Sunday, January 04, 2009

Guest blogger Susan McLeod talks about her writing style

Author Susan McLeod is a friend of mine and the author of Soul and Shadow, which I read recently and really enjoyed. Today I've asked her to share a bit about her writing style on The Write Type as my guest.


My writing style is really quite simple―I just listen to the voices in my head and do what they tell me to!

Somehow, they are born in my subconscious, where they grow and mature quite independently of my conscious mind. When the time is right, they begin to speak. Then I know it’s time to put them down on paper and officially introduce them to the world.

In the case of my novel, Soul and Shadow, the characters have been living inside me since I watched my first mummy movie lo these many years ago. Egypt seemed the most romantic land in the world, and I half wanted to be dragged off by a bandaged monster dragging one foot behind him, because of course he was really a tormented but handsome prince looking for his lost love. I was that reincarnated princess, and we would live happily ever after, fully restored to our former glory.

That dream faded, but my love of Egypt did not. I studied it and am still learning to this day. While attending an exhibit at the local museum, I was looking at the mummy when I heard a woman say, “That’s why I’m being cremated!” And so, around that kernel, Soul and Shadow was born.

I had no outline. I had no plan. I just sat down at the computer and started typing. It sounds trite to say it wrote itself, but it really did. Whenever I tried to impose my will on the story, the story fought back, and I always gave in. The voices knew more than I did.

I was quite surprised at some of the twists and turns the novel took. People who I thought were bad turned out to be good, and vice-versa. Like any reader, I followed the story anxiously to see what would happen.

When it was finished, I will never forget how I sat and cried. I was so happy that I’d given the characters free reign, because they knew what they were doing. I had several friends, including teachers and librarians, read my work. I incorporated their constructive comments and made minor changes in a second draft. Then we all proof-read it nine thousand times. At least. And it was ready to be published.

I hope it captures all the mystery, romance and magic of ancient Egypt. Because my greatest dream is for a reader to feel transported the way I was by that mummy movie long ago.

That is the way I approach each of my stories. When inspiration strikes (and it can be anywhere) I carry that seed to the keyboard, sit down, and just start typing. I never use outlines and never write more than two drafts. I can’t recommend it to everyone, but it works for me. I’m a midwife, and there’s nothing I enjoy more than sending my children out into the world.

~Susan McLeod has won many prizes for her poetry and short stories. Soul and Shadow is her first novel, and she lives in Upstate New York with her family.

Susan's website:

Thank you, Susan, for sharing this with us. Everything you've said reminds me so much of my own journey with Whale Song, and all the characters who seemed to be a part of me. I hope your post inspires other writers to listen to those voices. :)

Check out my review of Soul and Shadow.

~Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
bestselling author of Whale Song, The River and Divine Intervention

1 comment:

Debra Purdy Kong said...

Great interview, Cheryl and Susan. I really love the cover! Kudos to you, Susan.