A sneak peak inside the processes of being an author
by Randy Luckie, 11/30/2018
(Susan) Peters-Davis is a fiction author that I discovered rambling around the usual haunts I fritter away hours and hours on, and she captured my attention for a couple of reasons with her Kendra Spark series.
First, the series deals with one of my favorite subjects… Unseen, supernatural evil. After reading a bit, I saw that Susan has the skills to weave that subject into great stories involving us mere mortals. Second, she intertwines love and romance into the mix which brings a realness that most anyone can relate to. Man or woman, if you are human, you have had at least some dealings with the fancy flights of romance!
I contacted Susan and asked if she would like to talk about the processes around her writing. I am so pleased that she accepted the offer. Below is our conversation about her and an exclusive peek at some of Susan’s processes she shared around this subject.
“I’m an introvert wanting to experience an extrovert life”
Randy: Hi Susan, we are so pleased that you could spend some time with us at SRL Desktop Creations. This site aims to support people with creative drives of all types and to share processes, or really, anything around the people and their creativity. Writing a book is something that almost everyone thinks of doing at least once, but you have written several books! This surely indicates that you definitely have a drive about your craft. With that in mind, I would like to ask you some questions for our readers to see if we can expose some of the how and why of what you do.
Susan: Hello, Randy, and everyone visiting SRL Desktop Creations. Thank you for such a kind and thoughtful introduction. I’m excited…and a bit nervous at the same time, wondering about these interview questions. *smiles* I’m an introvert wanting to experience an extrovert life…perhaps this visit counts as that. Thank you for giving me the opportunity, Randy.
Randy: Believe me, the pleasure is all ours, and no need to be nervous at all…there won’t be a test at the end. Okay, then, let’s dive right in with the first question. Do you remember at what age you became an avid reader?
Susan: Hmm, I recall reading books in junior high from my grandmother’s house, Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries. Then, in high school, I read less, there was just too much other stuff going on in my life! *Laughs* Then, in my young adult years, after I graduated high school, my favorites were historical romance, paranormal, sci-fi, crime and fantasy. So, my guess is that the avid-reader fire went ablaze somewhere in my early twenties.
Randy: Do you remember what first books or works you read that got you reading for fun?
Susan: Let me see… I do recall some of the authors, like Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, Rosemary Rogers, Fern Michaels, Danielle Steel, Terry Brooks, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins’ Left Behind Series. These come to mind because, at first, most of the books I read were confiscated from my mother and her friends, except the last two authors mentioned were my choices, my buys.
Randy: *Laughs* That’s funny to me, because that is exactly how I came to love books, reading the ones my mother bought, like the “Amityville Horror” and “Jaws”! As for the authors you just mentioned, what do you think it was about these works that really drew you in?
Susan: Well, now that you ask, and thinking about it, I would have to say that Kathleen E. Woodiwiss’ “The Flame and the Flower” was really the first one that got me going. Firstly, the story is a very relatable romance, the rouge captain, Brandon Birmingham saves the innocent beauty, Heather Simmons *smiles*. And, looking back, Ms. Woodiwiss had a natural fluidity of moving from one point of view into another, so smoothly written that the point of view transitions never took me out of the story. Sometimes, when writers do this, editors and reviewers might label it ‘head-hopping’, it can cause interruption to the story flow. To me, Ms. Woodiwiss’ crafty words would never be labeled as head-hopping! Personally, I’ve never mastered this fantastic ability, but this author definitely reeled me in with it.
“Imagine, all new stories from the mind of a 6th grade Susan!“
Randy: Do you happen to remember the first full story you wrote?
Susan: I think I was in the sixth grade, I wrote some “Lost in Space” short stories and shared them with my best friends.
Randy: Lost in Space! Do you mean like ‘Danger Will Robinson! Danger!”?
Susan: *Grins* Yes. The stories aligned with the characters of that TV series, a sci-fi, where the characters missed the planet they were scheduled to land on, and became lost in space. They end up on different planets and encounter diverse species of beings. I didn’t rewrite the actual shows, but I used the characters from the show to star in my own stories with their space ship, The Jupiter 2. Imagine, all new stories from the mind of a 6th grade Susan! *Laughs*
Randy: Irwin Allen would be proud! What about now, obviously you spend a lot of time writing, do you find the time for a lot of, or any, pleasure reading now?
Susan: Yes, I still read for pleasure.
Randy: What do you read for enjoyment now?
Susan: The genre I select generally depends on my mood. I know that sounds corny, but it’s true. I read an array of genres. I probably have twenty books going at the same time that I flip between accordingly. There are some that I’ll start and never finish because something about it no longer resonates with me. Then, there are others that I save to read a second time!
Randy: How does your pleasure reading play into your craft writing?
Susan: Well, I am also a beta reader for a few author friends, and I edit for other writers. I find reading such diverse sources only goes to strengthen my own writing skills, in a way, it hones my own voice and style, my own characters, and my ideas for stories. But, too, I’m selective with the books I read for pleasure…probably because I edit. I want to read a book that doesn’t bleed with editorial issues!
“I started writing seriously in 2004, and it has taken me quite some time to build confidence in my writing skills“
Randy: Do you think your personal experiences growing up influence what, or how, you write now?
Susan: Growing up, I was the oldest in my family of three other sisters. My father took me hunting and fishing. I have always thought it was because he had no son, and there I was, so off we went! But I loved it. I taught my husband how to fish for bass! *Smiles*
Both me and my husband grew up in a small town in southwest Michigan and we still live there. We were married when we were eighteen and have since raised two daughters in the same village. Now they have families and live only minutes away.
But growing up…well, all my life, really, I have spent a lot of time fishing on lakes and doing a lot of camping, hunting, and mushrooming in forests…all over Michigan. The settings are so much a part of me that they have become imprinted in my memory. I love my state and all of our forests and lakes. So, pack that up with the wild imagination I’ve always had for anything sci-fi, paranormal, or supernatural…and the reader gets all that blended together in my stories.
“However, there will come a time when, to advance, you will require ‘more craft knowledge”
Randy: Have you ever attended formal writing classes or have a college background in writing? Or, have you just learned along the way? Have you any advice about this for would be writers?
Susan: I started writing seriously in 2004, and it has taken me quite some time to build confidence in my writing skills. Along the way, I took a two-year correspondence course through The Children’s Writing Institute, I have worked with a college professor in a mentor program and attended many workshops.
Too, I have attended many writer’s conferences and shoved in an array of on-line courses. I also joined on-line, as well as, face-to-face critique groups. Then there are the books; I have read tons of books on the craft of writing. I even have my own vast library of those books. *Smiles* I still am determined to hone my skill of writing, an ever-evolving craft.
Of all that, though, actually, I think one of the best things I did for myself when starting my writing career was to join a critique group. Early on, it was okay that no one in the group was published, because they were all serious about becoming an accomplished author.
However, there will come a time when, to advance, you will require ‘more craft knowledge’ and then you’ll need to move on to either a mentor, such as a successful author or professor, who can help you hone your skills, or, maybe join a critique group that has published authors who have experience beyond your own.
Then, there are readers. I’ve also found a couple of beta readers that enjoy the genre I write. They read over my novels before my last edit and the manuscript submission, and then give me input on any of the context, story, and character issues, similar to a critique. I love my beta readers. *Smiles*
Susan: I think I always felt that someday I would be writing. I started writing in journals in my youth. The journals, which I continued to do my whole life, were always about the “emotions” regarding events that were happening in my life. I had stored them thinking that I might use them as a reference to write a memoir. Eventually, though, I realized their best usage might be better for character sketches.
However, recently, I went through a few of the journals when we were packing to move last year, and though we ended up not moving, I took the opportunity to move the journals…to the curb! Now, all I can say about those journals is thank goodness I read through some of those before I died. *Laughing* If my family ever happen to read those emotional train-wreck pages…well, they would think I’d gone insane…and had been insane for most of my life! *shakes head*
“I have worked as a telephone operator, a waitress, I once delivered papers on rural routes“
Susan: No landfill, Randy, I burned all the journals – leave no evidence behind. *Grins* Okay, about jobs, I have worked as a telephone operator, a waitress, I once delivered papers on rural routes, and then for a time, I worked in sales. A little later, though, I landed a job as a shipping manager, and eventually was the production manager for a plastic sheeting manufacturer. I ended up working there for twenty years. When I resigned from that job, I took care of grandchildren and parents. After, I went to work on writing. Now…it’s purely writing and editing. *Smiles*
Randy: Is there anything about those jobs that plays into your process as a writer now?
Susan: Probably not so much the process of writing, but I would have to say that the people and personalities I have known, along with their, and my own, situations and circumstances along the way, including those jobs, provides good fodder for story ideas and character building. *Smiles*
“I like to write along with my favorite genre reads”
Randy: How do you classify the genre you mainly write in?
Randy: What about those genres pull to you?
Susan: I like to write along with my favorite genre reads; something that is adoring and plausible escapes from reality. Most of my works are these genres and have some degree of a romance relationship, either budding or fully developed, intertwined within. One exception to that is the book from the Secret series that I wrote, “Secret: In Wolf Lake” because it is one that has no romance involved.
Randy: Since you mentioned a title, “Secret: In Wolf Lake”, can you give me a rundown of your published works?
Susan: Well, I have published works under two names, one is S. Peters-Davis and one is a pseudonym…those books are by the name of Dk Davis.
As S. Peters-Davis I write supernatural, suspense, paranormal romance. By this name I’ve written the Kendra Spark Series. This series has the same story-stars moving through each book with relationships and story developing throughout the series.
Unorthodox, A Kendra Spark Novel, Book 1
Malevolent, A Kendra Spark Novel, Book 2
Albatross, A Kendra Spark Novel, Book 3 for release in June 2019
As Dk Davis I write Young Adult paranormal, supernatural, sci-fi, and romance that includes diverse and mature subject matters. The Secret series is written under this name. In this series, each book is a standalone book with different characters and different stories, unrelated to the others in the series.
Secret: At HL Woods
Secret: Of Amber Eyes
[ed. note: please visit these sites to learn more about Susan’s books!]
Randy: Do you write in other genres?
Susan: I tried a couple of different genres before; children’s books, and then erotic romance. Neither resonated for long. I wanted to try and see where they went, and neither gave me the pleasure of the genres I’m currently writing.
Randy: When you start a new story, do you have the thing worked out in your mind, or do you just start and let it find its own way through the work?
Susan: In the beginning, my natural inclination was to start writing from an idea and work the story out along the way, but eventually, realized I needed more to keep my process and story moving forward, so it didn’t stall out. On one of the writing retreats I attended, an author friend and I learned about concepts from “Syd Field Screenplay, the Foundations of Screenwriting”. We both brainstormed our next books, plotting with these concepts, using index cards, inciteful incidents, and a 3-act system found in that book.
I found the concepts worked. It gave my stories enough of a foundation to stay on track. Even if my events changed, I had enough information to keep me moving toward the conclusion… and if my ending changed, I would be ready for that, too!
Another tool I picked up from my author friend is the use of a timeline. I learned to make a list of each chapter’s events, the time/day of incidents, and the characters. I include number of pages and word counts on the time line, too. This makes it so much easier to reference events within the chapter rather than reading through complete chapters to find and check on something.
“…And, still, I think of them”
Randy: What about characters? Do you develop an imaginary cast and weave to them or do they evolve as needed, so to speak, during the construction of the work?
Susan: I do a pretty in-depth character sketch on the main cast of story-stars, even history, and in some cases, family trees. The two or three main characters are pretty clear to me, physically and mentally, at the beginning of the story process, but their relationships tend to develop with the story. Usually, secondary characters get developed in the beginning, but, not as thoroughly as the main story stars, so they tend to get slight character sketches as they crop up in the story.
Randy: If someone could only read one book that you have written, which one would you recommend to them and why that book?
Susan: Read them all! *Laughs* But if there was just one, then I would say, “Secret: At HL Woods” because in that story, there were impactful incidents that occurred with a few of the characters – and with this one, even as the writer, I was connected to the characters and it was mentally, and emotionally, hard to let my characters go. They all meant something special to me and I adored their connections to each other… And, still, I think of them.
Randy: If there was a writer to be out there reading this, what are three pointers you would give them as inspiration to carry on and do the work?
Second, try to connect with one author you resonate with, in genre and voice, and exchange work for critique/beta reading. This alone acts as inspiration, motivation, and hones your craft.
Third, I would say to never stop honing your writing skills. Find and read ‘how-to-books’ on the craft; find and read the experiences of successful authors.
“WOW’, my story had gained strength and impact”
Randy: What do you think is the hardest part of your writing process? How do you deal with the obstacles of the process?
Susan: Sticking to a writing schedule! I find that if I don’t write every day, it sets me back, which will require extra time and effort to get back to the forward trajectory of the story. I will have to reread to make sure all the story-stars are back on board and make sure that I’m following my plot cards… Do I need to realign them? Do I need to rewrite them, or do I stick with the story I’ve written so far? All the while keeping the ending in mind!
Randy: Along the line of hard things, what advice would you give about receiving criticism of your work?
Susan: I remember the first time I got a paper back all marked-up in red and those marks felt more like a million stabs to my heart and my confidence. But once I got past “myself” and read what the editor suggested, I realized ‘WOW’, my story had gained strength and impact.
At that time, I could have told myself ‘I’ll never succeed in this craft’. But I loved it too much to give it up, so instead, I looked at it as a challenge…I would learn all I could on honing the craft.
Now, my goal, with each submission, is to send in the best copy I can and know that 99% of any suggested changes that come back to me from the editor will polish my story…making it shine!
Randy: What advice would you give about the opposite, the good reviews?
Susan: Good reviews inspire and motivate, a form of validation that your writing has a purpose and entertains but dwelling too much on them can place pressure on you for writing the next book. They are also great to use as testimonies for book promotion. *Smiles*
Randy: Susan, I want to thank you for spending your time with SRL Desktop Creations and letting us into your writing world for this interview. I really appreciate all that you shared with our readers on your processes and a little about yourself. I truly believe that these little bits add to the enjoyment of reading an author’s work, and I hope others get that experience too!
Susan: Randy, thank so much for inviting me to your place and for the excellent interview questions, they deepened my personal introspect on writing. I’m humbled and grateful for the opportunity. Hope I’ve done justice to the interview with my responses. Thank you, everyone, for stopping by Randy’s and visiting with us. I appreciate your interest and hope you enjoy my stories. Best to you always!
[ed. note: Here are links to connect with Susan!]
DK Davis Links:
BWL Publishing Inc. Author Page: http://bookswelove.net/authors/davis-dk-ya-paranormal/
S. Peters-Davis Links:
BWL Publishing Inc. Author Page: http://bookswelove.net/authors/peters-davis-s-suspense-paranormal/