Monday, March 18, 2013
Welcome, Susie Finkbeiner
NM: It's always exciting and amazing when symbolic elements arise organically in our work. It certainly makes you feel you're on the right path. In Paint Chips you write about mental health and the sex trade. Where did your research take you?
SF: When I started writing, I fully intended to write about mental health. I have people close to me who live with mental illness. My life and my memories were part of that research. I also read a lot and watched several documentaries about mental illness. However, one of the most helpful resources was a friend of mine who is a psychologist. She enlightened me from the other side of illness as one who treats the disease.
NM: That's great that she was able to share her insights. And what about the trafficking element?
SF: In the early days of writing Paint Chips, I sold jewelry and bags that were handmade by women who had been rescued from the sex trade in other countries. Part of that involved presenting a talk about human trafficking. I knew the statistics, the stories, the organizations which fought for the freedom of others. I never intended to incorporate sex trafficking into my novel. I actually resisted it, but the story took over. I'm so glad it did.
NM: With two very difficult subjects to write about, which scene was the most challenging for you to write?
SF: In the first draft, the story flowed. It wasn't until the first rewrite that I found major challenges. The most challenging and emotionally taxing was when Dot is exploited for the first time. My fingers hovered over the keys of my computer. I didn't want to put her through that pain again. Each time I edited that scene it felt like I subjected her to the horror again and again. That happened to be one of the scenes that needed the most work. It's still one I struggle to read.
NM: I think most of us can relate. It's never easy to put the characters we love through difficulties, but that's what makes their stories worth reading. How long did it take you to write Paint Chips?
SF: From first words to publication, it took two years.
NM: Two busy years, since you're a wife and mother. You have young children (read: demanding, noisy, too-cute-to-ignore-for-any-reason). Tell us about the "mommy juggle." How do you balance writing for publication while raising a family?
SF: My kids really are cute. And they give the best hugs in the world. God has blessed me with three kids who are best buddies and who love to play together. My twin boys are content to play "Thomas" for hours on end. And my little girl often "gets lost inside a book" (her words ... lovely isn't she?). All of that helps. I've also learned to write in 15-30 minute spurts throughout the day. I stay up later than the rest of the family and I don't watch much TV. Sorry, no time for "Downton Abbey" here. Let it be said that I will never win a prize for having the cleanest house in the neighborhood. Writing trumps housework almost every time (unless we're out of clean underwear ...).
Really, though, having a supportive husband is the most important tool in my writer girl tool belt. He is always scooting me away from folding laundry so that I can get back to my story. The other day he said, "Your purpose in life is to write. I'll do the dishes."
NM: Oh. My.
SF: Sorry, girls, he's all mine.
NM: No kidding. I think we need a moment to relish that thought. Okay, tell us about your path to publication. Was Paint Chips contracted early in the submission process, or did you knock on a lot of doors first? Were you with an agent when you made the sale?
SF: When I thought Paint Chips was ready, I sent several query letters to different agents. They all said, "No, thank you." I decided to wait to take the next step. I literally put the manuscript in a box that I kept on a shelf in my storage room.
I frequented Novel Matters, commenting often. That was how I met Dina Sleiman. Unbeknownst to me, Dina worked as an acquisitions editor for WhiteFire Publishing. Also, outside of my knowledge, Dina had been following my blog. One afternoon, she contacted me, asking to read my novel. A few months later I signed a contract with WhiteFire. Nine months after that, Paint Chips released as an e-book. It has been a whirlwind year.
NM: And an exciting one, I'm sure. What are you doing to market Paint Chips? What's working best for you?
NM: I bet you do!
SF: With the print release of Paint Chips coming in less than a month, I'm scheduling book signings, release parties and speaking engagements.
NM: Very exciting. What's next for you, Susie, and how are you seizing the year?
SF: I'm writing my second novel, called Dead Woman's Chamomile. The writing this time is so different, so much more gentle. Since the digital release of Paint Chips, I've had many people ask how it feels to have my dream come true. It's an interesting question that I don't know how to answer, because my dream wasn't publication. Don't get me wrong, it was a goal, but the dream is being able to write stories. Publication just affords me a larger audience and a few bucks to put in the bank. I'm grabbing onto this year by living my dreams by writing what I love.
NM: Thank you for sharing with us, Susie. We certainly wish you all the best as you promote your debut novel.