Writer’s Corner for August, 2006

Susan Grant

Nobody’s heroines kick butt quite like Susan Grant’s! A veteran of both the U.S. Air Force and the infamous Wal-Mart Incident, Susan’s heroines are always strong, stalwart, and anything but cartoon-y, not surprising considering her decidedly uncommon credentials. Your Planet or Mine?, the author’s first book with HQN publishing – one she describes intriguingly enough as an “alien romantic comedy” – has just hit the shelves.

–Sandy Coleman

Susan, it’s an understatement to say that your background is a bit unique for a romance author. How in the heck did you get to be a United States Air Force Academy graduate and 747 pilot who also writes romances?

Hey, I often think that myself. But when I look at my skills, interests, and personality, it makes sense how I got here. I’ve always been creative, loved art as a child before I dreamed of flying, and writing is simply another expression of that creativity. And while I’ve been successful in traditionally male dominated professions (military, airlines), I’m feminine and love traditionally “girly” things. When I’d read, it wasn’t the action parts I was drawn to the most but the romance.

Well, that last observation nicely segues into my next question. I have to admit that I’m not a fan of the Bombshell type of kick butt heroine, which frequently seems to translate to me to “shallow”. Your heroines have always struck me as the kind of “action” heroines I can relate to – in other words, they are real women who happen to be…well, really great at kicking butt. I know you recently received a great deal of feedback from our readers when you asked what they liked and didn’t like about action heroines. Now it’s my turn to ask you: what works or doesn’t work for you when it comes to action heroines?

And I have to admit, I have never read a Bombshell. I’ve bought plenty to support friends who write them, but it was the publicized shift away from romance that kept me from picking one up from my TBR pile. But I do know what doesn’t work for me: action heroines from unbelievably wretched, horrible upbringings. Can’t she be from a normal family and be kick-butt and capable, too! I also don’t like action heroines who act like “men with boobs”. Hey, one of my former roomies from the Air Force Academy is a one-star general now. She’s tough, kick butt, but she is a mom, too, and gorgeous, and has her nails done, and is, gasp, from a loving family. I model my heroines after her, and after me, and after a wealth of women I’ve met who qualify as action heroines but who are normal women, too!


Well, you know that I couldn’t do an interview without asking you about the infamous 2002 Wal-Mart incident, could I? For readers unfamiliar with that story, the distribution company that handles all the books carried in Wal-Mart refused to carry Contact, a book that remains my favorite of your backlist, because of the airline hijacking plotline. I’ll refrain from offering my opinion of their actions, but for a while there you certainly were the anti-censorship poster girl. What’s your perspective on the incident now that some four years have passed?

Then like now, I’m an author whose career can be damaged by a devastating event like Wal-Mart not picking up a book. It cost me 20,000 copies right off the top of my print run for Contact. It could have been a fatal blow, because I was new, not yet established. I am very lucky my writing career survived the situation. I still don’t understand how or why it happened. I’m sure details and some truths were held from me. At the time, I had no agent and, thus, no one going to bat for me, and that made it all worse. Weird thing is, Contact was re-issued last year and would you believe Wal-Mart failed to take it the second time around? What is it with that book and them? I wish I knew the answer. But, it’s water under the bridge.

And let’s hope it doesn’t happen again, either. Susan, I know that early August marks the release of Your Planet or Mine?, something that you’ve dubbed an “alien romantic comedy”. Could you tell our readers a bit about the book?

It’s my first title for HQN books, and the first entry in what’s to be a trilogy. Planet is about a California state senator and an alien soldier who meet briefly as children on Earth. Jana thinks he’s magic, an imaginary friend. Cavin knows she’s real and when he grows up and finds out Earth is on his people’s invasion list, he returns to Earth to warn her. It’s not written to be a deep, intense, thought-provoking read. It’s just meant to be fun, and I think it’s best read with that mindset: show me a good time, give me some laughs along with a playful romance.

I handed in the sequel, My Favorite Earthling, (Jared and Keira’s story, due out March 07)) a few months ago and I feel it’s my best book – sexier than any I’ve written and just…better. I got that tingly feeling and tears in my eyes as I wrote the ending paragraphs and I haven’t had that in a long time. Right now, I’m writing How to Lose an Extraterrestrial in 10 Days (Reef and Evie’s story, no pub date yet). I’m glad I did this trio because I’m at a really happy point in my life right now and I think it shows in my writing. Also, back in 2000 when I first started publishing in paranormal when no one seemed to want it except the die-hard fans of the genre, who would have dreamed Harlequin would buy romantic comedies about aliens? I wouldn’t have. Part of me still doesn’t believe it! Amazing how things can change!

Well, publishing – romance publishing, anyway – is all about trends, isn’t it? As an early paranormal pioneer who defied the trends, what’s your perspective on the market now? Do you think the paranormal trend is close to peaking?

The market sure has opened up! It used to be so tough to sell a paranormal. I remember trying to get an agent back in 1998 or so and many openly stated: “No paranormals.”

At this point I don’t see the paranormal craze running cold anytime soon. In fact, a boatload of non-paranormal authors are jumping into the paranormal market as their own genre ships sink. Some are great authors, but many more are, well, bleh, with books that wouldn’t normally have been bought if the demand wasn’t so high. This brings down the overall quality of paranormals, of course, and if the market should shift to the Next Cool Thing (I can’t imagine what) the authors who will be cut first will be the ones bought to meet demand but who probably wouldn’t have otherwise sold their books.

Interesting that at the recent RWA conference, the buzz seemed to be that historicals were coming “back” – like they ever really went anywhere! But back to your books, in something of a double-header, you’re also featured in the new Mysteria anthology, along with MaryJanice Davidson, PC Cast, and Gene Showalter. What’s the story behind this new anthology?

The four of us contributed short episodes to the charity anthology created by Terey Ramin of Triskelion Publishing, a generous and innovative small press. The idea for Bewitched, Bothered, and Bevampyred was born in the weeks after the tsunami hit in 2004. But something unexpected happened. MaryJanice, PC, and I loved our characters so much that we decided to expand their stories into full novellas (mine grew from 22 pages to 135!). Even more unexpected was how much Berkley loved the idea of an author-generated and created anthology (their first, I believe). So much so that the deal was struck in half a week. So far Mysteria is doing really well out there. It’s in hardcover in the major bookclubs and is climbing the bestseller lists. We’re stoked!

I’m betting that Susan the Author is also Susan the Reader. What about the books and authors you most enjoy reading? Have you got any tips for our readers?

I really do love a variety of authors: I am Elizabeth Vaughan’s biggest gushing fan girl. I think I scared her with my “I’m your biggest fan” gushing, but, man, her War books were amazing and I just had to tell her so. I even blogged about her! I’m going to be giving a quote (one of many from many authors, I’m sure) for Warlord so I get to read it early! Woo! It was the first time I used the perk of being an author to get something first! I think Mary Jo Putney and Catherine Asaro are goddesses of the written word. I’m also a fan of Linnea Sinclair who combines cool SF space stuff with romance. Mary Janice Davidson, PC Cast, and Gena Showalter are new fun, finds.

Somehow, someway I haven’t yet tried Elizabeth Vaughan. I’ll get on that right away. Susan, thanks for taking the time to talk with me and I’m sure I’ll see you around the AAR message boards!

I’ve been visiting this site since my debut book was published back in 2000. Thanks so much for having me stop by for the interview!

Note to Our Readers: The Writer’s Corner will be taking a summer break for the rest of August, but we’ll be back in mid September with a truly exciting interview: none other than the one and only Judith Ivory. Be sure to check the Potpourri Message Board as the interview gets closer if you’d like to suggest questions for the author.

Susan Grant at AAR