I returned to the States at the beginning of the current economic crisis and tried to find a job to no avail. No one wanted to hire a fifty-something woman who’d been out of the workforce for nearly a decade. After a series of odd (very odd) jobs that included selling books at Barnes and Noble, grant-writing and pulling espresso shots at Starbucks, I started to work my backlist, a task made much easier by the advent of digital publishing.
Consider the multifaceted impact of the digital revolution. It’s affected every industry, but none more than book publishing.
From start to finish, digitization has had an impact. Readers are familiar with the process of digital book buying, easier than conventional book purchases. From the author’s point of view, digital manuscript sales are far easier than hardcopy sales. When I first started writing we had to print out and mail paper copies of manuscripts to agents and publishers. Even entering a writing contest required printing out reams of text, taking them to the post office or FedEx, and paying serious money to send them off.
Even now, a few agents require hardcopies. These dinosaurs will die off long before the next meteor touches down, because submitting a manuscript in hardcopy can cost hundreds of dollars once one considers the number of agents and houses out there.
My divorce settled and I tried to settle down, too, but the money worries continued. So I took my last $5K and left the country again, heading for Thailand, a place where one’s dollars go very far. I earned a certification in English language teaching and spent most of the next year in Asia.
I taught toddlers English in central China, which was a revelation for so many reasons. I loved to travel and discover new places, and for the most part, that has been fun as well as instructive. China was instructive but not fun. A developing country, China is coming very far very fast, but life there is a hassle in many ways. Try to imagine life in a place where you can’t drink the water that comes out of your kitchen tap. You can’t wash fruit or vegetables in it—doing that is like bathing your food in E. coli. I didn’t understand or speak Mandarin. There were few expats in my town, meaning that I was alone an awful lot.
The upside is called Temptation in Tartan.
5) The Writer’s Divided Self
By this time, and despite my writer’s block, I had developed a two-pronged career. My first writing persona, Sue Swift, writes romance that can run the gamut from sweet tales where the bedroom door is always closed to grittier romantic suspense where the dead bodies drop like maple leaves in late autumn. Suz deMello pushes the boundaries a little more—she writes the erotic romance. Both personae fall under the motto “fearless, fast-paced fiction.” I owe that phrase to Beth Barany, an author and writing coach from Oakland. I met Beth while attending the Woman’s Fiction Festival in Matera, Italy, a venue I stop by regularly.
The WFF is the brainchild of Elizabeth Jennings, an American writer for Avon. She became tired of having to travel long distances to attend writers’ conferences, took the bit in her teeth and started one in her hometown, which happens to be Matera. This scenic town in southern Italy has been inhabited since the Stone Age, and looks it. The architecture is unique, ancient in a way that calls out to the atavistic core of a human’s soul. I’ve attended the WFF since its inception in 2004 and met Beth the fourth time I was featured there as a speaker.
Beth encouraged me to see my writing in a more objective light and to try to find themes that apply to every work. The problem is that I write all over the map. Writers are told to “brand” themselves, something I’d always found objectionable. Books aren’t bottles of ketchup or jars of jam. So while some writers stick to writing SEAL books or FBI agent/serial killer books or vampire books, I was and am all over the place. Always have been. Always will be. It’s more fun.
Thus was born the concept of “fearless, fast-paced fiction,” which evolved when I discovered the unifying threads of my writing. I always tried to push the boundaries. I tend to write books so fast paced that reviewers remark upon it—I have a horror of boredom and feel that readers do also. We read to be entertained, not bored, right?
While in Thailand and China, I was promoting a Sue Swift book, Puckheads, a romantic suspense set in the world of pro hockey, and I started to write the book that eventually became Temptation in Tartan.
People were asking me if I was writing a book set in China and seemed shocked when I said, “No, it’s set in 1748 Scotland. And it has vampires.”
Folks often wonder where I get my ideas. Clearly not from where I happen to be at any given time. In 2009, I started writing a book set in Scotland. I hadn’t been to Scotland since 1972. After I finished Temptation in Tartan, the first book in The Kilburn Vampires series, I returned to Scotland in 2010 to look around a bit and was delighted to discover that the setting details were pretty right on. Because the manuscript hadn’t yet sold, I was able to use what I’d learned in revisions, which was nice.
Best-selling, award-winning author Sue Swift, a.k.a Suz deMello, has written over fifteen novels, plus several short stories and non-fiction articles. She writes in numerous genres including romance, mystery, paranormal, historical, contemporary comedy and erotica. She’s a freelance editor who’s worked for Total-E-Bound, Ai Press, Liquid Silver Books and Etopia Press. She also takes on private clients.
Her books have been favorably reviewed in PW, Kirkus and Booklist, attained the finals of the RITA and reached the top ten on a bestseller list.
A former trial attorney, she resides in northern California. Her passion is world travel, and she’s left the US over a dozen times, including stints working overseas for many months.
Right now, she's working on her next manuscript and planning her next trip.
Her blog is at http://www.fearlessfastpacedfiction.com. Find her reading picks @ReadThis4fun on Twitter, and befriend her on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/SueSwift).