Susan McBride is the famous author of The Cougar Club. Her first women’s fiction novel about three forty-something women who find out your never too old to follow your heart. The Cougar Club has been selected by Target as a Bookmarked Breakout Title, by Midwest Booksellers as a Midwest Connections Pick, and MORE Magazine’s list of “February Books We’re Buzzing About.” Susan has published five Debutante Dropout Mysteries novels: Blue Blood, The Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, The Lone Star Lonely Hearts Club, Night of the Living Deb, and Too Pretty to Die. In addition, she’s published several young adult novels including The Debs and The Debs: Love, Lies, and Texas Dips.
Susan has won several awards including a Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery, a Romantic Times Magazine Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Amateur Sleuth Mystery and was twice nominated for Anthony Awards for Best Paperback Original. Check out Susan’s website for more information.
1) How long have you been a writer?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved words, and I read a lot as a kid. In fifth grade, I wrote three books, which I still have in a box in the basement. When I was 19, I took some time off between transferring colleges and wrote a 600-page historical romance. It was never published, but it was read by a handful of agents and editors. I received some very encouraging rejection letters, and I knew at that point I wanted to be a novelist, whatever it took. And it took a lot!
2) How did you get started in publishing?
After I graduated from the University of Kansas with a B.S. in Journalism, I wrote a manuscript each year, trying my hand at various genres and points of view. It was a great experience. I learned a lot about voice and style. But by the 10th unpublished novel, I wondered when the heck I’d get published. I keep getting positive feedback, but nothing sold. Still, I knew this is what I wanted to do with my life so I didn’t give up. Finally, AND THEN SHE WAS GONE was published in 1999 (and was reprinted in 2000). I’d entered a contest sponsored by a small press, and I won. The prize was publication. So, while it did cost me a $25 entry fee, I ultimately saw my first book in print, and it sold almost 5,000 copies. This small press published my second book, OVERKILL, and then I signed a three-book deal with HarperCollins/Avon for my Debutante Dropout Mystery series. The first of those titles, BLUE BLOOD, came out in 2004 and was a surprise success. That helped me get a second contract fairly quickly. Since those five mysteries came out, I’ve also written three DEBS young adult series books for Random House, and THE COUGAR CLUB, a woman’s fiction title, for HarperCollins.
3) How long did it take you to publish your 1st book?
It was over a decade (and as many manuscripts). We always hear about the authors who sell their first book right off the bat and get a huge advance, but that’s because it’s so rare. Most writers struggle for awhile and write at least several manuscripts before they sell. Honestly, I think it’s good to have the time to work on your skills and your self-confidence. Because publishing is a tough business; and the better equipped to deal with all the s**t that comes your way, even after publication, the better off you’ll be.
4) Who is your favorite author?
Oh, boy, that’s like asking what kind of dessert I like best. I have so many authors whose work I adore and admire that it’s hard to narrow it down. Some of my favorite recent reads are THE GIRL WHO CHASED THE MOON by Sarah Addison Allen, THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN by Garth Stein, GIRL IN HYACINTH BLUE by Susan Vreeland, and ACCORDING TO JANE by Marilyn Brant.
5) What is the best author experience so far?
I’ve had lots of cool experiences, but I think speaking at the Susan G. Komen Survivors’ Luncheon in April of 2009 takes the cake. I’m a breast cancer survivor, and I was honored to be asked to address the gathering of over 800 fellow survivors and their families. My husband, mom, and mom-in-law were with me, and I worried about what I’d say up until the moment I took the podium. It was the first time I’d really talked about my experience fully in public, and I just spoke off-the-cuff. I’m such a smart ass that I related my crazy take on everything I’d gone through. Thank God, people laughed, because they understood so completely! I met so many incredible women that day and signed books for over an hour. It was thrilling and amazing, and I’ll never forget it.
6) What do you do when you’re not writing?
I like to hang out with my husband. He’s a fun guy, and we have so many common interests. Sometimes we go to the Botanical Garden to walk around and take pictures, or we do dinner and a movie. Other times, we like to stay home, watch DVDs, or work in the yard. Ed will even go to flea markets with me, which is awesome! He’s very calm, and I’m not. So he’s a good influence on me!
7) Have you ever had writer’s block? What to you do?
I don’t think I’ve ever really had writer’s block (knock on wood!). The closest I’ve come is when I’m stuck on a scene in a book that doesn’t work. If I try to keep pushing forward, it goes very slowly. That’s when I know something’s wrong. So if I talk it out or sleep on it, I can usually figure out where I took a left turn instead of right. It always astounds me how much my brain can figure out when I’m sleeping!
8) Do you have any book promotion tips?
Oh, boy, I think promotion is harder than writing! If you focus on what you can control (since so much is out of your hands!), you’ll be in good shape. Set up local events in your hometown, and make them fun and unusual. I like to do group gigs with other local authors, like a “Girls’ Night Out” with wine tastings and door prizes. Be creative. Use your web presence to your best advantage, guest-blogging when you can, and contacting sites and blogs that seem a good fit with your subject matter. It never hurts to ask someone, “Would you like a copy of my book for possible review or for a give-away?” Don’t be shy, but do be polite. I’ve seen some folks get overly aggressive, which results in pushing people away not drawing them in.
9) Tips for other aspiring writers:
Write, write, and write some more! You’ll never have more time to work on your craft than before you sell something. Experiment with characters and voice. Read books in a variety of genres and see what other authors are doing. Don’t be afraid to go to author events and ask questions. Keep a notebook handy to jot down ideas, bits of dialogue, and observations. You never know when something you’ve scribbled down will come in handy. Don’t ever think there’s one set way for doing anything. The great thing about being in a creative business is that there really are no rules. Do it because you love it. And always try to be better than your last book!
10) Tell me about any current or upcoming books:
I’m currently working on another women’s fiction book called LITTLE BLACK DRESS, about two sisters and a magical black dress that causes quite a lot of havoc in their lives. It’s very different from anything I’ve done before, even THE COUGAR CLUB. So I’m very excited about it. Right now, it looks like LBD will be out sometime in the fall of 2011.
11) Where can I purchase a copy?
You should be able to find THE COUGAR CLUB, my Debutante Dropout Mysteries, and my Debs young adult novels at any brick and mortar bookstore and definitely at all online booksellers. If your local store doesn’t have something in stock, please ask them to order it! Authors love when readers do that! THE COUGAR CLUB is also available in Target stores. It was selected by Target as a Bookmarked Breakout Title in February, and they’ve still got it in stock in most stores across the country. If anyone has any questions, I always answer emails that come through my web site at http://SusanMcBride.com.