Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Susan Dennard tackles a truth AND a dare!

Today's guest author is a good friend of mine, the lovely Susan Dennard, who's debut novel SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY just hit shelves a week ago today! I love this novel with a fierce passion. It's equal parts action, horror, mystery, romance, and...oh yeah...The Dead. (If you haven't snagged a copy yet, I encourage you to head to your nearest bookstore immediately!)

Susan was kind (and brave) enough to answer both a truth and a dare for us today.

First up, the truth:

I asked Susan, "What was the hardest (or scariest or most emotional) part of your publishing journey?" 

Without a doubt, the hardest part of my publishing journey--before I was published, and even now after the book has finally reached stores--has been conquering my self-doubts.

Before I had a book deal, it was a trial each day to keep believing I would ever make it. After the fifth revision of SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, I couldn't help but wonder if I was even cut out for this "crap"--if I had the skills it would take to write, finish, and revise a book that people even wanted to read. By the tenth revision, I was certain I didn't have what it takes.

But I kept going. It's kind of funny in hindsight, but I remember telling my husband on more than one occasion (especially by the time the twelfth revision rolled around and I knew the book still wasn't ready for agents' eyes): "If this book never sells, I'll write another book. And then another...until a publisher finally wants one. And then, one day, I'll self-publish all those unseen manuscripts."

Fortunately, I won't have to do that. :) SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY did sell and it's now in stores. Huzzah! Fist bumps all around!

Except...despite all my dreams "coming true", I still find self-doubt to be a huge piece of my life. A huge hurdle I have to jump every morning when I wake up. Sure, the doubts have transformed--it's no longer, "Will my book ever make it into the world?" but "Will my book survive this world?" Will people hate my book and no publisher ever wants another from me? Or, why does XYZ person have so much more marketing and push--does this mean my book SUCKS?! And why aren't my sales better--oh gaaawd, I am a horrrrible wriiiter!

And goodness, I wish I was exaggerating, but this is a TRUTH post, so I'm tellin' you nothing but the truth.

But--the very shiny silver lining of it all--is that I'm also aware of my self-doubts and aware that they aren't constructive. I've found a weapon that works exceptionally well against crippling fear: being as stubborn and tenacious as a bulldog.

First, I remind myself that even if THIS book isn't the one that people love, I have hundreds more stories inside me to share...and one of those will be the one. I just have to be patient. Then I tell those fears to go where the sun don't shine, and I sit at my computer and work. Everyday I rediscover the love of storytelling that first inspired me to write all those many, many years ago, and I let my passion take control until all those nagging doubts are lost beyond the floodgates.

So, as Corrie ten Boom said, "Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles. It empties today of its strength." Self-doubt may be a part of my life as a writer, but that doesn't mean I have to let it rule me.

So honest and inspirational, right? (I feel like this resonates with querying-and-stressing-Erin just as strongly as it resonates with almost-published-and-still-stressing-Erin.)

And on to the dare:

Post the first draft of the query for your debut novel (as submitted by K. Fotinos-Hoyer). Susan wasn't able to track down the original draft of her query for SS&D, but she found something even better. I'll let her explain:

Okay, so...to preface this query letter. It was THE VERY FIRST I EVER TRIED MY HAND AT WRITING. It's clunky, but that's not actually what's embarrassing about. What's embarassing is that it was for the VERY FIRST BOOK I EVER FINISHED WRITING. Not the first book I ever wrote, but the first I ever reached The End on.  It was also terrible. As soon as I finished it, I KNEW it was bad and I slid it into my filing cabinet, never to be seen again. Then I sat down and started writing what would eventually become SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY. :)

So...enjoy. And promise not to laugh too much.

Dear Dream Agent,
Emma, a 27-year-old sci-fi geek, is wasting away in her ho-hum, Atlanta-life.  Her board games designs meet constant rejection, her bills keep piling up, and her best friend has run out of anything positive to say.  When her estranged mother arrives unexpectedly, all of her pent up frustration suddenly finds an outlet.  But, sorry, Mom; it took Darth and Luke three movies to become friends, so there’s no way Emma’s letting her emotional baggage go in a measly three-week visit.

And then an opportunity for dream-fulfillment appears: Atlanta’s sci-fi convention is hosting a game design contest.  Now Emma just has to get her newest prototype finished in the next two weeks.  Oh, and she did agree to help her young coworker beat off his bully.  Okay, and there’s still that nagging problem of her mother who won’t take “no” for an answer.

In the chatty style of Sophie Kinsella but with a narrator more interested in George Lucas than Louis Vuitton, SCI-FI DIARIES: CONFESSIONS OF AN E.T. will appeal to fans of humorous women’s fiction.  It is my first novel, complete at 95,000 words.

I am an avid follower of your blog, and I love the authors you represent (insert names here).  As per your submission requests, I’ve enclosed (insert whatever the agent’s website asks for).

I’m a member in good standing of the RWA, the Fantasy, Futuristic, & Paranormal chapter of the RWA, and the Chick Lit Writers of the World.  I also host a blog  at http://susandennard.com.

Thanks for your consideration and time,

Susan Dennard

So it may not be YA, and it sounds quite different than SS&D, but I have to admit--the Sophie Kinsella meets George Lucas narration sounds pretty darn awesome. What do you guys think?

A huge thank you to Susan for stopping by today and being such a good sport with our games. Be sure to check in on Friday when Alexandra takes on a truth or dare. (Submit your own for her right here!)


Susan is a reader, writer, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She used to be a marine biologist, but now she writes novels–and not novels about fish, but novels about kick-butt heroines and swoon-worthy rogues. She lives in Germany with her French husband and Irish setter, and you can learn more about her crazy thoughts and crippling cookie-addiction on her blogtwitter, or facebook

Her debut, Something Strange and Deadly, is now available from HarperTeen!


  1. I love this book fiercely! And I've already offered to do any amount of silly and ridiculous things to try and get the next ARC bc I need it so badly!

    But what a wonderful post and thanks for sharing this truth with everyone! I could have written this truth myself - right up to the bulldog part! I can so relate to this!!!

    1. SS&D was so goooood, right? (I'm also anxious for the sequel, Ellen. Can. Not. Wait.)

  2. Sooz!!! Thank you for your honesty while answering this truth. Truly. I can relate on so many levels and I imagine the self-doubt will only get more intense as I near my publication date. It's good to know that I'm not alone in these feelings. I'm going to start channeling my inner-bulldog asap. (I sort of fear I don't have one though...) ;)

  3. I'm picking up SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY as soon as I get back from holiday! Susan, thanks for sharing that truth--it hits home for all writers, I think. And that dare was very brave. LOVE how tied Kinsella to Lucas :) :)

  4. Thanks so much for sharing that Corrie ten Boom quote, Sooz! I need to print that out and paste it above my desk :) And wow, your first ever query was TONS better than mine! I think my started with about three rhetorical questions before dissolving into some utterly cliché-ridden spell about life and death, etc, etc ;)

    1. HA! Kat -- the rhetorical questioner opener. Love it. (I think I might have been guilty of this offense once or twice myself) ;)

    2. Well, my first query had footnotes. FOOTNOTES. In a query. Me.

    3. Oh my god, April, REALLY?! Like, clever-Susanna-Clarke-footnotes or scientific-terrifying-footnotes??

  5. Gosh, can I ever relate... :-)

    Can't wait to read SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY--it's next up on my nightstand.