Monday, August 06, 2012

Blog Ring of Power--Interview with Susan Kaye Quinn

It's the start of another blogging week here, and today I have with me Susan Kaye Quinn for part of a Blog Ring of Power Interview. She'll be sharing her Creative Process with us. Please visit Theresa and Emily for the first and second parts of this interview; it'll continue tomorrow with Dean and conclude on Wednesday with Terri.

Are you a “plotter” or a “pantser” (do you plan/outline the story ahead of time or write “by the seat of your pants”)?

I’m a reformed pantser turned hyper-plotter. My most recent published novel, Closed Hearts, had 84,000 words in the novel, and an additional 81,000 words of notes (research, invented technology, outline). The novel I’m working on now, Free Souls (Mindjack #3), had 16,000 words in the outline alone before I started drafting, along with this lovely plotting tool:

To say I’m a plotter now is a bit of an understatement.

  Do you use critique partners or beta readers? Why or why not?

I have a list called Critiquers of Awesome, and I use it all the time. I think critique partners are essential for writers to grow in their craft. You have to have a sense of your story, what you want to say, but critique partners can let you know whether you actually get that across. They are the film preview audiences of the writing world, only better: they can give you ideas about how to improve your work as well. For each novel, I typically have several different crit partners in two or three rounds.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

I don’t get writer’s block – maybe I’m unusual that way? Not sure, but there’s almost never a time when I don’t want to write or can’t get words on the page. The closest I come is having a plot-blockage, where I’m not quite sure what should happen next. Then I just do some character work, or more research, or write the scene from an alternate POV … or just free-write until something breaks loose. My largest problem with getting words on the page is not having enough hours in the day to do so.

How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?

I use story structures like Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet, but I don’t think of them as “formulas” – more like guidelines to the rise and fall of stories that naturally resonate with people. I usually do a combination of developing plot, research, and character in tandem, a complex dance that evolves through the entire process, from initial idea through to final draft. I don’t think the conflicts can be separate from the world, or the theme separate from the characters. They all need to be interwoven in order to bring depth to your story.

How much time do you spend on research? What type of research do you do?

My novels are futuristic science fiction, so I do a lot of research. I use my background in science and engineering, but much of my research is to make sure the setting (“lightbulbs of the future”) or technology (“automobiles of the future”) are realistic for my future world. Google is my friend, including Google Earth, which I use to literally “walk” around my settings – just because it’s the future, doesn’t mean that everything has changed!

Susan Kaye Quinn, Author
Susan Kaye Quinn grew up in California, where she wrote snippets of stories and passed them to her friends during class. She pursued a bunch of engineering degrees and worked a lot of geeky jobs, including turns at GE Aircraft Engines, NASA, and NCAR. Now that she writes novels, her business card says "Author and Rocket Scientist" and she doesn't have to sneak her notes anymore. All that engineering comes in handy when dreaming up paranormal powers in future worlds or mixing science with fantasy to conjure slightly plausible inventions. Susan writes from the Chicago suburbs with her three boys, two cats, and one husband. Which, it turns out, is exactly as much as she can handle.

Website: Blog:
Facebook page:
Goodreads author page:

What format is your book(s) available in (print, e-book, audio book, etc.)? Print and ebook.

1 comment:

J.L. Campbell said...

Hi, Sandra & Susan,

I don't plot to the level that Susan does, but certainly understand the value of it.

I'm fortunate as well not to suffer from writer's block, which I don't believe in, BTW.

Using Google is pretty cool and smart.

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