We indie authors need to stick together, and most especially us indie historical fiction authors. We seem to be a rare breed.
Today my guest is Susan Spann, a fellow indie historical fiction author who was kind enough to answer some tough questions for me.
Learn more about Susan
Susan lives in Northern California with her husband, teenage son and three cats (one of which is large enough to count as two). She is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Association, and enjoys horseback riding, archery, rock climbing and books about adventures (both fictional and non-fiction).
When not running amok or too far in the weeds, Susan writes historical fiction. Her work takes legendary (or semi-legendary) historical figures and tells their stories as though they had really lived. She loves research as much as writing, and particularly enjoys finding a kernel of fact that can grow into an interesting story. You can find her on Twitter as @SusanSpann.
How do you transform your passion into focused research?
I approach research like a category 5 hurricane goes after a coastal fishing village – hit hard, cover as much ground as possible and leave no stone unturned.
When I’m starting a new novel (as I am now) I pick the legend or person whose story I want to tell and then scour the Internet, bookstores, and the library for information. Sometimes I also contact museums or researchers in the location where the events took place. I read as much as I can about the era in which the story is set and the people and places involved. I look at history, geography (including photographs when possible), culture, literature, and especially personal narratives. Only after I stuff myself full of facts and images do I try to let a focused story flow.
How do you translate your research into an entertaining narrative?
Starting from legends gives me an advantage. Someone already took a life and turned it into a song or story that people want to hear. After researching the historical “soil” in which the legend grew, I try to cultivate the story as it might have really happened, generally in a first-person narrative voice, without losing the vital elements of the legend itself. I’m looking for a blend of fact and fiction that does justice to both.
It also helps to work with children and animals. W.C. Fields discouraged it, but I include them in every novel and I never want for entertainment – some of it more scatological than I expected.
How do you sneak an underlying message into your entertaining narrative?
If you put all the white spaces between the words together, they make a picture of a horse in a snowstorm.
The honest answer is, I cheat: legends carry their own messages, which amplify on their own when the story goes from short-form to novel length. I find characters I admire and work on telling their stories in a compelling way. When the protagonist is admirable and surrounded by a supporting cast of realistic characters and challenges, the messages seem to take care of themselves.
Thank you to Susan for providing great answers to some tough questions! Make sure you check out her website and follow her on Twitter.
Interested in being interviewed?
I’d love to profile you on Worderella Writes, especially if you are an indie author, and most especially if you are an indie historical fiction author. I look forward to learning more about you and your upcoming projects!