Suzanne August - An Unlikely Truce And Road Trip
Suzanne is a historian who holds a master’s degree in International History. She’s also lived in four different countries, not including her hometown in Maine, United States. When she’s not country-hopping around the world, she spends her time creating her next novel. As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about her book, Cross Country Hearts.
Please give us a short introduction to what Cross Country Hearts is about.
Cross Country Hearts is about June, who has to drive from Boston to Jacksonville, where her sister’s wedding is. At the last moment, she learns she has to bring Jasper with her. They both hate each other, but they soon learn things about themselves that will change how think of themselves, and of each other. There’s also a lot of road trip adventures!
What inspired you to write about two people who dislike each other who have to drive down to the East Coast together for a wedding?
I actually wrote the majority of this book while I was still in high school myself, and I just remember wanting to write a road trip adventure, and I had also wanted to make it a challenge by having the main character start out by being so unlikeable. How did you get the reader to keep reading when the main character isn’t the best kind of person in the beginning?
Tell us more about June. What makes her tick?
June loves her friends and family – she’s loyal to those she loves. Unfortunately, she also lets her anxiety get the best of her, and she prefers to let others take the lead. But I also think of her as brave, especially as she starts having to question who she is and what’s she done, and has to decide whether or not she should make it right.
You hold a master's degree in International History. How has this influenced your writing?
I believe the #1 way my degree has influenced my writing is just that I keep writing. Beyond all the research papers over 5 years, in the end, I had to write a 20,000-word dissertation and there were some days you just wanted to give up, especially one day when I lost all my notes on a tedious 120-page court document (which took me an entire day to read). But you have to keep going because you’ll fail otherwise, and you love learning about history anyway. It’s the same with writing for me. It can be incredibly hard, but I love doing it, so I persevere and finish what I started.
I also love writing historical fiction, so it is useful to know how to research history and where to look for it!
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I’ve played the violin since I was 8 years old and I love making lists. I’ll make a list for anything, from groceries to planning an entire trip and finding the best restaurants to eat at.
What, would you say, makes a road trip such a great catalyst for a romance?
There’s so much adventure! And with road trips unexpected things can happen, good and bad, which can create tension, so you really need to get on well with the person you’re with. There’s also a lot of downtime driving, so there are many opportunities to talk with the person in the passenger seat!
Why did you pick this specific route for your story?
I usually write with my characters being from Boston, because I’m from Maine myself which is north of Boston (however a lot of people don’t really know about Maine). So to make their road trip as long as possible, I made them drive to Florida. When I was in high school, I wanted to go to so many places, and I ended up writing Jasper and June visiting places I’d always wanted to go. I still haven’t been to Hersheypark, but I have been to the Met now!
Readers say that this was both sad and sweet. Was this your intention?
I love writing romance, so my genuine intention was to write a hate-to-love romance with the added tension that June had bullied Jasper. I had also wanted the challenge of writing a character who was originally unlikeable at the beginning of the story. To me, an unlikeable person was a bully, and so that’s where I made her story start.
I hadn’t intended it to be both sad and sweet – it just came out that way. So many people have commented to me how it was so different for them to read from the perspective of a bully, and then have that bully try to correct her mistakes. It really only dawned on me what story and message I had created only after it was published.
Do any of your characters ever take off on their own tangent, refusing to do what you had planned for them?
Yes! Because I write a novel from beginning to end (as in, I don’t jump around when writing scenes), it was easy to make June and Jasper do what I had envisioned for them in the beginning, but towards the end of the novel, when I was writing these impactful, pivotal moments in their stories, what I had planned to write still happened, but in very different ways.
The end of the novel transformed, so I don’t want to give examples as it would give away certain points at the end of the book, but one I will say is that I had never envisioned June telling Jasper that while what she did was wrong, he also wasn’t entirely in the right, either. This ended up being one of my favorite moments that ended up happening and one I hadn’t planned on.
What did you have the most fun with when writing Cross Country Hearts?
I absolutely loved writing Jasper and how he viewed the world and spoke. I loved how June describes him as an artist in every way – even in how he talks. I also really enjoyed writing June’s character arc, because it was so important for me that she became a better person after realizing she was wrong.
My favorite chapter to write was definitely their confrontation at the end of their time in Atlanta (trying not to give too much away!). It feels like everything came to a head, and it was such a pivotal moment to write.
What is your favorite line from this book?
My favorite line would give away parts of the ending so here’s one of the many I love that describes how Jasper talks:
“He leans away from me, shoulders rolling back. It’s like he’s getting ready for the big picture, the large sweeps of the brush’s first strokes against the blank canvas.”
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
When I do sit down to write, I’ve always got a glass of water and a cup of tea, and I listen to music while I’m writing. A writing session normally ends with one chapter written (so anywhere between 1500 to 3500 words), which takes me an hour or two. I try to write a few chapters a week, so I definitely don’t write every day.
What are you working on right now?
I’m about to start editing the novella I’ve just finished, titled Defining Life. If all goes to plan, it should be published in Spring 2022. I’ve also just started planning a companion novella, which I should start writing soon and will hopefully be published later in 2022.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
They can follow me on Instagram at @TheSuzanneAugust or visit my website at suzanneaugust.com. The best place to reach me for a chat or any questions is to email me at [email protected].