Hi everyone! It’s my pleasure to welcome Suzanne Smith, an award-winning romance author from Chicago, USA.
Her book, The Brute and I, is one of her emotionally rendering stories that won the Literary Titan Book Awards’ gold award. The novel is also a finalist in the Best Book Awards. It explores the psychological complexities of a relationship, winning the hearts of readers worldwide.
Congratulations on winning the Literary Titan Book Awards. Which of your stories won the awards and what they are about?
Thank you Estelle! I have two short stories and one full length novel that have won the Literary Titan Gold Award. The first short story is The Mortal Vampire, in The Mystic Desire Anthology. It’s about a 300 year old vampire that starts to regain his humanity after he meets a mysterious human named Angela.
The second short story is Bullets and Bustles, in The Cowboy Desire Anthology. It’s set in the Old West and is about a female bounty hunter named Emma Tombs who is forced to come face to face with who she really is and the true reason she’s compelled to hunt and kill men.
The full length novel is The Brute and I. It’s about the passionate, yet destructive relationship between Alex and her lover Marco. While the three stories are different in terms of time and place, they all touch on themes of forgiveness and redemption. All of the books were published by BVS.
Also, congratulations on The Brute and I getting into the finals of the Best Book Awards. How will you be celebrating your successes?
Probably with a drink or two and a steak dinner.
How did you feel when you were informed about your wins/successes?
Elated. I really hadn’t anticipated it. As an author who writes psychologically dark stories, I often ask myself if those who read my work are able to relate to the severely flawed characters that I create.
Are my characters likable? Memorable? Winning an award tells me that they are, at least to the judges of the contests. It’s encouraging.
Is this the first time you’ve won a book award?
No. The Brute and I placed as a Distinguished Favorite in the Independent Press Award Contest in 2020.
When did you start writing and what motivated you to write?
I started writing a few years ago. Retirement was fast approaching and I wanted to find a hobby that would keep me busy. I figured I’d try my hand at romance, so I started taking online writing classes.
Writing romance proved more difficult than I ever thought it would be. But, I had a great teacher/editor named Laurie Sanders who helped me with character development, deep point of view, and plot progression, among other things.
It wasn’t long before I realized how stimulating and satisfying it was to bring the characters that I’d imagined in my head to life on the page. I also found that writing allowed me certain freedoms. The freedom to travel back and forth in time, to go anywhere in this world or another, and to kill someone without consequence. Lol.
What are the highs and lows of being an author?
The highest of the highs is holding a physical copy of your published book in your hand. It offers tangible proof that you’ve achieved your goal. I also love getting complimented on my work completely out of the blue. One morning, not that long ago, as I was sitting in my chair at the front desk of the dental office I worked at, a patient approached me and told me that she’d really enjoyed reading The Brute and I. I had no idea she even knew I was a writer. I was on cloud nine all day.
The lows are those negative comments that you have no control over. I had someone on Twitter comment that they didn’t read The Brute and I because they found the title in combination with the cover offensive, that I should be ashamed of referring to a dark-skinned man as a brute. I also had a Christian author insult me when I friended her on FB. She said she would never, ever be friends with someone like me who writes “smut” and how dare I think that she would.
The negative comments weren’t based on the story itself, but rather on what each of these people perceived the story to be about. But, that’s social media and you just have to move past it.
Have you ever received criticism from readers, editors, or reviewers? If so, how did you handle it?
So far, the only criticism I’ve received was from an editor who didn’t like the pacing of The Brute and I. I fully agreed with what he said. For a little while, I turned to writing short stories. I found that writing short stories helped me with the pacing issue immensely. I respect criticism, but only if it is constructive.
What is the nicest thing anyone has said about your work?
Well, not the nicest, but certainly the most profound, was when my boss’s wife, who is an avid reader, told me that she will never again look at me the same way now that she’s read my stories. She had no idea that I had such darkness in me. It’s kind of thrilling to expose that hidden side of yourself to someone.
What is the one key advice you would give to anyone who wants to become a published author?
This can’t be said enough. Never give up. Take bad reviews and rejection letters with a grain of salt and move forward.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I read, do a little gardening, spend quality time with my three fur babies, and watch a lot of Netflix. I’m probably one of the few writers that spends more time watching television than reading a book.
What is your next writing project?
I recently completed a full length novel titled Lilah’s Limit. The story is set in New Orleans circa 1870, and is about a scarred man who falls in love with a prostitute. I’m currently working on a story about a young girl who is tormented by a demon who lives inside her walls.
I’m thrilled to welcome Eileen Troemel, a USA Today Bestseller author of action-packed and emotionally powerful fantasy, sci-fi, and romance. Eileen’s diverse books – such as Through Destiny’s Eyes and Paranormal Investigators – reveal her versatility in writing various genres.
Congratulations on becoming a USA Today Bestseller. How did you feel when you found out?
It was stunning, exciting, and surprising! It was a day when everyone in the anthology was watching and hoping. There was a lot of excitement. I got it and did a little happy dance. I texted my out-of-state daughters and let my daughter and husband know. I texted all my sisters and I think my nieces and nephews.
What 3 key tips do you recommend for readers looking for a good book?
Don’t look solely at the cover or the blurb – the quality of these is based on the thickness of an author’s wallet.
Read a sample – if you have the ability to get into the book and can read a page or two that should tell you whether you will like the writing style of the author.
Try to overlook punctuation and simple grammar errors. I know every author should make the best book they can but some authors tell a good story – they just don’t know all the comma rules or similar grammar rules.
What books do you enjoy reading?
I like the classics. I’ve not read nearly enough of them. EE Cummings is one of my favorites. But I also LOVE dragon books – whether it’s a dragon shifter or a dragon. You can usually get me to open the cover. Thea Harrison – I love her books and wish I had more time to read more of them. JD Robb – her in death series I’m usually right on top of them when they come out.
I love science fiction and fantasy. I also like a good western. Louis Lamour is amazing. I like Shakespeare and I’ve read the Iliad and Odyssey a number of times. I’m kinda all over the place.
Is there a book you read that made a change in your life? How did it change you?
Life Magic by Susan Bowes For most of my life, I considered myself an agnostic. When I read this book I found my path for spiritualism. The power in her words resonated deep inside me.
When did you start writing novels and who/what motivated you to write?
In my late 30s, I found myself very dissatisfied with myself. I’d had my kids, was married, and loved all of them but was very unhappy. I hadn’t seriously written much since my late teens so I went back to writing. I started with poetry, short stories, novel starts, and flash fiction.
But I always knew I wanted to write books. I think that started in grade school when I was given an assignment of writing a short story. It was the first time I realized you could tell stories and have them published. I was 8 but it took me a long time to get to a place where I was writing seriously.
I was 50 when I published my first 8 books. Poetry, self-help, romance, fantasy… all in my first year of self-publishing after years of attempting to be published traditionally.
Were there any major changes in your writing career? Highs and lows?
I don’t know about drastic highs and lows. I tell my stories. I know that I’ve had weeks where I seem to get dumped on – comments from other authors, bad reviews, or even bad rejection letters… one in a week isn’t bad but when you get a bunch of them, it can be overwhelming.
I’ve said more than once – maybe I should stop. Then I don’t write for a couple of days (sometimes only hours) and I am reminded why I’m writing.
I want to tell these stories that are in my head. I remind myself no one has to like them. I’d love for everyone to love them but the reality is not everyone will. It’s okay for readers to not like my stuff. I just have to keep trying to craft that better story.
What was your first published story and what is it about?
Secret Past. It was my first novel I published. I tried for years to get it published through a variety of different publishers. I had interest from them but not a lot of follow-throughs. It took me ten years to write so I was invested in the story and hadn’t learned a lot. I’m not giving you a link – this book is in my pile to get an updated edit and new cover. I love the story but I see too many flaws in it now.
Secret Past is a contemporary romance thriller. Dee has a past – one she’s not willing to talk about. Nick is an ex-Navy Seal turned private detective. He wants to know everything about her. The more she says no, the more he needs to know. His need to know causes her past to catch up with her in the worst way. Rather than let her disappear from his life Nick opts in for whatever she needs to feel safe. Dee wants the house, kids, and white picket fence but with her past doesn’t think she’ll get it.
I think it’s a solid story. It’s been seven years since I published it. It needs a stronger edit to make it a better book.
What advice do you have to new authors?
Lots… lots and lots…
I think first and foremost – write the story. Write it your way, in whatever order works for you, in whatever manner works for you. Get the story told. Everything can be fixed in editing. So just get it entered in the computer or written.
There are four areas you almost need to be an expert in if you’re going to be a self-published author – Writing, Editing, Graphics, and Marketing. If you aren’t an expert, then pay someone to do the job for you.
Do not ever complain about the readers or the reviews you get. One if you’ve got readers – YEAH!!! Two if you managed to get them to write a review – thank them for their time. Most books are not 5-star reviews. Most books range from 2 to 4 stars.
How do you get over writer’s block?
I don’t get writer’s block. I have pauses in my stories. I have pauses in my writing process. In general, I don’t get writer’s block. If one set of characters isn’t talking to me another set will. I often have two to four manuscripts going at once.
The one time I stopped writing was around my mother’s death. As executor of her estate, I balanced the grief, the tasks to do with her funeral, the tasks to deal with her estate, and then family. I stopped writing for almost a year. It was bad for my mental health. When I started back up again, I realized the lack of writing caused a lot of negativity in my life. It wasn’t easy to start up again. I didn’t like anything but… I started in and just wrote.
How do you handle criticism, from beta-reading to after your story is published?
Whether it comes from a beta reader or a book review doesn’t matter. I try to take in what they have to say, analyze whether it’s valid or not and then use it to make the book better. It depends on what they are saying.
That’s my grown-up response to it. Sometimes when I get a negative review it throws me into a funk. I really don’t expect 5-star reviews but at the same time, there’s the creative person inside me that’s going – What? Wait? I put my heart and soul into this… and well it goes from there.
But then I put on my business person’s hat and analyze. Is there something I can do without (if it’s published) drastically changing the story? Is there something I can put in the blurb that will make people realize it’s “that” rather than having different expectations?
Ultimately I attempt to turn the critique into something I can use to make my books better.
Have you ever dealt with rejection and how did you handle it?
I tried to get published for more than ten years. I used to keep a file of rejection letters – yes actual letters. I can’t tell you how many submission packets I’ve sent or how many rejections I’ve gotten. I stopped counting.
At first, it was all HOPE as soon as it was sent and then nerves about waiting anywhere from 3 to 6 months to get an answer. Then a letter (or email) would come and dash my HOPE away. Eventually, I just figured I’d get rejections.
I’ve gotten mean rejections – one said I shouldn’t write again. That was for my poetry. They did not like it apparently.
If I actually got something more than a – thanks but no thanks – from them, I tried to use it to improve my books.
What is the nicest thing anyone has said about your work?
One of my readers who had just finished reading my Wayfarer series told me she couldn’t put it down from the prequel to the eighteenth book. That was wonderful to hear but then she took it over the top by telling me, even though she just finished the series, she wanted to go back and read it again. I was over the moon with that.
She recently told me she was in a book funk and nothing appealed. She said she was looking for another Adara / Decker match and series but not finding it. So she was going to read the series again to see if she could get rid of the funk.
What is the one key takeaway advice you would give to anyone who wants to become a published author?
Being a published author is just getting started when you’ve finished the book. There’s the production of the book and then there’s marketing the book. So don’t throw something together willy nilly and expect to be a millionaire author. It takes time and work.
What do you do when you’re not writing? (hobbies, e.g. crochet? )
Yes, though writing can become all-consuming, I do several other things. I like to paint, craft and crochet. In fact, I publish my own crochet patterns. I also read when I get the chance. Researching family history is another of my hobbies.
Is there a particular book you would like to feature?
The Moon Crossing which I co-wrote with Jan Selbourne.
Eileen, thank you so much for your time and the great insight you have given both readers and writers. Eileen has shared a blurb and excerpt of The Moon Crossing, which she authored with another amazing author Jan Selbourne.
USA Today Bestselling Author Eileen Troemel and 2019 winner of Coffee Pot Book Club Book of the year silver medal for Historical Fiction Jan Selbourne present an alternate history, sweet romance of life after the Moon Landing in 1969.
In 2030, World Correction Center – the Earth’s most secure prison – is a miserable place to land. Since it’s on the moon, it’s inescapable. It contains the worst criminals Earth has ever seen. So why are the brilliant minds across the globe being sent to this black hole of the justice system?
When world-renowned archeologist Micky Cooper is charged with embezzling, his sister Susan knows it’s a set up. It’s up to her to prove his innocence. Susan thinks she might be paranoid but she swears she’s being followed and should she trust the nice man whose cousin has disappeared as well? Was it just a chance meeting or is he against her too?
Teaming up with Greg Tanner, a man equally resolved to prove the innocence of his cousin, Samantha Tanner – a world leading linguist. Susan and Greg seek clues wherever they can find them but they’re barely keeping one step ahead of those who want them to stop.
They begin to unravel the web of lies, fraud and cover up. Just when they start to put the pieces together, Susan and Greg are forced to run for their lives. With a nudge from Samantha, they find someone to help. Is this woman an ally? Or simply part of a greater conspiracy to hide the truth? What exactly is on the moon and why are the Earth’s greatest minds being sent there to serve time?
Finally at the front, she saw the little line on the sidewalk. The signs said no matter what, stay behind the line. Why? Did they think her powerful enough to break through a steel cage and bullet proof window? She forced a smile on her face as she fought her own rebellious nature. Putting her toes on the line, she raised her eyes to meet those of the officer.
The officer behind the window glanced her way. She flashed a sweet almost innocent smile to charm him. He paused momentarily, “State the name of the prisoner.”
“Micky… Michael James Cooper,” Susan heard the whir of the computer through the thick walls as the officer typed in her brother’s name. Biting her lip, she waited.
The officer stared at the screen, an eerie green reflection on his face. He glanced at her, frowned, and glanced back to his screen. “He’s not assigned,” the officer said.
“Can you tell me when he will be assigned,” Susan asked stepping closer to the window. She stepped over the line, but no one burst out of the doors to drag her away.
With his Adam’s apple bobbing, the officer looked into her pretty blue eyes. He licked his lips as he took in her tight sweater and her curves. Pencil skirts highlighted her narrow waist and flat stomach. Susan saw the desire she endured from men since she got breasts at ten. Men. She tried to keep the disgust she felt hidden.
“He’s been assigned,” the officer said reluctantly shifting his eyes back to the screen. “There’s no backlog of prisoners. They either get a prison in the US, or they go off to WCC.”
“World Correctional Center,” he informed.
“Sergeant Brady,” she read off his name from the tag on his gray uniform, “I know you get a lot of flak from people all day long, I don’t want to cause trouble. I want to send my brother some food and other creature comforts.”
Sergeant Brady adjusted his belt as he stood behind the glass and metal counter. “Most likely they sent him to the moon,” he said. “Those designations always take longer to get in the system.”
“May I ask you a simple question,” Susan said putting on her ‘I’m a dumb girl act’.
“Anything I can do to help,” Officer Brady said, grinning when she gave him a half smile.
“I thought they only sent the worst criminals there,” she said leaning forward to give him a better view of her cleavage. “I know Son of Sam and Charles Manson were sent to the dark side of the moon. Why would they send my brother who… well he did something with the computer, and they said he stole money.”
“It’s all up to the International Department of Justice,” Officer Brady said leaning towards the glass. “They assign the prisoners to the prison.”
“You’re so kind,” Susan beamed at him. “Who can I contact…”
“You can’t and you are beyond the line,” snapped an officer behind Brady, who jumped to attention.
“Oh, forgive me,” Susan said stepping back. This man was not swayed by her helpless girl act. “Thank you for your assistance.”
Turning away from the head of the line, Susan felt a flush rush across her face. How dare they? The dark side of the moon. Why send her brother? They convicted him of embezzlement. Murders, mass murderers, traitors were all sent to the dark side of the moon.
USA Today Bestseller Author Eileen Troemel writes action packed and emotionally powerful fantasy, scifi, romance. She’s versatile and writes in many genres. She’ll try almost any genre if it means she can tell a good story. In addition to her writing, she loves to read, crochet, and research genealogy. Her best days are spent with her family of three adult daughters and her husband or writing.
When I was little, I was a sensitive child. A very sensitive one.
If another student at school was feeling miserable, I was that kid who gave a piece of my chocolate to her, hoping to see her smile. That’s who I was then, and it’s who I am today.
My parents told me I was too sensitive. I know they were right, but it was hard when I was easily influenced by energies around me – positive, negative, people on highs and lows…I took it all in, and you know what? It affected me.
Let’s go forward to today. I’ve learned to harness my sensitivity with time and experience.
I block negative thoughts and feelings, putting up an ice barrier, kind of like the wall from Game of Thrones. Hey, it works brilliantly, which is why I thrived doing the crime and court rounds, which could be gruesome and disturbing when I wrote for newspapers.
In situations when I am out of my comfort zone, I’m the quiet person who listens rather than talks, asking people questions, preferring to remain a little mysterious. It’s a technique called deflection.
Deflection means that you’re passing something over to someone else in an attempt to draw the attention away from yourself (cited in https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/psychologists/what-is-deflection-psychology-explains-this-defense-mechanism/).
However, I make sure my voice is heard when I want to speak up. That’s important.
Things are extremely intense when I see, feel, hear, smell, and taste things.
When I’m in the woods or at the beach staring at the ocean, everything around me is so rich. The rolling waves roar at me. The scent of the sea is like a smorgasbord of seafood delights (I love seafood). The wind blows viciously, sinking its icy teeth into my skin.
This is great for me when I write my stories. Writing descriptively using the five senses and drawing on cultural references was always one of my strengths. A few friends call me a “sponge,” absorbing everything around me, including cultural references from the past and in the present.
Another advantage of being a sensitive writer is I get to know my characters quickly and in great depth. They become real, and I sense them wherever I am. I’ve learned that my protagonist Sapphire Blake, who is normally an introvert, becomes very open and chatty when she’s with her friend, Vera, from my novel Lessons on Seduction, published by Black Velvet Seductions. This is great for dialogue in the sequel, which I’m working on.
It’s too real at times, so I have to snap back and put that wall that blocks fantasy from seeping into reality.
Dealing with the cons
There is a downside to being sensitive. Sometimes it unleashes incredibly strong feelings, from fury, rage, and sadness to overwhelming joy, mirth, and other emotions when there’s a trigger. If you show me something funny, I can laugh for days.
Noise affects me – television noise, social media noise, and the noise of people talking loudly as I sit and write this blog article. That’s why I have a noise-canceling headset and listen to music that I enjoy.
I’m sensitive to people’s energies. So much that I won’t hang out with someone I feel has a lot of negativity coming from them. We all have our issues, but we shouldn’t rain on other people’s parade is my take. In other words, I use my sensitivity to avoid negative people. I’ve learned that I cannot fix others – they need to fix themselves.
Now, I hate crowds. There’s way too much noise! Ironically, I end up in crowds a lot. I have my friends to thank. And, when you get me started, I can be extremely social, not being able to shut up.
Still, too much noise affects me, and that is why I end to shut off from the world to recharge my batteries.
How about you?
Are you a sensitive writer? I’d love to hear about your experiences.
This month has been an exciting one filled with achievements.
I have joined a new family—Black Velvet Seductions, a publisher with a wide range of books, including erotic romances, sweet seduction stories, and supernatural romances. My erotic romance, Lessons on Seduction, will be available from them and I am excited!
I’ve also been badged as an official ambassador for Wattpad, an online community with over 80 million readers and writers worldwide.
These achievements are what I call “teamwork” because it is a shared effort together with fellow readers and writers. They supported me through the highs and lows of writing and gave me the kick I needed to do improve in all areas.
Naturally, I was over the moon when BVS accepted my manuscript and welcomed me to their team. I learned that good publishers like BVS offer strong support and encouragement for their authors. Successes are shared and motivation is ongoing among the authors in this team.
The start of the journey
Looking back, I think about where I was a year ago. I had only three or four followers at best on Wattpad. Being a painfully shy introvert, it took a lion’s serving of courage to open up, reach out, and connect with other writers and readers. Not everything has been rosy on the yellow brick road. I’ve dealt with witches, trolls, and the flying monkeys, but it’s no skin off my nose.
What gives me strength? Other writers, of course! They help me stand strong in a tough market.
In one year, my stories were featured on Wattpad’s official profile pages and my profile now has over 1000 followers; from these followers, I have made a few wonderful friends.
I wouldn’t have friends if I hadn’t taken the step to write, edit my work, take in suggestions for improvements, edit, and edit again. An author’s growth is a never-ending cycle; it never stops.
Not if you’re having fun with other writers. That’s why it’s important to have others around us as we keep writing. My writing buddies are the ones I vent to, laugh with, and smile together as we face our challenges.
Nothing is achieved without another person’s involvement. Writing can be a lonely path, but we are never alone as long as we’re brave enough to reach out. Reaching out means that we may expose our vulnerable selves as authors, but it also means that we are willing to grow.
Each of us has a personal story of pain that we mask rather well sometimes. This makes it all the more important to ask for support when we struggle.
Writers help each other out, and as I’ve been told, we adjust each other’s crowns. The world is big enough for everyone to succeed.
Unfortunately, I’ve also seen a few talented writers lose hope in their projects because of the criticism they’ve received or an award they didn’t win. This saddens me. Being an author requires thick skin; criticism and disappointment are part of life.
What can we do to support each other?
Reach out to connect with others.
Reach out when we can support someone.
Reach out when we need support.
Let’s all make the most to support each other’s dreams and successes. This sums up my writing journey so far, with miles ahead to go—but I’m not alone.
Here’s a little something from I Love Lucy, one of my favorite shows. Together, we can do it!
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