Q&A with Suzanne Forster! and a giveaway!!

Our guest today is the always fabulous Suzanne Forster! Here's a blurb from her latest:

THE PRIVATE CONCIERGE (Mira, October 2008)
L.A.'s rich and powerful rely on Lane Chandler's company, The Private Concierge, to anticipate their every whim…and to guarantee unparalleled discretion. But then one of Lane's celebrity patrons is found murdered in the most undignified manner imaginable. In rapid succession, three other prominent clients become embroiled in separate scandals, thanks to what looks like a security breach of TPC's communications systems.
As word gets out, clients drop Lane like last week's gossip. She's bent on keeping TPC's name out of the papers, but when former police officer Rick Bayless starts nosing around, she has more to worry about than bad PR. Rick knows about Lane's shadowy past, and he's certain she's hiding new secrets. With no other options, Lane must face a dangerous conspirator who knows more about her every move than she does.

Sounds good, doesn't it?

Please give a warm welcome to Suzanne!

1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I guess you could call me a late bloomer in that regard. All my life I’ve been an avid reader, so writing would have been a natural transition, but somewhere in the shoals of early adolescence I made up my mind that I wanted to be a student of life. Hey, it sounded like a good idea at the time. Eventually it occurred to me that I might need a job to pay the way for this lofty goal, which is how I ended up majoring in psychology in college. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a clinician or a researcher. I just knew that people fascinated me. Totally. I was forever trying to figure out why they did the things they did and what motivated them to make choices that either propelled them to success or failure, happiness or misery, and all things in between. And also why these choices always seemed to turn into patterns that dictated their lives. And especially why people—most of us, actually—were such dedicated keepers of secrets.

I started with my own family—and what a wealth of material there! I suspect only a writer in search of understanding could feel this way, but I’m still grateful to my parents and their parents for the incredible dysfunction they managed to create, despite what was fundamentally a loving environment. My family was—and still is—wonderfully eccentric. Some would say wacky. Our gene pool alone could have produced a dozen different doctoral theses, easily. (And it has produced a bunch of novels, although don’t tell my relatives!)

So, that was the dream—a career in psychology—and it was almost realized. I was in my early thirties and in an accelerated four-year doctoral program in clinical psychology when I had a car accident. I’ve been saying ever since that I started writing by accident—and it’s true, literally. I was driving to my first group therapy session when I was hit by a truck that ran a red light. The accident was quite serious, and the recovery was long and difficult, but as with all dark clouds, there was a silver lining. Writing. Weaving stories became my therapy, and before I was well enough to return to graduate school, I’d actually sold a book and launched a new career.

Now, I write full-time and it’s a rewarding and consuming profession that keeps me wondering if I should have been a psychologist, lol. But, in truth, writing has brought more blessings to my life than I could possibly recount, including some things that might normally fall into the category of curses. I often wonder how many people would ever be grateful for having had a car accident—or a dysfunctional family, for that matter. Of course, that could change if my family checks out this blog.

2. Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

Everywhere. Some ideas seem to drop out of the sky and hit me on the head. They materialize from the ether for want of a better explanation, but in reality most of my ideas come from the news, whether the daily paper or the television news. I keep a file of story ideas, and it’s filled with magazine articles and newspaper clippings, some several years old. Sometimes a movie or television show will spark an idea. I’ll watch and realize I would have taken the premise in an entirely different direction—and voila, I’m off and running. I may even start writing scenes immediately, but I can’t always indulge the creative spark. If I’m on deadline (which is when these irresistible ideas often hit, simply, I believe, because all muses are perverse, and mine especially—why does he/she whisper a fabulous idea in my ear when I’m in the shower or driving down the freeway at seventy miles an hour?), I have to be disciplined enough to grab a notebook and jot down notes as they come to me, then promise myself that I will block out an hour’s time to write whatever I want—a possible story opening, a character sketch, a scene.

The ideas that make it out of the notebook stage and onto the computer screen are the really stubborn and persistent ones. They actually haunt me. It’s not unlike the musical refrain you can’t stop humming. They invade my dreams and my waking thoughts, and finally, my conversations. When I find myself chattering about a story idea in the middle of a conversation about crock pot cooking, I know I’m hooked.

That’s become my rule of thumb for whether to pursue an idea. If it keeps coming back when I’m trying to push it away, forcing me to make more and more notes and block out time to write scenes—if it just won’t let go, that idea is almost certain to make it to the story proposal stage. Whether or not it becomes a book, depends on many things, most of which are out of my control, but I have a pretty good record. I’d estimate that close to 90% of my story proposals have eventually seen print.

3. What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

Well, possibly that I write in bed. As I mentioned, I started writing during the recovery from my car accident. That was back in the eighties and I don’t think laptops were on the market yet, or if they were, we didn’t have one. So my husband, Allan, actually took the keyboard out of the computer and inserted it in a cardboard box with a long cable attached. We got the screen close enough that I could see it, and that was all I needed. I was off and writing. I had no thoughts of writing a book at that time. At first it was simply trying to distract myself from the pain of the injuries. Later, when I’d recovered enough, I started taking classes, and the rest, as they say, is history.

But I still write my novels in bed, propped up with pillows. It’s the way I think best. My brain must be conditioned by now. It doesn’t seem to want to work unless it’s at a 45 degree angle!

4. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

If you mean from the research, the list would be endless. I don’t think I could cull it down to one thing. When I was researching TEASE, my erotic novel for the Spice imprint, I learned that there really were classes where adults learned how to administer spankings to each other. INNOCENCE, one of my early romantic suspense novels, featured an ominous collection of medieval torture equipment, which my heroine discovered in the dungeon of the hero’s mansion. As I was writing the scene, it reminded me of the heroine in Bluebeard, who was warned not to use a key to gain access to certain forbidden rooms in Bluebeard’s castle. Of course, she couldn’t resist—and what she found was her undoing. Pretty scary stuff!

The research for EVERY BREATH SHE TAKES revealed that serial killers are almost always men, and when women do resort to serial crimes, they’re usually motivated by money rather than the thrill of killing. Also, they are much more likely to use poison than guns or knives. I also learned that women make better spies than men because they’re more intuitive and therefore better at reading people.

At this point, I don’t think there’s much that could surprise me. Some of the things I’ve learned during the research phase of the book I could never put in the story. No one would believe it!

5. What authors or friends influenced you in helping you become a writer?

By twelve I’d read almost every book on my grandmother’s book shelves and while I loved adventures like KON TIKI and SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON, my favorites were the Regency romances. I wish now that I could recall the names of those wonderful authors, but I was so wrapped up in their stories that I failed to notice. Later, I happily blew my entire allowance on gothics and historical romances by authors like Victoria Holt and Johanna Lindsey. I also loved Mary Stewart and Phyllis Whitney. Of course, there was Jane Austin, the Bronte sisters and Dorothy Dunnett. I’ve read and reread all the books of the Lymond Chronicle. Colleen McCullough’s THORNBIRDS was one of the first books that left me in a daze when I finished it. I also devoured everything by Jacqueline Briskin, and wish she was with us today, writing her beautiful stories.

I’ve also been greatly influenced by friends and fellow writers. My first class after the car accident was a sorely needed intro to fiction writing called Fiction Fundamentals. From there I graduated to a novel workshop, where I wrote my entire first novel. It could have been a disaster. I was on the steep end of the learning curve, hanging on by my fingernails, but my classmates were tremendously supportive and took me under their wing. After we’d all completed our never-to-be published first novels, several of us formed a critique group that continued for years—and we still keep in touch. I wrote at least a half-dozen books in that group, all of which were eventually published.

My current brainstorming group saves my life—and my career—on a regular basis. They’re open to meeting with virtually no notice when one of us needs some quick help and they’re also the best group therapy anyone could ever hope to have. Plus, it’s free! I am very blessed to have had so many caring and supportive friends and mentors along the way. Heaven knows, I would not be here today, writing this blog, without them.

6. What does your family think about your career as a published author?

Now, they’re very proud. In the beginning, not so much. Of my first Desire, UNDERCOVER ANGEL, my mother was heard to say that she was afraid to turn the page because she never knew what was coming next. However, I noticed that after reading a few more of my series romances, she began sharing them with her church friends, but always with the disclaimer that she couldn’t imagine where her youngest daughter had learned about such things. She also loved to needle me, asking why I didn’t pen mysteries rather than romance novels. I would answer by saying sweetly, “Oh, so you’d rather my characters kill each other than fall in love?” He he he.

7. What’s coming up next for you writing wise?

My current novel, The Private Concierge, hit the shelves on October 1, and given the story’s history, I’m just delighted that it’s finally in print. Most writers will tell you that they’ve had at least one gift book in their career—and they’ll probably smile wistfully while remembering the experience. With a gift book, the idea comes to you fully formed, almost as if the patron saint of writers had whispered it in your ear. This doesn’t happen often and it always feels like an unexpected blessing. The Private Concierge was one of those stories.

Here’s a quick peek at the original idea:

She was a runaway who was forced into the oldest profession at a tender age. He was the vice cop who posed as a customer and put her in juvenile hall. He’s been haunted by her ever since. And she will never forget the humiliation of handcuffs, police cars and jail cells.

Or the man who changed the course of her life.

Today she is a new woman and legitimate business tycoon. Her private concierge service is prized by high-profile clients across the country. Today he is a ruined man. And destiny is about to put them on another collision course.

His best friend, an all-star pitcher, dies mysteriously and scandalously, and three other prominent personalities are embroiled in scandals that ruin their careers and their lives. The police dismiss the incidents as unrelated. But he sees what the police cannot. The one thing that links them is her … the private concierge.

The concept came to me in much the same way that the blurb above unfolds. One situation led to another, one character to another, heroine to hero, past to present, as if the story couldn’t be told any other way. It was all I could do not to begin the first chapter immediately and let the story flow through my fingertips and onto the computer screen. But my life was complicated with family concerns at the time, and I was working intensively on another project, so I tucked the scribbled blurb away and in the course of time, forgot all about it.

I found it years later as I was going through a laundry basket of material to be filed. Yes, a laundry basket, years later! You read that right. My filing system needs some work. All I could think as I read the blurb was wow, this is good. As it happened, I was on a break and between contracts, so I quickly wrote up a story proposal and submitted it to my editor. I was thrilled when she bought it, but there were many challenges ahead. My mother, who’d been ill for years, took a turn for the worst and passed away while I was working on the story. So, of course, everything was put on hold, including the book’s delivery date.

Mom was just two months from her ninetieth birthday and we were all consoled by the knowledge that she had lived a good long life and was ready to go, but these things are never easy. Between the grief of losing her and the exhaustion of being her sole caretaker, I needed time to heal and recover. And secretly, I wondered if The Private Concierge would ever be finished. But my publisher was wonderful about giving me time, and with the pressure off, I soon realized that I wanted to get back to writing, that it would help ease the loss and fill the hole in my life.

I threw myself into The Private Concierge, and as they say in that classic Calgon commercial, let it take me away. And now, after several delays and a major life passage, I’m pleased and privileged to share my long-lost idea with all of you. I can only hope that you’ll find the same pleasure and enjoyment in reading Lane and Rick’s story that I took in writing it.

Warmest wishes and Happy Halloween!

Suzanne Forster



Thank you, Suzanne!

Post away and ask Suzanne any questions you want because she is giving away to two winners a choice of a book from her backlist!


Asylumgirl said…
I'm interested in knowing if Suzanne attended these spanking classes and if so, what are some things she learned there? LOL

Crystal Adkins said…
I love this! Suzanne, what's it like when fans come up to you and are really giddy? Do you get that heartwarming feeling?
Chesh said…
Great intereview!! My question is how do you come up with such wonderful characters? Are they modelled after someone you know or are they just ones you create from your imagination?!

angelleslament @ gmail.com
cheryl c said…
Very interesting interview! I am curious...do you tend to think of the plot or characters first? Also, do you ever travel to do your research?
Fedora said…
Suzanne, just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your interview and learning about your background and the idea behind The Private Concierge. Thanks for taking the time to do that, and I'm so sorry to hear about your mother--though it sounds like she'd lived a wonderfully long and full life, there's no good time to go :(

And glad that you've found such a marvelous silver lining to that life-changing accident! Thanks again for sharing!
Jane said…
Hi Suzanne,
Congrats on the release of "The Private Concierge." Have you ever been on a ride along with law enforcement or the shooting range for research?
Anonymous said…
congrats on teh new book, sounds good.
Sue A. said…
I'm sorry to hear about your loss. It sounds like you found some solace in your writing. I can't help but wonder if The Private Concierge is a different book from the one you would have written had you not had such a deep personal loss while writing it.
acdaisy95 said…
Congrats on your new release! Great interview too! And I'm sorry to hear about your loss.
tetewa said…
Good luck on the release, sounds great!
Laurie G said…
I've enjoyed your books for years!
I always like to read the interviews to find out where the authors coming from. Your life has been quite interesting. I'm looking forward to reading "The Private Concierge".
Karen H said…
I got a chuckle out of visualizing you in bed, typing away on a jerry-rigged computer. What a good husband won't do for his wife. I take it you still write that way but do you use a laptop now?
limecello said…
Great interview! Suzanne, what a story you have yourself as to how you get started writing!
The Private Concierge sounds so interesting :)
As for my question... haha a cop out - but - do you have a favorite book? (I know it's an "awful" question but I always want to know!)

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