Meet Novelist Heather Sunseri

What does an accountant do to relax during tax season? CPA Heather Sunseri sheds the stress by writing Inspirational Romantic Suspense stories. Although she tries to squeeze in some writing during the three intense months a year when she works full-time completing tax returns, the majority of her stories are crafted during the other nine when life isn’t as hectic.

Heather lives in Central Kentucky, the heart of Thoroughbred country, with her amazing husband, who happens to be a photographer who knows Photoshop, a skill she hopes will come in handy when she need certain lines covered on her author photo for future book covers. :-) Her family also includes two young children, a Golden Retriever, and her daughter’s cat (who actually runs the house).

When asked what she does when not working, caring for her family, or writing, Heather had the following to say. “Do others really have time to do things outside of those activities? I’m only kidding—a little. Outside of all that, I enjoy reading, traveling, biking, and scuba diving anytime my travels take me to tropical climates.”

Join me as we learn more about Heather and her journey to publication.

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Heather’s Journey Begins

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•Since tax season is underway with its long hours and intense pressure, I’ve got some healthy fare today. (I wouldn’t want to be guilty of adding to Heather’s stress with lots of sugar or caffeine, you see.) Those of you who know me well, know I’m not much of a cook, so I’ve ordered fresh fruit and cheese trays from my local deli along with a selection of muffins. There’s a nice variety of herbals teas from which to choose, including peppermint, chamomile, and mandarin orange. Help yourselves to some cyber fare, and prepare to enjoy Heather’s interview . . .

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•When did you first experience the desire to write a romance novel? Was it while strolling down a moonlit beach with your hubby by your side, after having watched a great romantic movie that set your heart aflutter, or when some characters began chattering away and wouldn’t stop?

While reading a couple of years ago I began noticing that I would lie awake at night dreaming up other possible conflicts for the characters I was reading about. Eventually, characters that I hadn’t read about worked their way into my head and I began creating their stories. When I couldn’t let go of a story, I started writing. It was either that or never sleep again.

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•Sometimes I’ll ask a guest a question and am blown away by an insightful answer. Such was the case when I asked in my preliminary questionnaire if you had any writing experience. Would you please share what you told me?

My first instinct was to tell you that I have absolutely none, but that’s not true, really. Anyone who has lived and worked has experience writing. But most of my experience comes from business writing, letters to the IRS, journaling, etc. Although I have no formal education as a writer, I discovered that I’m in love with the novel writing process. Writing a novel is like working a giant jigsaw puzzle. At first, I’m overwhelmed with the mass of pieces—characters, plots, subplots, conflicts, resolutions, love, sorrow, climax. But I organize, categorize and arrange each of those pieces until an entire picture emerges.

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•How true. Many of us are writers without even realizing it. Sure, our day-to-day efforts may be email messages, thank you notes, or papers for a class, but that’s writing. I like that you journal. What has the experience taught you about yourself and your creative process?

I journal to study scripture a lot of times, but I also journal to record the everyday things in life that make me smile, cry, and laugh. My journal records my prayers, when my children hit milestones, and the exact day I decided to write a novel. Journaling allows me the freedom to write freely without worrying if I used too many adverbs or even if I formed a complete sentence.

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•I read on your blog that, like many writers, your first story is stored deep in your computer’s memory, not to be seen by anyone in its present state. What did it feel like to pour forth that tale unhindered by the many rules and guidelines you’ve learned since you wrote it? What did you discover about yourself as a novelist while creating that story?

I learned humility. I learned that writing a novel is difficult and time-consuming, but can also be completely exhilarating. I still love my first story, but the writing wasn’t very good and I didn’t follow many of the rules of the craft. In the end, I discovered that I love writing enough to dedicate a great amount of time to learning the rules, networking with other writers and writing a much stronger novel.

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High Points on Heather’s Journey

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•You decided not long ago to seek a critique partner, which you did. How exciting! I realize you’ve not been together long, but what have you seen as the benefits of this partnership so far?

Susan Mills is an amazing writer who has taught me so much about my writing. Other than my husband, she is the only other person who has read my current manuscript. I suspect that all critique partnerships are different. But for me it has been wonderful to have someone who is not afraid to point out that I used the word “really” one million times in three chapters or that a scene was plagued with passive voice. A critique partner can be an important part of the process. It has been for me.

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•You’re currently writing an Inspirational Romantic Suspense, which is a change in sub-genre for you that is working well for you. What led to the switch, and what is it about the new direction that makes it such a good fit for you and your Voice?

Everyone’s heard, “Write what you know.” Well, I write what I love. When I read, I love heart-quickening, edge-of-your-seat suspense, and if romance blooms as someone is running for their life, then I’m turning the pages. So, that’s what I write. I write to escape into the lives of my made-up characters, who want nothing more than to find answers–answers to the mysteries in their lives, answers about love and answers about God.

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Heather’s Perseverance

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•You wrote a blog post about the discipline required to get a book published in which you allude to the fact that slow and steady progress is what most writers need. What steps are you taking as you travel this path to keep you moving forward and to remain motivated as you do so?

In addition to forming a relationship with a critique partner, I’m also developing my skills by reading well-written novels and non-fiction books on the craft of writing. I’m planning to enter my second contest in a couple of months. But mostly, I continue to write. Successful writers reach their goals by practicing. Whether I’m blogging, working on a novel, or writing a letter to the IRS or to my clients, I find that the more I practice the stronger my writing becomes and the closer I get to reaching my goals.

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•You’ve also blogged about the need for balance. Working as a CPA is demanding, especially during tax season. So is mothering young children. And fellow writers know how much time and energy go into crafting a story. How do you fit everything into your schedule and still find time to write after a busy day?

I don’t sleep. Again, I’m kidding a little. I think I sleep more this time of year than I do the other nine months. So much of my brain power is needed during work-hours of tax season that I find it extremely difficult to come home, and after taking care of my family’s needs, work on a novel at night. This time of year I save writing time for the weekend. Instead, I read a lot at night after the children are in bed. I read for pure pleasure.

Did I answer your question? I guess, in short, I don’t really find a good balance while working as a CPA during tax season. I just do what I can and hope it’s enough this time of year. The rest of the year, I give up hours of sleep to make sure I get the writing time in and find balance.

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Heather, the Blogging Pro

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•You have a successful blog with an ever-increasing number of followers. What prompted you to begin blogging?

Blogging has been one of the most important things I’ve done in the past year to help my writing improve. My desire was to practice writing while hopefully offering a small amount of encouragement and inspiration to others. Yet it is the friends I’ve made and the wonderful people who stop by my blog to offer their comments and kind words that have inspired and encouraged me. I’m incredibly thankful for the writers and bloggers I’ve met this year. In the end, if you asked me what my favorite part of the writing journey has been so far, I would answer, “the people.” I’ve developed fantastic relationships with some very talented writers.

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•You do write inspiring and encouraging blog posts. How do you come up with your topics? And what can your followers look forward to on your blog this year?

Thanks, Keli. That’s a tough question for me. At first, I tried very hard to plan my blog posts ahead of time. I know many people who plan and write three to five blog posts on Saturday or Sunday to post for the upcoming week. This is a discipline I have not mastered.

For my blog, I write what is on my heart. If I’m posting on Monday, I usually write it Sunday night. If I’m struggling with one of life’s difficult questions, I write about it. If I’m up to my neck in editing, I write about it. I figure if I have a nagging question, chances are someone reading my blog has either had the same question or has a great answer for me.

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Heather’s Journey Continues

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•You’ve completed one novel, and I understand you’re hard at work on a second. What stage are you at now? Have you reached The End? Are you revising? Will you be entering contests or sending the story out on submission soon?

I’m currently working on an Inspirational Romantic Suspense novel set in Central America. I’m deep in the editing stage and hoping to enter part of the manuscript in a contest very soon.

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Five Things That Inspire Heather

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~ Stories from the Bible. What’s more inspiring than the true stories of the greatest book ever written—great characters, great conflict, and glorious salvation?

~ My family and friends.

~ Reading well-written books, fiction and nonfiction.

~ Reading encouraging and thought-provoking blogs on any subject.

~ Family homemade pizza and game night.

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Five Places Heather Would Like to Visit

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~ Sicily, Italy – My husband’s grandfather came over on a boat from Palermo.

~ Haiti – I’m scheduled to do a mission trip Summer 2011.

~ Africa – would love to do a mission trip in Africa.

~ New York, New York because I’ve never been.

~ Anywhere tropical with great scuba diving (Cozumel, Cayman Islands, Fiji)

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Heather’s Question for You

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•I’ve enjoyed having you as my guest, Heather. You gave great answers to my questions. Now it’s time to see what your guests have to say, so go for it.

How far into a novel will you go before deciding you don’t like it and you’re moving on? Or do you finish every novel you start?

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Learn More About Heather

Visit her personal blog ~ Balance With Purpose

Follow her on Twitter ~ HeatherSunseri

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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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19 Responses to Meet Novelist Heather Sunseri

  1. Keli Gwyn says:

    Welcome, Heather! It’s great to have you here. I hope we’ve caught you before things get too busy with your tax season duties.

    It’s rare when I don’t finish a book. I try to do my research before buying a title, reading the back cover and perhaps even some reviews, so I generally know what I’m in for before I begin. However, there are those times when I’ll abandon a book. I’ve made that decision when I’ve encountered huge mistakes, because then I lost trust in the author. If the writing is really poor and the story lackluster, I may stop reading as well.

  2. laura frantz says:

    Hi Heather (and Keli), Wonderful interview once again! You have such a full, interesting life. It’s always great to meet a fellow Kentuckian:) Though I currently live out of state, I return home as often as I can (Lexington and Berea). And I highly reccomend the KY book fair in Frankfort!
    I really relate to what you said about novel writing being like a puzzle. So true! Many times I don’t have all the pieces but forge ahead and then watch new pieces fall into place, etc.
    Love your final question for us. For me, it’s easy to set down a book when it seems silly – the heroine and plot are too light and cliche’ or there is little or no romantic tension. I’m always sad when this happens as I so love to read and want to conncect with every book.
    I wish you many wonderful hours of writing and reading, Heather. Hats off to KY!

  3. sherrinda says:

    You are one busy lady, Heather! I love that you are spending your nights reading for pleasure. I still do that every night before I go to bed. I do find that I read with a more critical eye, but love it when I lose myself in the story. Are you able to read without critiquing? ;)

    I’ve only started one book so far. Annndd, I finished it! :) I can’t imagine starting one and then not finishing. All that work!!! It would be hard to abandon a story, but who knows…it could happen!

    Great interview, Heather! I loved learning more about you.

  4. Heather, it was so great to learn more about you! I really enjoyed the list of places you’d like to visit and this it’s wonderful you get to go on a mission trip to Haiti. I know you’ll be such a blessing there and I’m sure you’ll find the trip a blessing to you as well.

    I’ve started a few books I haven’t finished–and those were ones I started before I became a Christian. After that point, my writing went in a different direction, although one of those unfinished novels became an inspirational novel and I did end up finishing it.

    All the best with the contest you’re planning on entering–and yay for critique partners! :D

  5. Keli Gwyn says:

    Heather, in reading others’ comments, I realize your question to your visitors can be taken two ways: as a reader and as a writer. I answered earlier as a reader.

    As a writer, I started one book I have yet to finish. I wrote five inspirational historicals during my first two years as a romance writer. During the third year, I wrote 50K of that series-length contemporary. I stopped when I realized my Voice didn’t lend itself to modern stories. I returned to my historicals the following year, rewriting over 70K of one, which was nearly three-quarters of it. In the process, I rediscovered the joy of writing and ended up with a story that has done well for me so far. Although I still have that contemporary, I don’t know if I will ever complete it. I don’t feel the experience was wasted though. I learned a great deal about myself, and I got even more practice writing.

  6. Oh, my, Keli. Thank you for having me today! This has been an amazing experience. Erica Vetsch asked her readers the other day when they first felt like a writer. I want to say one of the things that will always stick out to me was the day I was asked for the first time if I was interested in an interview. That interview is today. So, thank you.

    Hi, Laura, from Kentucky. I will definitely try out the Frankfort Book Fair. I’ve never been to that.

    Hi, Sherrinda. Yeah, I completely agree that it would be terribly difficult to abandon a story we’ve poured our heart into writing. I haven’t done that YET, but I came very, very close once. I’m really glad I didn’t though. I love it now (after much reworking.)

    Hey, Cindy. Thanks for your sweet comment. Yeah, Haiti will be incredible. Mission trips are an amazing way to grow in faith. You see things you never thought possible. I think wordpress would blow up if I explained further.

    You’re right, Keli. My question could be taken either way. Thanks for answering it both ways. I actually meant when “reading” books, but I love what you guys are sharing about how to abandon a book you’re writing. That would be terribly difficult and courageous. And stressful, I think.

  7. Phenomenal interview! And such great answers, too. Thanks to you both!

  8. This is a great interview. I learned many things about you that I didn’t already know. And thank you for mentioning me. I feel the same way about our crit relationship. You have been such a blessing to me in my writing journey. As a reader, I almost always finish a book no matter what. There has only been one time that I remember that I didn’t. As a writer, I’ve started several projects that I’ve never finished, but I intend to go back and work on them at some point.

  9. Really, Susan? You finish every book you read? I do not. If it doesn’t pull me in, I’m out.

  10. Quilt Lady says:

    Great interview! I finish most novals I start but I can think of one that I just couldn’t! If I am half way through and still no into the story I will give up on it.

  11. Erica Vetsch says:

    What a fun interview!

    I used to feel compelled to finish every novel I started, but these days, I’ve realized that life is too short, there are too many books clamoring for my attention.

    I give a novel about twenty pages, and if it hasn’t grabbed me by then, I set it aside.

  12. Jill Kemerer says:

    Great interview! I’m such a fan of Heather’s blog.

    Heather, I’m so impressed that on top of your busy schedule, which your family clearly fits at the top, you’ve scheduled a mission trip. Am looking forward to hearing about it next year.

    I used to finish every book I picked up, but I’m busier now. I usually give it five or six chapters.

    Thanks for sharing your life with us, and Keli, thanks for another great interview! How do you do it??

  13. territiffany says:

    I’m really glad I found out you were doing this today:) I love reading and finding out more about my blogger friends.
    You are really one busy person and put me to shame!
    I have only not finished one novel but hope to get back to it after this one is done.

  14. I enjoyed learning more about you and your journey toward publication. You live on a very tight schedule!

    I’ve abandoned two projects that I can recall. One was a book inspired by the Bobbsey Twins when I was 10. The other was a romance novel. I realize now the latter effort fell apart because I didn’t have a clear ending in mind.

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

  15. christicorbett says:

    Heather,
    This was a great interview. As for your question, as a reader I try to always finish a book once I start. I guess I just feel that someone put forth such work and effort into it, the least I can do is finish.

    Heading over to your website now.

    Christi

  16. What a great interview, Keli and Heather! Love getting to know you more, Heather. :)

  17. What a wonderful interview! Heather is indeed awesome, as is her critiquing partner, Susan Mills. I can’t wait to read your romance set in Central America, and I hope you get to visit Sicily soon.

  18. Thank you to everyone who stopped by and for the kind words. This has been so fun and I’ve loved everyone’s comments about whether they can always finish a book they’ve started.

    Thanks, Keli! You are an amazing encouragement to all romance writers on the journey. Thank you for having me as your guest.

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