***Update: Here are the randomly-chosen winners of the ARC of Irish Meadows! Winners, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your mailing address so I can send you your ARC!**
Today, we’re welcoming Susan Anne Mason to the blog! Susan’s very first historical novel, Irish Meadows, will be releasing in July. Since she and her books might be new to you, I thought I’d invite you to get to know her a little better.
Amy: Every author has a unique how-I-got-published story. What’s yours?
I entered Irish Meadows in a writing contest called “Fiction from the Heartland” — mainly because I saw that editor Dave Long of Bethany House was a judge in the finalist round. I hoped my entry would make it to the finals, mainly to get feedback from a Bethany House editor. I thought this would help me get a feel for the type of writing they were looking for. In the meantime, I pitched the story to agents and editors at a national conference and got a lot of blank stares and negative feedback. So I really didn’t have high expectations for the contest.
To my great surprise and delight, Irish Meadows won the contest and Dave requested the full manuscript! Not long after, he told me he loved the story and was going to present the book at an upcoming acquisitions meeting. About a week later, I got an email indicating they wanted to offer a 3-book contract. Final approval was given and the rest as they say is history!
So I can’t stress enough the importance of entering contests! It only takes one person to love your work!
Amy: What has been the hardest part of the writing or editing process so far? What have you enjoyed more than you expected?
Susan: As far as actually writing the story, getting the plot nailed down is the hardest thing for me. Characters come easily, but getting the timeline and plot right remains a challenge.
As far as the editing process goes, I have been very lucky with my edits. However I just finished a round of revision for the sequel to Irish Meadows, called A Worthy Heart, which were extremely challenging. I had to change some key plot elements which meant following these changes through the whole story. For instance, moving a scene from the middle of the book to the beginning changes many little details throughout the rest of the story. This was quite daunting, and I only hope I did the story justice and that my editor will be happy with them.
Amy: With Irish Meadows, what came to you first? A bit of the plot, a character, a theme, a particular situation or line of dialogue?
Susan: To answer this, I had to go back and look at my initial notes for this story! I had written down: Ideas for an Irish Family Saga along the lines of The Thornbirds! I loved the premise of The Thornbirds, where a priest falls in love with a young woman in outback Australia— the classic forbidden love scenario really appealed to me. I had also recently read a book that included two complete romances, and I loved that format. So I decided to concentrate on two of the O’Leary daughters and their intertwined paths to romance. Both fall in love with men who are deemed ‘forbidden’ by their father and must defy him to find their happily ever after. So, I suppose the idea of the family came first, and I built a plot around them.
Susan: I would love it if the readers fell in love with the whole O’Leary clan! I would also love it if readers got a sense of the theme of the book — that of being true to oneself. Each of the characters struggles with having to do things to please someone else, things that might go against their own individual values, and each one has to come to terms with this in his or her own way.
And thirdly, the message that I love to get across in all my books is the unconditional love of God for every one of us. A message of hope and love and worthiness.
Amy: Any encouragement you’d like to give to other aspiring writers out there?
Susan: My advice to aspiring writers is to never give up! If you really want to be an author, it takes hard work. Persistence and perseverance are key. Learn the craft and keep writing, because the more you write, the better you’ll get. Eventually you will find your own path to publication!
Obviously, since Irish Meadows doesn’t release until July, we can’t give away any copies of the final book. However, we’re doing something extra-special and giving away Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) to two readers! (That means you get to read it a month before anyone else!) To enter, please comment below with the time period of history you’d most like to live in (besides our own), and why. Winners will be posted at noon Central on Tuesday, June 2, so check back then to see if you’ve won!