Monday, May 11, 2015

Interview with Author Sue Duff

To kick off our Denver Comic Con 2015 festivities, we welcome Colorado author Sue Duff to Beyond the Trope! Sue has been writing since high school but never became serious about it until a skiing accident laid her up for an entire summer and she turned to the word processor to combat boredom. A couple of years later, her first urban fantasy novel, Fade to Black, was a finalist RMFW Colorado Gold Writing Contest. By day, she's a dedicated speech-language therapist in an inner city school district to pay the bills but her life as a writer is her true passion and the creative outlet keeps her sane.

We wanted to get to know Sue, so we asked her a few fun questions to warm up for her guest blog on Wednesday. Check it out!

We love RMFW for everything it offers to writers – especially the Colorado Gold contest! How did the Colorado Gold contest affect your writing and career?
Placing in the top five for an earlier version of FADE TO BLACK really led me to believe in myself as a writer. Until that point, I was struggling to think of myself as a writer in spite of already penning three novels at that point! In fact, only those closest to me even knew that I was writing novels. When FADE TO BLACK placed in the Speculative Fiction category, I was given a special ribbon for my name tag at the conference. Right away, I noticed I was treated differently by veteran writers, agents and publishers as a “serious” writer. It was that pivotal moment that I truly believed I could get published one day if I kept honing the craft and working on my skills. 

"A cook's guide to writing" is a great name for a blog series; how did you come up with it?
I have a knack for finding ways to combine things that I love, like combining fantasy and science fiction genres in my Weir Chronicles series where a magical race of beings turn to science to stop the extinction of their race—with serious consequences! I’m an avid cook and recognized how writing and cooking shared so many similarities from following a menu (plotting) or throwing together a bunch of ingredients (characters, settings, dialogue, etc.) and seeing what came from it. Both were creative outlets for me, and when I tried to explain to a friend how I created my world for the Weir, I used analogies about cooking. The blog just grew from there!

What’s your favorite non-writing thing to do on a day off?
Sleeping-in is always a favorite! But seriously, I crave taking walks, running errands, being active in some way. Between my job as a speech therapist and writing when I’m not doing that, I’m in front of a computer and sit most of the day. The kinks set in all too quickly. Now that I have a Great Dane puppy, she insists on taking me for walks more than I do her!

How does being a speech-language pathologist change the way you write dialogue?
I’m acutely aware of what “sounds natural.” Conversations are rarely, if ever, complete sentence structure. We all speak in cryptic ways and especially with familiar friends or individuals. Actually, in MASKS AND MIRRORS, being a speech therapist hindered me! My editor insisted that I take out the “authentic” speech for my “just-turned-three-year’s-old” character and change it to true words (twirsty/thirsty). It killed me because I knew that most toddlers don’t use certain sounds or sound combinations until later in life and I felt that those types of speech errors is what makes toddlers so endearing. My editor convinced me that it was just odd enough that it gummed up the flow of the dialogue and made readers stop and think too much. I got away with using a little of it when I first introduced him, but then not at all later. I did stick with him speaking in phrases and short sentences, though, and left out complex grammar to be as close to his age as I could.

If you could join the cast of any movie or TV show, where would you jump in?
Ha, what a great question! I have a guilty pleasure TV show, ARCHER, on FX. I love it for its raunchy, never-politically-correct humor and dialogue. I wish I had the guts to be that irreverent in real life! I also love the dialogue for the SUPERNATURAL on the CW. It’s so real and I love how it pokes fun at its own pop-culture. THE BIG BANG THEORY is another favorite. I have a soft spot because of the nerd in me and I feel like I’m hanging out with my peeps every time I tune in.

Authors spend a lot of time explaining “Why” and “How”. What question do you wish you would be asked more often, and what is its answer?
How do I come up with my ideas?

I get a twinkle in my eye when I’m asked this question because I can honestly say, “I don’t know.” I’d like to think it’s 100% creativity on my part, but in truth, I believe it’s a product of TV, movie and reading preferences from my childhood. The list included fantasy, science fiction, mysteries, adventure, and romance genres that somehow festered inside me and turned into a soup of creative juices. They eventually boiled over and dripped onto a word processing page one snowy, wintry day. The challenge wasn’t coming up with the stories, in one form or another they’ve been around for centuries! Making them unique and putting my own creative spin on them was the goal. From what I’ve read of the reviews, I’ve achieved that! Oh, and I do a lot of writing in my sleep. No lie! I often wake up after spending the previous day agonizing about how to work out a scene. The next morning I wake up and it’s plotted out and ready to be typed up!

Sue is the author of the Weir Chronicles, and Book Two is out! Here's the low-down on MASKS AND MIRRORS, a young adult fantasy novel:

Ian Black’s commitment to safeguarding Earth has come at a price. His career as an illusionist is at a standstill and attending to the planet’s needs has distanced him from his best friend, his guardians, and the woman he loves. When presented with an opportunity to perform, Ian seizes the chance. But moments before he takes the stage, Ian encounters the mysterious Jaered and a rebel force fighting to protect Earth alongside the Weir.

Jaered is determined to stop a malevolent Weir from releasing a drug capable of wiping out the last vestiges of their race and plunging Earth into self-destruction. But when Jaered is willing to sacrifice an innocent child to obtain the drug for himself, Ian risks everything to uncover the secrets of the rebel forces and their true intentions for Earth’s survival.

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