Suzanna Linton is a fantasy and urban fantasy author. Her latest novel, Secret Burdens, came out in July 2018. It is the third book of the Stories of Lorst Series.
Interview Transcript Suzanna Linton
Richard Lowe 00:01
Welcome to author talk with Richard Lowe. And I’m with Susanna J. Linton, who’s a fantasy and urban fantasy author. Her latest novel secret burdens came out in July 2018. It is the third book of the stories of last series Susanna, what is your story?
Suzanna Linton 00:27
Well, um, I grew up in a kind of a very oral culture of storytelling and storytellers. And so I grew up hearing stories and reading my mother was a big reader. So I was always surrounded by her books. And that sort of spilled out in me telling my own stories, but I didn’t really think about becoming an author until I read and mccaffrey’s dragonflight in high school. And I was so stunned by the world she built and, and the characters and everything that I thought I want to be a writer to, I want to create worlds like that, and share that with people. And so that’s sort of where it started for me.
Richard Lowe 01:08
I’ve read those books that were fantastic. They really are. Yeah, what about them intrigued you
Suzanna Linton 01:15
I liked the fact that the main character, Lisa was not likable, like she had her own kind of selfish agenda. And part of the story arc was her learning how to put the needs of others beyond her own, and how to open herself out of her shell. And then the dragons themselves were fascinating and, and the relationship between the dragon and the dragon rider, and, and just the whole society because it was so different from what I was used to growing up with. And those were like the three big things for me.
Richard Lowe 01:50
She does have a very rich world, and you’ve touched upon a subject that’s near and dear to my heart is character arcs. I found that good. Good stories have characters that grow through the novel, which is a character arc, whereas poor stories tend to be plot driven instead of character driven. Do you find this true?
Suzanna Linton 02:09
Yeah, I do. Um, I, I think that there’s a place for plot driven work, that, you know, that can still be enjoyed. But I prefer character driven, I believe that my work is more character driven, because I think that’s where you start. When you’re writing you start with your character. Whenever I come up with a new idea for a novel or story or something. I always start with the voice of the character, and what’s their journey? What’s their struggle? And then the rest of the problem kind of builds around that?
Richard Lowe 02:43
I see do you find yourself where the characters take over your story?
Suzanna Linton 02:47
Um, sometimes it’s, it’s usually the character, sometimes there’s a battle. I don’t know how to talk. I don’t know how to talk about this about giving away some of the plot of secret burdens. But there was an issue that I wasn’t listening to the character. And I was having trouble writing secret burdens. And then I realized that I was not letting my character take over and go in a certain direction, I was trying to force it. And when I let my character go, I was able to finish the novel and write it more easily.
Richard Lowe 03:20
I understand. Sometimes I write, and I want to go in one direction, and the character seems to want to go in another and it just causes the writing to become awful until I fix that. Yeah. Yeah. Well, that’s, that’s interesting. And why did you choose fantasy as opposed to any other genre,
Suzanna Linton 03:35
um, because I can make my own rules. And I don’t have to worry about getting a letter or an email or something was my saying, Oh, you got this wrong. I mean, I can still get that, you know, especially since I deal with horses and, and armor and fighting and stuff like that. So there is some basis in reality, but I can use it as a framework and kind of just build around it. And it just feels like a safer environment. Now, I have written one novel that takes place partially in the real world, but I didn’t stay there very long. And I kind of just branched out from there. But I just feel like it’s a it’s a bigger playground, so to speak.
Richard Lowe 04:15
You get to make your own rules. Yeah. Well, that’s interesting and your own world? Definitely. How do you go about world building?
Suzanna Linton 04:22
Um, I usually, again, I start with a character and then I kind of try to imagine what sort of world do we want to place it, place them in, it’s not usually a conscious thing. My world building responds to the needs of the plot. Like if I need a certain religion to feed into the pot, I’ll create that religion or if I need a certain I’m political structure or something like that. It’s usually as I write the novel that I create the world that it fits in.
Richard Lowe 04:59
I see see you Don’t you don’t sit down and create the entire world before you start? No, not usually No. or define all the characters in detail before you start? No, not not usually No, I see. Do you do an outline? Before you start?
Suzanna Linton 05:14
Yes. If I know it’s going to for secret burdens I did because it was it’s a big complicated plot with a lot of moving parts. And so I sat down, and I worked out what my conflict was, who was gonna, who are gonna be my players who, what were my subplots that I wanted, and just sort of came up with a loose outline. I didn’t, I don’t like to make a hard and fast outline. I leave myself room to do my own thing and let the characters respond. And, and look, I guess, try and be organic is what I’m trying to say.
Richard Lowe 05:51
I understand. Yes, there’s a there’s a term for that is I think it’s called a pastor. So there’s plotters and panthers. I tend to be a pastor as well.
Suzanna Linton 05:59
Yeah. And then there’s in between, and I’m developing an a more of an in between kind of writer.
Richard Lowe 06:04
I understand. And why did you write this particular book?
Suzanna Linton 06:09
Well, um, I wanted to continue the series, obviously. But I also wanted to delve into a mind of a different character, the first two books revolve around Clara. And and she’s important naturally. But this, the third book, I wanted to talk about this other character who was having his own issues that I really started to notice and Claire’s return the second book, and I thought it would be really interesting for me to a right from a man’s point of view, and B to deal with the concept of honor and lost honor. And how do you recover that? How do you feel comfortable again, your own skin? How do you get your integrity back? And I just wanted a different voice, because I call it the stories of Lords because it’s, it’s, it’s set up so that we’re going to have stories from different characters and different things going on in the kingdom. And I thought this would be a good starting point for that.
Richard Lowe 07:09
Okay, well, that makes sense. And how many other books have you written and published?
Suzanna Linton 07:16
I’ve written and published a four total, there’s the three books in the stories of lost. And then there’s the one book and the lands of sun and stone series, which is my urban fantasy ish. Novel, that so far, there’s just that one one novel in that series.
Richard Lowe 07:31
I see. And you plan to make it a longer series, obviously,
Suzanna Linton 07:35
um, one day when I can get the characters to behave and respond. You know, write it out? Yeah.
Richard Lowe 07:43
I understand. Well, okay, good. It sounds like you’re very productive. What do you do to stay productive?
Suzanna Linton 07:50
Um, I usually the side that, hey, I’m gonna start writing. And I try not to put it off too much. And I try to give myself something of a break in between projects. And I use NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month, I use that if I feel like I need an extra push. And I think Clara was actually written over NaNoWriMo. And I think willows fate, which is the first book of this way, as a son of stones, there’s, I think that was written over a nano as well. So I like to use that to use community to kind of keep myself going.
Richard Lowe 08:28
And how do you use a community to keep yourself going? That’s an interesting point.
Suzanna Linton 08:31
Ah, well, Twitter, I take part in some Twitter chats sometimes. And would you know, which is where a lot of people get together under the same hashtag? And we answer questions and talk. I’m friends with my editor, and I bounce ideas off my editor sometimes, and I have friends in the real world who, who I talked to and who helped me with things and, you know, just I surround myself with writers, essentially, it’s writers and people who want to be writers, and things like that. Okay,
Richard Lowe 09:05
maybe you can send me some of those hashtags after the interview and we can Okay, Lincoln that link to them so others can take advantage if you want. Okay, good. And what do you do when you don’t feel like writing but you know, you need to write
Suzanna Linton 09:18
um, I do fanfiction. I write fanfiction on occasion. Um, sometimes I’ll take plays take part in role playing online, which is where I kind of tell a story where you and a partner and go back and forth on that. Sometimes I’ll write poetry. And then all else fails. I’ll read a book.
Richard Lowe 09:45
I see. So so you don’t it sounds like you don’t suffer from writer’s block very much. And you have the solution. If you do.
Suzanna Linton 09:52
Um, I don’t like the term writer’s block. It’s to me writer’s block, or what is called writer’s block. is really fear, you’re afraid of something. So it’s either you’re afraid of your own story, that you’re afraid that it won’t be good or that you won’t write it well, or you’re afraid of the work it’s going to take or you’re afraid of a particular plot point, or there’s some form of fear stopping you. And once you recognize that fear, and make a plan, or make a resolution to overcome it, then you can bypass the block.
Richard Lowe 10:29
Yeah. Okay. Well, that makes sense. That makes sense. So, if for the writers out there, what would you tell them that they succeed as well as you have?
Suzanna Linton 10:40
I tell them not to give up to not expect an overnight success. I was telling somebody the other day that writing is the long game publishing is the long game. I was recently at a an event trying to sell my books, and I didn’t sell a single book. But what I did do was I hand out handed out a lot of my business cards, and I talked to people. So that person might go home and look at my books online and see that claro is free as an ebook on the you know, on Amazon, or Kobo or whatever, or they give my card to somebody else that they know likes to read fantasy. So it’s, it’s a long game, you, you have to keep in mind the fact that it’s going to take a while, and to not let yourself get too discouraged. I also suggest, if you do get published, don’t pay too much attention to your reviews, your reviews are not for you, therefore, potential readers. So don’t treat them like they’re writing critiques, because they’re not. And I would say surround yourself with other writers have buddies of people that uplift you and help you to grow.
Richard Lowe 11:45
I found that’s especially important because as a writer, I sit here and stare at a computer screen all day long. Yeah, writing
Suzanna Linton 11:50
is a solitary is a solitary profession. But it doesn’t have to be all the time you need to interact with people, you can’t write in a vacuum.
Richard Lowe 12:02
Yes, and I found also just getting out to write and critique groups that are not near my computer screen, it also helps to use writing critique groups at all.
Suzanna Linton 12:08
Um, I did for a while. And then I kind of dropped out of it. But I’m trying to get back into another writing critique group now. But I have used them in the past. And I found them to be very helpful.
Richard Lowe 12:25
I actually started one years ago, I’m let it I let it fade. But for science fiction, it was pretty useful. All right, what other kinds of tips would you have for writers who are going to go sit to self published route?
Suzanna Linton 12:41
Research, research research?
Richard Lowe 12:44
And what do you mean by that?
Suzanna Linton 12:45
Well, don’t don’t just throw yourself into it. That was the mistake I made, I published Clara without really understanding what I was doing. And I made a mess of it at first, and I’ve been catching up with the learning ever since. So you should learn about what all goes into creating a a successful book launch and a successful self publishing career. Create your platform before you publish and you know, the platform is, is exactly what it sounds like. It’s where you stand and shout into the world and hopefully somebody hears you and where you make connections and networking. So get on Twitter, maybe start a blog if you feel like that’s something you would do well. And and I would also highly recommend that you find an editor, somebody to look at your work and to evaluate it and give you any revision points. Those are the ones that come to mind and also don’t create your cover art in Photoshop. That’s what I did. Don’t do it. Hire somebody.
Richard Lowe 13:54
Yeah, I learned that lesson the hard way you hire a professional person because even just the font face can make a big difference in sales. Definitely are not putting the shadow on or the shadow on the font. Huge difference. It was amazing to me. How do you get your covers name?
Suzanna Linton 14:11
I got through a Fiona Jade media. Fiona is a wonderful artist, I believe she lives out in California. And she she’s done all my covers. And she’s really easy to work with. And and she’s just she’s a wonderful artist. I’ve I I’ve actually had somebody say about my book was a bait. You know, don’t you know the the plots, okay, is what the reviewer said, buy it for the cover.
Richard Lowe 14:39
That’s funny. If you could send me a link to her site, I’ll put that in the description also. Might as well give her a little publicity too. All right. Well, speaking of publicity, this is the elephant in the room I found with every single writer is how do they promote their books. It’s something that writers don’t tend to be good at. I guess, or they don’t want to do it or whatever the block is. And everybody wants to know, how do I get my books out there? What do you do?
Suzanna Linton 15:07
Well, um, I’ve, I’ve been doing more marketing lately than I have in the past. Um, one thing I do is, is I do giveaways. What’s the name of the site? My brain is blinking on me. But find websites for that do giveaways. I would not suggest Insta freebie because there’s some issues with that with newsletters. But a bat, I’ve done Amazon ads, which I’ve had some success in. There is some good tutorials you could find like Kindlepreneur, like entrepreneur, but you dropped the Ontraport. And there’s Kindle Kindlepreneur. Help has a good tutorial on how to do Amazon ads, Facebook ads, if you do it right, can be helpful. I’ve also done I found online PR companies that I’ve had limited success with, it just depends on them. And I would suggest staying away from blog tours, because that market is so saturated. I mean, you can try it. If if you find a blog tour, that’s cheap enough. But also keep in mind you’re getting what you pay for it at the same time. And word of mouth also. And doing contests every now and again, has been helpful and newsletter swaps, have a newsletter and do newsletter swaps. Explain what a newsletter swap is? A newsletter swap is when you I go through a cross promo group on Facebook with a lot of mine. And what it is is somebody says, Okay, I need somebody or some people to feature my book on these dates. And you pop in and say, Oh, well, I have a newsletter coming out that date. I’ll feature yours. But here’s my book that I want you to feature in your newsletter. So you’re you’re essentially swapping dates.
Richard Lowe 17:06
I see that works. Okay, and that Facebook group is called
Suzanna Linton 17:12
sci fi, sci fi fantasy cross promo.
Richard Lowe 17:18
And there’s other ones I’m sure, yeah, there are others. Yeah. Good. Excellent. Yeah. I’ve tried blog tours myself. And they were disappointing. Yeah, they’re expensive. They take a long time to set up. And I’ve haven’t found them to be useful.
Suzanna Linton 17:33
Yeah, it’s just oversaturated. Because with those a lot of those book blogs do is that’s all they do. So their sites tend to just to be crammed with one blog tour after another. And I’ve noticed that a lot of those blog sites tend to be very poorly put together, and they’re not visually pleasing. Not all of them mine, but some of them. And I just think it’s gotten to the point now where it’s almost spam. So when I have used blog tour site sites, because a lot of blog tour companies will offer what they cover view tours, where they find bloggers to review books, and I’ve used those just to try and gain some reviews. But that’s I don’t do any more than that worth it.
Richard Lowe 18:19
Interesting. Yes. Now, something that I’ve found is building a connection with my audience is what brings me sales. Do you find that true as well?
Suzanna Linton 18:29
Yeah, I do. And cultivating my your fans, my fans, because they’ll help spread the word as well and help you get people interested in your books. That’s why I like Twitter, because Twitter and Instagram to kind of invite the reader in into my life, though, Twitter tends to be a little more writing base, Instagram, my Instagram is more personal base. But it invites my readers to come and see what a day is like in my life, that sort of thing.
Richard Lowe 19:03
I see that would be interesting to look at. So you’re also promoting yourself as well as your books.
Suzanna Linton 19:09
Yeah, because one mistake I’ve noticed, some people make is that they make their first book their brand, like they’ll make a Twitter page and the Twitter page. The user name is like the title of the book or has something to do with the book. But that’s not that’s not your platform, because that’s just your first book. Your name is your brand. And you you kind of have to build your platform, build your everything around your name, and you because that’s what’s long lasting. That’s what’s going to be around and continue if that makes sense.
Richard Lowe 19:51
It makes total sense. Yeah, so your platform would be your name or your your company name or maybe your series if that was
Suzanna Linton 19:59
- Well, I wouldn’t do series because you ideally you want to write more than one series. So it would be, you know, or your pen name, if you have a pen name is what you would build around.
Richard Lowe 20:11
Good, good. And do you use pen names?
Suzanna Linton 20:14
Um, I would say yes. And no. Um, my Susana J. Linton is sort of a pen name, because it’s not, it’s part of my legal name. But I, you know, you could still, you know, Google me and find me and probably find my personal Facebook using that. So, I don’t know if it would really be considered a pen name. I did have a pen name for a little bit, because I was writing some nonfiction, religious oriented stuff that I don’t write anymore. But I don’t have that anymore. So,
Richard Lowe 20:49
okay. Okay. And do you what social media platforms do you use besides Twitter and Instagram to promote yourself?
Suzanna Linton 20:56
Ah, Facebook, I use Facebook, I’m not too heavy into Facebook, but I am there. And I do have a LinkedIn profile, but I don’t really see anything that come out comes out of it. And every now and again, I’ll get a ping off a Tumblr because I have a Tumblr page, but I don’t really do much there. So my focus is mainly Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Richard Lowe 21:18
I haven’t actually found Twitter to be that useful and building an audience, but maybe I just don’t know how to use it. Is there any special techniques you use?
Suzanna Linton 21:25
Well, I I’ve only noticed recently that I’ve started gaining readers gaining followers who are readers or could be readers. Because you can never really quite be sure. Just might be some random person who liked your page for some reason. But I found that Twitter is you can’t negate that possibility of of gaining readers through Twitter, but it’s mostly for networking with other writers. But I kind of leave it open to connect with other other readers. I have some fans that will talk to me on Twitter and and respond to things I post so and of
Richard Lowe 22:09
Suzanna Linton 22:11
I don’t really I don’t get fan mail through email. So now, I’ve yet to get that. Okay. Well, actually, I have a couple but not recently.
Richard Lowe 22:23
And so Okay, so blog tours are out. Facebook, ads, ads, you need to work hard to make them work, right, you need to understand them. Are you just gonna be pouring money away? Yeah, Amazon ads seem to work for you.
Suzanna Linton 22:34
Yes, um, I use, the keywords are really important. There is this program out there, they’re supposed to give you a list of keywords. I can’t remember what it’s called. And a friend of mine, let me use her copy. And I had limited success with the words that auto generated for me. But it’s important to to have a lot you have to come up with a lot of keywords for Amazon ads. And you should add to them every day or every couple of times a week, couple of times a week. Because you need to have a diverse set of keywords so that your improves chances of somebody plugging in the right combination and buying your book, essentially. Is that product
Richard Lowe 23:20
KDP Rocket? Yes, that’s
Suzanna Linton 23:22
it KDP Rocket.
Richard Lowe 23:23
I’ve used it as well. And I’ve had some good success with it. So I’m just mentioning it. Good. Yeah. KDP rockets not very expensive, and it seems to work. And again, you have to pick the right keywords. Yeah, exactly. All it does is give you a bunch and then you get to choose the ones that work or not. Okay, what is your favorite thing about being an author?
Suzanna Linton 23:45
The fact that I get to create worlds and characters and and explore ideas that I wouldn’t be able to in the real world, and just the creative aspect is really my favorite part of it.
Richard Lowe 24:00
I see. And are you a full time writer? Or do you have a job on the side?
Suzanna Linton 24:04
I’m a full time writer.
Richard Lowe 24:05
So your make your whole living off of writing?
Suzanna Linton 24:10
Well, let me put it this way. If it wasn’t for my husband’s job, I probably living in a cardboard box in a park somewhere.
Richard Lowe 24:18
So you’re making money as a writer, but it’s not.
Suzanna Linton 24:21
It’s not like a living wage, but I am making money. Yeah.
Richard Lowe 24:24
Okay, good. That’s it. That makes sense. But you’re definitely seeing results from your writing and you’re happy with those results? Yeah, I published a series of classes and one things on writing. And one thing I stress is that, as you pointed out to the beginning of this interview, it’s a long haul, you’re going to if you keep working at it, you’re gonna see those numbers go up and up and up and up. And up, you’ll you’ll eventually make it if you don’t work at it, they’re not going to do that. And, okay, now, so you’d live what’s called what I call the writing If you work from home, and you may set your own hours and things, well tell me a little bit about that.
Suzanna Linton 25:06
Well, um, I, I, I tried to structure my day around like your typical nine to five block. So I tried to be at my desk, no later than nine. I’m on the Twitter team for writer unboxed.com. So that sometimes means I have to be at my computer a little bit earlier to schedule tweets for writer unboxed. And, but I nine is usually what I shoot for. And then I spend my morning doing my, what I call my desk work. So that’s checking my email, checking to see where I am in sales, researching any kind of contests or prepping for an upcoming event or things of that nature. And then the afternoon is what I reserved for writing. And and I usually try to clock off at five o’clock, like, even if I’m only if I’m like, really into a roll of writing while I go over that. But I try to walk away from the computer at five, and then try not to do too much over the weekends. I mean, I’ll write on the weekends of course but business wise avoid that on the weekends just to give myself a break and, and keep me from getting stressed and give myself some space sort of thing.
Richard Lowe 26:30
And that’s a good point. Writers need to give themselves some time away from writing or they become introverted into the computer I found out
Suzanna Linton 26:39
Yeah, yeah, it’s it’s so easy to get sucked into your own little world and not be able to see beyond it. Adam driver who’s an actor I really admire once remarked in an interview that one thing he didn’t like about his fame was that he lost his and amenities ability to be anonymous, because part of what he did, he feels you do as an actor is you observe the world. And and you reflect that in your acting, I thought, well, that’s the same thing with writing. You know, you you observe the world and you reflect it back in your writing, and you comment on it, or you say what you wish the world was or could be and, and you can’t do that if you’re sucked into a computer 24/7 Or most Oriente your phone all the time, and you’re not interacting with the outside world, you’re not going to coffee shops, you’re not or if you do go to coffee shop, you’re so into your laptop, you don’t overhear the conversations around you. And it’s just there’s, there’s a time when you need to unplug and walk away and turn off your phone and absorb the world around you.
Richard Lowe 27:46
Yes, that’s very true. All right. Now, you said you had some books? Do you have any in front of you that you could show us your covers and things?
Suzanna Linton 27:54
This is my first book, Clara. Nice
Richard Lowe 27:58
cover? Yes. Yes.
Suzanna Linton 28:02
So this is the first book of the stories of loss series. And the originally, originally the cover was one I have Photoshop myself and I had actually taken a picture of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which is mountains I use as inspiration for mountains, they’re in the book. And that was the cover with like, my eyes grayed out over the top, like, you know, like they’re seeing over the mountains is a really terrible looking cover. And but Fiona came up with this, this beauty right here, so
Richard Lowe 28:38
okay, that’s excellent. That’s excellent. Where do we find you?
Suzanna Linton 28:43
You can find me. Well, my website is Susanna linssen.com. My books are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble Kobo, iTunes, or iBooks, rather. And then there are a couple of smaller, like, smaller websites that where I’m available, but those are the big ones that I can think of off the top of my head.
Richard Lowe 29:07
Good. Any closing remarks?
Suzanna Linton 29:11
Only Thank you for having me. And and this is a lot of fun, and I appreciate it.
Richard Lowe 29:16
Oh, you’re very welcome. This is a lot of fun. I get to meet new authors all the time. And it’s very enlightening. And I enjoyed this interview a lot. Thank you for coming. Thank you. All right. All right. So this has been author talk with Richard Lowe and I’ve been interviewing Susanna Linton, and all of the links to her stuff that we mentioned in the interview are in the description. And please subscribe to and like this particular video, and come back again. Thank you very much
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