main characters to be memorable. I also want them to be different, not all cut from the same mold. I spend a lot of time getting to know my main characters and thinking about their story.
I usually approach any story through researching topics relating to the main plot points. If it looks like the story line will work, I study up on details. With The Castaway’s Bride, I researched Maine statehood, Portland history, old buildings, sailing ships, import business of the period, the first governor of Maine and his wife, 1800s medicine, and much more.
With a contemporary book, I put in about as much research as with a historical. For my upcoming book Witness, from Love Inspired Suspense, I researched Maine legal records, police procedure, the Cat catamaran ferry, cell phones, and antiques, among other things.
BG: Tell us about your latest book, Finding Marie. What inspired you to write this particular story?
Marie is an off-stage character from my book Frasier Island. She was the sweetheart of a main character, Pierre Belanger, who was stuck on Frasier Island for about 18 months, while Marie waited for him to come home to Maine. Near the end of Frasier Island, the two let those still on the island know they were finally married.
I fully intended to write a second book focused on the hero and heroine of Frasier Island (George and Rachel), but my editor loved Pierre so much she wanted to see more of him. Okay, I’m thinking … I married him off. What kind of story am I going to write about Pierre? Everything was rosy for him at the end of book 1.
Marie was several years younger than her husband and had led a fairly sheltered life. I decided to throw her into danger and separate her from her hero husband, forcing her to get herself out of trouble. In Finding Marie, I also introduced both their families, which leads to some comic relief and romance. Finding Marie is a fast-paced story. Marie only wants to get home, but she seems to be always just a step ahead of a bunch of murderous villains.
BG: That’s interesting to know that your editor initiated this particular story. I always love to hear how writers come up with their ideas. And from what you described about Finding Marie, you really understand the suspense genre. What is the message you hope to get across in this story?
Finding Marie is about independence, growth, faith, and love. My message is, don’t ever give up. No matter how tired or discouraged you are, don’t let go until God says let go.
BG: Of your books, and you have 11 now, which is your favorite and why?
Frasier Island is definitely right up there. For me the hero, George Hudson, is the ultimate hero. He overcomes his bleak circumstances and becomes everything we all want to be.
BG: What are your future writing plans?
Lots more suspense! Look for more from Harvest House, and for Just Cause and Witness in ’08 from Love Inspired Suspense. Also more historical novels from Heartsong; I’m working on a trilogy of New Hampshire stories. My daughter Megan and I also have three cozies coming out in ’08 and ’09 with Heartsong Presents: Mysteries, so look for our Blue Heron Lake series there.
BG: What does your typical day look like?
I try to rise early, do emails and financial records, then have school time with the kids. If I am able, I’ll do some writing or writing-related tasks (research, interviews, critiques, etc.) before lunch. After lunch I try to put in some hard writing time. If the evening is free, I often continue this into the evening. Two nights a week I’m at church, and two nights a week I drop two children for their karate lessons and go to the gym while they’re at the dojo. Somewhere in there I squeeze in laundry, lesson planning, and other household tasks.
BG: What are a few writing tips you could share with aspiring writers?
Join a writers’ organization such as American Christian Fiction Writers (www.acfw.com). If you don’t have a support group like this, you cannot comprehend the benefits it will bring you.
Learn the craft. If you’re not good at grammar, study grammar. If you’re not a good typist, get some typing tutor software. Enhance your weak areas. And persevere. Sometimes it just takes a long time.
BG: Any marketing tips?
Ouch. I hate marketing. That’s what I thought agents were for. I learned my definition of “marketing” was much too narrow. If God puts an opportunity in your path, don’t trip over it. Pick it up and run with it. With that said, please visit my Web site at www.susanpagedavis.com. Be sure to enter the monthly giveaway—you choose the book you want.
BG: Closing thoughts you’d like to share?
Don’t let your writing displace family, ministry, or other things that are truly important.
BG: And I think that’s the hardest thing about writing, trying to balance with everything else. Thanks you so much for your time Susan.
Don’t forget to post a comment. I’ll randomly choose the winner of a copy of Finding Marie when it’s released. Be sure to check back for upcoming interviews with Lisa Harris, Molly Bull, Lena Dooley, Sue Dent and more. . .
Next week begins the CSFF Blog tour.