Interview with debut author (and friend & crit partner) Susan Salluce, whose book Out of Breath is available on all e-book formats: ipad, Nook, Reader, Kindle, iphone, and soon to be available in hard copy.
Out of Breath is an exploration of parental grief, addiction, compassion fatigue, and suicide; it’s the prodigal story of grace undeserved. Salluce’s expertise as a psychotherapist and grief specialist enables her to create dynamic characters that will leave you breathless as you jeer their shadow sides and cheer their heroic journeys.
So, what inspired you to write your first book?
I was working as a grief therapist, and while I adored my clients and worked very hard on my specialty, I felt a dark cloud over me. A friend/colleague introduced me to the term, Compassion Fatigue. Essentially, I was burned out. While in a group meeting of therapists one morning, the question was asked, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” I exclaimed, “I’d write a book!” Three months later, I resigned. Nine months later, I birthed my first draft of Out of Breath. I’d always wanted to write; fear of failure held me back.
I love that quote! Very inspiring.
What do you find particularly challenging about the writing process?
To stay present. To shut out the noise around me, whether it be my “to do” list, laundry, a Costco run, exercising, “shoulds.” The worst: what if this isn’t…funny enough, impacting anyone, doesn’t attract an agent, the market doesn’t pick up, blah, blah, blah. It’s so important to write because I love to write. And I do so love to write…it feeds my soul!
I know exactly what you mean, writing is our soul food.
What is the best part of the writing process?
When I make an emotional connection with my reader. My goal in writing Out of Breath, publishing articles about parental bereavement and holiday grief, my short stories about my father’s Alzheimer’s disease, our family’s experience with suicide, are to touch someone and perhaps help a person feel less alone in his or her grief. Just yesterday a friend said she read my short story, The Veil, off of my blog, and came away with a sense of being understood and also understanding me; this sense of being human and connected. This is what I loved about being a therapist, and miss, and can now pour into my writing.
And one of the great reasons most of us write: to touch/connect with others on an emotional level.
Who is your favorite author and what is it about his/her work that you love?
Really? One!! I can’t. Two. My first is Anne Lamott because she is quirky, brutally honest, transparent, her writing brings me to out loud laughter or streaming tears, she says four letter words AND she loves Jesus and she understands grace. I have read all of her books. Twice. Her writing instruction book, Bird by Bird, is my writing Bible. If I can learn to keep the mice in the jar who are tapping at the glass, wanting to scream out that ‘I’m not good enough,’ then I’ll be okay for one more day. My second favorite author is Jodi Picoult. Her characters, ability to build suspense, add tension, and sneak in plot twists, well, I never tire of her novels. Plus, when I’ve written her emails, she actually answers them.
Both awesome authors with very different styles. Bird by Bird is a writer’s best friend, and every Jodi Picoult novel I’ve read has held me prisoner until the last word!
What is the greatest piece of wisdom you ever received?
Writing wise, it’s that I have to develop thick skin and be able to welcome critiquing and criticism. Now, this did not come easy. I am sensitive, cry easy, pour my soul into my writing, and so, when my first draft came back looking as though a red pen leaked all over it, I wanted to put it through the shredder, throw the covers over my head, and toss my laptop into the garbage. Fast forward to the present, I get a critique back, see those red marks, and exclaim, “Yes! That is so right on. How did I not see that?” It’s a process, for sure. I’m still sensitive and cry easily, but not over a critique. Oh, and I have an amazing editor and writing partner, thank you Jordan and Christina.
What is one ‘random’ fact about you?
I try to sneak in a name or special personality trait of people who are close to me into each of my stories. When you read Out of Breath, my upcoming book, No Ordinary Girl, and even some of my short stories, you just might find your name popping up or a personality trait shine through! No, I don’t reveal your inner secrets.
Using real life people to inspire you is a great technique (and pretty cool for those of us who spot “ourselves” peeking out from your story).
What new project are you working on?
I’m juggling a few. One is a humorous, chic-lit book with a twist of self-discovery titled No Ordinary Girl. I’m about 75% through my first draft and hope to complete the rest by January. The second is a parenting book for spiritually minded parents of tweens and teens who are struggling with giving over their kids to a social media frenzy world and who want to reclaim their family time. Although the book tackles strong issues, the writing is light, humor-filled, and keeps it real. My third project takes me back to my roots of grief work in that I’ll be a contributing writer for a post-vention program for the bereaved by suicide. I continue to look for ways that I can serve my community and when this writing opportunity popped up, it was a great fit.
Sounds like a nice balance to work on a light-hearted project and a more serious one at the same time. And I can attest to the laugh-out-loud humor in the light-hearted one J
Can we look forward to book tours/author signings for Out of Breath?
Absolutely! I will have traditional books available in November in time for Christmas gifts. Local bookshops, cafes, art council groups, and local libraries have expressed interest in having author readings and book signings. I will keep everyone posted on my blog and Facebook. Additionally, I will be visiting bookstores and libraries in Santa Cruz County, as this is the setting of my novel. After that, I’ll branch out and introduce myself to Bay Area Bookstores and libraries. If anyone’s up for a road trip, let me know!
Thank You so much, Susan, for sharing a bit about your writing journey.
Thank you, Christina. You are a terrific writing partner, editor extraordinaire, and all-around-awesome girlfriend!