Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday spotlight on author Susan Wiggs. Susan has been called a Contemporary Fiction writer, a literary fiction writer, a romance writer, a relationship writer – and she really is all of the above. According to Amazon, her books are all about Family, Friends and Fiction. She is an award-winning author with millions of copies of her books in print.
This spotlight with Susan is a bit different than most of the other spotlights – the format is a bit different, and she has graciously taken a lot of time to answer all of our questions. So now, I give you, Susan Wiggs.
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from The Lost and Found Bookshop? What do you think draws readers to these kinds of books?
SW: That’s a tough one! Depends on who you ask, because every reader reads a different book, bringing her own experience and attitudes and creativity to the story. Some readers say the book made them cry. Others might say the same book made them laugh. I like to think they evoke strong emotions either way. My books usually feature people who need a fresh start, and the unexpected twists and turns they encounter along the way. My newest book, THE LOST AND FOUND BOOKSHOP, features a very reluctant woman dealing with tragedy, a failing bookshop, and her elderly grandfather. I suppose readers are drawn to stories that reflect something of themselves back at them.
What was the inspiration for The Lost and Found Bookshop? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished book?
SW: My mom was the inspiration for Andrew (“Grandy”) in THE LOST AND FOUND BOOKSHOP. She’s 89 and dealing with dementia, and we’re her caregivers. Every day is an adventure! The shop itself was inspired by the many indie bookstores I’ve visited over the course of my 35 years in publishing. And Peach Gallagher, the love interest…well, he’s a figment of ALL our imaginations!
What kind of research went into writing this book? What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into the book, but you loved discovering?
SW: I loved my foray into exploring the world of bookselling from the bookseller’s point of view. Some of the booksellers I know invited me to shadow them as they went about their business. The bit about the found objects in the walls of the old bookstore is based on anecdotes about the Spanish American War. Soldiers who were about to ship out to the Philippines sometimes hid their valuables in odd places for safekeeping while they were overseas.
What was the biggest challenge in writing and putting out The Lost and Found Bookshop? How did you overcome that challenge?
SW: The biggest challenge was juggling writing time with taking care of my mom, being a grandmother and mom to grown kids and stepkids, and making sure I have enough time to live deeply inside the story I was writing.
What character did you love or hate the most while writing? And why?
SW: I loved Dorothy! She’s Peach’s daughter, and she’s based on memories of myself at that age. I was completely enamored of books and authors. I used to walk into walls while reading a book! I didn’t really ate any of the characters (life’s too short) but I definitely felt for Trevor Dashwood, the super-successful children’s author whose entire bio is based on a lie to cover up his past.
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
SW: Another San Francisco book! SUGAR AND SALT takes place on the Perdita Street, across from THE LOST AND FOUND BOOKSHOP. Sharp-eyed readers will remember the bakery on the street is called “Sugar.” There is a huge story there that burst into being when a gal from Texas opens a barbecue joint next door called “Salt.”
QUESTIONS ON BEING A WRITER:
What is your favorite part of being a writer? Of the whole writing and publishing process? What do you think has been your greatest lesson in the journey thus far?
SW: Favorite part: Composing the first draft. Even after all this time, I still love to take out my pen and notebook, my favorite mug of coffee, and watch the story unfold. I write all my first drafts in longhand.
What do you consider the most challenging part of the writing process? And how do you overcome that?
SW: Juggling the deadlines, publicity obligations, and social media. I love interacting with people in publishing and readers and booksellers and librarians, but it’s a challenge to make time for everything.
What has been your favorite adventure during your writing career?
SW: Probably the autumn we spent in France researching MAP OF THE HEART. It was magical, driving through Provence as we explored the places in the book. A close second would be the biking trip through Holland that culminated in a wonderful visit with my publisher in Amsterdam.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned, thus far, in your writing career?
SW: Overtip. Every. Single. Time. 🙂
What piece of advice would you want to share with other writers?
SW: Let your natural voice come through. And the way to find that voice is to write. A lot. Every day, if you can. Finish what you start, keep your promises, and don’t stop until you’re proud.
Are there any groups, clubs, or organizations that you would recommend to other writers that have helped you in your career?
SW: The Authors Guild. They advocate for our rights. And the Authors Registry. They collect and distribute payments from foreign entities to US authors.
QUESTIONS ABOUT YOU, AS A PERSON
What is one thing that most people don’t realize about you?
SW: I’m an amazing cook! I love having people over. It’s been painful, keeping our distance during the pandemic.
What question do you wish interviewers would ask you, and what would the answer be?
SW: Q: What’s the most romantic hotel in the world?
A: The Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong. It’s where my love story with my husband started in 2011. 🙂
What is/are your passions when you’re not writing? How do you make time for your non-writing hobbies/things you love?
SW: Reading. I could easily read all day every day. I also love being a grandmother, skiing, cooking with my family, hiking, biking, travel, listening to music, singing and dancing, interfering in my grown kids’ lives. I’m a pretty good knitter and have a knack for home improvement projects.
What are some of your writing-related hobbies, crafts, addictions?
SW: Reading again, for sure. I love getting together with other writers and talking shop.
What does your writing space look like? What do you need to have around you while writing or editing?
SW: Depends on the time of year. In winter, it’s sitting in front of the fire with my feet up and my notebook and Lenny in my lap. In the summer, it’s on my patio, looking out at Puget Sound. Same notebook and same little doggie. I do have a proper study, but that’s mainly where I do the business-y stuff and paperwork.
While you’re writing, do you prefer music, silence, other? Please elaborate!
SW: Silence, or tuneless “concentration” music in the headphones. Recognizable music is distracting to me because I love music so much! It’s wonderful to live on an island. I can hear the waves, foghorns, ferryboats, sometimes the float planes.
Writers very often have furry or feathered or otherwise non-human companions to “help” them through their work. Do you? What do you have? How do they “help” (or, “not-help”) with your writing?
SW: I’ve always had dogs. Lenny is named for the character in OF MICE AND MEN. When I was in 7th grade, I was devastated by the ending of that book, so I rewrote it! Lenny is a tiny rescue chihuahua mix. I brought him home in a shoebox and he’s the cutest thing in the world. You can see his picture all over my social media.
Do you have any favorite foods or drinks that must be in the vicinity (or must be avoided) while you’re writing or editing a piece of work?
SW: When on deadline, it’s Red Bull and microwave burritos (I know!). Most of the time, French blue Earl Grey tea from Mariage Freres, all day long.
How important has the New England setting been to your writing?
SW: It was the key to FAMILY TREE for sure–a made-up town based on Putnam, VT. And of course Boston was the setting for my most popular historical, THE CHARM SCHOOL. I adore the northeast and love visiting. My literary agent has a place on Nantucket and I love going there.
Where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester–though they should totally check here first!)
SW: YES to a visit to Annie’s! You are an institution. But as a writer, I’m in favor of any place that brings books and readers together–the bookstore, the library, or online.
How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
SW: On www.susanwiggs.com there is a button that will connect you with all my social media channels, so pick your favorite, including Bookbub. I also have a book group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2762173960480511
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer all of our questions, Susan! It was a wonderful way to get to know you, and I am sure our readers are really enjoying it! And please do come visit Annie’s when this whole COVID issue is finally resolved. We’d love to have you!