Monday, March 18, 2013

Welcome, Susie Finkbeiner

We are excited to have Susie Finkbeiner as our guest today as she shares with us about her newly released novel, Paint Chips. Susie is part of our Novel Matters community, and we couldn't be more proud of her. Paint Chips is currently available on Kindle, and will be released in print format within the month.

Novel Matters:  Susie, can you tell us about the genesis of your novel and how you arrived at such an interesting title?

Susie Finkbeiner:   Years ago, while sitting in a workshop at the Festival of Faith and Writing, I arrived upon the title Paint Chips. Those of us in the workshop viewed video clips and were tasked with thinking up an opening line for a novel. One of the clips was beyond strange. People in bear costumes, dancing and speaking German. The line I came up with was, "My mother always told me not to eat paint chips." That day I determined that my novel -- should I ever write one -- would be titled Paint Chips. Little did I know how symbolic that title would become.

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?

SF:   I have the best friends in the world. Really. I do. They have been instrumental in my marketing plan. And, as far as I know, it's working. They've featured me on their blogs, posted links to the novel on their Facebook wall, started a Twitter campaign to get Jimmy Fallon to read it. One friend and her daughter wear T-shirts featuring the cover of Paint Chips. Some call it a tribe, others a platform. I call it a fantastic group of friends.

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.


Megan Sayer said...

Yay Susie! I loved Paint Chips, but I think you know that already. Cheering you on from Monday night my friend xx

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Great interview, loved reading this. I'm enjoying reading your book, Susie! Wishing you every success!

Latayne C Scott said...

Susie, it is so interesting to hear the background of your novel. We are so proud of you!

Kathleen Popa said...

I feel like a grand-mama. Susie, I'm so proud of you, and pleased that Novel Matters played a smallpart in helping Dina find you. Thank you for joining us today, this side of the blog

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Megan and Karen, thank you from Monday morning! You know, I'm thankful for my lovely Aussie friends.

Latayne, thank you. This community has helped me to grow in so many ways. I can't wait for October and the chance to see you again!

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Katy, you just made me smile! Thank you. I am so honored to be here today. I look forward to each of the Novel Matters posts. I am nurtured each time I come here. Thank you for building this community!

Henrietta Frankensee said...

Wow Susie and Well Done! I almost think I could say I 'know' someone famous!
Thank you for writing about mental illness. Exposure removes the stigma. And every mind spins such vastly different loops. Did you ever feel you stood on the edge of it as you wrote it down on the page? A writer has to enter that world in imagination and then has to leave to answer the door for the repair man, or praise her kid for a lego tower. How was the switch for you?

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Thank you, Henrietta. Although famous might not be the word. :)

Hm. Yes. Well. You ask a very, very good question. I need to be honest here and say that I've looked over the edge of mental illness for most of my life. I think that's what happens when a family member has a mental illness. I really like your statement about entering the world only to be jarred out of it for normal life stuff. It's so true! The switch for me was, at times, painful and frightening. The good thing, though is that we have hope. Several times, I had to cling to that hope.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Congratulations, Susie! And I love the title for your next one.

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Thank you, Debbie! You know, I guess this is the first official announcement of that title!

V. Gingerich said...

Susie, I'm looking forward to reading your book! And I wish you much joy in the journey.

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Oh, thank you so much, wanderer.

Natasha Metzler said...

What a great interview! I am getting more and more excited for this book to come out in print. :) (while I do read a few books in Kindle, I still buy the ones I want to savor/pass on in print. I think this will be one of the latter. :) )

Anonymous said...

I am VERY surprised that it was not your intent to publish a book about sex trafficking. It just fit in so well with the story, I thought that was your plan all along!! SO excited to see the title for your next novel. Looking forward to reading it - SOON!!! :-) Blessings to you, my novelist friend! (Debra Stauffer)

Normandie Fischer said...

Susie, I'm so glad to have met you through WhiteFire and be part of that community with you. It's rather amazing what community can do, isn't it?

And for any readers here who haven't yet bought Paint Chips, it's a page turner.

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Natasha, I hear ya! I love having a paper and binding and glue book in my hands. There is nothing like it. And thank you so much for your kind words!

Debra, thanks for your enthusiasm. It helps keep me moving.

Normandie, I'm glad, too. You sure are a sweet and encouraging friend to me. Thank you for the endorsement. It means a lot to me!

Marian said...

Started reading Paint Chip on Amazon and just bought the kindle edition. Looking forward to a good read.

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Marian, thank you so much! I look forward to hearing what you think of it!

Cherry Odelberg said...

I like the title of your WIP - very intriguing.
You are almost living a charmed life: only 2 years from start to print, a husband who offers to do dishes and children who play together - also you get to be with them.
I said, "almost" because I know the exhausting reality of writing and raising kids:). --And I would do it again, and again. Best wishes to you.

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Cherry, I do have a very good life. I really try to remember that as much as possible. And the exhaustion is a good kind. A fulfilling kind.

Thank you for the encouragement and kind words.

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Enjoyed this interview today--nice to get a glimpse of others' creative process. I LOVE the title of your book, Susie, and look forward to reading it someday!

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Thank you so much, Heather! I'm so glad you stopped on over.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Very much looking forward to reading your book, Susie! My kind of read for sure!
~ Wendy

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Thank you so much, Wendy! How sweet of you to say.

Katherine Scott Jones said...

I loved getting the inside scoop on your novel, Susie. My agent, Ann Byle, speaks so highly of you. Would love to read Paint Chips and give it a review on my blog. Thanks for sharing.

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Katherine, thank you! Oh, I love Ann Byle. She's a great friend. I'll be in touch about the review. Thank you so much!

Samantha Bennett said...

This definitely sounds like my kind of book! Loved this interview and hearing the story behind the story!

Marcia said...

Hi, Susie, I've read your book (on Kindle) and appreciated your treatment of a difficult subject in such a sensitive and heart-warming way. Loved how all the threads came together at the surprising climax.
Congratulations on your accomplishment!

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Samantha, thank you so much. You know, it was quite cathartic to go over the "behind the scenes" of my novel for this interview. It had been so long between writing and publishing. And I'm so grateful to have this community to share it with!

Marcia, thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed the book. The climax surprised me a whole lot when the idea hit me. I was sitting in church, listening to the sermon when it occurred to me. I had to leave the service because I was sobbing!

Pat Jeanne Davis said...

Wonderful interview,Susie. Nice to get to know you better through it. I understand what you mean about the time lapse between writing the story and seeing it published. All the best with your debut novel.