In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing
victim author and they choose their own interview by handpicking which questions (and how many!) they want to answer. Suzanne Redfearn is the author of Hush Little Baby, a novel about a woman who risks her leaving an abusive relationship for the sake of her life and her children’s. Here is what Suzanne had to say about reading, writing, and cringing at her early work.
Would you give us a bit of introduction and let my readers know who you are, how you got started writing, and what kind of books you like to write?
Thank you for inviting me to do this interview. Like my protagonist I am an architect who lives in Laguna Beach, California. I have two kids, and my husband and I own a restaurant called Lumberyard. I am an “accidental author.” I didn’t set out to be a writer or go to school for it, I sat down one day with a story and started to write. Seven months later I had my first novel and I was hooked. Hush Little Baby is my fifth novel, but the first one to get published. It turned out that I love to tell stories. The stories I’m particularly drawn to are contemporary tales of morality. I love creating complex characters who I then pit against each other on either side of an issue.
I am often struck by the different ways writers respond to the process of writing a book. Linus’s Blanket refers to my use of reading and other activities as a means of escape and comfort, can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you thorough the writing process?
Write, write, write, and keep writing. I don’t worry about finishing or where it the story is going. I allow the story to develop at its own pace and its own organic way, but I always write. I keep notebooks everywhere and I don’t restrict myself to writing sequentially. I do a lot of my writing in my car. An idea will strike me and I’ll pull over and write a single line or a chapter. The best ideas come when I’m not thinking about the story. I keep a sticky note beside my computer that reads, “Drama is anticipation with uncertainty.” I go where the story leads me, having faith that it will take me somewhere unexpected and amazing.
People live in stories, we are surrounded by them. What was it about this the story that made it the one you had to tell at this time? What impact did telling this story have on your life? Did you find that it had changed you?
Hush Little Baby is relevant to our times. The story was inspired by a couple who were going through a horrible divorce. There was a lot of he said/she said, and it was impossible to know who was telling the truth. It made me realize the power one spouse has to destroy the other. The idea was originally about marital sabotage and evolved into one about domestic violence and how far a mother will go to protect her children. In order to write the story I needed to do extensive research on abusive relationships and gained a chilling understanding of the pathology behind domestic violence. It made me realize that every woman is susceptible to the fear and manipulation abusers use to control their victims. I became incredibly sympathetic and much more understanding of their plight.
What are you reading now? What are some of your favorite books and authors? Has writing your own book changed the way that you read?
I just finished The Rosie Project and I absolutely loved it. Some of my favorite books are The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Writing has definitely changed the way I read. If I read something wonderful, I find myself envious of the author’s talent. If I read something not so wonderful, I find myself editing the book as I read which distracts me from enjoying it.
Are you able to read when you’re writing and if so what books inspire you when you’re working your own book(s)?
I do read when I’m writing. I try to avoid novels too similar to what I’m working on, but I find other author’s voices inspiring. I also do a lot of research, devouring anything and everything that pertains to the topic on which I’m writing.
What was the most interesting thing that you found out while researching this book that you ultimately decided not to include?
Originally the novel had been titled Swing Low, and I had named it that because the hymn references Jillian’s Christian upbringing and alludes to Jillian stooping to the level of Gordon in order to save her children. A wonderful surprise came when I researched the song and discovered it was actually a song written by a black man who went to live with the Choctaw Native Americans after escaping slavery. The song is about him being separated from his family when he was sold as a young boy, and his hope to be reunited with them in heaven. He is praying to Jesus, asking if he will be forgiven for the bad things he’s done to survive – nearly the exact internal struggle Jillian deals with in the story. It was a wonderful discovery, but the title was changed, so the double-entendre was never realized.
What types of books would some of your characters have if they were readers? Given their issues what book(s) would you suggest for them to read?
Jillian actually says in the novel that she loves dramatic literary novels by Anne Tyler and dark thrillers by Stephen King. I think she would also appreciate Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. Read more »