A student of parapsychics and hypnotherapy, Sue lives in Nebraska with a menagerie of animals, children and grandchildren. She works full time in the judicial system and spends her free time studying, quilting, reading and working in the garden.
The Baltimore Beauty Series:
Women of Sweetwater Series:
- The Dark Room is billed as general fiction suspense. What inspired you to write this story?
I am not really able to explain why I wrote this story. I work in Juvenile Court, and at the time I wrote this story, I was having to read every neglect and abuse file that was currently open, for federal statistics. I was appalled at some of the things I read, and, I think, this was the way I could work through the horror and frustration.
- How do you manage your writing time around your life?
There are some days that I don't. I am a single mother, of a teenage son, who is never home, so I use my evenings and weekends to write. There are times that life interferes with the process, but usually those are quality times I get to spend with my children. Early in the morning, and my lunch hours are used productively to write, or edit my work.
- What author[s] do you look to as a role model and inspiration?
I grew up on Victoria Holt, Barbara Michaels, and Mary Higgins Clark. But right now, I have to say that Cheryl St. John and *lizzie starr have motivated me, along with several other of my writing friends from Romance Authors of the Heartland.
- What's the best career advice you ever received?
Don't give up.
- What are you writing next?
I am currently working on the fourth book of The Dark Room series, WHISPERS IN THE RAIN. I just finished a book, PROMISES BROKEN, that is not in the series, but another romantic suspense.
- What advice would you pass along at this point in your career?
I would just have to tell anyone that is thinking about writing, do it. Just sit down and write whatever is on your mind. The more you write, the better you get. If you are writing a story, make sure you do the research, if there is any needed. Listen to other writers around you, you never know what you might pick up from 'the pros'.
I feel fortunate to interview Wings’ talented author, Sue Thornton. Getting to know Sue and what makes her tick is of interest to all her readers. Her December release, Baltimore Beauty, is an exciting ghost story that keeps the pages turning.
Say hello to Sue Thornton…
- Sue, Baltimore Beauty is a ghost story with a twist. How did the idea come about?
The dream of a woman crossing the bridge was actually the dream that started the book. I believe the woman on the bridge was my mother, who had died three years earlier. I was three-fourths of the way through the book when my characters put a halt to it and made me start all over. I work in Juvenile Court and abuse cases are a good share of the activity we see. I think writing about child abuse is my way of working through the daily frustration.
- You have such an interesting title and cover. How did you choose your title and why?
I am a quilter and was in the process of making a Baltimore Album quilt. My heroine is making a Baltimore quilt in the book and doesn't really understand why she is making it until the end of the book.
- Can you tell us a little about the famous Baltimore Album quilts?
Baltimore Album quilts were exquisite quilts made mostly between 1840-1850. They were hand appliquéd using flowers and a variety of other symbols (i.e. ships, harps, flags, peacocks, etc) that meant something to the women who created these glorious quilts. The splendid needlework done by these women were masterpieces and very few have survived that time period. If you would like more information on Baltimore Album quilts, Elly Sienkiewicz is an authority on the subject and has several books regarding the quilts.
- Your story deals with psychic powers. Do you have psychic powers?
I live with four ghosts who have made their presence known to me. I won't exactly claim to have psychic powers, but have been known to have strange incidences happen to me, like night terrors - where you think you are awake, but are frozen, unable to speak or move, yet you are aware of everything that is going on around you. People who have passed on from this life - family members I loved very much, visit me in my dreams.
- How did you research such a controversial subject as psychic powers?
I have always been interested in the paranormal, and have read everything I can get my hands on. I've taken a class on psychics by Mary O'Gara through KOD Murder One.
- Do you outline your books and stick to that outline? Or do you write from the heart and allow the characters to choose the plot?
I tried once to outline my book and the characters basically laughed me off the paper. Let's just say outlining was a total disaster for me. When I write I tend to find myself inside my characters' heads and let them take the lead. Sometimes this gets me into trouble because I end up head hopping as if it were normal. But I don't think I would end up with the same book if I outlined and stuck to it. It would even be entirely possible that nothing would be written. My characters evolve just as regular people do. They learn by experience.
- If Baltimore Beauty were ever made into a film, what famous people do you see as your main characters?
<LOL> I always pick out my hero from movie stars, but of course, the heroine is always me. Logan Mendoza is definitely A. Martinez. I would have to think about Kiri, I'm not really sure who could fill my shoes! <ROFL>
- I love a good mystery. How do you keep your readers in suspense and not give away the story's premise?
I have to give credit to my characters for this. I write what they tell me, when they tell me. I have awakened in the middle of the night listening to those voices working through the next twist. Hopefully, if I'm paying attention, I'll remember in the morning. And most often, I am the one surprised with the ending.
- Is Baltimore Beauty your first book? Do you have more books in the works?
Actually, Baltimore Beauty is the second book in a series. The Dark Room was released by a different publishing company in January 2001. I re-signed The Dark Room with Wings-Press, Inc., and it will be coming out in February 2002. The third book, Serendipitous Rose is in the evaluation process, and I am currently working on book four, Whispers in the Rain.
- What experience in your life has most affected your writing?
Learning to live by myself again after many years of marriage and my children being gone from the nest, not to mention the middle age years coming my way. And the death of my mother. I have found myself being pulled toward a spiritual-ness I can't quite explain, but this may also be a part of the psychic experience for me. And as I mentioned earlier, working in Juvenile Court has been difficult for me, watching our troubled youth come in to court because of their own poor choices, or because their parents made the wrong choices through abuse or neglect. Unfortunately, I've first hand experience in my own family of the devastation caused by someone who didn't stop to think about the damage being caused to an innocent child. Writing has become a salve to the guilt I carry because I was not able to prevent this from happening. I heard somewhere that writing is your own personal psychiatrist and it doesn't cost any more than a pen and some paper.
- How do you feel about electronic publishing in general? What are the pros and cons to selling an eBook?
I believe someday ePublishing may be the only way to publish a book. Eventually there will not be enough trees to provide the paper needed to print our books. As technology improves, hopefully, eReaders will come down in price so more people can afford to purchase them.
As a new author, I was lucky to become contracted. The major paper publishing companies are extremely difficult to get into in this day and age, and I believe the ePublishers are opening the door to fresh voices waiting to be heard.
I would like to say to anyone who wants to become published, in either paperback or electronic, do the research on the publishing companies and make sure they are legitimate and trustworthy before you sign anything. You have worked long and hard on your masterpiece and there is nothing more disheartening to a new author than to be “taken for a ride” at his or her own expense.
- Last but not least, when can we expect the release of your next book?
The Dark Room, a psychological thriller is scheduled for release in February 2002.
Thank you, Sue for taking the time to tell us a little about yourself and your writing. I look forward to reading Baltimore Beauty.
It’s my pleasure to interview fellow author, Sue Thornton about her writing and her newest release from Wings ePress, Promises Broken.
1) Sue, your other books at Wings-Press have been set in byegone times, and each has paranormal elements. Have you continued that with Promises Broken? Please tell us a little about the story.
PROMISES BROKEN is a contemporary Romantic Suspense. Finding life to be lonely after a painful divorce, my heroine, Elizabeth decides to take her chances with an Internet dating service. After she meets one of the men, she finds herself trapped in a nightmare of stalking, and threats. As the story unfolds, Elizabeth discovers a part of her past she didn’t know existed.
2) What is it about the paranormal that appeals to you?
I’m a firm believer in psychic powers. There have been a few instances in my life when I’ve seemed to know things--when I shouldn’t. One example was when my husband and I were stationed in Georgia. In the middle of packing to move back to Nebraska, the phone rang. Before I picked it up, I said, “It’s my sister. Mom’s had another heart attack.” I can’t explain what happened, but I was right. I don’t get these intuitions very often, but I’m drawn to them. I explore the possibilities at every opportunity. And as I grow older, I tend to listen to my ‘gut’ instead of my head or heart. Perhaps this is what could be labeled as ‘women’s intuition’? <LOL>
3) Are you planning more books in the Dark Room series? If so, which sister will be the heroine this time?
CLARA’S LEGACY is to be released in November, 2003. It is the story of Aster, a porcelain doll maker. WHISPERS IN THE RAIN is a September 2004 release and it is the final sister’s story, Dahlia, who is a homicide detective in a small town. I am currently working on a story about a secondary character who appears in CLARA’S LEGACY. And, of course, there’s always Kiri her story is still waiting to be told.
4) Each of your books has an intriguing premise. How do you keep your writing so fresh? What sparks new ideas?
Oh boy, fresh? I can’t tell you how hard I struggle at times. But then, I let my characters take control, which they wanted to do any way. I think they keep the stories fresh. My ideas can come from a walk on a warm summer day. I met a woman from Cuba as I walked through an alley one day. She was working in this magnificent flower garden. We talked for a few minutes, and all of a sudden I had the beginning to TILL DEATH DO WE PART. On a trip to Seattle for a writer’s conference, and a visit to see my son, who is stationed at Bangor Submarine station, a friend and I visited a doll museum. Voila--CLARA’S LEGACY bloomed. My ideas sometimes come with a small price tag though. I called our local doll shop to see about learning how to make porcelain dolls. I’ve been taking classes for over a year now and I’m addicted. The dolls I’ve made will be featured on the cover of Clara’s Legacy.
5) I read in a previous interview that your characters grow and shape the story as you write. When you first introduce a character, how has he or she come into being--to fulfill a plot element, because they, in your imagination, walk up and introduce themself, or...? Can you give us an example?
I love to go to the theater. We have a community playhouse here in town and a lot of wonderful talent. I have been able to go to a play and watch these people in character and try to make them into who I want them to be--but as usual, my character may take on the physical aspect of who I portray them as, but their personality is their own. In my head they are real live people. When I’m done with the story I have a hard time putting my characters back on the shelf, but they remain there until they decide it’s time to continue their story. I guess it’s from years of daydreaming and living in an imaginary world that my characters seem to appear out of nowhere.
6) As you write, how do you keep the story flowing? What inspires you--music, pictures, or...?
I listen to a lot of music. While I wrote THE DARK ROOM--Marni listened to Celtic Music, mostly because of the Irish family she lived with (which is how I think they came into being), because I listened to Celtic music all of the time. It fed my soul. There are times when I do nothing but listen to Gregorian Chant (usually when editing). While I wrote WHISPERS IN THE RAIN, it was show tunes, GREASE, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, HAIR, JOSEPH AND THE DREAM COAT. Somehow the words keep coming.
7) Is there a quote that has inspired you to keep going? If so, please tell us.
I do not know who the author was, but this quote has run deep for me:
Only as high as I reach can I grow,
Only as far as I seek can I go,
Only as deep as I look can I see,
Only as much as I dream can I be.
8) If a reader has never read any of your books, which one would you suggest she read first and why?
If you plan to read the Dark Room series, you need to start with THE DARK ROOM. Even though Baltimore Beauty is technically not part of the series, it is an off shoot and Kiri appears as a secondary character in several of the Dark Room books. The Dark Room sets up the story line for each of the following books about the sisters, and how they came to be. The second book of the series is Serendipitous Rose.
9) I understand you have an outside job. Please tell us how you balance your writing time with your day-to-day chores and still have time to grow antique roses and do quilting.
My time to write is usually between 6:30-7:30 a.m., before I go to work and during my lunch break. On a good day I can get about five hand written legal size pages done. On a bad day, one or two pages. Since I moved into my apartment last year, I no longer am able to have my garden, but it doesn’t stop me from keeping up on what’s new out there, or putzing in my sister’s garden now and then. My quilting time has slowed down a lot, also. My creativity towards other projects goes in spurts. I will be frantic about completing a project and work on it constantly until it’s done, then I won’t pick up the next UFO for quite a while. I have found there aren’t enough hours in my day, especially when I’m exhausted when I get home from the day job. As long as they bury me with all my unfinished projects, pens and paper, everything may eventually get done. <LOL>
10) What book or books are you planning for the future?
Too many. I’ve got a journal full of ideas. There are times when I’m working on one, and another screams at me to start it. So far, I’m working on three stories at the same time. I just completed a fourth one, TILL DEATH DO WE PART, which I thought was done, until I began adding in the next thirty-two thousand words. TILL DEATH is a paranormal romance, set in a small college town in Nebraska. I’ve got one that I’m working on, ERIE, which takes place in Ireland. It is a romantic suspense. Then there’s LAND OF A THOUSAND DREAMS, which is with one of the secondary characters from The Dark Room series. And last but not least, the second book connected to Till Death, which is still untitled.
I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. Good luck with your book. We’re looking forward to reading PROMISES BROKEN.
Thank you, Barbara, for making this interview easy and painless.
1) Sue, could you tell us a little bit about your newest novel, Till Death Do We Part?
It's a romantic suspense with a paranormal twist, involving past lives and murder.
2) How did you ever come up with the idea for past life regression?
I started writing this because I was interested in past lives. I truly believe that we continue to return to a new life after death, to finish what we were sent here to learn. I took a class on self-hypnosis at the local community college, then went on to take some past life sessions with the hypnosis instructor. I'm fascinated with learning more and heart broken that she moved away.
3) I noticed that you have touched on many genres through your writing. Is there any one genre that you haven’t touched on as yet that you’d like to take a shot at? A western romance perhaps?
I've always thought I wasn't interested in history or westerns, but I'd really like to try writing a gothic someday.
4) If you could pick any true life person in the world and center a character around that person, who would it be?
Oh, Johnny Depp is high on my list at this time. Actually I do use a lot of real life people in my books. Jonah is fashioned after a gentleman I met through the playhouse.
5) Just before a new novel of yours is about to be published, do you still feel the excitement that you felt with your very first novel?
I've never really done the snoopy dance when a book is released, or with a contract. I do get a warm tingle that zips through my body. Maybe some day when I hit the best seller list I'll do the snoopy dance and we can all have cyber champagne. <LOL>
6) A lot of people have the impression that a person writes a novel and instantly they can sit back and take it easy. Can you say a little bit about the hard work that takes place after a novel is published?
You have to do the marketing yourself. I wish I could say that I can go to the bookstore to pick up one of my books, but alas, our bookstores here are a bit uncooperative. I have to promote my book through my writing groups, a web sight, etc. It takes time, energy and sometimes, money to get the word out.
7) What would you say to someone hoping to get their first novel published as far as what to expect.
Don't let rejection get you down. You have to remember there are a lot of people out there writing books, some good, some bad, and some just plain awful. If the agent or editor isn't looking for that particular book at that particular moment, they won't be interested. But there is always someone out there. Don't give up on your dream, keep writing, keep submitting. One day you will find the end of the rainbow.
8) Can you tell us anything about future Sue Thornton novels?
I have another paranormal suspense with a touch of romance finished about a ghost that returns to an Underground Railroad safe haven to help the current mistress discover the buried secrets of Cider Creek Plantation. There are also plans for another series of psychic novels--of course, they involve murder and mayhem.
9) Do you have any pets?
Oh yes, Queen Grace, my cat. She rules the roost, ah hem, the apartment is her palace. She has graciously allowed me to continue to live here as long as I remember to feed her, clean the litter box, and make certain I sleep on the far edge of the bed so that she may lay claim to the remainder of the mattress.
10) When you’re not captured by your computer writing, what do you like to do to relax?
I read and quilt. I am making quilts that go with each of my books. Cider Creek Plantation... my adaptation of how quilts were used as signals for the slaves to find their way to freedom.
11: Who is your favorite author, and which author’s writing style would be closest to your own style of writing?
I'm afraid I have too many favorite authors. My mood changes off and on. I grew up on Victoria Holt and Barbara Michaels during my teenage years. As a child, it was the Bobbsy Twins, Nancy Drew, and the Hardy Boys. Now I still indulge in Barbara Michaels, Kay Hooper, Mary HIggins Clark, and so many others. I'd like to someday be as great as Barbara Michaels, but for now, I'm dealing with continuing to learn the style I long to find which fits me.
Thank you for taking time for this interview. Best of luck with all your future writing.
Thank you for some wonderful questions, Joel. Good luck with your book, and may you always find joy, happiness and laughter.
- First of all, I'd like to know the name of your novel and what inspired you to write it?
The name of my book is Whispers In The Rain. It is the final book in The Dark Room Series. I needed to tell the story of Dahlia--the last remaining sister.
- How long have you been writing?
I started writing about 8 years ago.
- Do you have other novels published, if so what and by who?
I have several books out with Wings EPress: Baltimore Beauty, and Promises Broken are two stand alone books. The Dark Room, Serendipitous Rose, and Clara's Legacy are all part of The Dark Room Series.
- Has anyone ever tried to discourage you from writing, especially before getting word you would be published with Wings ePress?
Yes, my ex-husband--before he was my ex. He liked to tease and taunt me about my writing.
- Is there a particular person you use as a model for each main character?
Whatever guy I've seen that has attracted my attention by his looks--sometimes I use his mannerisms, or other times I make them up. The women each have a piece of me in them--but, of course, I could never look like any of them.
- When do you sit down to write?
I usually write from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 a.m., then from 11:45 until 12:45 during my lunch break at work. Sometimes I will write on the weekend if my muse is working with me.
- Do you enjoy research and what are your best sources?
I am on quite a few writing loops, which give me information. I have several deputy sheriffs I work with that will answer my questions, if I need help. I have wonderful people to interview--like the volunteer staff at the Lincoln Community Playhouse for Whispers, and of course, my never ending supply of books overflowing the shelves in my home.
- What types of stories do you like to read?
I read mostly suspense, but I enjoy romances now and then. It depends on how much I want to have to think when I'm reading.
- Do you brainstorm ideas with other people?
I have a wonderful critique group. Lizzie, Sandy, and Cindy all help whenever I have a problem. In fact, Lizzie has just helped me come up with the book cover idea for my book that will be released in May 2005, Till Death Do We Part.
- Who, other than friends and family members, have been strong influences in your writing career?
I've had wonderful friends, and people who I work with that have helped me a lot. I would have to give special thanks to Matt Landis for his influence with Whispers and his encouragement to keep going with the idea. I especially miss my good friend, Ethan Jensen, who has encouraged me, read every book I've written, helped me through the problems and asked me to give him some insight on his own writing. Ethan is fighting cancer and I pray for a quick recovery for him, as I miss seeing his smiling face every day. I have met many excellant writers at conference, some have taught me an awful lot, and others have offered their encouragement. I thank all of them. But most of all, I have to thank Shena Skinner for telling me she doesn't have anything to read, because she's read all of her favorite author's books and is anxious for the next one to come out. When I asked her who it was, she told me I was her favorite. How about that for some encouragement?
- Are you presently working on another novel, if so what is it about?
Oh boy, that's a loaded question. Till Death Do We Part will be released in May 2005, it's a paranormal romance involving past lives. I've completed Cider Creek Plantation, which I'm doing edits on now, which is a story of a woman who inherits the two hundred year old family estate, which was one of the safe houses in the Underground Railroad. Brit Campbell turns it into a Bed and Breakfast, but not all of her guests are of the flesh and blood variety. I'm also working on two other novels, Raven‘s Quest and The Healing Touch, which are part of a series. They are also paranormal romances. Raven's Quest involves a psychic, and The Healing Touch involves a woman who doesn't believe in magic any longer, yet she is able to heal. I don't want to say much more. You'll have to wait until they come out to find out what happens.
Thank you for all of your interesting questions, Sherry. I look forward to seeing your book.