[Interview] Susan Alvis, author of ‘Friends Unlikely’
Susan Alvis is a Tennessee native.
She has several books out with various publishers. Writing under her own name as well as two pen names, she is an author covering several genres with numerous titles in fiction and non-fiction.
Her books include the novel, Friends Unlikely (Amira Press, 2007) and the non-fiction titles, How to Buy Real Estate Without a Down Payment in Any Market (Atlantic Publishing, 2006); The Complete Guide to Purchasing a Condo, Townhouse or Apartment (Atlantic Publishing, 2007); How to Become a Million Dollar Real Estate Agent in Your First Year (Atlantic Publishing, 2007) and How to Creatively Finance Your Real Estate Investments and Build Your Personal Fortune (Atlantic Publishing, 2007).
In this interview, Susan Alvis talks about her writing.
When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
All of my life, I’ve heard, “You can’t change who you are.” So to answer your question, I didn’t decide. Somewhere along the way, it was already decided. As a child, I wanted to be a writer but as an adult, I worked against it for whatever reason.
Life moves so fast and mine really took a totally different loop than what I had initially planned. I tried to fit into the role everyone thought I should pursue determined to fall in line with the dreams that others had for me. When I realized that it wouldn’t make me happy, I did a lot of soul-searching and writing seemed to be right in front of me.
As a child, I sent off some short stories to Crown Publishing and some other publishers for consideration. In fact, my daughter and I have been going through some old things from my childhood home trying to find them so I can post them on my website. It’s safe to say that I’ve been a writer all my life. Even as an adult pursuing other career interests, I still wrote short stories and articles (some of which are being published now).
How would you describe your writing?
I write primarily in three genres now. Young Adult, Suspense/Mystery and Adult Romance. However, I still have several non-fiction titles slated for release in 2007 and 2008 so I can’t say I’m working in one genre more than another.
Who is your target audience?
Considering the variety… everyone!
What motivated you to start writing?
For non-fiction, it was feast or famine and I’m not kidding. Since I had children approaching the teenage years, I wanted to be home more and since I had an outside sales job, it was increasingly difficult to be available when I needed to be available. Still, I had to work. I didn’t marry into wealth and my husband expects me to carry my own weight and help provide for our family. So, I found a few online writers’ forums, and a few freelance jobs. From there, I went into a lot of ghost writing branching out into other freelance opportunities. While I still have a booked calendar with ghost writes in 2007, I primarily write my own books and short stories now.
Who has influenced you most?
I would have to say my family either directly or indirectly.
How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?
I have a book coming out that will probably answer this much better. My own life experiences have influenced a lot of what I write. I’ve been a troubled soul at times with very real life catastrophes, just like many other people. However, when a family is hit with the same problems and crisis, it often leaves each member feeling powerless. I didn’t have anywhere to turn except to my writing and it has been a great source of empowerment because it has allowed me to cope with traumatic events and devastating situations. Plus, by writing about some more sensitive issues, I was forced to research. The knowledge I gained is something I will take with me into various projects.
My personal experiences are evident in my non-fiction titles specifically. Even the upcoming work about Tunica, Mississippi casinos is directly related to my life because I’ve spent a great deal of time in Mississippi and the casinos!
What are your main concerns as a writer?
There are a lot of concerns for writers. However, I don’t focus on them too much. I just write what I want to write and submit it. I often forget about it until I hear back one way or the other. I have an agent working with me on a project that’s very close to my heart so I guess the biggest concern I have right now is finishing it so he can see if he has a market for it or not!
What would you say are the biggest challenges that you face?
It’s hard to get used to bad reviews. While I can accept a bad review or rating and most authors can, I think we all have to be sure the reviews are coming from people within the industry or from those who are really trying to critique the written word.
I had a recent review that was very pointed and obviously written with the intent to personally attack so we had to have it removed because it was more or less slanderous and didn’t necessarily pertain to the book in question. Still, I’ve received a mountain of outstanding reviews both in fiction and non-fiction. I have to keep it all in perspective regardless if they are bad, good or even outstanding. The reviews (in most cases) are nothing more than one person’s opinion. In many cases, a reviewer will review books as a hobby and most of the time, they are presented with the right objective but not always.
I believe all writers have to have thick skin which I developed long before entering this business. Still, when you’ve worked 18-hour days to try and develop a story that you’re passionate about, you want someone to look at it and critique it with professionalism. The biggest challenge many writers face is coping with the fact their work is under constant scrutiny by reviewers.
How do you deal with these challenges?
I just keep in mind, it’s one person’s opinion.
How many books have you written so far?
Total short stories and books combined, including upcoming anthologies, I’m not even sure and the reason is because I’m writing under three names and have several projects going as ghost writes. I’m writing and someone else is managing what I write for the time being.
In non-fiction, I think it’s seven total now and in fiction, I have a lot. The books under my name are found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other store fronts such as Wal-Mart and Target. Online, one of the pen names I use lists my titles on Fictionwise.
Current titles on Amazon include: How to Buy Real Estate Without a Down Payment in Any Market; The Complete Guide to Purchasing a Condo, Townhouse or Apartment; How to Become a Million Dollar Real Estate Agent in Your First Year and How to Creatively Finance Your Real Estate Investments and Build Your Personal Fortune. All of these are published by Atlantic Publishing.
Coming soon titles include: Murder Games; Growing Up On Sunday; Holding Hands with Oxy and Meth and Tunica Mississippi: The Choice Gaming Destination of the South as well as others.
Do you write everyday?
Yes, I write seven days a week!
I hope to cut down on writing time. Right now, I write far more than I should. I’m waiting on writer’s block to hit me with a vengeance! I’d like to cut back to eight or ten hour days but I have too many deadlines to meet right now for that!
How long did it take you to write Friends Unlikey?
Friends Unlikely has taken about two months to complete. I consistently work on three or four titles simultaneously but sometimes, I’ll have one or two short stories and only one novel working so it makes it a bit easier.
I would say, it takes about two months for me to completely finish a manuscript. Then, there’s editing and promotional work to plan which I still have my hand in (to an extent).
Amira Press is publishing Friends Unlikely. I am thrilled they accepted it. I pitched it to Yvette Lynn at Amira first in hopes she would accept it and when she did, I nearly fell over. I wanted to keep it with a smaller publisher who would share the same or similar vision I had for the book.
Since the “shelf life” of a novel isn’t always as long as writers would like, I wanted Friends Unlikely to be in the hands of a smaller publisher who will allow me to use my vision for the project.
Which aspects of the work that you put into the book did you find most difficult?
Friends Unlikely is fiction but it touches on some very real issues. Poverty, wealth, HIV, drug addiction… it’s all there and there are some aspects of the book that will disturb the reader.
Since my target audience will be young adults, they will probably read the book and have questions. One of the characters in the story is a drug addict. When he’s in the throes of his addiction, he’s violent, mean and unmanageable. He hears and sees things that are non-existent but it portrays the true reality of his particular addiction. It was hard to write some of the scenes because I knew when I wrote it that many people were going through the very things I described.
Which did you enjoy most?
There are some light-hearted scenes in the book and I enjoyed writing them.
What sets the book apart from other things you have written?
It’s my first book specifically targeted for a young adult audience.
In what way is it similar?
I’ve written some articles on HIV and I have a book coming soon about drug addiction. Both topics are included in Friends Unlikely.
What will your next book be about?
(smiles) Which one? Murder Games has been pitched to one of my publishers but I haven’t written much on it yet. I’ve been working on two non-fiction titles for well over a year but I haven’t turned those “out” for consideration. One publisher knows I have one of them and has asked to see a partial but I can’t let it go as it is — at least not yet.
Several romance titles are coming soon as well.
What has been your most significant achievement as a writer?
My first non-fiction title found its way to the top 1-2% in Amazon sales and has stayed there consistently since its release which is exciting. In fiction, one of my short stories for adult suspense/romance made one of the prestigious Preditors and Editors 2006 Readers Poll Nominations. It didn’t win but it finished high nonetheless.
However, beyond any review or nomination or even high rankings, I would say the most significant achievement is just being able to do what I love to do.
How did you get there?
A lot of late nights and a lot of determination.
This article has also been featured on Associated Content.