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Author interview with Susan King

The Hawk Laird comes out in a few days! Susan was kind enough to answer some questions for us.

You can get your copy of this exciting romance HERE!

Did you always know you wanted to be an author? What is the first story you remember writing? How did you get from there to where you are today? 

Years ago, cleaning out some files, my dad found my second-grade report card. “Susie is a great little storyteller,” the teacher wrote. I hope she meant it kindly! I loved reading and began writing my own stories when I was young. At eleven, I wrote and illustrated my first historical novel in a composition book – an anachronistic, melodramatic tale if there ever was one. The cute-meet was a carriage accident with the heroine crawling out to be nearly trampled by a handsome lord riding by on his trusty steed. I wish I still had that notebook! Later, I wanted to be a doctor like my grandfather until I realized it involved math . . . I also loved art, so the choice became writer or artist. Writing didn’t seem very practical, so I went to art school instead, lol. That led me to art history and a doctoral program in medieval art, where I wrote countless research papers—and learned much about reaching for quality writing. By then, I was married, having baby boys, teaching art history, and secretly writing romance during preschool hours. I flipped my medieval dissertation into a medieval romance, got the courage to enter a contest, won an agent evaluation–and soon had a contract with Penguin. I wrote over a dozen books for them, went to Avon and Random House, wrote more books, including mainstream hardcover fiction, and took time to raise kids and teach. Now I’m delighted to be with Dragonblade writing new stories!

How much research do you do into the time period and places you write about? Do you have any experience dressing in character or participating in living history situations or are you more a fan of libraries and online resources?

I’m a library girl at heart. I love the research (grad school and medieval studies!) and was trained in classic research methods and deep research. The internet has changed the way we research, vastly expanding what we know and what we can access. But knowledge accumulates, so I can research something quickly and it clicks with what I already know. (As I tell my students, your best computer is your brain!). Though I started out writing medievals, I went on to write books set in 16th century Scotland, Scottish Regency, and Victorian Scotland, and loved diving into those research areas. The info carries along from one book to the next, growing my understanding and love for Scotland and Scottish history.

I love experiential research too—I’ve dressed in authentic costume for conference activities, and I’ve been to Scotland several times for research and to soak up that wonderful atmosphere. For some of my books, I’ve taken lessons in falconry, Celtic harp, medieval swordsmanship, fiddle, archery, and more. I even trained with a martial artist to learn how to catch arrows so that I could understand how a character would do it (and I caught them!). Whatever I’m researching, I always try to find a way to tangibly understand it too.

Where is your favorite place to write? Does it change depending on where you are in the process?

I use a spare bedroom as a home office, and when the kids moved out, I claimed more space for a reading and library room. But in good weather, I’m often writing, reading, or researching out on our screened porch, listening to birds and breezes in the trees and hopefully not too many lawnmowers. My Muse likes quiet, a little music, and a private space. I’m too easily distracted to work in public places—no coffee shop work sessions for me! I’d get nada done. I also write and focus better late at night, when the Muse wakes up and gets creative. But that schedule doesn’t always jive with the practical need to get an early start! Once I enter deadline mode, I’m in my office for long, late hours, pounding away at the keyboard, wearing big flannel shirts, sucking down hot tea, surrounded by the debris of research and writing, while my very patient husband orders pizza and takes care of all else until I emerge with a finished book.

Which comes first for you: the plot or the characters?

That is so variable for me! Often plot ideas will jump out of the research when something intrigues me. I still remember the moment that I realized Lady Macbeth’s story had never been accurately told from a historical perspective; I wrote and researched that book and its sequel about Margaret of Scotland as both a writer and a historian. The upcoming book The Falcon Laird came out of the research when I read about the Scottish royal women cruelly locked in iron cages by Edward I of England—I had to pursue that and create a better ending for my own characters. Other times, a character steps out of the mist fully formed, and I want to write about him or her—and then I’ll look for the right time and place for their story. That happened with The Scottish Bride, coming in April. I was reading about Thomas the Rhymer and thought about the impact on his family–and suddenly three fictional great-granddaughters popped into my mind. I’ve been writing their stories lately. Stay tuned!