Category Archives: Susan Gottfried

The 2011 Holiday Season

It’s been quiet around here. Moribund, even.

Hard to believe it’s the week leading up to Christmas, and that Hanukkah starts tonight. Here at West of Mars, it doesn’t feel very December-like. The weather’s been ping-ponging between temperatures in the 50s and in the 30s. The 30s are what’s normal.

I guess we’re lucky.

I mean, we could be flooded out, like the people in the Philippines. Or dealing with radiation, like the people in Japan. Afraid of war, like most of the world. Oh, wait. We probably are afraid of war. Terrorism and all.

Yep. Like I said, moribund.

It’s the holiday season, though. No one should be down in the dumps this time of year. Yet, we are. There are so many pressures: gifts, cookies, travel, family.

This is why we writers do what we do. We provide you with escape — but we also provide it for ourselves. Sitting down and staring at a computer screen is transportation, teleportation. It’s a gateway into another world.

It sounds melodramatic, but it’s true. When I can escape into a fictional place for awhile, facing real life doesn’t seem so insurmountable. If I didn’t make enough of the good cookies (or too many of the ones no one likes), if the turnpike’s backed up for ten minutes at the toll booth… none of it matters when I can throw my characters into the scene and let them deal with it.

That’s our gift to our readers. Real, live, breathing characters. Books that feature people and situations you can relate to.

Your gift to us, dear reader, comes in the form of royalties, excitement, e-mails asking when our next book is coming out. It comes when you hand our books to your friends with that particular statement: “You have got to read this!”

Best of all, these are gifts that we give each other year-round. We don’t need to wait for a certain season and its stresses. We don’t even need a real reason, other than passion — to create, to read, to share.

So enjoy the cookies and the gifts and the travel and the family. Let all their stresses melt away. Because before you go to bed this holiday season, you will have the time to curl up with a good book. And us, the writers, we’ll make the time to jot some words down, to envision a scene, to move the tiniest bit closer to bringing you another finished form of escape.

Happiness sometimes comes from small places. A book. A scene. A character.

Don’t let the holidays get you down. Let the holidays be your reason to read.

Need a last-minute gift? Books make the perfect gift, this week and every week!

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One Small Detail

A couple of months ago, I came up with this killer idea for a new book. Killer, I tell you. If I’m truly going to move on, at least temporarily, from Trevor Wolff, this was the plot to do it with. I loved it. Loved the characters. Loved the concept. Excitement abounded and I could hardly get to work.

Except, this time… I didn’t want to. There was something in my way, something wrong, something stopping me, and I couldn’t figure out what it was.

The epiphany hit me from out of the blue, as the best epiphanies do. I’d originally envisioned my new character, Monica, as a pop star. I had a whole visual thing going for her: how she dressed, her personality, her past, the issues she had to face, what her body type was… the whole kit and caboodle.

Problem was: I don’t know much about pop stars. My very limited exposure to the pop music world wasn’t enough for me to pull this off properly. I needed more, I needed to get un-stuck about the small details of Monica’s pop-star life.

To be honest, this isn’t the first time I’ve had this problem with a female character. To be blunt: pop starlets fascinate me. I’m dying to write a book starring one. I keep trying — and keep running into the same obstacle.

Enter the epiphany. Change Monica’s music. Right now, the hard rock world is full of bands being fronted by women. Ann and Nancy Wilson aren’t pioneers anymore, they’re legends who may or may not have passed into ancient rock and roll history. Instead, we look at Evanescence’s Amy Lee as an old-timer, and we buzz about women like Maria Brink (In This Moment), Lizzie Hale (Halestorm), and Lacey from Flyleaf — I can go on and on. From where I sit, it’s never been a better time to be a woman fronting a rock band. Never a worse time to be my age and tone-deaf, either, but that’s another story for another time.

As soon as I made this change, got Monica out of her beaded dresses and platform stilettos, it all fell into place and the words flowed out of me.

One small detail. Pop music became Rock and Roll.

And my killer idea for a new book is flowing like crowds do when the doors to the arena are opened: slow at first, but then steadily, packing themselves onto the floor, excitement and anticipation making the air crackle.

Oh, it’ll be awhile yet before you can meet Monica in all her glory. For now, you’ll have to content yourself with Trevor. But remember: he came about in this same, exact way. An epiphany. A flow of words and ideas.

And, always, always, always, with no small dose of Rock and Roll.

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