Friday, April 8, 2011

Dishing it up with Susan Helen Gottfried

Today I have the pleasure of having author Susan Helen Gottfried on my blog. She is the author of ShapeShifter: The Demo Tapes — Year 1, ShapeShifter: The Demo Tapes — Year 2, and Trevor’s Song. A tone-deaf rocker-at-heart, Susan worked in retail record stores, in radio stations, as stage crew, and as a promoter while earning two college degrees in creative writing.

Susan walked away from a continued career in the music industry in order to write books, so it makes sense that most of her fiction revolves around rock bands. Once you get those record stores, radio stations, and fellow roadies and promoters under your skin, they never leave.

When not writing, Susan captains the team at Win a Book, a promotional site for authors and book bloggers — and readers like yourself.

JET: Can you tell us about your most recent book, Trevor’s Song?

Susan: Trevor's Song is the story of Trevor Wolff, bass player for the band ShapeShifter. When his band leader and surrogate brother commits an act of monogamy, Trevor's world is rocked. But it's nothing compared to what's about to happen -- and the fact that this sexy redhead he both desires and hates might be the key to his salvation.

JET: What drew you to writing rock-n-roll fiction?

Susan: I began working in a record store when I was sixteen. Back in the Dark Ages, when record stores weren't found online and Sony Walkmans were the size of today's iPad. Okay, I exaggerate, but weight-wise, they were about the same.

Working in that record store made me hunger to be a bigger part of the magic I was seeing. Music touches people, oftentimes deeply. I wanted to be responsible for it, so I tried to parlay my record store into something bigger. I went on to college radio, then at the last second, turned down a job at a record label. Well, okay, I turned down a bunch of offers, but when I turned down the big one in favor of writing, I shocked even myself.

I never regretted it. And yes, I was already writing rock and roll fiction by that point. Maybe one day, I'll pull out those early manuscripts and work them over a bit and make them available. Who knows? It's all about making the time to do it.

JET: What’s been your most challenging hurdle on the road to publication?

Susan: I started off querying agents with Trevor's Song. This was years ago -- like five. Back before the self-publishing boom made it a respectable outlet. Yet at the same time, my blog was a year old and my readers were already clamoring for what became The Demo Tapes anthologies.

I felt I had a demand for Trevor's Song but industry pros were telling me that no one wanted to read a book about a man (a sentiment I'm sure JR Ward and JK Rowling both would support), and that books about rock stars historically don't sell.

I was standing in a field, blubbering, "but, but, but" at those industry pros. I could SEE the demand, but they said it wasn't enough. It was very disheartening and frustrating.

JET: What was your favorite moment in the journey?

Susan: I think when I announced I was going ahead with The Demo Tapes: Year 1. I said at first that it would be a straight vanity thing, even without an ISBN, the unique cataloging number each book carries. My groupies protested. How were they supposed to order the book? Talk about it on GoodReads? Pass it along via the book trading sites?

The Demo Tapes twins have sold well for me, despite being short stories about a man -- that you could get for free online (a trinity the publishing pros told me equated the kiss of death). I'll be bringing a third one out soon, making the twins into triplets.

JET: Which authors had the most influence over you growing up?

Susan: Yikes. I have no idea! Better to ask which bands had influence over me. I read so very widely, and I'd like to think I soak up something from everyone, even if it's only a passion for telling a good story.

JET: When did you know you wanted to take the plunge into the writing world?

Susan: Me? I'm not sure. Maybe around age 6 or so. My mother will tell you she knew I was destined for this when I was two. She says I was a late talker, but once I started talking, I spoke in paragraphs. I can believe that; writing and telling stories is in my blood.

JET:What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of book research? Most interesting fact you uncovered?

Susan: I'm not really sure, because so much of what I write about is based on my exploits in college and beyond. My writing and my adventures in music aren't independent of each other. Thus, I've never entered a situation in search of research so much as I've gone on adventures that I could later twist into fiction.

JET: Of all the novels and stories you’ve written - which one is your favorite? Why?

Susan: Well, definitely the Trevor/ShapeShifter project is my favorite. It's the most complete, the characters are the most realized, the situation is difficult and very real. Any of us could face some of what Trevor faces.

JET: Any advice (from a writer’s standpoint) for the novices out there?

Susan: Study the industry. The entire industry. If you know you're going to go the indie route, learn about the traditional model of publishing, as well. Vice versa, too. Even if you are bound and determined to land an agent and get a big, fat advance from a publisher, learn the ins and outs of self-publishing. Knowledge is power and you never know, in an industry that's changing as fast as ours is, when you'll need something you've learned.

JET: All right - now that I’ve hammered you with the big questions, let’s tackle my favorite (and geeky) quick ten. . . starting with: Paper or Plastic?

Susan: Usually paper, but I do have a nice selection of reusable bags in the front seat of my car.

JET:Steak or Tofu?

Susan: Steak, preferably from a bison. Although I've had some very good tofu, as well, and would eat more of it if the rest of the family would agree.

JET:Beach or Mountains?

Susan: Mountains. Rocky Mountains, including those amazing Absarokas.

JET:Top 10 best seller or Unknown Back Shelf Find?

Susan: Definitely back-shelf find. I might even specialize in them.

JET:Leather or Lace?

Susan: Yes, but I'd have to fess up to leaning toward leather.

JET:Angels or Demons?

Susan: Probably demons, but again, I'd take 'em both.

JET:Paper or Digital?

Susan: Yes.

JET: Silent Film Classics or Cheesy B Rated Horror?

Susan: Definitely cheesy B-rated horror. Preferably alongside a couple of robots with sarcastic leanings.

JET:Twilight or True Blood

Susan: True Blood. I tried Twilight and couldn't even read 20 pages. Maybe it's fitting that a vampire novel didn't breathe; I don't know. I just know that it couldn't stop being mere words on a page.

JET:Coffee or Tea?

Susan: Neither! I am one of those weirdos who fills a glass to overflowing and then puts water in the cracks. The colder, the better, baby.

JET: Thank you for indulging me. Before we wrap this up, can you tell us what you're working on now? What's next?

Susan: I am struggling with Microsoft Word so I can bring Trevor's Song in print to a wider audience (right now, it's ONLY available at Lulu, and that's just not cool). I also have Demo Tapes 3 almost ready to go, and am at work on the follow-up to Trevor's Song. And then... Demo Tapes 4 along with something brand-spanking new. I also have two short stories I'll be putting on the e-book market, so watch Smashwords and the usual e-book retailers for those. They'll be cheap, since they are short stories.

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat on my blog. Folks, you can find out more about Susan Helene Gottfried and her work at the following places:

Next week, I have Debra L. Martin on tap.  Swing in and say hello!

Until then,


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Hey, babe! Thanks again for hosting me today!

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