Friday, July 27, 2012

Feature Friday: Susan Dennard

If you are looking for the Lazy Days of Summer YA Giveaway/Hop, please go here.

Today, we have the fabulous and friendly, Ms. Susan Dennard!

Susan is a reader, writer, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She used to be a marine biologist, but now she writes novels–and not novels about fish, but novels about kick-butt heroines and swoon-worthy rogues. She lives in Germany with her French husband and Irish setter, and you can learn more about her crazy thoughts and crippling cookie-addiction on her blogtwitter, or facebook. Her debut, Something Strange and Deadly, will be available from HarperTeen on July 24, 2012!



  

Interview:
A.L.:
What advice would you give to a budding author?

Susan:
Dream big and never, ever give up! So much of publishing is timing and luck, so even when things seem slow or frustrating, you have to just keep on pushing. You'll reach those dreams one day! Heck, if I can do it, anyone can!

A.L.:
Something Strange and Deadly has such an interesting premise, where did you get the inspiration for it?

Susan:
Oh, it's such a silly answer (I always feel like a cliche goon when I respond). The idea for SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY actually came from a dream! You know those dreams you have that leave you feeling changed when you awaken? Well, this was one of THOSE dreams, and in it, I had an older brother who was missing. I knew I would do anything to find him--even join that weird team of outcasts (yes! This really was actually in my dream!).

I took that initial idea and "fleshed it out" by finding a setting I thought would be interesting and provide a great source of conflict: 1876 Philadelphia, when the first American World's Fair took place. And because I love being scared, I thought I'd throw in a paranormal twist. I literally scanned my bookshelves for something that scared me, and when my eyes settled on Garth Nix's Abhorsen series, I knew I'd found it: walking corpses, murderous ghosts, and necromancy. His books always give me the shivers! Ultimately, my take on necromancy is very different from Nix's amazing and mind-bogglingly clever approach, but the initial idea was taken from his creepy stories! And best of all, the minute I settled on ghosts and corpses, it all just CLICKED. My method for building the setting might have been roundabout, but at the end of the day, it worked out perfectly. ;)

A.L.:
Did you hit any snags while writing the book?

Susan:
Oh absolutely! There were so many days I wanted to throw in the towel. By the fifth revision of SS&D, I was downright SICK of it. By the tenth, I wanted to gouge my eyes out with staples. BUT...I also knew deep down that this was The Book--the one I wanted to share with the world. The story I needed to tell. So, after a deep breath, I'd dive back in.

A.L.:
Who is your favorite character in Something Strange and Deadly and why?

Susan:
I'm not sure I can pick just one favorite! In book 1, I suppose I could say Daniel--he has so many secrets and so much guilt that guide his life and emotions. His character really changes as the series progresses, and I love that about him. Of course, Eleanor, Jie, and Joseph also grow and change with each book, so... I can't choose just ONE!

A.L.:
So, you absolutely love reading. What’s your favorite book and why?

Susan:
I can't pick just one!!! IMPOSSIBLE! However, if I had to pick only one book to bring with me on a desert island (ha! See how I totally changed your question! Sneaky, eh?), I would pick JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL. That book is so expansive, so creative, and soooooooo magical--I've read it three times, yet the 900 page tome still calls me back for another reading!

A.L.:
Is it hard writing a historical piece?

Susan:
Yes, it has certainly been harder than the other books I've written--but only in the added research and the restrictions that go along with writing in a historical setting. The plot and characters weren't any harder than other stories, but getting the setting right sure was! I spent so much time researching 1876 Philadelphia before I even set my hands on the keyboard--and the same amount of time studying 1876 Paris before I started book 2. Then, as I wrote, I would constantly hit snags or gaps in my research--such as what was the proper type of carriage for a trip to the opera versus a ride in the country?

Even though I meticulously researched details like that, not all of them made it into the book. This is another difficult thing about writing historicals--finding the balance between how much information is Just Enough to give the feel of the time without bogging down the reader.

A.L.:
We hear you’ve got a crippling addiction to cookies…What’s the absolute, best flavor cookie possible? The one you just can’t say no to?

Susan:
I think...it's a tie between snickerdoodles and ginger molasses cookies. I love how chewy and rich--yet simple--those cookies are!

A.L.:
What are you working on now?

Susan:
Right now, I'm working on the series' final book (#3), which takes Eleanor and the gang through the south of France and across Egypt. Book 2--A DARKNESS STRANGE AND LOVELY--is at copyedits, meaning it's "finished" (at least all the hard stuff is!)--so even though book 3 (which isn't titled yet) isn't due until December, I'd like to get it wrapped up so I can start working on new worlds and characters!

A.L.:
So, you’re trained as a marine biologist, do you think you’ll ever combine your two passions (writing and marine biology, not cookies) and write a book about the ocean? Or maybe a marine biologist character?

Susan:
I'm not sure I'll ever go back to marine biology--at least outside of a hobby, surface love. But I've definitely considered the possibility of a marine biologist character! Or just a scientist character...or perhaps a book set at sea or in the Arctic (where I did my research). Write what you know--isn't that the old adage? One day, I think I will. :)

The Giveaway:
Susan is giving away a signed copy of her debut novel, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY!
Something Strange and Deadly: (Formerly titled The Spirit-Hunters)

The year is 1876, and there’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia…

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper—

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor…from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including their maddeningly stubborn yet handsome inventor, Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.

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