Susan Seyfarth, who writes as Susan Sey, lives and writes in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she has two charming children, a lovely husband and an accidental prairie in her front yard. A three-time Golden Heart® finalist, she’s dreamed of one day seeing her name on the cover of a book. Her neighbors dream of one day seeing her mow her lawn. She loves her family, ice cream and happy endings, in that order.
Susan’s dream has come true. Her agent, Susannah Taylor, sold Susan’s Golden Heart winning entry, Money, Honey, in August. I won’t tell you anymore but invite you to read her interview and hear about her amazing journey to publication. Don’t miss the part where she mentions how many rejections she received during her five year trek. She’s a model of perseverance from whom we can all learn.
I met Susan online through our 2008 GH Yahoo! group and discovered right away what a sweetie she is. She pops onto the loop with congrats for others sharing their good news and doing happy dances for them, which you’ll see in her interview is a specialty of hers, btw.
And I’ll never forget the subject line the day Susan told us about her sale. Three of the 6-in-2 Pixies were on the loop posting their exciting news in a one-hour period. We’d had sale twins for almost an hour, and then Susan let us know she’d turned the duo into a trio. Yes, we had ourselves a set of first-sale triplets!
•In March 2006 you got a call from Romance Writers of America® that must have set your heart beating double time. You were a Golden Heart finalist. For some that’s a once in a lifetime experience never to be topped. But top it you did.
In March 2008 you got another call from RWA telling you that you’d not only finaled again. You’d double finaled, earning a place in The Golden Network’s Hall of Gold for those will three or more finals. What was it like to receive the call and hear that incredible word “and”? Were you just as excited as the first time or even more so?
Excited? Ha! Excited is barely in the same universe with what I felt when my phone rang that morning. I’d entered two books in the 2008 Golden Heart—The Princess Project (which had done pretty well on the contest circuit) and Money, Honey (which had decidedly not). So, I sort of assumed I knew which book had finaled when RWA called.
Imagine my surprise when I was (finally) made to understand that Money, Honey—the book I adore and contest judges the world over hate—had made the cut! After “hello,” I doubt I said another coherent word aside from “seriously?” The poor woman who called probably had to lie down with a cool cloth on her forehead afterwards.
When I pulled myself together enough to thank her for the awesome news, she said, “You’re welcome. And now I can either hang up and call you right back, or I can just tell you now that The Princess Project also finaled!”
And behold the water works. I’m not usually a crier—I’m way too Minnesotan for that kind of public display of emotion—but I had written into the void for nearly two years without much in the way of positive feedback, and to get that kind of validation all at once? Well, it kind of short circuited my self-control. I cried without mercy, thanked her profusely, cried some more, thanked her again, and then hung up and called my husband and repeated the above scene, only with somebody who can actually understand me when I’m weeping. Most satisfying.
•You headed to RWA Nationals in San Francisco, picked up your registration packet and hung two Golden Heart finalist ribbons from your nametag, one of only seven finalists to do so. Did sporting those two ribbons make a difference during the conference? Were agents and editors more eager to talk with you because you’d double finaled, or was the experience about the same as when you’d worn one ribbon in Atlanta?
It was so much fun to wear those finalist ribbons in San Fran! And the best part was that I’d signed with my agent, the fabulous Susannah Taylor, a few months earlier, so I was under no pressure to pitch. Which is awesome because my hatred of pitching is exceeded only by my ineptitude as a pitcher. So, I was able to leave the pitching up to my agent and just relax and enjoy the conference.
•On the evening of August 2nd, after a great conference experience, we Pixies ditched our nametags, donned our finery and waltzed into the Marriott’s Yerba Buena Ballroom to the Awards Ceremony reserved seating. You sat there as the winners of the first three GH categories were announced. And then it was time for Single Title Contemporary. The presenter opened the envelope and read your name and the title of your winning entry, Money, Honey. What were you thinking as your journey to the stage was broadcast on four ginormous screens? How long was it before your feet touched the ground after the ceremony?
You know, right up until they called my name, I was a pretty cool customer. I mean, I’d been there before, right? Sitting in the front row with the cool kids, getting my picture flashed up on the screen like at the Academy Awards? That’s good stuff. And then they call somebody else’s name and some other poor schmoe has to teeter up there on her perilously high heels and make a coherent speech while I clap and thank god it wasn’t me.
Only this time it was. My CP and fellow Bandita Kirsten Scott finally had to shoo me to the stage where I believe (hope) I accepted my necklace and spoke without cursing or taking the Lord’s name in vain, two things I generally do when surprised.
So, some advice from somebody who’s been there? If you ever find yourself in the running for a Golden Heart or a RITA write a darn speech. You’ll be glad you did. So will the audience who stopped thinking incoherence was cute two hours before.
•You’d hardly had time to soak in the high of being a Golden Heart winner when you got another call, this one being The Call. You’d sold your GH winning manuscript. As my blog readers know by now, I’m captivated by call stories. Would you share yours? The details, please, but don’t forget the emotion. I’m all about feelings, especially good ones.
So, okay, I’m home from the conference. My husband’s family is in town, and I’m running what we like to call Cousin Camp. This is where my husband’s brother and his wife get away for a few days and leave their two girls with us. This gives me a grand total of four girls in the house between the ages of ten and two. My wonderful mother-in-law comes up from Omaha during this time to be my first mate, and we run a pretty tight ship.
We’ve had the girls in the wading pool all afternoon, and we’re about twenty minutes from loading up the van for Vacation Bible School. It’s total naked mayhem in my living room—kids half out of their swim suits, underpants have gone missing, everybody’s hungry and dirty and cranky—and then the phone rings. It’s Susannah Taylor, my agent, who informs me that Allison Brandau of Berkley Books has just made an offer on my GH winner, Money, Honey.
I toss the naked child in my arms toward my baffled mother-in-law and walk out of the room saying, “Sorry, what?” even though I can hear Susannah perfectly well. I just don’t believe her. My agent finally convinces me the offer is legitimate, and I okay her negotiation strategy, after which I walk back into my living room. (Did I mention the total naked mayhem? Still going on.) Only now my brother-in-law and sister-in-law have arrived to pick up their children.
I announce to them, my mother-in-law and the naked children now spinning in crazy circles and collapsing on the rug that I am—after five years of writing, after five years of squeezing it in while the kids sleep and the dishes grow mold in the sink, after five years of telling my husband I’ll be to bed in just another minute—I am now the proud owner of a two-book deal with the same people who publish Tom Clancy and Nora Roberts.
The mayhem in the living room hits a new high. I then call my husband who, in response to the astonishing news that I sold a book—two books!—says, “Well, yeah. Of course you did. I told you this would happen, didn’t I?” And you know what? He did. Since the very beginning, he believed without question this would happen. So, I say the only thing I can. I say, “Thanks, honey. You’re taking me out to dinner.” And he says, again, “Well, yeah.”
I do love that man.
•After five years of writing, submitting and waiting, you deserved to celebrate the news of your contract offer. I know your family’s proud of you. Your father-in-law even shared the news in his employer’s newsletter. It must be wonderful to have such support. Of all those who were there for you as you kept at your writing, who stands out the most and why? Who was the best at keeping your spirits up when discouragement and doubts reared their ugly heads?
I’ve been remarkably blessed with supportive people in my life. My husband (and both of our families, his and mine) have always harbored this incredible and humbling faith in me, and my selling didn’t surprise them one little bit. (It surprised the heck out of me, though, as I might have mentioned.) I have a wonderful CP, Kirsten Scott, and we take turns pulling each other out of the Pit of Despair. I would never have made it this far on the journey without her.
But the sad fact is, we writers are a twitchy, independent lot. Nobody keeps us on the path without our permission. I wrote for five years with very little in the way of industry encouragement. I racked up hundreds (yes, hundreds with an “s,” as in multiple hundreds) of rejection letters. I had contest results that put me on my knees.
I don’t write because I enjoy the adulation (ha!) or because it’s raking in the bucks for my family (HA!). I write because I need to. I write because I love to. The rest is just icing.
•I can’t imagine having written in the days when my daughter was a preschooler and the time between interruptions . . . er . . . opportunities to enjoy my maternal calling was measured in milliseconds, but you’ve produced award-winning manuscripts while mothering two adorable little girls. What’s your secret for staying focused when you put fingers to keyboard? Are you able to shut out the noise around you, or are you just an incredible multi-tasker who can keep several plates spinning?
Believe me, not a day goes by that I don’t wish Mary Poppins lived here. Lord knows we could use some organizational magic, plus a little song and dance every now and then to keep things cheerful. But in the meantime, I do my best and dole out the spoonfuls of sugar with a generous hand. Mostly to myself, but the kids get some, too.
I’m actually in a great place right now, schedule-wise. My oldest just started PM kindy, and my youngest still naps for an hour or two every afternoon, so there’s this golden Window of Opportunity in the early afternoon every day where #1 is at school and #2 is sleeping. The instant this magical circumstance manifests itself, I buckle down to the keyboard and write like a mad woman until either #2 wakes up or the bus drops #1 off at the door.
And I’m crazy disciplined about not reading my email or playing on the Internet until I hit my page quota for the day. (I’m on a strict 5 page a day, 5 days a week schedule.) So, if you’ve sent me an email recently, I’m sorry I haven’t responded. I’m sure I’ll get to it … eventually. If you really need something, call. But if the phone rings between 1:30 and 3:00 p.m., you’ll have to leave a message. Again, sorry.
•Mothering two little girls and producing four manuscripts in five years is an amazing and admirable feat, but I wonder what you do just for fun—besides sleep that is. What are your hobbies? Or are you thinking, “Hobbies? She’s got to be kidding.”
For a really long time, writing was my hobby. Between nursing and cooking and changing diapers and doing laundry and picking up toys, it was all I could do to carve out the time to put a few words on the page each day.
But now that my youngest is old enough to no longer require immediate and constant access to my person, I’ve been taking Irish dancing lessons again. My family is Irish and it’s something I’ve always wanted to try. But every time I signed up for lessons as an adult, I’d immediately get pregnant which makes things (like balance and bouncing and bladder control) difficult.
So far so good this time on the pregnancy front, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed. And the dancing is coming along. I’m not as flexible as I used to be, but taking an hour or two for myself on a Sunday afternoon? Totally worth the muscle strain.
•And now a question just for fun. If a generous benefactor who wanted to support your writing and reduce your stress level offered to finance a weeklong shopping spree in New York City, arrange for a weekend getaway for your hubby and you to a location of your choosing, or provide a top notch nanny for a month, which would you choose and why?
The weekend with my husband, hands down. I’m not much of a shopper and a month is too long to let somebody else mother my kids, but a weekend of sun and sand and drinks that come in coconuts with nothing to do but enjoy myself and the man I married? Hallelujah, and pass the sunscreen.
It’s been great having you as my guest, Susan. And now, in closing, is there a final comment you’d like to make or a question you’d like to ask your visitors?
Selling a book has been one of those oddball, dream-come-true sort of things for me. An improbable wish that my heart just wouldn’t stop making but that I never really expected to amount to anything. And your taking the time to listen to my story is a wonderful gift, one I’d like to return.
So, tell me—what’s the most improbable, long shot dream you ever cherished in your most secret heart? Did it come true?
Leave a Comment for Susan
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All those who leave a comment for Susan between now and October 31 will be entered in a drawing for one of three cool Pixie totes featuring Tink, the most famous Pixie of all Pixie’s.
Here’s how the drawing works. Between now and the end of October, I’ll be featuring interviews with six of my fellow Golden Heart finalists. After flinging truckloads of cyber Pixie dust for one another’s sales, submissions, revisions and the like, we dubbed ourselves the Pixie Chicks.
In honor of the fact that it’s Pixie Central here at Romance Writers on the Journey the rest of the month, I found Pixie prizes. These are the best prizes I’ve ever featured on the blog, imho. They are sturdy canvas bags about sixteen inches square, exclusive of the handles.
Congratulations to the winners of the Pixie totes: AJ, Darcy Burke and Sue Mason.
Learn More about Susan
Visit her MySpace page.
Visit her group blog, the Romance Bandits.
Visit her personal blog, Susan Seyfarth: Love & Letters.