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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Author Interview: Suzanne Francis

The Long and the Short of It is excited to welcome Suzanne Francis with us this week. Suzanne, who describes herself as “an aging hippie,” is the author of Heart of Hythea and Ketha’s Daughter, the first two books in The Song of the Arkafina series, available now. The third book, Dawnmaid, should be available soon. Suzanne and her family live in New Zealand, where she is putting the finishing touches on the fourth book of the series, Beyond the Gyre. If you’ve read Heart of Hythea, she promises that this final book wraps up most of the storylines she began in it. She told me, “I plan to carry a few of the characters forward into the next series, which might be called The Sons of the Mariner.”

I asked Suzanne what were some of the most important elements of good writing. “I think the craft of writing,” she said, “is mostly just putting in time and effort. If you read something that has been hastily written it will certainly show through inadequately developed characters, incomplete settings, and poor sentence structure. There is just no substitute for careful writing and even more careful editing.”

Most of Suzanne’s plot development takes place, she told me, when she’s on a walk or in bed. “I just keep chewing at things in my mind until I have something I am happy with. Then I go and write it all down.”

She admitted to me, though, that some of the things she writes also make her cry, even if they are best for the book. “I recently had to say goodbye to one guy who had been with me for three books,” she confessed. “It made me cry big time. It can be very upsetting when bad things happen to the characters I love.”

Her books, though, aren’t the only time she cries. “Disney movies get me every time,” she told me. “You can’t imagine how embarrassing it is to be the only adult blubbering at a movie like ‘Brother Bear.’”

Suzanne told me that she’s learned to write with the television in the background, because she likes being in the main living space of the house. Being so close to the rest of the family helps her feel less isolated when she is working. She told me, “I have a HUGE desk in the corner of the living room. It is covered in meaningful bits and pieces of mine: a scrimshawed whale tooth, a statue of Ganesh, a wooden Puffin, plants, candles and candle holders, incense, books, notebooks, and a picture of my grandmother, Edith.”

She writes on a laptop so if she goes out of town she can take her work with her. In fact, she said, “I could have never been a novelist before word processing was invented.” Why? “People say my handwriting is shockingly bad,” she said. “I mix cursive and printed letters together—sometimes using both forms of a letter in the same word. It’s supposed to mean I’m indecisive, which isn’t actually true.”

When she first started writing, she set herself a goal of five thousand words a day. “When I read some of the early stuff I wrote, I cringe. I had quantity, but certainly not quality. Now I feel good if I do a thousand, but I have to do much less revision down the line.”

And, for fun, I asked Suzanne what the strangest thing she’d ever eaten was. “Chili-Chocolate Ice Cream,” she said. “It was spicy hot and delicious.”

You can keep up with Suzanne on her blog: .

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