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Author Interview: Susan I. Spieth

Susan I. Spieth graduated from West Point in 1985 and served five years in the Army as a Missile Maintenance Officer. After completing her military service, she attended Seminary where she earned a Master of Divinity degree. She is ordained in the United Methodist Church, and served five churches as Pastor/Associate Pastor for seventeen years. Susan and her husband have two children and live in Seattle, WA.

  • : As a clergy woman, I wrote sermons almost weekly. It takes a lot of creativity to tell an Old Story in a new way. I found that I was able to bring the ancient text to life, and over time, I became a better writer. Also, I wanted to capture the historical context of being a woman at West Point in the early 1980's. It was a unique time to be at the military academies because we were breaking historical and cultural barriers. We didn't know it then, but the more I've reflected on our time there, the more I knew I had to write about those events and experiences.
  • : I wrote poetry as a child. It was really silly stuff, but it was also the beginnings of my creative writing bug. I wrote several papers about real life events in high school and college. The first story I wrote was probably a sermon, where I re-wrote the story of the Woman at the Well from her point of view. I memorized it and acted it out during the Sunday service.
  • : Both my books, Gray Girl and Area Bird, are set at West Point in the early 1980's. Jan Wishart is among the first wave of women cadets dealing not only with the military lifestyle, but open misogyny and sexual misconduct/abuse by some of the cadets/staff. It's fiction, yet authentic to the experiences many women had during that time. Both books are suspenseful, page-turners and both have surprise endings, which my readers say they didn't see coming.
  • : I started Gray Girl in September, 2011. I published it in November 2013. I published Area Bird in January 2015. I hope to publish the third book in the series sometime in 2016.
  • : I grew up in a small town in New Hampshire. While I was not an avid book reader (to my dismay), I did read the newspaper every day. It may be unusual for a child/young adult to read the paper every day, but it is one way of reading short stories. When you think about it, the paper is the ultimate short story book with some continuing pieces and some new ones every day.
  • : I'm not terribly disciplined about writing every day, but I look for days when I have at least 4 hours available. Once I get going, I won't want to stop for a while. So it's more important to me to have an open chunk of time, rather than what time I write.
  • : The third book in the Gray Girl series, Jan Wishart will attend Airborne school before returning to West Point for Cow (Junior) year. She will remain under a cloud of suspicion as she tries to solve another mystery. She will become more and more ostracized by the Corps of Cadets, yet her loyal friends, Kristi, Pamela and Rick, will continue to have her back.
  • : I play tennis. Like every day. This is part of the problem with having a disciplined writing regimen. I also volunteer, manage rental properties, and do a host of other daily activities. Did I mention that I play tennis?
  • : Sit butt in chair (or couch.) Write. Get something to eat/drink. Repeat.
  • : Books which make me care about the characters--Cold Mountain, Water for Elephants, Jo Nesbo books, a little gem called Adrift, and many others. You get the idea.
  • : I am ordained in the Untied Methodist Church and served as a pastor/associate pastor for seventeen years. I also was an officer in the US Army.
  • : I have a Kindle.
  • : I arranged a photo shoot with a model wearing various West Point uniforms. I use one picture for each cover. My cousin is a graphic designer and he does the rest. I probably will need a new plan once I finish the Gray Girl series.
  • : I outline the big picture only. Then, I make a general list of the order of events. But overall, I don't rely on a detailed outline. I just get writing and see where it takes me.
  • : When the writing muse shows up and I get in the "zone," it feels almost spiritual. Something seems to come from deep inside or even somewhere else, which was not known to me before then. It feels like being on "autopilot" and the words just flow out of me. I love that.
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  • : I love you!
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