Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing multi-published author, Susie Finkbeiner. She is a wife and mother of three children, living in West Michigan. She grew up in an art-friendly home where art was not only encouraged; it was part every day life.
Not only is Susie a talented writer, but also, she is just a cool person. Let me introduce you to her now through our Question and Answers conversation:
When did you decide to become a writer?
I always wrote stories. Told them a lot, too (although some might call it “lying”…whoops). When I was in 7th grade my English teacher encouraged me to write more. At the time, I wrote terrible poetry about boys. Still, it seemed I had a knack for putting words together. Becoming a published author seemed an unlikely goal, though. I kept on writing little pieces of this and that, playing with genre and language and ideas. I read everything I could, forming my literary taste. As an adult, I wrote a bunch of plays (one was even published). I realized I should give it a go and started to work on my novel Paint Chips. I realized that as I wrote, I felt more of my full self than when I didn’t. I was hooked. I felt I’d found the “thing” God had for me to do.
Why do you write?
I have a few reasons. One is that I am a grumpy mom and wife when I don’t have a story rumbling and tossing from my mind to paper. Another is that I love, love, love it. Story is how I process life, it teaches me about myself and the world around me. The last is because it’s an intimate form of worship for me. I feel this deep connection with God as I wrestle with a story. As the late Anne Schmidt, co-author of Acceptable Words, said, “When I write, I feel God’s pleasure.”
What have you written?
I’ve written seven plays, which were produced at a church in Kentwood, Michigan. One, Merry Chrismucka, was published in 2006. Between that and novel writing, I wrote hundreds of short stories for my blog. Writing those super short stories was like a crash course in fiction for me. As far as novels, I’ve got Paint Chips, My Mother’s Chamomile, and my soon to release, A Cup of Dust. I’m currently working on another novel and a super secret potential project, which I’m not ready to reveal just yet.
Where can we buy or see them?
Paint Chips and My Mother’s Chamomile are both available online or at Baker Book House in Grand Rapids. A Cup of Dust will have a wider distribution. Still, it would be coolest if readers purchased their copies from their local, independent bookstore.
Give us a brief synopsis of “A Cup of Dust.”
Ten-year-old Pearl Spence is a daydreamer, playing make-believe to escape life in Oklahoma’s Dust Bowl in 1935. The Spences have their share of misfortune, but as the sheriff’s family, they’ve got more than most in this dry, desolate place. They’re who the town turns to when there’s a crisis or a need–and during these desperate times, there are plenty of both, even if half the town stands empty as people have packed up and moved on.
Pearl is proud of her loving, strong family, though she often wearies of tracking down her mentally impaired older sister or wrestling with her grandmother’s unshakable belief in a God who Pearl just isn’t sure she likes.
Then a mysterious man bent on revenge tramps into her town of Red River. Eddie is dangerous and he seems fixated on Pearl. When he reveals why he’s really there and shares a shocking secret involving the whole town, dust won’t be the only thing darkening Pearl’s world.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
Pearl is ten-years-old. Writing from her perspective was a joy. She’s spunky and funny and curious. Throughout the novel, she’s learning what it means to live a life of compassion, putting others before self. It truly is a coming of age story, seeing Pearl through the difficulty of growing up in the Dust Bowl. Even more so, she is refined as she learns what makes up a person’s character and worth.
What genre are your books and what draws you to this genre?
My first novels are in contemporary settings. However, I’m currently working on Historical stories. There’s something about history and the eras of my grandparents, which calls out to me. There is much to learn from their generation, and as I research, I discover that, although much has changed, much remains the same. Also, I love the research. It’s fascinating.
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
The hardest thing about writing A Cup of Dust was exercising restraint. I think the story would have easily spiraled out of control. The time period is so intriguing and the story so emotional. I had to cut some really great scenes because they zoomed out from Pearl’s story too much. The struggle, though, made the story and characters more endearing to me.
How much research did you do?
I’ve been researching the Dust Bowl for 20 years. No lie. That was the first time I read The Grapes of Wrath. The photography of Dorthea Lange inspires me greatly, her ability to capture the humanity of the people throughout the Depression makes me want to be a better writer. Ken Burns’s documentary The Dust Bowl is beyond fantastic and touching. I watched it no less than four times as I prepared to write A Cup of Dust. Also, Timothy Egan’s book The Worst Hard Time was a remarkable resource. It’s a history book written like a novel. I loved every single minute of my research.
Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
Oh, mercy. That’s a toughie. As an author, I think I’d love to meet Stephen King. That man has so much wisdom about the writing world, and he can tell a story like none other. Here’s the thing, though, I act like a blubbering fool when meeting someone I greatly admire.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
- READ! READ! READ! Good books of all genres will fill your brain with ideas, inspiration, and will develop your literary palate. If you don’t have time to read, sorry, you don’t have time to write. Reading is the single best way to learn how to be a writer.
- Write every day. It’s fine to take weekends off, but you have to keep developing those writing muscles. Writing includes these activities: reading, research, jotting ideas, plotting, and writing poopy first drafts.
- Don’t expect your first effort to be good. Revision and editing are best friends with the writing. You will have to keep on working on it. The writing will grow and so will you.
- Rejection isn’t the end of the world. It’s a chance to try again.
See more from Author Susie Finkbeiner at http://www.susiefinkbeiner.com