Focus on Fiction is pleased to feature
Susan May Warren
Susan is a multi-talented, multi-published author, as well as a wife and mother of four. She holds a B.A. in Mass Communications from the University of Minnesota, and, in addition to her novels with Tyndale and Barbour, has had numerous articles published in Christian magazines and devotional books. She and her family recently returned to the U.S. after serving for eight years as missionaries to Khabarovsk, Far East Russia. They now make their home on the shores of Lake Superior, in Northern Minnesota.
Focus: Susan, thank you so much for joining us! Would you mind starting our interview off by telling our readers how many books you've published in the Christian market?
Susan May Warren: To my amazement and delight, I currently have seven books out in the market: The Deep Haven series by Tyndale (Happily Ever After, Tying the Knot, The Perfect Match), a Tyndale novella (in Chance Encounters of the Heart), Two Barbour novellas (in Novel Crimes, and The House Love Built), and Ekaterina, the first of the Heirs of Anton series with Barbour.
Focus: Your three-book Deep Haven series, published by Tyndale Publishers, has been a surprise and delight ever since the first book hit the shelves! Could you give us a quick summary of each story, and tell us if you have a favorite among the three?
Susan May Warren: Happily Ever After is the first book in the series. It's about a young woman who has a dream to open a bookstore, yet her efforts are being sabotaged. Into her life walks a mysterious handyman, who may or may not be the hero she's always hoped for. It's a story about forgiveness and surprises and trusting God with your dreams.
Tying the Knot is about a woman trying to escape her traumatic past, and the one man whom God will use to heal her. It's a portrayal of God's sufficient grace, and how He works this out in our lives, one day at a time.
Finally, The Perfect Match is about a woman fire chief who falls for the local pastor…and sparks an inferno in Deep Haven. It's a story after my own heart about abiding with Christ and letting Him bear fruit from our lives.
I guess my favorite will always be Happily Ever After, because it was my "first." Still, each story has elements that I love, i.e. Noah and Anne's motorcycle ride, Dan and Ellie playing hockey…Mona being swept down the Brule River…and Joe saving her.
Focus: How long was it between the moment you first decided to write Happily Ever After, and the moment you held it in your hands as a published book?
Susan May Warren: Five years. I re-wrote it about four times before I got it to a place where it might be publishable. Tyndale then took it and really helped me hone it to a polished story.
Focus: You wrote several of these stories while living as a missionary in Russia. How difficult was it to do the necessary research for these books from the hinterlands of Siberia?
Susan May Warren: I love research…in fact, I can easily get sucked into a good non-fiction book (with a highlighter) and not surface for hours. Usually, I ordered a plethora of books and spent much of the long Siberian nights reading. Also, my first books were written about subjects that I either knew well (the Deep Haven setting, for example, was based on a small town we vacationed in each summer), or had a strong interest in. I wrote Happily Ever After, Measure of a Man, Letters to the Enemy (Barbour, Heartsong), and Ekaterina (Barbour) while in Russia. Obviously, the Russian aspect was fairly easy to research. I've had tea with more than my share of FSB/KGB agents!
Focus: In Tying the Knot, book two of the Deep Haven series, you've called the theme 'Understanding God's grace in the midst of trauma'. Trauma became all too real to you during a frightening incident in Russia. Would you be willing to share about that experience with our readers?
Susan May Warren: In short, Russia is a dangerous place, especially for foreigners. On March 1, 2002, our family was attacked by three men who broke into our apartment while my husband was gone. We survived, by the grace of God, and He took us through a period of healing and seeing vividly His daily, sustaining grace. I felt as if I had a valuable experience to share, and of course, I used the platform God gave me…fiction.
Focus: No doubt God has ministered to many through your honesty as you worked through this experience. What sort of responses have you received from readers?
Susan May Warren: My readers are such an encouragement to me. It reminds me how much we are truly members of one family, the family of God. I've received letters from readers who have suffered and testimonies of God's sufficient grace, and my own faith has been buoyed. Readers have been so supportive, and in some cases, I've been able to encourage in return. This is the great blessing of writing books…being invited into people's lives, and to share, together, the love of Christ.
Focus: Now that book three, The Perfect Match, is out in stores, we're all wondering…will there be a book four?
Susan May Warren: Liza's story would be book four…but we'll just have to wait and see!
Focus: Rumor has it you've just signed a contract with Tyndale for a new series. Can you tell us a little about what we have to look forward to next from the great pen of Susan May Warren?
Susan May Warren: The new series is called Team Hope, and it's a Search and Rescue, suspense/romance series. The first book is about a woman who is accused of murdering her husband, and the one man who can either clear her name…or get revenge. It's currently called Flee the Night and it is about secrets - both national and personal, and explores the facets of redemption in Christ as proclaimed in Isaiah 61. The series is currently three books long (but may extend to five), and will be similar to Dee Henderson's O'Malleys, in that each book explores the stories (and romances!) of each character on Team Hope.
I'm also excited about a Russian Romantic Suspense series I have coming out with Steeple Hill next year. It's called The Glasnost Connection and it features five "modern day warriors" from Russia and American trying to live out their faith in a new post-cold war era. It's high tech, fast paced, but romantic and with heroes and heroines that I hope will capture the hearts of my readers. The first book hits the shelves in Fall of 2005.
Focus: Besides these new series, you're also working with co-author Susan Downs on the Heirs of Anton series published by Barbour. Other than the terrible hold-up you went through, have you shared any of Ekaterina and Nadia's international intrigue experiences?
Susan May Warren: Well, I've stood in a custom's line more often than I want to remember! And ridden the trains, and listened to the wild stories of old Babushkas. I've worked in an orphanage, helped Americans adopt Russian children, walked Red Square, and seen a Russian "gulag." I've been in most of the buildings (or similar ones) described in both books, (including the circus), and I've eaten all the crazy food poor Kat and Nadia eat. So, there are elements of similarity…although I've never been a spy, or a fugitive…*grin*
But for everyone who ever wanted to know what it is like to live in Russia as a missionary...I finally wrote a story based on my wild experiences there. I just finished the manuscript , titled Going on Green, for Steeple Hill's new chick lit line. It's about the misadventures of a young woman who spends a year in Russia teaching English. Check my web site for publication dates!
Focus: Eric Liddell, the famous runner and missionary to China, once said, "God made me fast and I feel His pleasure when I run." Would you say that writing is for you what running was for Eric Liddell?
Susan May Warren: Oh, for sure. Writing for me is a praise experience, just like singing (or running, for Liddell). I see God at work, guiding my thoughts, giving me themes, words, ideas. And when I'm finished with a book, I'm usually in tears, amazed at what He's done. Every word on the paper is by His grace, and I pray that readers see that, also.
Focus: What do you feel is the greatest message with which God has entrusted you, and why have you chosen fiction as the medium for that message?
Susan May Warren: God is about loving us. He reached out of Heaven to show us this, and He continues to work in our lives, during good times and difficult, to show us this love. Fiction allows me to put "flesh" on the themes God is teaching me…to hopefully reveal how God's love might look in a person's life without getting too preachy. I love writing romances in particular because I see this as a faint portrayal of the ultimate romance…God wooing His church. I hope to stir the souls of my readers to glimpse God anew in their daily lives, and to be encouraged by His Ephesians 3:18 love.
Focus: Besides keeping time for God and family, what other disciplines do you believe are important for a successful writer?
Susan May Warren: Reading, of course! Especially genres that I hope to write in. And study of craft…there's always more to learn, techniques to hone. But the most important is daily time in the Word. God uses the Bible to renew our minds, to keep us growing and fresh for Him. I really enjoy digging into the Word, using my commentaries and Hebrew/Greek concordance. God's Word is my foundation for my stories, but more than that, it has become such nourishment for me. I find that one or two days without my quiet time can be disastrous!
Focus: Are there specific ways your readers and fans can be a support you?
Susan May Warren: My heart's desire would be to keep my eyes on God, and be moved by His desires for me. So, I'd greatly appreciate prayers for a close walk with Him, and effectiveness in writing those stories He gives to me.
Focus: Is there anything else you would like your readers to know?
Susan May Warren: Two things:
1. I consider it a great privilege to be allowed into my reader's private time of relaxation. I take that seriously, and am humbled by this honor.
2. We're all in this together. I'm so aware of the fact that God uses all of us for His great purposes, and no one is more important than another. I have great respect for those women who quietly and faithfully nurture their husbands and families; and I admire men and women who, in obedience, simply do what God asks, whether it be wait tables, crunch numbers, or travel overseas to share the gospel. If God told us to do it, it's important. And we can trust Him to bear the fruit for eternity.