Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome Sue Perkins, author of Dragon Flame--which was released by Desert Breeze Publishing in January.
Sue lives in a rural district of the small town of Blenheim at the top of New Zealand's South Island. She and her huband have a 3 acre block and love the peace and quiet.
"During the summertime all you can hear are birds singing and the crashing of the waves on the shore," she told me. "We live about 500 meters from the sea. It's my idea of heaven."
Sue was inspired to write when she first learned to write at primary school and was encouraged to write essays. For years she wrote just for herself—short stories first and then, once the children were in school, she felt the urge to write a novel rather than short stories. Once she got started, she couldn't stop.
She began writing for publication in 1990 and admitted that writing for herself and for publication are two different things. She took a creative writing class when helped her hone her writing skills.
"I'm still in contact with the teacher and go on a writing retreat she holds annually," she told me.
She told me that she never really suffers from writer's block, but will occasionally get to a point where she's not sure what she's going to do next in the story. So…she just fast forwards a bit and starts writing the story a few chapters further on. By the time she's finished the manuscript, she knows what needs to be in the space she left. This is her way of keeping her manuscript on track.
The characters always come first with Sue—then the location. The plot comes last of all.
"Once I have the characters' names correct in my mind, then the storyline comes to mind," she explained. "When I start writing the story it unfolds as I write and the mystery, conflict and resolution come naturally as the book progresses."
Sue tries to make the title reflect the content of the book. Dragon Flame is obvious, because the dragons set fire to the human settlements. Her book Blitz, a contemporary romance, covered the time of the blitz during WWII in England. Other books use character names in the titles, while the books in Sue's Sky Castle Trilogy are named after the house colors of the main characters' estates.
The hardest part of writing for Sue is just finding the time to write. She works part-time and, of course, she has the usual boring household chores to do. Once a year she gets the chance to go on a writer's retreat where she spends ten days of luxury just writing non-stop.
When Sue was growing up, she wanted to be a children's nanny, but unfortunately didn't get any career advice, so she ended up taking the wrong classes.
"It worked out well in the end though as I picked up using computers quite quickly which helped when I became a writer," she told me. "I also wouldn't have met my husband if I had become a nanny."
Sue told me that she considers herself a pantser, saying, "If I try to plot a story the life goes out of it and it doesn't get written until I've forgotten it for several months. My plots tend to unfold as I write which is probably why I can't set everything out before I start."
"How do you keep your writing different from all the others that write in this particular genre?" I wondered.
"That's not too difficult in the fantasy genre. While other genres have to stay within location, historical period etc., fantasy writers build their worlds, people and magical beings inside their heads. This means there is very little chance that any two books will be exactly alike so I have no doubt my writing is fresh as I always try to write about something I haven't read before."
On a fun note, I asked Sue what we would find under her bed.
"Dust bunnies. Lots of them. You'd also find my portable hard drive, I hide it there in case we're burgled and my laptop is stolen - oh shucks, now I'll have to move it as I've told the whole world where it's hidden. Plus I've got my husband's anniversary present hidden under my side at the moment."
If her publisher offered to fly her anywhere in the world to do research, she would love to go to New Orleans, because she can think of a dozen scenarios for books in that area. Being in New Zealand, she admits she has further to go than most authors, but she can imagine all the best sellers that could come out of a trip like that.
"It would be well worth their air fare," she assured me.
Finally, I asked, "What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?"
"If you really want to write, don't give up. Also don't throw anything away. That best seller you thought you had inside you may not seem so great when you see it either on paper or on the computer screen. Even if you decide not to send it to a publisher, don't delete it. At some future date when you're more settled into writing you may want to return and blow life into your manuscript."
My writing is enriched by these experiences. We eventually settled in New Zealand and have lived here for over twenty years and brought up our children in this country. Of course children are always contrary and now they are adults they have returned to England, but we still love it here. Two of my romance books are set in this wonderful country I call home, with another set in wartime England.
Three days a week I work as a graphic artist and the other four days I have to fit in writing, housework, shopping, laundry and anything else that needs doing. Who says an author lives a life of luxury? Obviously someone who's never written a book.
Keep up with Sue at www.SuePerkinsAuthor.com and http://sueperkinsauthor.blogspot.com