My name is Susan M. Krauss and I am a lifelong resident of Michigan. My husband and I raised two children in a small town where I taught high school English and he has been employed in agri-business.
When I retired from teaching in 2007, I decided to work on my novel THE BOOK OF JANE which I had been writing during my summer vacations for several years. When I felt the work was finished, I contacted several agents and publishers but was told “Your book is not for us.” That process was interrupted in 2010 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My illness turned my life upside down for nearly a year, but after fighting that battle, I emerged with a new perspective. Life is short. Family and friends who had read the manuscript urged me to try self-publishing, and I started to consider it.
The old phrase “vanity press” stung me each time it ran through my head. However, I began to understand that e-publishing is changing the way books are delivered to the public these days, and this past summer I found the courage to do it.
I’m pleased that I followed through and am delighted to see it offered at Amazon.com where I have purchased so many books that I have enjoyed over the years. My Facebook friends and family have their copies, and of course, they all love it! Now I’d like to get it into the hands of other readers.
I haven’t started putting words on paper, but I am developing some characters in my head for a second novel. The only words I’m typing currently are for WhatNext.com, a website for cancer patients and survivors where I answer questions and give encouragement to newly diagnosed patients.
I am thoroughly enjoying my retirement these days, spending time with my husband, two children and six grandchildren. Publishing the novel and publicizing via Facebook has put me back in touch with many former students, and that’s been fun.
What inspires you to write?
I think of myself as a fairly creative person. As a teacher, I was writing every day, preparing tests and quizzes, and often writing models in the genre we were studying. I enjoyed sharing my short stories and occasional poems with my students.
I generally start with a character and get to know him or her. As a youngster, I often started stories and most enjoyed filling out the character with physical description and development through flashbacks. That was my downfall as most stories ended up in the waste basket. I lost sight of an ending or became bored trying to manipulate a storyline. I always liked my characters, though!
Tell us about your writing process.
When I was teaching, I couldn’t find time to devote to my personal writing. The characters in THE BOOK OF JANE and their struggles played out in my head for several years before I actually made the time to put my thoughts on paper. I found I could write best during my summer vacations, but when school resumed in the fall, my novel would go untouched for months.
Following my retirement, I didn’t immediately dive into it. After feeling a little restless, however, I got the urge to finish it. I worked on it for nearly three years. I didn’t write every day, but when the spirit moved me, I could sit at my computer for seven or eight uninterrupted hours. Finally I felt it was nearly finished, and I shared the manuscript with a friend whose opinion I valued.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I tried to keep a timeline of the events because my novel spanned nearly forty years. I had difficulties with the time element. For instance, I had my characters using cell phones…until I realized that we all didn’t carry them way back in 1985.
There is an abundance of dialogue in the novel, so in my head I definitely heard the voices of my characters. I could picture their faces as I described them and I could see them confronting each other, playing out like movie scenes in my mind. Much of this was done at night in my bed when I couldn’t fall asleep. Then, the next morning I’d get up and quickly go to the computer where the dialogue would ooze out of me.
What advice would you give other writers?
I always told my students they would write best about what they know, and I encouraged first person narratives because as a student I longed to write that way. In the old days, my teachers seemed to favor a less creative, voiceless narrative which I came to resent.
In writing my novel, I felt a little guilty writing about things like contemplation of suicide and a sexual assault because such things never happened to me. My knowledge of such events came from watching TV or reading about them in other people’s novels. To make up for that lack of personal experience, I tried to talk candidly but delicately to people who had experienced such events.
So write about what you know…but it’s okay to go beyond personal experience if you do some homework and strive to keep it real. And try to find a voice that can make the fiction ring true.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
My niece works for a publishing company. She was one of my first readers, and she encouraged me to self-publish several years before I did it. I shared my manuscript with ten friends, all of whom were avid readers. Each one encouraged me to get the book published, but getting those rejection letters from publishing houses and prospective agents proved disheartening. After battling cancer, I felt I’d better get on with it, if I wanted to live long enough to see my book published.
One day this summer I started researching e-publishing and within a week’s time I was on my way. Oh, how my hand shook as I pointed my finger to hit the “send” button! And then in a matter of a few days, I saw THE BOOK OF JANE in the Amazon, Apple, and Barnes and Noble ebook stores.
As a perfectionist, I lost some sleep worrying about formatting and mistakes I might have missed even though I’d read those words a hundred times. You can’t have too many proofreaders if you want to self-publish. But being an English teacher for over twenty years certainly works in my favor. I’ve read the works of the great writers and analyzed their prose, and I know the rules of punctuation pretty well.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
From everything I’ve read, e-publishing is here to stay. It’s a little daunting to consider ANYBODY can publish ANYTHING. I’d like to think my book is worthy of readership, but I worry about my ignorance and naivete in marketing it. It’s a pretty easy process to get the book out there; the hard part is getting the readers you want to find it.
What do you use?
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What genres do you write?
What formats are your books in?
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