Monday, April 24, 2006

Interview with Susan Meissner

Captain’s Log, Stardate 04.24.2006

Today it’s my pleasure to post an interview with Susan Meissner, who won the Mount Hermon Writer of the Year award! Susan’s a total sweetie—I got to meet her for the first time at the Mount Hermon conference two weeks ago.

Susan's latest books are THE REMEDY FOR REGRET and A WINDOW TO THE WORLD.

And now, here’s the fabulous Susan Meissner!

Congratulations on winning the Mount Hermon Writer of the Year award! Woot!woot! Did you at least get a few days' reprieve from cleaning toilets when you got home?

Actually, my husband has taken upon himself the lowly act of toilet cleaning. Honestly, he's the one who does it. He has for years. I think it's because I have always had to be the one to take care of those things that should have found their way to a toilet and didn't. And that's all I've got to say about that. I came home to four men (three sons and a husband) who had managed pretty well without me, but were only too happy to relinquish control of the kitchen and laundry room. Ah, it's good to be missed. . .

Did you have a celebration? Were your family and friends impressed?

Okay, here's the thing. To my wonderful, but non-writing boys, Mount Hermon is something that sounds like Mount Herman. Like a campground named for someone's favorite uncle. They were happy for me, but kind of didn't know what it meant to have a mother who is Uncle Herman's Writer of the Year. Friends at church were definitely more expressive with their congratulatory remarks, as was my daughter, a writing major. My loving husband just said, "Well, of course you are."

And if they weren't, where did you bury the bodies?

The unimpressed were given one-way tickets to the best hospital in Milpitas. (That's a Mount Hermon joke. It's funny. You can laugh.)

Boast about how this award will propel your books to instant best-seller numbers. Or if you're insistent about remaining in reality, how does this award make you feel about your writing career?

Yes, I very much like to be insistent if given the chance. As weird as it may sound, wininng a writing award makes me feel awkwardly blessed. I mean, I am thrilled to have it, but am not entirely sure I deserve it. And I'm not trying to sound like Miss Congeniality. Plus, rather than feeling like I have arrived at some special place as a writer, it feels instead like the bar has been raised several notches, such that there will be no resting on any laurels. And I think that's probably a good thing. I don't want to rest on laurels. That doesn't sound like much fun. Nor do I think I will produce anything worth reading while lazing around on leafy greens. Know what I mean?

Who did you bribe--er, I mean, what advice do you have for a writer who'd like to win the Writer of the Year award? (Besides attending Mount Hermon conference, of course)

I honestly think winning a writing award — whether it's the Mount Hermon Writer of the Year or any other award — is no different than winning a book contract. Both seem to happen while you are simply writing your absolute best under the uncontrollable umbrella of perfect timing. You can't plan to win an award or even to get a book contract. You can't control those things. You can control how well you write and how much you discipline yourself to be the best writer you can be. The other half of it is perfect timing, which lies outside your realm of control. The maxim, "Do your best and leave the rest to God," is pretty good advice. If you truly want to win the Writer of the Year award at Mount Hermon, yes, you must attend the conference.. But my advice is not to set your sights on this award or any other. I will only be Mount Hermon's Writer of the Year for three-hundred some days. A year from now, the lofty title will be someone else's to wear. I have to write for more reasons than fleeting glory. That may sound trite, but it's true, I think.

Who were your heroes growing up?

My parents and grandparents filled my world with wonder, delight and a love for books. There were a few seasons in my life when I was led away to idolize heartthrobs like Donny Osmond and Bobby Sherman, but I always came back to the people who truly mattered to me.

Do you have a favorite scripture verse for your writing?

Colossians 4:6 says,"Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond . . ." That really resonates with me because writing is speech on paper. And to endeavor to write with grace — in a way that is pleasurable, tasteful and flavorable — seems a pretty good goal to have as a writer.

Finish this sentence: Writing a novel is...

therapy for the mind, exercise for the soul, a tonic to the heart, and the absolute best way to spend a lonely day in front of a messy desk.

You have a mystery novel coming out in October. Tell us about it. Is this different from your other women's fiction titles?

The new series will feature a lawyer named Rachael Flynn who is married to an artist and who uses her husband's and his artist friends' talents to help her visualize the crime — by sketching it — and thus solve the case. The first installment is called "Widows and Orphans." Rachael is very much like some of my other female protagonists, so for me, the tone of this series will not seem like a departure. The mystery thread will be new, but the characterizations and plot development will hopefully seem familiar to my current readers. What I like about this series is I get to finish every story such that each book can stand alone. No one will be obligated to read the first book first. I was a big fan of Agatha Christie when I was a teenager. I'm looking forward to giving mystery-writing a whirl!

Thanks for the interview! Any parting words? (Last chance to take a crack at Camy)

I have a stand-alone book coming out in July 2006 (yeah, 2006 has been a busy year) and the cover has just been unveiled on Harvest House Publishers' website. The book is called "A Seahorse in the Thames" and the cover is absolutely lovely. This story is not really about a seahorse or London's famous river, but it is about finding beauty in unexpected places, which is what really happened in the summer of 2004 to a London fisherman. He found a seahorse in the Thames and it made national news since one hadn't been seen there in nearly 30 years. That tells me that sometimes lovely things are just waiting to be found, but you have to bend down close and look. Check it out come July and let me know if you agree!

Thanks for the air time, Camy. It's been a blast. I don't even know what wasabi is, but it sounds tres chic. You go, girl.

Camy here: Yes, I’m always tres chic. [Camy preens] Thanks, Susan!

From now on, I am going to call this my TMI section, because I only know a handful of people who might actually care about this stuff in my life, and the TMI will serve as a warning to everyone that the following is probably only marginally entertaining.

Bible in 90 Days: DID I MENTION I FINISHED MY BIBLE IN 90 DAYS???? WOOHOO! Seriously, God blessed me abundantly with this Bible-reading challenge. Reading X number of pages a day really wasn’t that hard (on my NLT Life Application Bible, it was 25 pages a day, but half of each page is taken up with study notes). God opened my eyes to things I’d never seen before. I would love to do something like this once a year, or once every two years.

Writing: Working hard at it! And still, not as hard as I want to. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak . . .

Diet: (Warning: today is a TMI day) I am eating lots of veggies (good Camy) but still eating too many calories a day (bad Camy) and not exercising every day (bad, bad Camy). I did okay for lunch today—two mini steak tacos (400?)—and I had a small snack of veggie chips (150), but then it got closer to dinnertime and I lost it. A bowl of popcorn (300) and some peanuts (300?). I have no self-control. I had lots of veggies for dinner (Hawaiian style meatballs! Low fat and good for you), but it was still about 500 calories. If I had exercised, it would have been a good day, but I sat on my fat butt all day writing and doing email. Maybe I’ll go on the exercise bike later.