Writers At Play Interview: Susan Grant

This article first appeared at the Writers At Play blog, November 3, 2008.

RITA award winner, New York Times best-selling author, USAF veteran, 747 airline pilot, and mom Susan Grant loves writing about what she knows: flying, adventure, and the often unpredictable interaction between men and women!

(1) What made you want to write Moonstruck?

Admiral Brit Bandar is a character who lived in my head for years. Over time, my imagination fleshed her out and it was as if she was real. I never could find the right story/setting for her. She was such a powerful character, I knew her story had to be equally so. Then as I was wrapping up the Otherworldly Men trilogy, I realized I’d stumbled upon the perfect setting for Brit to shine. Because she wasn’t a comic character, I spun off a slightly darker, more emotional series based loosely on the trilogy’s world. It was the easiest book I’d ever written because it all fell into place like magic. Writing Moonstruck was magic. I was so very pleased with the result. Those who know me know how notoriously picky and unforgiving I am of my own work, so it seriously was rare for me to feel this way! 

(2) Did you conduct any special research for this book?

No, I did not. I was able to draw on my own experiences as an officer in the military to accurately depict the actions and reactions of a crew serving on a military starship. 

(3) Which authors inspire you? Has that changed over time?

You know, this has changed over time. Asked five years ago, my answers would be somewhat different. Two who have endured come to mind: Catherine Asaro is such a master at the craft, and thus inspiring. Linnea Sinclair is a master at plotting and so knowledgeable about the art of writing that I look on in utter awe. That ability, which she works so hard on, makes her books stand above the rest. I was always more instinctive than either of these ladies, more seat of the pants, but I am gradually learning more discipline. I think that is necessary when producing books at the frequency publishers demand these days. 

(4) Is there something special about Science Fiction/Fantasy/Science Fiction Romance that draws you to write it?

Of course. Probably that these tales are at heart stories of the frontier–unexplored space, the wilds, wide open spaces–where the situations and the people are a little rough despite apparently polished edges. I also love the blending of the military, of which I was a member, and shipboard life with the unpredictability of the personalities required to explore and risk their lives in such an environment. Pair that with the passion of humans finding each other and there you have what I love about writing and reading SF romance. 

(5) Aside from being a writer, what other interests or hobbies do you have? How do these influence your writing? (Gee, you haven’t been asked that one before, have you?)

Ha, never! But, seriously, I have often been asked if I have a life, because at first glance it doesn’t seem that I have time for one! My career as a 747 pilot flying international routes for United Airlines is a major source of inspiration for my stories. The traveling, where I often feel as if I’m the alien, lends itself to creating believable SF worlds. My children, both teens, are the heart and soul and certainly the center of my life. The unconditional love I feel for them, and sometimes the frustrations and fears that raising kids conjures, also add to my being able to create believable human interactions in my books. Aside from my family, the traveling, and the flying, I have interests in both food and photography. 

(6) What are you writing right now? What are you reading right now?

I am working on Space Pirate (working title) which will be book #3 in the Borderlands series. There is a female pirate ship captain with a lot of attitude and she’s a blast to write. As for reading, I just finished a fantastic historical fiction about the early years of Genghis Khan. It was written by Conn Ilgulden and shouldn’t be missed. Now I have just started a Luna title—Catherine Asaro’s The Nightbird, and it’s good so far. 

(7) How do you approach the novel-writing process? Are you a plotter or a pantster? In other words, do you plan ahead or write the story as it unfolds?

I am definitely a pantser. Everyone, including me dear editor, would prefer that I try to become a little more of a plotter. I am trying. I feel I have very good storytelling skills but not always the best bare-bones plotting abilities. Developing that skill will help me finish books quicker and better. (genuflects in Linnea’s direction) 

(8) Did you ever imagine yourself growing up to be a writer? Who encouraged you to pursue writing professionally?

No, never in a million years! I still can’t believe it even after twelve novels and appearances on bestseller lists. No one encouraged me, it simply happened randomly. I’d met another mom one day at the pediatrician’s office when my kids were little and learned she’d written a book. It hadn’t been published, but I was so impressed nonetheless. Since it was a somewhat lonely time in my life, and I’d always loved creative writing, I started playing around with writing scenes that eventually came together into a 600 page historical tome. Not long after, I found Romance Writers of America, jotted down the idea of what became my debut book Once a Pirate on a cocktail napkin on the plane ride home from my first writers conference, where I was told that time travel romances were hot! I was bought 18 months later with two publishers vying for me in a two-book deal. It was like a fairy tale! It was 1999, and paranormal romance, especially “futuristic” (SF romance), was all but dead, yet that’s what I sold and have stayed published in ever since. 

(9) What was/were your favorite book(s) as a child? 

One of the first titles I remember adoring was Terry Brooks’ Sword of Shannara, then The Hobbit, followed by many Ann McCaffrey books. 

(10) If you were going to recommend a Science Fiction/Fantasy/Science Fiction Romance book to someone new to the genre, what would you recommend?

Of my titles I would say either Moonstruck or The Star King are good entry points, as they blend Earthlings and “things we know” with space travel. I know that the books from the Otherworldly Men trilogy brought in many readers who had never tried SF romance before. While those books weren’t favorites of many of my longtime readers, they served as perfect learner SFR books for those who would normally only pick up light and fun contemporary romances. Afterwards, they must not have thought the genre was as scary as they expected, as many of them have read the rest of my books as well as Linnea Sinclair’s and others. That is a good thing indeed!