Susanne Dietze writes inspirational historical romance and is quite good at it, as her contest finals testify. She lives on the West Coast with her golf-loving pastor husband and two kids, who could win significant money if there was a Star Wars themed episode of Jeopardy. Before motherhood, Susie worked for a seminary, the US Navy, and for a bishop. She has a BA in English
Susie loves “fancy-schmancy tea parties and all the goodies and china that go with them.” To indulge her habit, she collects new and vintage teacups and sighs longingly over Tea Time magazine. Some of her favorite finds are featured throughout the post.
When Susie’s not writing, she enjoys travel and is digging into her genealogy. She learned that she’s related to Huguenots, a blind axe-thrower who could hit a target at ten paces, and brothers who fought on opposing sides of the Civil War. Despite her fondness for Ugg boots, fish tacos, and Christian rock concerts, she spends most of her time in the 19th century, escaping into historical novels and film adaptations of Jane Austen books.
I invited Susie to share a virtual treat with you, and here’s what she said . . .
Whether I’m with friends or alone with a book, I love nothing better than to sit down with a steaming pot of tea. A cream tea is even better, so why don’t we enjoy my favorite blend of tea, nutty Buccaneer, with some scones, strawberry jam, and Devonshire cream? There are no calories in this cyber-cream!
Susie’s Journey Begins
•With your penchant for words and the fact that you have a degree in English, I’m guessing you’re one of those people who was born with a pen in her hand. Am I right?
As the boxes of embarrassing juvenilia in my garage can attest, I’ve always dreamed of writing a book. I wrote a traditional Regency over ten years ago with the intent to pursue publication, but ultimately I decided to put off writing seriously until I was finished having babies.
In early 2008, I’d completed a few chapters of an inspirational Regency. I wondered if it had any potential, so I entered it into the Romance Writers of America® Faith Hope & Love Chapter’s Touched by Love Contest, and to my absolute astonishment, it finaled! Since then, I’ve been working on the craft so someday, my lifelong dream of publication will come true.
•Your stories are historicals, but the periods and settings vary. Please tell us about your two areas of interest and what led you to write in each of them.
I love Historical Romance in just about every setting, but my own writing is limited to Regency England and Historical California. I think these eras appeal to the flip sides of my personality. Regency England was a time of regimented social expectations and rules, and I’m intrigued by that sense of structure and how people worked within it. I’m also taken by the converse idea of breaking free from the past and forging new paths. Even though California was settled by several groups before the Gold Rush, the state’s heritage as a land of hope and opportunity—and lawlessness that sometimes rivaled Tombstone—can’t be denied. So I guess you could say I’m a little bit Anglophile and a little bit calico.
Susie’s Squee-worthy Successes
•You obviously have oodles of talent because your story has made an impressive showing on the Contest Circuit. What is its track record so far? Any requests? Nibbles?
Oh, thanks, Keli. I’ve been blessed to final in some fantastic contests: the 2010 Genesis and the 2009 Gotcha! in addition to the 2008 Touched by Love mentioned above. These experiences have allowed me to receive valuable feedback from dedicated judges and to get my work in front of some wonderful editors (with whom I’d love to work!). I’m so grateful for the opportunities my contest finals have provided.
•Wow! An American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis final is impressive. Please tell us about that experience, what it meant to you, and how you reacted when you heard the exciting news that you were a finalist?
I’d entered the Genesis in the hopes of receiving feedback. I wanted to know what strangers thought of my work and what areas I could improve. I never expected to final, and I mean never.
I was outside, hanging up laundry, when the call came. I entered the house and heard the enthusiastic voice of the coordinator leaving a message on the answering machine. I picked up the phone, blurted out something probably incomprehensible, and burst into tears. But that’s better than what I did to the Gotcha! coordinator who phoned to tell me about my final. Which was to blink repeatedly and say absolutely nothing for way, way too long.
•Contest finals are way cool. Congrats on yours! But you’ve experienced an even greater thrill: seeing your name in print. Please tell us about your published piece and how it felt when you saw your story and byline.
Thanks so much, Keli! This past year, one of my devotionals was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Mothers. I am so thankful for the writing credit and the check, which I kissed goodbye and sent on to the orthodontist.
Susie’s Challenges and Solutions
•As a busy mother of young children who require much of your attention, I can’t help but wonder how you find time to write. How do you juggle the needs of your family with your writing and other pursuits?
Like just about every other writer, I struggle with balance. I’m married to a pastor and the mom of school-age kids, so we keep very busy around here. There was a period where I felt overwhelmed and I made a grave error: I wrote at the expense of other activities, like exercise and prayer.
It’s taken a lot of trial and error, but I’ve found that what works for me is to consciously take care of necessities first (family, meal planning, exercise, prayer, etc) and write after that. I also don’t write in the evenings, which is family time. It also means I have to carefully schedule my writing, but it’s worked well.
•Let’s take a journey into the future. The phone rings. It’s your agent telling you about your First Sale to your dream publishing company. Who would be on the phone? Which house would be offering the contract? Which of your stories would they be buying?
Oh my, I’d feel privileged to have a relationship with a number of wonderful agents and publishing houses. I hope that whoever’s on the phone would be interested in my most recent book, since my first one should probably remain buried forever in the Crypt of Mistake-Laden Manuscripts.
•When you envision your debut novel, what do you want to see on the front—after your name, of course? And where will it be on the shelves?
I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I am a sucker for rich patterns, flowers, and period costumes. One of my pet peeves is incorrect costuming on a cover. I’m not nitpicky about minutia, but when I see a book where the heroine is wearing an empire-waist gown, I expect a Regency—not a Victorian. As for where my books would be found, they’d sit on the inspirational shelves alongside some of my favorite authors!
Partners on Susie’s Journey
•Who are some of the people who’ve been behind you with that much-needed support we writers so appreciate? What blessings have they bestowed on you?
I wouldn’t be anywhere without the help I’ve received from fellow writers. I can’t believe how gracious so many people have been with me, from contest judges to folks on the ACFW loop to established authors who’ve shared their expertise with me.
But the greatest help I’ve received has come from my supportive husband, kids, parents and friends. I also owe a debt to my critique partner, Ruth Reid, and my fellow contributors at the Inkwell Inspirations blog. What a group of women. We’re at different places in our careers and we write all sorts of fiction, but these ladies have taught me, supported me, and prayed for me. I feel very blessed to know these women.
Susie’s Journey Continues
•What are you working on at this point? Are any new characters begging you to tell their stories?
I have a few new projects brewing. A hero’s been whispering in my ear for a while now, so I’m determined to get his story down.
Five Fun Questions for Susie
•Since your interview is appearing on Valentine’s Day, what would you like to tell us about your personal hero?
My personal hero is definitely my handsome husband. He’s hilarious, righteous, and the best man I’ve ever met. And he does dishes. If that weren’t enough, he supports my writing and listens to me babble on about my imaginary character friends. I’m very proud to be married to him.
•How did you and your hubby meet?
We met in college, at an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship ice cream social, when we were both eighteen. We didn’t have much interaction, however, until our roommates dated. When they married a few years later, my husband and I were the best man and maid of honor at their wedding. That night he took me out to pie (mine was berry. And I wore groovy green jeans.).
•Was your wedding a day when things went perfectly, or did you encounter some surprises?
My husband’s counsel to the couples he marries is that something will go wrong on your wedding day. For us, there were flower issues; my matron of honor’s baby fell and cut his head during pre-ceremony pictures—the poor little guy was ok, but we were shaken up and there was blood all over her dress; I stupidly didn’t go to the bathroom before I donned my giant white gown; and something happened to the communion wine, so my husband had to hunt some down before the ceremony. A twenty-two year old guy buying cheap port at 8 AM didn’t look at all suspicious…
•What says romance to you? Dinner out? Jewelry? A freshly washed car?
I love dinner-movie dates. Escaping into a movie and then enjoying relaxed conversation in a restaurant that doesn’t offer crayons or chicken nuggets—what bliss!
•When your friends find out you write romance, are they surprised?
If someone has known me a long time, they aren’t surprised. I’ve always had my nose in a love story, and during high school, I’d write my friends into silly romances where the boys we liked were arrogant lords or hunchbacked smugglers. I still tend to make up goofy stories about people. I just can’t help myself.
Susie’s Question for You
For tonight’s Valentine’s Day dinner, I’ll be sitting down to a heart-shaped pizza with my family. What sort of plans do you have? What was your best Valentine’s Day memory?
Susie has generously offered to give away a $15 Starbucks card, so you and a friend can enjoy your favorite tea or coffee drink and a bakery treat!
To enter the drawing, just leave a comment for Susie by midnight February 20th (Pacific time) and enter your email address when prompted during the comment process. (You don’t have to leave it in the body of your comment this way.)
On February 21st, I will hold the drawing and post the winner’s name here as well and will contact her/him via email to get a mailing address. (I don’t share your information with anyone, other than sending your mailing address to my guest, and I don’t add your name to any mailing lists.)
Congratulations to Mary C., winner of the Starbucks gift card.
Note: Offer void where prohibited.
Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.
Learn More About Susie & Enter a Second Drawing
Visit her personal blog, Tea and a Good Book, where on Valentine’s Day she’s offering a giveaway in honor of her visit to Romance Writers On the Journey: the January/February issue of Tea Time magazine.
Visit her group blog ~ Inkwell Inspirations
Friend Her on Facebook ~ Susie Dietze