Susan Wingate - Spellbinding, Page-turning Thrillers
Susan Wingate is a #1 Amazon bestseller and award-winning author for several of her novels. Her writing spans several genres including family drama, YA lit, mystery, psychological thriller, and inspirational fiction. Susan loves to cook saucy dishes and tromp around in the woods. When she isn’t writing, you can find her communing with deer and howling at the moon. As our Author of the Day, Susan tells us all about Storm Season a Book Excellence Awards Winner and the first in her Meg Storm thriller series.
Please give us a short introduction to what Storm Season is about.
Well, first, STORM SEASON just one the thriller category in the 2019 Book Excellence Awards, and is a story about a woman, Meg Storm who loses her entire family within months. She doesn’t believe what law enforcement is telling her―that her daughter and husband both committed suicide. Meg has nothing to lose and decides to find out what really happened.
What inspired you to write this book?
One day, it was April of 2015, I saw a scene unfold outside my kitchen window. Two Turkey Vultures were mantled over and feeding on something out in the field. We live on five acres, seventy-percent is wooded. It’s not unusual to look out any window and spot a fox dashing by or raccoons crossing the yard, or deer in the backyard standing on their rear legs nibbled at our pear trees. So, it wasn’t unusual to see wildlife doing its thing. However, it was springtime―baby deer season. I jumped up and ran out, chased them off. Sure enough, they were feeding on a fawn. But the worst of it I didn’t see from the kitchen table. The fawn’s doe, was darting in and out, trying to chase the vultures off her baby. It broke my heart. The little thing was dead. I’m not sure if they had or something else had killed the fawn. Anyway, I couldn’t shake the image of the doe suffering over her baby. That’s when the thought occurred, I mean, if an animal mother feels pain and grief over a dead child, how must a human mother feel about it? Would it be more? Or less? Or would it be the same? So, I pitted Meg Storm in the role of the doe and one thing, as they say, led to another.
Tell us more about Meg Storm. What makes her tick?
Meg is a privileged woman in her fifties. Lily, her daughter was thirty when she died. Before her husband Jay dies, Meg and he find themselves unable to help one another with their loss. Meg is inconsolable and Jay is dealing with his own grief so can’t figure out how to help her. They split up and Meg realizes how alone she really is, even when she was with her husband. She realizes all anyone has in life is themselves. She grows more independent.
People have compared your work to that of Karin Slaughter, Gillian Flynn and Stieg Larsson. Who are some of your favorite authors in the genre and why?
I love reading books by John LeCarré, Anthony Doerr, Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, Karin Slaughter, Stieg Larsson, Randall Silvis, and many more. Many classics too by people like Edgar Allan Poe and Anthony Conan Doyle, W. Somerset Maugham, and Leo Tolstoy. I read everything though. It’s not unusual for me to pick up something by Hugh Howey or Stephen King and dive into their stories. I love to read.
Readers say that your book had them feel every emotion the characters went through. Was this your intention, and how did you pull this off?
Absolutely! If a story lacks emotion draw, then it lacks depth and readers will set it down faster than you can say, Lemony Snicket. I remember reading a review about The Deer Effect where the woman said, “First off, bring tissue…” I thought that was the best and funniest review for that book. I want people to cry. LOL. But I also want them to feel all sorts of trepidation―hearts pounding, sweaty palms, yelling at the characters to “Look behind the door!” If I don’t feel it when I’m writing it, the reader won’t.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I juggle cats, dogs, birds, deer, raccoon, and fox. Not really but we have six cats, one lonely dog, ten doves, and all the wildlife that takes exorbitant amounts of time out of my day. My mother was an oil artist so I got that from her sans her talent but I love to paint. I take voice and ukulele lessons. I walk for exercise, landscape, and I love to cook. Oh, and I teach writing at my writing studio.
In this book you’re dealing with so many difficult themes – as a writer, do you feel a sense of responsibility? If so, how do you deal with this?
In one word, yes. I truly believe if we fiction authors aren’t broaching serious topics (we see this in Children’s books too), then we are doing our readers a disservice. I understand that readers often read to escape but there’s no law that says you can’t include topics of the human condition―birth, growing up, aging, health issues, death, violence, abuse, corruption, politics, legal issues―in those easier reads. I guess that’s why I enjoy writing the thriller because the main character must act (in many cases) in order to survive but she’s also living in her own real world. Life isn’t easy. I like to see how my characters will make it out better people at the end of their journeys.
Do you have a favorite line from the book, and can you explain what that line means to you?
Just then, a fawn tracks over the doe’s steps, out of the woods. It stops at her dead body on the side of the road, sniffs one leg, and bleats like a lamb might right before the slaughter. The small deer curls up in the lowest spot of the ditch near the doe, off the road but near. And it will starve to death there because it knows nothing other than its mother. With the doe, all survival instincts will die for the fawn.
Why did you decide to write a contemporary thriller? What drew you to the genre?
I’m drawn to contemporary thrillers for the goose-pimply excitement they give readers without the horror element. But I’m also drawn to women’s fiction. I’ve been reading the mystery and thrillers since I was a child so it seems a natural path for my writing. But I love writing women’s fiction too and hopefully pulled off combining both in one story.
The story is told from different viewpoints. Why did you take this approach?
I have many people living inside my head and everyone wants to tell their part of the story. I enjoy reading stories with multiple viewpoints. I enjoy meeting new people and enjoy learning how the author will merge everyone into some legitimate storytelling format. I like multiple viewpoints more than reading the omniscient point of view. Some call this point of view a God’s view, where the narrator is everywhere and in every character’s minds. I like getting closer to characters and, although writers can pull off omniscient point of view, the stories seem a little above the page, for me.
Storm Season contains a lot of twists and turns. Did you plan it all out before you started writing, or did some of it just "happen" along the way?
This is a question that, if I tell you, I’d have to kill you. LOL. This is a formatting and structural question. So, this is what I typically do when I write. First, I write the beginning. Then, I jump to the end. Then I go back and forth weaving in scenes that are coordinated and meaningful to each characters’ goals and internal conflict. I usually get twenty or so chapters written and then I print out a chapter outline so that I can review my progress. At that point, the pieces of the puzzle seem to fall into place and it’s just a matter of writing chapters that fill out the story.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I have to play several games of Russian Solitaire and Aces Up before writing. It takes about fifteen minutes and then I’m off and typing up a storm. My daily writing goal is between 1,200 and 3,500 words a day. I write five to six days a week.
What are you working on right now?
Right now, I’m working on book two of The Eschatos Chronicles. The second book is called THE FALSE WITNESS. The first book, THE LESSER WITNESS came out this summer, June 13, 2019. The Eschatos Chronicles will be a series of five apocalyptic thrillers. I’m having a ball writing apocalyptic stories. It’s like the ultimate battle my character, Croy Justice must fight.
Where can readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
All my published titles are exclusively sold on Amazon.com but people can find out more about me at SusanWingate.com, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, and Dialogue: Between the Lines, my radio podcast about authors and their books! And thank you so much for having me on your great sit