Good Tuesday Morning all!

Please help me welcome author Susanna Fraser. After you read about her first sale to Carina Press and absorb her advice, ask her tons of questions! (Her weekly word counts amaze me!)

Thank you so much for having me at Pink Fuzzy Slippers today! My first book, The Sergeant’s Lady, has been out almost exactly two months, and I’m happy to have a chance to come talk about it and my new work, too!

How do you find time to write with family and job obligations?

It isn’t easy! I’m married with a 6-year-old daughter and a full-time job, so if I’m not careful writing can get squeezed to the margins of my life. I have a notebook computer I take to work with me, and on my lunch hour I try to eat quickly so I’ll have 20-30 minutes at the end to write. In that time I can write 400-500 words. Then, after my daughter goes to bed around 9:00 or 9:30, I shut my office door and keep writing till I’ve written 1000 words total on the day.

That’s a typical day. Some days if I’m tired, stressed, or sick it doesn’t happen at all, and when my husband was at a week-long conference recently, I was satisfied if I managed 500 words per day. And some days the words just flow and I can hit 1500 or 2000 words.

How do you get over writer’s block?

I once heard Bernard Cornwell at a conference say that there’s no such f***ing thing as writer’s block. We’re doing something we love, something that’s a lot easier than, say, a nurse’s or a teacher’s work. And a nurse can’t call up the hospital and say, “I just can’t come in today. I have nurse’s block.” That’s obviously ridiculous if nursing is your job. And if writing is my job, then I need to do it whether I feel like it or not.

So I just make myself sit down and write. Sometimes that’s all it takes. The first few hundred words are slow and painful, but then I hit my flow, the characters come back to life on the page, and I feel good.

When that doesn’t work, I’ve learned that sometimes the problem is me, and other times it’s the writing itself. In the latter case, I look at the scene and try to figure out what’s gone wrong. Do I need more conflict? Should I try a different POV character? Does this scene fit the story at all, and if it doesn’t, what else can I try?

But when the problem is me, usually I’m being too hard on myself. I love to write and I’m stubborn, so I’ll try to write through sickness, through exhaustion, through family crises, at my mother-in-law’s house on Christmas morning, and so on. And that’s when I have to remind myself that while nurses can’t call in with nurse’s block, they don’t work 24/7/365, either. They have days off, they take vacations, and they get sick leave, bereavement leave, and the like. I’m allowed to do that, too. I don’t have to write every day. Five or six days out of every seven is fine. I don’t need to write when I have the flu, and it probably wouldn’t be my best work anyway. And there’s no need to write on Christmas…unless of course my daughter and her cousin are so quiet and happy with their toys that I get a good moment to sneak off by myself with my characters.

How do you come up with your ideas?

On the broadest level, I became fascinated with two aspects of the early 19th century: Jane Austen’s novels and the Napoleonic Wars. When you’ve read your copy of Austen’s complete works to tatters and find yourself describing the Battle of Waterloo over dinner using your cutlery to represent troop movements, it’s only natural to write Regencies focusing on the military side of the era.

I often get the ideas for individual books through a sort of dialogue with existing stories. With The Sergeant’s Lady, I’d read three books in a row where a seemingly cross-class relationship was resolved when the lower-class character turned out to be the long-lost child of an aristocrat. I decided I wanted to write a book where the common character was exactly what he or she seemed to be, forcing the hero and heroine to face up to their class differences and find a way to move beyond them.

For my next Carina book, A Marriage of Inconvenience, I’d watched the 1999 movie version of Mansfield Park and thought, “Well, that’s one way of making that book more accessible to a modern audience. But how would I do it?” And so I took a very similar set-up, with a poor relation heroine who’d learned to be meek and mild to stay on her rich relatives’ good side, and built it from there.

What are you writing now?

A Marriage of Inconvenience comes out April 11, 2011, so I’ll be going through line and copy edits between now and the end of the year.

As for new writing, I’m working on a historical fantasy with strong romantic elements set, like The Sergeant’s Lady, with Wellington’s army during the Peninsular War. I love the setting, and I’m having fun with the fantasy elements—among other things, it’s given me a good excuse to write a heroine who, like me, is more than a bit of a tomboy, and who gets to have high-stakes adventures with handsome warrior-men.

More about The Sergeant’s Lady :

Highborn Anna Arrington has been "following the drum," obeying the wishes of her cold, controlling cavalry officer husband. When he dies, all she wants is to leave life with Wellington's army in Spain behind her and go home to her family's castle in Scotland.

Sergeant Will Atkins ran away from home to join the army in a fit of boyish enthusiasm. He is a natural born soldier, popular with officers and men alike, uncommonly brave and chivalrous, and educated and well-read despite his common birth.

As Anna journeys home with a convoy of wounded soldiers, she forms an unlikely friendship with Will. When the convoy is ambushed and their fellow soldiers captured, they become fugitives—together. The attraction between them is strong—but even if they can escape the threat of death at the hands of the French, is love strong enough to bridge the gap between a viscount's daughter and an innkeeper's son?

Please stop by Susanna’s website to learn more about her and to read excerpts from The Sergeant’s Lady and A Marriage of Inconvenience. Also, one commenter on this post will win a $10 gift certificate to


  1. Cyrano // October 26, 2010 at 8:49 AM  

    Good morning!
    I truly enjoyed your post. I'm glad you focused on your everyday writing agenda, word counts and the fact that you're managing them with a young child and a full time job, YOU GO GIRL!
    I also loved how you said that there is no such thing as writers block and how you related that fact to a nurse complaining about nurses block. Excellent! I don't believe in writers block should be called, "don't feel like sitting my ass in the chair block" Thats what I suffer from sometimes.
    What I need to do is treat writing as a job, instead of a hobby:/
    A quick question about Carina, did the publisher request another book from you after you contracted your first? or did you just submit a partial for the second and they accepted?
    I know Carina is a division of Harlequin, it's epub line, so I'm wondering if they work the same way as my publisher, Liquid Silver Books.
    And, how are you liking Carina?
    Good luck to you. The book sounds wonderful and I can't wait to read it.
    Have a fabulous day!

  2. Nightingale // October 26, 2010 at 9:36 AM  

    Susanna, I'm flabbergasted by your productivity. I have a day job but my children are grown. You are an inspiration to us all. The Sargent's Lady sounds good. Is it your first release from Carina?

  3. Mary Marvella // October 26, 2010 at 10:24 AM  

    Good morning, Susanna, I suspect you hit a nerve for most of us. I personally need to give myself an attitude adjustment.

  4. Susanna Fraser // October 26, 2010 at 10:56 AM  

    Tamara, I can't claim credit for the "nurse's block" analogy--that was part of Bernard Cornwell's "no such f-ing thing as writer's block" talk, though I did add the elaborations that nurses get vacation, sick leave, and the like, so it's OK to take SOME time off.

    I'm very happy at Carina so far. How they handle submissions from authors they've already signed varies, I believe. In my case I had two already completed manuscripts, and since they're linked, it made sense to submit the full for the second book once the first one was contracted.

    Nightingale, The Sergeant's Lady is my first release, period.

  5. Donnell // October 26, 2010 at 11:06 AM  

    First of all, that is one terrific cover and I love what you said about writer's block. Outstanding advice. I can't wait to read the Sergeant's Lady. Sounds like a wonderfully romantic read. Congratulations!

  6. Autumn Jordon // October 26, 2010 at 11:57 AM  

    Susanna, Welcome to the PFS blog. First, congrats on your new release. It sounds very interesting.

    I agree with you and others on writer's block. I don't think it exists. My work is always on my mind and if words aren't going on the page, it's because I'm working the story out in my head. I imagine writer's who were pre-computer, typewriter, pen might've worked this way also. Ink and paper was too expensive to waste.

    Love the cover.

  7. Edie Ramer // October 26, 2010 at 12:00 PM  

    Great interview! I don't believe in writer's blog either. I call it getting stuck, and when it happens to me, it's usually because I'm going in the wrong direction. I have to figure out when I went wrong (because it might have started in an earlier chapter) and the direction I should be going.

    Your next book sounds great, too! I'm already eager to read it.

  8. Susanne // October 26, 2010 at 12:02 PM  

    Great interview, and it's so true what you say about writers block. I tell people I never have it, but that some days writing is easier than other days. And webvirtually share a pub date! My next is coming out April 12, 2011!

  9. Susanna Fraser // October 26, 2010 at 12:17 PM  

    Thanks, Donnell, I was so thrilled with my cover! I have to admit I'd been dreading bad covers almost since I started writing (since there are so many terrible ones out there!), so to get something that beautiful was an unexpected blessing.

    Autumn, I do a lot of working out my story in my head, too. I didn't increase my word count yesterday, but I did spend half an hour in chat getting my critique partner's opinion on a change I was thinking of making to my heroine's backstory. She also emailed me her feedback on the story so far, and all the while I was cooking and packing lunches and such last night, I was thinking over changes I wanted to make. So I count it as a productive writing day even without word count to show for it.

    Edie, I spend a lot of time getting stuck and backtracking, especially at the beginning of a story when I'm still figuring the characters and plot out.

    Congratulations on your 4/12 release, Susanne!

  10. Dale Mayer // October 26, 2010 at 12:28 PM  

    Hi Susanna, love the comments on the writer's block, something I've never let myself use an excuse wither. The books sound fascinating!

    Congrats on the great start to your publishing career.

  11. Beth Trissel // October 26, 2010 at 12:37 PM  

    Welcome to the Fuzzies Susanna! Wowsers, you are one heck of a go getter. Fascinating post, and I enjoyed reading more about you. Love the book title too.

  12. Keena Kincaid // October 26, 2010 at 3:00 PM  

    Good afternoon, Susanna. I enjoyed your posted and agree with you on writer's block. If i can make it past the first 10 minutes, I'm usually good to go for the rest of day.

  13. ArkansasCyndi // October 26, 2010 at 3:08 PM  

    Hi Susanna! Great interview. Writer's block? Most of the time when I have writer's block, it's because I don't have enough time alone to let my characters talk to me!

  14. Patrice // October 26, 2010 at 4:40 PM  

    You are quite amazing, handling everything, and only giving yourself permission to take one or two days off a week. When I'm going full out on a book, I do the same, but my kids are grown and my grandbabies don't live close, so I have no excuse. Not that I need one, but I like to write everyday because it keeps it fresh.
    I have submitted some of my older books to Carina Press and had them turned down, but I recently submitted a book I love, one that my agent believed was my strongest book to date. So, I will wait and see. Have you seen how their marketing team works? Are they active in creating sales? I know we authors are expected to do a lot of marketing on our own, but it's so time consuming when all I want to do is write!

  15. Scarlet Pumpernickel // October 26, 2010 at 7:13 PM  

    Welcome Susanna, we're pleased you stopped by to visit with the pink fuzzies. You words are inspiring to those trapped in the netherland of the unpubbed. I met the editor of Carina Press in Birmingham last spring and I must say, I was impressed by both the editor and Carina. Good luck on sales of your book. I'm going to go download it to my ereader right away.

  16. Joanne // October 26, 2010 at 7:39 PM  

    Hi Susanna,
    Welcome to the Pink Fuzzies. You are truly an inspiration. I try to write 1,000 words a day, but some days are better than others.

    Congrats on your sales!

  17. Pamela Varnado // October 26, 2010 at 8:36 PM  

    Hey Susanna. Thanks for visiting the PFSW's blog. Like you I'm most productive when I set a goal, such as 1000 words a day. It keeps me focused. As for writer's block, I don't believe in it. Something else is usually going on in a person's life. They may have established bad habits or is just not focused. We all have to remember that our dreams won't come true if we don't sit our butts in that chair and write!

  18. Mary Ricksen // October 26, 2010 at 8:43 PM  

    Welcome to the PFS and what a great blog. I can't wait to read your multiple stories as each one is released! Congrats on the new release with Carina and good luck. How do you like it there? You inspire me!!!

  19. Susanna Fraser // October 26, 2010 at 9:10 PM  

    Have you seen how their marketing team works? Are they active in creating sales?

    I don't have a lot to compare them to, since it's my first book, but they seem active to me. They promote new releases on Facebook and Twitter, do online advertising, and are helpful and supportive with us in our self-promotion.

    Are you from Birmingham, Scarlet? I grew up in Shelby County.

    It's funny, I don't feel like I'm all that productive--I can always find someone who writes faster than I do. :-)

  20. Mary Marvella // October 26, 2010 at 9:17 PM  

    Scarlet barely missed being from Alabama.

  21. Susanna Fraser // October 27, 2010 at 3:06 PM  

    ...And Mary Ricksen is the winner of the $10 Amazon gift certificate! Mary, please email me at susannamfraser AT gmail DOT com to claim your prize.