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Suzanne’s Path to Publication
Today I chat with the delightful Suzanne Cass, a fellow Australian Author, who shares with us her path to publication. Her novel ‘Glass Clouds’ was released on the 30th April this year.
Suzanne Cass has always had a fascination with the tough resilience of people who live in our amazing red-dirt outback country. Much of her adolescence was spent working as a jillaroo in the Snowy Mountains, forming her love of enigmatic, outback heroes in wild, passionate, dangerous stories. She lives in Perth with her wonderful husband and two gorgeous sons. When not writing about the characters that inhabit her head, Suzanne can be found prowling the beaches with her border collie. Her debut novel, Island Redemption won the Romance Writers of Australia award for best unpublished romance novel of 2016.
- How long have you been writing for?
This is a really hard question to answer. I’ve actually been writing for most of my life. I still have the gorgeous little books I used to write way back when I was in grade one, complete with hand-drawn illustrations. I wrote off and on throughout my twenties and even submitted a manuscript to (back then) Mills and Boon. Obviously it was a big fat rejection. But I only got really serious around 10 years ago when I started my first rural romance.
- How long did it take you from when you started writing, to when you became a published (or soon to be) published author?
From the time I got serious about writing it’s taken me 10 years to become a published author. It took me 4 years to write my first real book. I’d always had this story inside me, needing to be told. And I agonized over it, every word had to be perfect, every sentence perfect, every paragraph perfect. But it actually wasn’t perfect and it was only after I started subbing it to publishers (and receiving rejections) I decided to work on my craft, by doing courses and learning everything I could about writing. I wrote more books and I became a better writer, until I eventually found the confidence to publish my debut novel in May 2017.
- Where do you write from, home, office, coffee shop, etc? And do you have any pre-writing or actual writing rituals (such as lighting a candle, listening to music, etc)?
I think I might be a really boring writer. I have a little nook in the spare bedroom where I have a desk and a chair. I did buy myself a nice new, ergonomic chair as a bit of a reward after I won the Emerald, but otherwise my desk is fairly simple. Because sitting is supposedly the new smoking I now have a cardboard box on my desk that I can use as a raiser, so I can stand and type. On Instagram there are all these wonderful pictures of other authors writing in café’s and I think it looks so romantic, I should do that. But I never seem to get my act together. Tomorrow I’ll go and sit in a café. I will, I promise.
- Are you a plotter, a pantser, or somewhere in-between?
I’m a somewhere-in-betweener. I do a rough outline, using the snowflake method (a few pages at most, a paragraph for each chapter). Then I flesh out the outline as I write, and add in chapters, or move scenes around as I need to. I also do an in-depth character interview to make sure I understand my character’s motivations before I start writing.
- What is your favourite part of the writing process?
This is an interesting question, because I think my most favourite part and my most hated part of writing are one and the same thing. It’s those first couple of minutes, when you sit down at your desk in the morning with your cup of tea and tasty snack and open your computer to your WIP and type those first few words of the day. I love the feeling of potential and hope and autonomy. But it can also be the scariest part of the day (and being a procrastinator I’m always finding things to put it off) because if the ideas aren’t flowing and you’re just sitting staring at the screen, that’s when all the doubts start to overwhelm you.
- What is the most important part of a novel to you: plot, characters, or setting?
While Plot and setting are both really important, my stories tend to be character driven. For an author, getting to know your characters is a little like making new friends. You have to like and understand each one (if you don’t then it will show through in your writing) to get to know them intimately, to be able to make them come alive on the page and resonate with readers. I have a 100 question interview that I ask my two main characters, so I understand them in minute detail before I start to write.
- Describe your writing routine (how long do you spending plotting the novel, time spent writing, editing, submitting it):
Being an indie author, I need to spend nearly as much time marketing and promoting my books as I do actually writing them. I am getting faster at writing. From 4 years for my first, I can now write a book in less than 6 months. This process includes 3 months for the first draft, then 3 months for re-writes and editing (with help from my critique partners and beta readers) As an indie author a big part of the publishing side is formatting the final manuscript (Scrivener is my savior when it comes to formatting) creating a cover design and then uploading the files on all the different formats. This can be quite time consuming. I’m still on a very steep learning curve with the marketing thing and it can take up to half my day and really eats into my writing time.
- How many books a year do you usually write (or are you aiming to write):
I’m aiming to write, and publish, 3-4 books per year. (I can hear you doing the sums in your head, if I only write a book every 6 months, how am I going to publish 3-4 books a year. Hmmm, I’m going to have to up my game. A lot.)
- Can you explain the process you took to become independently published?
It took me 4 years to actually finish that first rural romance book. (yep, procrastination is my friend) Then I discovered RWAus, which is such an amazing organization that changed my writing life, and I started writing my second book (this one only took me a year to write) and also began to enter some of the RWA competitions. Over the course of the next 4 years I finaled in some of the competitions, until eventually I won the Emerald Award in 2016. A the same I was also subbing my books out to publishers and agents in Australia. I kept getting rejections (lots of rejections). Most of the rejection letters said the writing was strong and the characters believable, but for whatever reason, my book just didn’t fit into their list/particular genre/marketing sphere. Disillusioned by the traditional publishing path, I started to look into self-publishing. And what I learnt about becoming an indie author really excited me. So in May 2017 I took the plunge and self-published the book that won the RWA Emerald Award. I self-published my second book six months later in early December and my third book is due out in April. My fourth book due to be published around August will be that very first rural romance that took me 4 years to write.
- How did you cope with rejection during the querying process?
Although every author holds out hope that they will be plucked from the hundreds of manuscripts in the slush pile, I’m a pragmatist and never really believed it would happen. So I’d already steeled myself for the rejections. Of course they still hurt, and when I got the first couple I was down on myself and my writing for weeks. But then I remembered how many world-renowned authors (like Beatrix Potter, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King) received tens, if not hundreds of rejections before getting published and so you just keep going and keep believing in yourself.
- What were your biggest learning experiences or surprises throughout the publishing journey?
The big surprise for me was how much marketing and promotion (including social media) I had to do as an indie author, and how much time this takes up. It’s not just an hour here and there, it is literally half my day, sometimes more.
- Looking back, what do you think you did right that helped you break in?
Probably the one big thing that helped me to really believe in myself was winning the RWA Emerald Award (for best unpublished novel of 2016) It gave me the confidence to believe I really could write. That my stories were good enough to be published.
- Is there anything you wish you could do differently?
It might sound like I keep harping on about this, but as an indie author I didn’t realise initially how important marketing my books would be. I was under the illusion that I could just write, put my books out there and people would be knocking my door down to buy them. Nope, it doesn’t happen like that. I wish I’d researched marketing and promotion well before I first published, so my first books were released with a bang, rather than a whimper.
- Best advice you’ve ever been given, or have heard, about writing?
This is another hard question. (You’re good at getting right down to the nitty-gritty, Maddison) Probably the old, Show, Don’t Tell, technique is something that’s really important to do in all your writing. Early on, as an aspiring writer, I learned about this and now my books and my characters are so much stronger because of it. I’m a volunteer judge for some of the RWA competitions and a lot of the entries I see from aspiring writers are really lacking in this field.
- Any advice for aspiring writers on writing and submitting?
Just keep writing. If you want to be an author, you have to have more than one book to sell. One book is not enough, you need a backlist to prop you up. Don’t sit back on your laurels when you’ve finished that first book. While you’re subbing your book to publishers and agents, keep writing. Keep building that backlist.
- What advice can you give to other writers on building a platform and gaining a readership base?
I’m still in the middle of building my author platform, still learning what works and what doesn’t. Some of the OWLS (online courses) offered by RWAus really helped me in this area. I created my WordPress website after I did an OWL and then I did another course on Branding, which was immensely helpful. There was a third OWL on how to create a newsletter and start collating an email list through MailChimp. The only real advice I can give other writers is that it’s a slow process and takes a lot of work, time and commitment to build a readership. I’m still in the fledgling phase, but it is nice to see my numbers growing, slowly but surely. I keep hearing over and over again that an email list is a must for any author, so that’s what I’m concentrating on at the moment.
- What’s up next for you, and what are you working on now?
It’s all about editing and re-writing for the next few months. I probably won’t start any new manuscripts for at least 2 – 3 months yet. This week, I’m doing my final proof read of Glass Clouds, so I can upload the final file for pre-order, ready for the big release on 30thApril. Then I’ll immediately start to edit (structural edits first, then line edits) my fourth book, ready for release in early August. As I want to put a link for a pre-order for this book into Glass Clouds, I need to have a cover ready for the fourth book, even before I’ve finished the edits on the actual manuscript. I’ve also signed up to do an online course on self-publishing and marketing, to see if I can find out how the really successful indie authors do it. As you can see, I’m usually working on more than one book at a time, still improving my craft and learning about the minefield of marketing all at the same time.
- How can people connect with you?
Probably the two best places to connect with me, are either at my website:
Or come on over and chat on my author facebook page:
- Anything else you want to add?
Thanks so much for this opportunity, Maddison, you’re doing a great thing here on this blog, by broadening awareness on all the different pathways we take towards publication. Keep writing everyone. And keep smiling.
It’s been an absolute pleasure having you on my blog, Suzanne, and thank you so much for sharing your journey with us all! It was really fascinating reading about your Path to Publication and I know it will help other authors out there to gain an insight into publishing.
Charlize Brewer is spending time in France to recuperate from both the physical and mental scars of a tragic crash that ended her career as a mounted police officer. Her search for a quiet life is shattered when a dangerously attractive stranger appears in her garden covered in blood.
Counter-terrorism agent, Jean-Luc Munulo, is being chased by thugs from a people-smuggling cartel. He disappears back over the wall and Charlize believes it’s the last she’ll ever see of him. But when Charlize becomes an unwitting target of the cartel, she’s forced to go on the run with Jean-Luc as he tries to stay one step ahead of the murderous gang.
During a shoot-out, Jean-Luc is wounded and taken hostage by the leader of the smuggling ring. As her past comes back to haunt her, will Charlize be able to overcome the insidious voices in her head to keep them both alive?
Suzanne can be found on the following platforms: