I met Susan Crandall, years ago at an RWA national conference. She and I (and Megan Crane and Kristen Harmel and Karen Rose, among many others!) had the same editor at Grand Central Publishing, and Susan was up for a Rita award and I was dazzled by her. She’s an incredible writer and lovely and warm and several years ago Susan decided she wanted to try a different path in writing, and stepped back to just write the book of her heart.
Well, the book of her heart is amazing. I was so happy to see Susan at the Decatur Book Festival at the end of August and I listened to her speak on a panel and then waited in a long line to get a signed copy of her new hardcover release, Whistling Past The Graveyard. (I actually picked up two signed copies, one for me, and one for one of you!)
I asked Susan to join us here on my JaneBlog, and she was kind enough to answer my questions. So help me welcome the lovely, extremely talented Susan Crandall!
Susan, what’s your typical day like when you’re between writing projects?
I’m pretty much always involved in a writing project on some level: researching, writing, pondering, copy edits, proofreading, promoting. Many times multiples of these all at once. I’m not a speedy writer. I like to “wallow” in my work, so there’s always something happening.
Was there anyone or anything that helped inspire you to be a writer?
My younger sister began writing first. She, knowing I was an avid reader, asked me to help her edit her first manuscript. From there, we co-wrote five novels—which I consider my “education” in novel construction. She moved on to other things, but I was totally hooked on the process. My first solo novel, BACK ROADS, was my first published work. She’s been very supportive of my writing career, and her fiery, impetuous, personality helped me create Starla Claudelle in WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD. So I’d say she’s had a big hand in things all around.
Do you have a writing schedule or any writing rituals to help you achieve your daily writing quota?
I hate to admit this, but I will because it may help some writer out there struggling to follow the “rules of successful writers.” I do not have a daily writing quota, ever. After experimenting with many other writer’s tried and true processes, I’ve come to accept my creative process is uniquely my own. I do best when I write every day, no matter how little I actually accomplish on a given day. It keeps my head in the game. The first third of every novel is painfully slow in coming. I could sit at the computer all day and not reach a quota—I’d also be totally frustrated. A lot of my best storytelling breakthroughs come when I am not writing, but doing other things. I write when I feel like it, which is much easier now that my children are grown and out of the house. I don’t beat myself up about it, because all that does is dam up my creativity.
Tell us about your new release in 2 – 3 sentences. What do you personally love about this story?
Whistling Past the Graveyard is a coming of age story set in 1963 segregated Mississippi. Feisty nine-year-old Starla Claudelle runs away from her strict grandmother to find her momma in Nashville, where she’d gone when Starla was three to become a famous singer. Starla is aided by a black woman suffering loss and abuse, who has a newborn white infant in her care. The trio embark on a sometimes dangerous, sometimes humorous journey that will lead Starla to the maternal love she’s been long been denied.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a novel set in 1923, featuring three people from very different backgrounds set adrift by life-altering circumstances and bound together by mutual need; a teenager on the run from the law, a WWI veteran pilot, and a newly penniless debutant with a wild streak. Conflicting goals and blind obsessions threaten not only the success of their barnstorming act, but their lives as they cross America in a rickety airplane, encountering farmers and tycoons, tent revivalists and rum runners.
What do you love most about being a writer? What do you hate?
I love what I call the layering process. I do not draft. What I write one day, revisit those words the next and the next, adding layer after layer, until I have a finished chapter. I inch forward a little each day, add to it tomorrow. By the time I leave a chapter behind, it’s pretty much in its final version.
Frankly, I detest the blank page. When I sit there with a cursor blinking and any avenue is open to the story. I like it better when I’ve made the basic decisions of direction (plot, point of view, characterization, pacing) and then get to make it the most engaging it can be. That said, I never stop writing at the end of a perfect chapter. I always force myself to get that first paragraph of the next chapter down. It makes it so I really look forward to sitting down the next day.
Name five items sitting on your desk right now.
Ha! Is there a desk under there?
Stacks of research notes for my work in progress (messy, unorganized stacks). A fan letter awaiting response. A book on barnstorming. The remote control for the awning on the balcony off my office. A cocoa butter stick for my lips.
Name 3 books you hope to read soon.
The Tilted World, by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly. Dr. Sleep, by Stephen King. The Funeral Dress, by Susan Gregg Gilmore.
Title and author of the latest book you read?
Mrs. Poe, by Lynne Cullen, it was an advance reading copy and I really enjoyed it.
What’s your astrological sign?
Virgo … and I’m the poster child for the sign.
Are you superstitious?
Mildly. You won’t find me walking under a ladder and I always say “bread and butter” when I walk on the opposite side of an obstacle from someone I’m walking with (can’t risk getting in a fight before the day is over).
If you could meet one person who has died, who would it be? What would you want to discuss with him/her?
Mark Twain. I would just sit and listen to anything he had to say. I find his mind fascinating…plus I think we’d share the same sarcastic sense of humor.
Five favorite things to do on a weekend?
Work in the yard. Read. Go to the movies. Have the family over for swimming and food (Colts game and food in the winter). Share wine with friends.
What do you do in your spare time?
Spare time? Is there such a thing?
What does success mean to you?
In my writing world, it means I’ve created characters and a story that readers care about, that stick with them after they’ve finished that final page. Anything else in this crazy publishing industry is out of my hands, so I focus on the part I do have some control over. A note from a happy, satisfied reader is success.
Rock or country music?
Both, probably leaning more toward rock.
Sweet or savory?
Favorite ice cream flavor?
Vanilla …yes, it counts as a flavor!
Susan, thanks so much for joining us today, and readers I do hope you’ll take a few minutes to check out her books. I absolutely loved Susan’s latest release, and I’ve got that signed copy of Whistling Past The Graveyard to giveaway to one lucky reader here, along with a Starbucks gift card and fun reader goodies!
For a chance to win, tell me in the comment section below if you’ve ever read any of Susan’s book, and let me know what you’re reading now, and you’ll be entered. Winner will be announced Friday morning. Good luck and I do hope you’ll have a terrific week!
53 Comments / Add Your Comment →
This sounds like a great books.. I actually have never read her books.. I am currently reading Drawn Together by Lauren Dane.
Susan Crandall’s books are captivating and special. Whistling Past the Graveyard sounds unique and enthralling. I am reading Swimming in the Moon. A wonderful feature and post. Best wishes.
I’ve read a couple of Susan’s romantic suspenses like “Pitch Black” and “Seeing Red.”
I’m currently reading Julie Garwood’s “Hotshot.”
I’ve never read any of Susan’s books before. I just started reading a book by Chris Manby. It’s really good so far!
Sorry to say, I haven’t read any of Susan’s books … yet. I’m reading Inked Destiny by Jory Strong. Hot stuff. Magic, 2 hot men and 1 woman. My oh my … thank you for sharing, Jane. 🙂
I have not read any of Susan’s books, but I have seen the reviews for this one and would love to win it and read it. Especially a signed copy as I collect those. I am currently reading and almost through with The Signature of all Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. A great book!! Though not my usual genre it has bed a good read.
Have never read any of Susan’s books. Looking forward to reading them soon. Reading The Good Daughter now.
I have never read any of Susan’s books, but they sounds fascinating. I look forward to the day I can read one of them. Right now, I am reading One Lucky Vampire by Lynsay Sands. thanks again for sharing all your beloved authors with us!
I have not read any of Susan’s book before, but will definitely put it on my reading list now! I really enjoyed the Q & A you shared with us on your blog! I just finished The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman with my book club…loved it! I would have liked slight changes towards the end, but that is typical!
I would love to add this signed copy on my bookshelf!
So want to read this. It was featured in a new releases newsletter I get. Looks amazing.
I am floored that you just start writing and don’t do a draft or anything. Amazing.
Congrats on your book!!!
I do not believe I have read any of Susan Crandall’s books. Something I’m going to have to rectify.
We just got the new book for our church ladies book club last night: Not A Word by Chautona Havig. I will begin reading it this evening. I’m also reading Smarty Bones by Carolyn Haines and Blueberry Muffin Murder by Joanne Fluke.
I have never read one of Susan Crandall’s book but this one sounds great. I reading Patchwork FAmily in the Outback by Soraya Lane.
I do not remember reading a book by Susan Crandall, but I’m going to look for them.
I am reading “We Band of Angels” by Elizabeth M. Norman – a story about the nurses on Bataan during the Second World War. “Montaro Caine” by Sidney Poitier – fiction. “The Violinist’s Thumb” by Sam Kean – about DNA. and “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” by Katy Butler -the path to a Better Way of Death. and I am about to start the latest by Andrea Kane and another Heather Graham.
I have not read any of Susan’s books but this one sounds like a great read.. I am slowly reading “Killing Lincoln” for book club .
I have not read any of Susan’s books but I’m happy to meet her here on your Blog. Look forward to reading Whistling Past Graveyard. I’m finishing up Sassy Belle’s by Beth Albright. Such a wonderful read.I’ll be starting one of Sherry Thomas’s books next.
Lucky4750 (at) aol, (dot) com
I have not read any of Susan’s books but they sound very fascinating.
I am currently reading Sassy Belles byt Beth Albright.
Susan, GO COLTS! Although I am a Peyton Manning fan too and that game yesterday was crazy to watch!
Yes, Kimberly, that was one wild game. It was nice to see Payton in Lucas Oil Stadium again. I am glad the Colts prevailed, but I was proud of the warm welcome the fans gave #18.
I grew up in Indy and then moved to Colorado when Elway played and now live in So CA, I have always rooted for both the Colts and the Broncos (I have kind of given up on the Chargers.)Even though some fans were a little crazy and don’t even get me started on Irsey,(sp) I was proud of Luck and Manning for being kind to one another before and after. I can only imagine how hard it was for Peyton to be back in Indy playing against a team that we all thought he would retire from. I have nothing but respect and admiration for Manning. I have a cousin whose daughter spent a great deal of time in the children’s hospital and when he wasn’t playing he was there with the kids almost every day just hanging out with them.
Have a great week. I have added your book to my TBR pile and look forward to reading it.
Haven’t read her books yet.
Reading fallen too far by Abbi Glines
I’ve not read any of Susan’s books but looking forward to adding this new work to my TBR list. Susan, thanks for sharing your journey and what you’ve learned. I’m currently reading Dorie Graham’s A Family Reunited.
This sounds perfect for our Southern Lit Lovers book discussion group. I have this as a TBR on my GoodReads bookshelf. I’m currently reading a digital ARC of Archetype by M.D. Waters.
I have not read any of her books but since I am currently in between reads now is a good time to start reading one.
Have NOT read any of Susan’s books yet, but read good comments about WPTG. Currently reading Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky.
Absolutely loved Whistling Past the Graveyard, although I had to explain to some younger readers this afternoon that it its not a zombie story! Its much much better! I read Back Roads a while ago, and although I don’t remember the exact story, I know it was good enough to make me want to pluck it from the shelf tomorrow morning, and read it again.
As a child Odin that turbulent time in history, stories like Whistling do more than entertain me…they take me back to my childhood…they reunite me with the people in my own home town that some folks thought I shouldn’t talk to.
I was blessed with amazing parents who taught their five children to open our minds, our hearts and our lives to people of all kinds…Are the time, I think I was having a worse time letting Dougie Ryan, a white neighbor kid, into my kitchen for snacks than I was with accepting dear old Mr. Murray Dick, a black gent who waited tables at the local hotel where my mama also worked part time, into our home for dinner.
Whistling Past the Graveyard brought back all of those warm, colorful memories. And I thank you…keeping those memories awake in my soul will help me to be a kinder, more compassionate person….although I doubt that I will ever want to have any zombies over for Sunday afternoon snacks!
Thank you so much for your kind words, Gloria! I’m so glad WPTG brought you good memories and hours of enjoyment.
As for those zombies, maybe next time!
Have not read any Susan’s book. I’m currently reading Tycoon’s series by Melody Anne
I haven’t read any of Susan’s books, but i definitely need to get busy on it! I have just finished reading Promise From A Cowboy by C.J. Carmichael; loved it! Hope you have a terrific week! 🙂
I haven’t read any of Susan’s books yet.
I’m reading DOWN UNDER By Bill Bryson.
I have not read any of Susan’s books but would love to win this book. It sounds like a good one.
I’ve read Susan Crandall’s WPTG. It would make a good movie. Someone suggested “The Age of Innocence” by Edith Wharton. I startred it. It’s not holding my attention ( not for me ) .
I have not read any of Susan Crandall’s books. I have been looking at the current one for awhile now. Love the title, love the premise. Looks really good. I am currently reading Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill. I have never read Joe Hill and as Stephen King is my favorite, had to try one.
Hi Jane and Susan! I really enjoyed reading your interview! I’ve only read one book of hers Back roads, and really enjoyed it. I’d like to read Whistling Past The Graveyard. I just finished reading Promise Me Cowboy, have enjoyed this series a lot! Can’t wait to read your book, Marry Me Cowboy! Thanks, for introducing me to another good author to read!
not sure I’ve read her work before. currently reading Karen White’s THE TIME BETWEEN.
The Time Between is a great book, isn’t it Denise? Karen White is my critique partner, I always love her characters.
I haven’t read any of Susan’s book but I enjoyed reading your blog. Thank you for introducing me to Susan Crandall.
I’m currently reading an ARC by Ellyn Oaksmith and just loving it.
Sounds amazing! Would love to check it out, as she is another new to me. I am currently reading Stephen Kings’ Doctor Sleep. This, while magazines are piling up…
I have not read any of Susan’s books but I have been seeing this one everywhere and plan to read it. I just finished Snowflakes and Coffee Cakes by Joanne DeMaio. Love her books! Thanks for the awesome giveaway!
I think I read one of Susan’s book several years ago but can’t remember now what the name of it was. This one sounds really good.
I’m always ready for a free book. Love to get lost in a good book and I can travel to other places without leaving home. Thanks.
Right now I’m reading The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan. I don’t think I have read any of Susan’s stories but this looks like a good one.
Just wanted to pop in and thank Jane for introducing me to so many new readers. I do hope some of you will take a chance on a new-to-you author.
It’s also great to see what everyone is reading. I have a long list of TBR novels, and you all have added several new titles with your recommendations. That’s the great thing about blogs like this, I discover so many new authors myself.
Again, thank you a million times over, Jane.
I have not read any of Susan’s books, but this sounds like a good book. I just finished reading “The Good Wife” and loved it, so I am in need of a new book to read 🙂
I haven’t read any of her books yet. I’m reading ‘I’ll See You Again’ which is a true story…really sad.
I have not read any of Susan’s books yet. Enjoyed the blog. I am currently reading Dead Heat by Kathleen Brooks and Promise Me, Cowboy.
I have just returned from the library with a copy of Whistling Past the Graveyard. This will be the first time I have ever read Suan’s work. I cannot wait to get started on this book. I was drawn in by the cover at first. I checked reviews online a few minutes ago and from what I’ve seen it is a fantastic read.
Thank you for the opportunity to have my own copy to place on my bookshelf along with many other well-loved books.
Please forgive my typo on Susan’s name.
Nope, I have not read any of Susan’s books yet.
i’m reading The Death Cure (Maze Runner Series #3) by James Dashner..so far love this Trilogy.
Unfortunately, I have not read any of Susan’s books, but that will definitely change!
I looked for it at the library and they currently have 83 holds on the book!! WOW! Must be a GREAT read!
Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky
The Expats by Chris Pavone
I’m reading “Gingerbread Man” by Maggie Shayne right now. I’m about a third of the way through it and it has been really good.
I hadn’t heard of Susan before but will be sure to check out her books. Thank you.
Susan’s winner is #18 Rachel Jones!
Rachel, please send me an email with your mailing address and I’ll get this prize in the mail.
Have a great weekend all!
congrats to Rachel Jones!
Just gone going through your blog and I have to comment, it was an outright hoot. Your writing technique is so engaging, I felt like I was on a wild goose chase with you. The picture you included were also a hoot, and I’m persuadedconvinced that you must have a photographic memory because they were so vivid. Keep it up, it’s a real trip!”