“…trying to find the shortcuts to happiness in life.” – Tag Line Tuesday with Susan Wells Bennett

02 Oct

Welcome to Tag Line Tuesday, home of the “Long Form” author interviews (I always feel like I should have questions written on a stack of blue cards when I say that). Let’s jump right in, shall we?

Ed: Top of the [insert time of day here]! As I hear writers are creative people, please answer each of the following biographic questions twice, once with the truth and once with a lie.


SWB: Susan Wells Bennett / Cassandra Daniels

Ed: Where you from?

SWB: Phoenix / Chicago

Ed: Day job?

SWB: Writer / Actress

Ed: Dream job?

SWB: Successful writer / Oscar-winning actress

Ed: And of course the inevitable, Why do you write?

SWB: Because otherwise my head would explode / Because I am the only one who could possibly write a decent role for me to play.

Ed: You may now return to complete honesty if you feel like it, for THE LIGHTNING ROUND!

Quick! favorite:

Band – Bare Naked Ladies

Food – Ice cream

Game – Bethumped!

Album – Story of a Life

Word – acolyte

Color – purple

Animal – orangutan

Piece of clothing – the embroidered Mexican peasant top I bought in Mazatlan

Movie – Notting Hill

TV show – Breaking Bad

Drink – Pappadelicious

Song – “Green” by Edie Brickell

Line from a song – “We like to spy on the neighbors…”

Pizza topping – Onions

Crime – murder

Place – home

Quote – “Oh, Life is a glorious cycle of song, / A medley of extemporanea, / And love is a thing that can never go wrong / And I am Marie of Romania.” –Dorothy Parker

Ed: Finally, Three random things about yourself, please.

SWB: 1.) I am an only child – and it shows. 2.) I love dogs, especially pugs. Though I own a shih Tzu who makes me feel guilty for preferring pugs. 3.) I love zoos. I make Dan visit the zoos in every city we visit.

Ed: Now let’s get into the book-related stuff, starting with books you did not happen to write.

What’s the biggest consideration when you are deciding what book to read?

SWB:  The biggest consideration for me is whether the premise of the novel sounds promising. A good summary can win me over.

Ed: You are looking at the back of a book in a bookstore, reading on online blurb, or whatever.  What sort of thing makes you say “yes,” what sort of things makes you say “pass?”

SWB: Character-driven novels almost always get a “yes” from me. I like it when a writer creates a character who feels real to me. On the other hand, if there’s a scientific term in the blurb, I’m probably going to pass – I just can’t get into science fiction.

Ed: What genre do you enjoy most?

SWB: I’d have to say that’s split between Contemporary, Historical, and Supernatural.

Ed: What genre would you read only if you lost a bet?

SWB: Science fiction.

Ed: Do you have a favorite author, and do you think they influence your own writing?

SWB: I have two – John Irving and Margaret Atwood. I hope so.

Ed: Do you have a favorite book, and how many times have you read it?

SWB: Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel. I’ve read it three times. Which means I’ve read my least favorite (Catcher in the Rye) and my favorite the same number of times. Hmm.

Ed: What’s the first book you remember buying with your own money?

SWB: A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving. I doubt it was the first book I bought with my own money, but I know it was among the first.

Ed: Any books you have been told you should read, and know you probably never will?

SWB: Never say never.

Ed: Ever lied about reading, or not reading, a book?

SWB: I wrote a book report once on Tale of Two Cities. I never read it – I bought the abridged audio version and listened to it instead. Dickens puts me to sleep.

Ed: Ever read a book you were sure you were going to like, and not liked it?

SWB: Yes, John Irving’s latest, In One Person.

Ed: Ever grudgingly read a book, and loved it?

SWB: Yes, more than once.

Ed: What’s your favorite line from a book? (not your own)

SWB: This is a new favorite: “”Over time, I would give up the idea of having children, but it’s harder to stop wanting to have children.” – John Irving, In One Person

Ed: Now onto those books which you did write.

How, and when, do you tend to come up with titles?

SWB: Usually, the title is the last thing I write on a novel. I usually try to pick out some phrase from the book that captures the essence of it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Ed: How do your characters get their names?

SWB: Baby-name books and random name generators are my best friends.

Ed: Not literally, I hope. 😉

If you could live in the world / with the people of one of your stories, which one would it be and why?

SWB: I would want to live with the characters of An Unassigned Life, primarily because most of them are writers and artists. I’d like to live next door to Easter and Arlo, my friendly neighborhood tattoo artists.

Ed: What do you think your books say about you?

SWB: That I have an unhealthy interest in religious cults? That I believe chivalrous men still exist? That I have a difficult relationship with my mother? I don’t really know.

Ed: Is there anything you have written which you would now like to change or revise, wish you had written differently, etc.?

SWB: In the second book of the Brass Monkey series (Charmed Life), I had my character Sondra buy a new, red convertible with four doors in the late Seventies. Any car buff will know that there weren’t a lot of convertibles being made at that time; in fact, only Mercedes offered a car that fit those specifications. Because of a later plot development in the third book, I sincerely wished I’d given her an American car.

Ed: Tell me about your favorite character.

SWB: Adam Ross-Wright is a former Las Vegas drag star who left the footlights to become a trucker with his soul mate. He is a big fan of scarves – long, rectangular ones that he uses to hide the age lines on his neck. He is flamboyant, dramatic, and a pushy bitch – ever since I created him in Circle City Blues, he’s been trying to suggest himself into every novel I’ve written. I finally gave him (and his husband) a small part in Charmed Life and Night Life.

Ed: Have your favorite character tell me about you.

Adam: Susan? Oh, honey, she has no sense of style. You should see the frumpy t-shirt dresses she walks around in! But, what she lacks in style, she makes up for in her typing abilities. Why, I can talk a mile a minute and she gets every word! Her fingers just fly!

Ed: Back to Susan now, What’s your favorite line which you have written?

SWB: “The living are always trying to find the shortcuts to happiness in life.” – An Unassigned Life

Ed: Now for some “process” questions about the way you write.

Plotter or Pantser?

SWB: I’m a Pantser who plots – just a little.

Ed: Best/Worst advice you ever got as a writer?

SWB: Best – If it makes you laugh or cry, your audience probably will too.  Worst – Write what you know.

Ed: Best/Worst thing about being a writer?

SWB: Best – I don’t have to leave the house and I spend all my time telling stories. Worst – Editing, without a doubt.

Ed: Why Indie?

SWB: I chose to go Indie after researching the book market in 2010. Traditional publishers aren’t willing to take a risk on many new writers anymore, and, when it comes right down to it, they don’t split the profits fairly with the writers they do select. Did you know that Big-6 writers make only $2.00 a copy on their novels, most of which are priced at more than $25.00 these days? In addition, traditionally published writers are usually left to their own devices when it comes to promoting their work. When I took all of that into consideration, I decided to self-publish and sell my novels for $2.99 apiece.

I’ve been with Inkbeans Press now for going on two years, so I’m not exactly Indie anymore – I’m an author working with an Indie publisher. They are fabulous, by the way – sort of like an agent, publisher, and publicist all rolled into one.

Ed: Is being a writer what you expected? How so or how not?

SWB: I dreamt of being a writer from the time I was eight or nine. I have always had a passionate affair with books – I wanted to touch other people with my words the way so many writers have touched me over the years. In many ways, being a writer is exactly what I expected: long hours in front of my computer and the joy of creating something new.

What I didn’t expect were the kind words that I have received from readers. You see, in all those years I never wrote a single fan letter. I didn’t think they would want to hear from some strange girl in the middle of the desert. When I received my first fan letter, I cried. I couldn’t believe that I had touched someone so much that they sat down and wrote…to me. It’s an amazing, incredible, mind-altering experience.

Ed: Have you, or would you ever, collaborate on a story?

SWB: I’m not a good team player, so I doubt I will ever do that. However, Nikki McBroom and I have tentative plans for a children’s book – I’ll be writing the story and she’ll be illustrating it.

Ed: If you were starting to write for the first time, what would you do different?

SWB: I’d start sooner.

Ed: What is the most important thing you have learned about writing?

SWB: Storytelling is the gift. Writing is the skill. You must hone your skill in order to share your gift.

Ed: That is about as well as that has ever been said here. 😉

Finally, What’s the moral of the story?

SWB: If writing isn’t challenging, you’re not doing it right.

Ed: In the home stretch now, all that is left is some REAL answers to HYPOTHETICAL questions.

Your computer is smoking, wheezing, and sparks are shooting out of the back. You can save one thing off the hard drive.  What is it?

SWB: My work-in-progress, of course! Everything else is backed up in three-to-five locations.

Ed: You have one perfect day of free time, no obligations, needs, or responsibilities.  What do you do?

SWB: Are we talking summer or winter here? In the summer, I’d probably sit in my office and play Civilization V. In the winter, I’d head to the zoo and sit in the orangutan house for a few hours.

Ed: Spoken like a Phoenician. Summer is for staying indoors. 😉

Someone “in the business” suggests you change something you feel is a critical part of one of your books, and guarantees it will increase sales. What do you do?

SWB: I would re-read my work with a critical eye. This actually happened to me – my mentor told me that the first part of my first novel, The Thief of Todays and Tomorrows, was dragging on way too long. At first I was angry – how could she say that? Then I re-read it – and cut around 10,000 words from the first section.

Ed: You are offered just enough money to live comfortably for the rest of your life, if you will just stop writing.  What do you do?

SWB: Reject the offer and write another book.

Ed: What question do you wish I had asked?

SWB: Are you certifiably insane? Mainly because I’d like to point out that I’m not…

Ed: Thanks much for stopping by, Susan. Stay cool in the desert. 🙂


Please do consider perusing some of what Susan has to offer, listed here along with the five word synopsis I ask all writers for, only because I know how much they hate writing them. 😉

A five word synopsis 😉

Circle City Blues – “A heartbroken trucker seeks happiness.”


An Unassigned Life – “Writer has a post-mortem idea.”


The Prophet’s Wives – “Infertile prophet impregnates three wives.”


Forsaking the Garden – “Daughter of polygamists runs away.”


The Thief of Todays and Tomorrows – Mother sacrifices everything for son.


The Brass Monkey Series – Book 1, Wild Life “Bored retiree meets youngish widow.”


The Brass Monkey Series – Book 2, Charmed Life“Rivalry leads to suspected murder.”


The Brass Monkey Series – Book 3, Night Life “Ethan’s family threatens Sondra’s happiness.”


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One response to ““…trying to find the shortcuts to happiness in life.” – Tag Line Tuesday with Susan Wells Bennett

  1. acflory

    October 4, 2012 at 3:26 am

    What a great interview. Ed and Susan? I really enjoyed the give and take of wit between you two.

    Susan? As a devotee of science fiction /and/ Margaret Atwood I have to ask – don’t you realise A Handmaid’s Tale is science fiction? As is Ursula K. LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness! Please give sci-fi another try. Believe me, there’s science fiction and then there’s Science Fiction! The best sci-fi writers use the tropes of the genre as a launching off point to tell stories that go way beyond the limitations of any genre.

    Apologies for ranting on like that.


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