A little while ago I was given the incredible opportunity to interview three amazing authors. This is the second of these two interviews. The first with Ashley Poston and Kristina Perez can be found here. Today I'm bringing you an interview with Susan Dennard bestselling author of The Something Strange and Deadly trilogy and The Witchlands series. I can't explain how much of an honour it was to interview one of my favourite authors. I've loved Sooz's books for years. This was an absolute dream come true.
Firstly, a massive thank you to you for letting me interview you and honestly just fangirl every which way. Shall we get started?
I know you love talking about the writing process, it's one of my favourite things about your newsletter (which you should really sign up to) so with that in mind how do you go about crafting your characters? Is there a method to it?
Sooz: Characters are the most important part. I spend the most time on that because until I have a character's voice I will not put any pen to paper because I know that I'll just throw away the pages. I spend a very long time trying to hear them and what they're really like but I don't know that I have a really consistent process I find every character and every project demands something different from me. The Witchlands, each book follows one character slightly more and is their arc so it's always been whoever the main character has been in that book is the HARDEST to write. Of course. I'm working on Iseult's book right now and man, Iseult as main is so hard for me whereas in the last book she was so easy and I knew exactly what she was doing and what she wanted. It feels like I'm chipping away at her, like a sculpture, and just slowly chipping away until I finally find her and I'm like "OH YES, this is what you're doing and what you feel like...okay now I can write you".
Me: I feel like that's her ARC anyway, her finding herself, especially with her new powers.
Sooz: It's very much what her arc is! Very much
Me: I guess you're kind of living her arc right now.
Sooz: I kind of am. There are lots of things about my process that I can articulate and give very clear steps but that is one of those that is very 'artist woo-woo' all that I feel it in my heart and I know she's ready to go. It's hard to articulate exactly but I know when I hear her voice what the line is.
As we were talking about fandoms before, what fandoms would your characters gravitate towards?
Sooz: That's a big question.
Me: Is there a specific one, that you could place them in. For example, would Iseult be into Star Trek?
Sooz: Gosh that's hard. I feel like Safi wouldn't be into that many fandoms, she'd be the kind of girl that likes her sports teams. She's just like 'I'm going to the hockey game' and cheer from the sides whilst someone plays, one of her buddies. Although she probably would if she could find a fandom that she's into. Iseult would definitely be in lots of fandoms but she would be that quiet person that's too shy to ever do a con or anything. She would probably like Star Trek, that'd be a good fit, probably lots of games, like me. Oh, I could see her being into anime for sure. Merik too, I feel like he'd be with Safi at the games. He'd be like 'I don't read'. Aeduan, oh wow, he'd be too cool for fandoms but would secretly be lurking in all the forums online and Ryber would definitely be the person who knew every single thing about a fandom and read every single extra content thing about it and screams 'that's not canon, you can't do that!'
Speaking of video games, I love them too, what games would be your characters favourites?
Sooz: What they would play? Oh man, that's hard too. I haven't really thought about this. If I could make The Witchlands a game I could see that and what it would look like. Wait, I think maybe I did answer this once...Iseult would definitely be into puzzle games, things that really challenge her mentally, she and Ryber both and I think she'd like RPGs. Safi would be like 'first person shootersssss. I wanna be in the action'. Aeduan would too probably, and he'd like the strategy stealth type games, which I really like too. Merik, I think he'd be again like Safi, they're both kind like that dive into the middle of the fray.
Me: What about Smash Bros?
Sooz: Yes! For sure, and probably racer games he and Kullen would play a lot of Forza and maybe Mario Kart.
Again, craft related I know that The Witchlands was based a lot on Croatia and that side of Europe, the worlds that you have created are so rich and complex. You really do get transported to a different world. How on earth do you manage to remember everything about it? How do you keep track of it? Is there a method or?
Sooz: Oh my god, it's so messy in my head. I feel like every time I start the next book I'm like 'whaaat did I do here?'. I have to lay it back all out again and tease it apart. I have a big whiteboard in my office that I rely on because it's like Jenga. Keeping all the thoughts in your head at one time to try and solve the puzzle of the story is very hard so I have to write down the thoughts on the whiteboard so that I can hold them all there and stare at it whilst I try to solve something. For a while now I've been stuck on this logistical issue of getting my characters physically just from two points on the map and I drew the map roughly on my whiteboard and have been staring at it for days trying to solve this problem. But yeah, I think a lot of it is easy to lose track and so I actually have a really detailed consistency guide bible that I can do a ctrl f4 whenever I need to check something. I check my own books a lot, I have Kindle versions of all of them so that I can easily search them for key terms if I'm like 'what was the colour of that person's eyes again?' It's not easy I will say that. I have only gotten more organised lately and I wish I had organised from the start. Apparently, I'm not very good at that.
Coming towards the end of my questions now. The last 'big one' I guess is what do you want to see next from the YA world? Is there a topic or a theme you'd like to see explored?
Sooz: I would love to see a return to true YA, a younger target audience. I'm guilty of this, the Witchlands is a very mature series. There's nothing really in it content wise inappropriate for teens but I know that it's not necessarily what a thirteen-year-old wants to read. Not that I don't have thirteen-year-old readers. But there is something about it that is mature, I wrote it originally as adult, and it's sold as adult in the UK and some other countries. So it's definitely toeing that line and I think a lot of YA is these days and I would love to see more books, like my first series honestly, which is targeting those younger teens and that is really more about that true teen experience. I think it's fine a lot of adults read YA but I do think we've kinda moved away from the actual teenagers.
Me: I know what you mean definitely! I think one of my wishes for the YA world, that I've always wanted honestly, is more friendships that transcend ages. It happens more frequently than I think people realise, I've experienced it through my entire working life. It's something I haven't seen and would love to. It's just so wholesome and sweet.
A few quickfire questions now:
Sooz: Oh my favourite food is Sushi.
Sooz: Anastasia. I've probably seen that movie more than any other one.
Night or day?
Summer or Winter?
If you could be any animal what would you be?
Sooz: I don't know. Either a dog or a dolphin.
Finally, are you currently reading anything?
Sooz: Yes! A Non-Fiction called Blood, Sweat and Pixels. It's all about behind the scenes of the gaming world and game design.
Me: You're doing a course in that weren't you?
Sooz: Yes I was! I was doing some college courses last semester last year and that was really cool. It really taught me a lot. I made a little game that I will eventually put online for people to play when I get around to it. I find that whole industry really really fascinating. There are a lot of parallels with publishing so it's really interesting.
And that's it for this interview with the wonderful Susan Dennard. Thank you for your brilliant answers, all the video game talk and an in-depth discussion on our shared love of Anastasia.
A huge thank you to Waterstones Manchester Deansgate for hosting the event and allowing me to interview all three of these amazing authors.
Have you read Sooz's books?
What did you think?
Thank you for reading,