posted on May 1, 2014 by Susan Wiggs

Fiction on Ice

theappleorchardIn THE APPLE ORCHARD, Tess, an art provenance expert, keeps her handwritten notes in the freezer. Our dashing hero, Dominic, discovers this habit of hers (along with her other less-than-attractive habits, such as drying her undies by draping them over lampshades, and subsisting on Red Bull and microwave burritos, when he visits her apartment.

I refuse to claim ownership of the undie-drying trick, but I admit to keeping my work-in-progress in the freezer.

It’s a well-known fact (around my house, anyway) that I write the first draft of a book in longhand. This is a habit I started since before I even knew how to read or write. At age 2-1/2, I used to scribble on paper and tell my mother, “Now, write this down.” And bless her, she did. All my stories were about a girl who was chased up a tree with Bad Things after her. To this day, that’s pretty much what all my books are about.

susanwiggsdrawingAs a teenager, I lived in Brussels and then Paris…I used to carry around notebooks (cahiers) filled with terrible angsty poetry and pictures of Jackson Browne pasted within the pages. Later, when I started writing novels (grad school; not that it had anything to do with my master’s program), I was so broke that I had to use half empty cahiers left over from high school. Since I hated (still hate) to type, I only wanted to type up each page once, so I would get the story down by hand and then transcribe. These days, I use Dragon Naturally Speaking and read the text into the computer. Ann Tyler once said writing by hand is like knitting a book. Its crafty! And you don’t save the wrong version or lose text (unless there’s a house fire). So the habit has stuck with me. Maybe I was Amish in a past life, I dunno.

Why keep it in the freezer? Well, until I type it up, there’s only one copy in existence. To a writer, losing a large chunk of her book is comparable to losing a limb. You can never get it back! So if there is a fire or some other disaster, I figure the freezer is likely to be the last place to be destroyed. I suppose I could use a fireproof safe, and I even have one, but who has time to find the bloody thing, remember the combination, and stuff the pages in there? The freezer is always there, filled with aforementioned microwave burritos (aka the Deadline Diet).

THE APPLE ORCHARD is my umpteenth book. I’ve stopped counting. I have been a published author since 1987 and I write a lot. In that time, the essence of publishing hasn’t changed. Since the days of the cave man carving stuff on the cave walls, people have wanted stories, and storytellers have wanted an audience. That is still the case. The changes are really a matter of format. Publishers consolidate, methods of publishing change, but readers and storytellers are forever. Thank God.

To emerging writers, I still have the same advice: Tell the story that’s in your heart, and don’t hold back. Write a book the reader will want to melt into. And for Gods sake, learn your craft. Do NOT try to publish anything until you have nailed the basics (grammar, spelling, usage, syntax) and the refinements of writing. Readers deserve your very best, always….There are practical techniques a writer can use to keep the pacing of the novel strong, by introducing

unexpected emotions, twists and turns, actions and reactions. You want to leave out the stuff the readers going to skip, anyway.

End of lecture. Please let me know what you think of THE APPLE ORCHARD. Stop by my Facebook page and join the conversation, enter the contest and have a fabulous month of May!

Oh, big PS: THE BEEKEEPER’S BALL is my next hardcover novel, due out on June 24. There’s a special signed edition at B&N offered at a very nice discount.

Susan Wiggs

Susan Wiggs

Using blunt scissors, pages from a Big Chief tablet, a borrowed stapler and a Number Two pencil, Susan Wiggs self-published her first novel at the age of eight. A Book About Some Bad Kids was based on the true-life adventures of Susan and her siblings, and the first printing of one copy was a complete sell-out.

Due to her brother's extreme reaction to that first prodigious effort, Susan went underground with her craft, entertaining her friends and offending her siblings with anonymously-written stories of virtuous sisters and the brothers who torment them. The first romance she ever read was Shanna by the incomparable Kathleen Woodiwiss, which she devoured while slumped behind a college vector analysis textbook. Armed with degrees from SFA and Harvard, and toting a crate of "keeper" books by Woodiwiss, Roberta Gellis, Laurie McBain, Rosemary Rodgers, Jennifer Blake, Bertrice Small and anything with the words "flaming" and "ecstasy" in the title, she became a math teacher, just to prove to the world that she did have a left brain.

Late one night, she finished the book she was reading and was confronted with a reader's worst nightmare--She was wide awake, and there wasn''t a thing in the house she wanted to read. Figuring this was the universe''s way of taking away her excuses, she picked up a Big Chief tablet and a Number Two pencil, and began writing her novel with the working title, A Book About Some Bad Adults. Actually, that was a bad book about some adults, but Susan persevered, learning her craft the way skydiving is learned--by taking a blind leap and hoping the chute will open.

Her first book was published (without the use of blunt scissors and a stapler) by Zebra in 1987, and since then she has been published by Avon, Tor, HarperCollins, Harlequin, Mira and Warner Books. Unable to completely abandon her beloved teaching profession, Susan is a frequent workshop leader and speaker at writers' conferences, including the Romance Writers of America conference, the PNWA and Maui Writers Conference. She won a RITA award in 1994, and her recent novel The Charm School was voted one of RWA's Favorite Books of the Year. She is the proud recipient of several RT awards, the Peninsula RWA's Blue Boa, the Holt Medallion and the Colorado Award of Excellence.

Susan enjoys many hobbies, including sitting in the hot tub while talking to her mother on the phone, kickboxing, cleaning the can opener, sculpting with butter and growing her hair. She lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, Jay, her daughter, Elizabeth, and an Airedale that hasn't been groomed since 1994.

3 thoughts on “Fiction on Ice”

  1. I so enjoyed this post! Than you, Susan. 🙂

    1. Of course, that should be ThanK. 😉

  2. Avatar Marcy Collins says:

    This was a wonderful peek into your life as a writer, and I loved it! I have not read all of your books, but am in the process of catching up on those I’ve missed over the years. Thank you for keeping us entertained!

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