Susan! I've been looking forward to chatting with you for quite some time. I've been reading and enjoying your Lakeshore Chronicles on several levels. Aside from the fantastic stories with characters anyone can connect to I have my own personal side to them.
Growing up I was first a camper and then counselor at a camp near Brewster, New York. In April of this year I began making plans with my cousin to go back to New York to visit and one of the places I wanted to go was that camp because I had so many great memories of it. When I learned RETURN TO WILLOW LAKE was due out this fall I began reading my way through the series. Needless to say I fell in love with the characters and their stories. I read SUMMER AT WILLOW LAKE in July and it was like a slice of my own life. I've been looking forward to an author day here at Love Romances and More ever since.
SW: That’s really inspiring. I bet the return was very nostalgic for you.
So, for our readers new to you, how long have you been writing?
SW: Since before I knew how to read or write. That’s not an exaggeration. My mom saved samples of my early work. A few can be seen here: https://picasaweb.google.com/104585203815605467940/ChildProdigy?authuser=0&feat=directlink I have a great mom who would patiently write down the stories I dictated to her.
What inspired you to pick up the pen (or sit down at the computer) one day and create characters that capture the imagination?
SW: It was more compulsion than inspiration. I’ve always loved the idea of capturing a moment or nuance or emotion in a story. Writing is kind of magical that way.
I've read your author notes in the series and how we all have stories. What drew you to writing about summer camp and returning to those places as adults?
SW: A number of factors. I knew I wanted to write books that were connected in some way, so I imagined Willow Lake and the town of Avalon. I needed a central event of some type, some reason for all the Bellamys to gather and show me who they were. Hence, the anniversary celebration of the lead couple. The summer camp was a good way to gather everyone into one place. People are so nostalgic about summer camp, whether they attended camp or not. It’s one of those childhood experiences that sticks with you. Kids seem to experience a number of defining moments at camp, and these moments shape who they are.
What was the best part of summer camp for you?
SW: You’re barking up the wrong tree! I never went! Maybe that’s why Camp Kioga is so idyllic. I researched old-style summer camps exhaustively, mostly looking at old pictures and recollections on the Web. And watched summer camp movies, of course, from the original Parent Trap to Dirty Dancing to Indian Summer...that was fun.
Do you have any special technique to keep track of the characters throughout a series?
SW: No, and I desperately need one. My publisher is creating premium content for readers, a Bellamy family tree. Also my assistant has created a spreadsheet of which characters are in which book.
Did you know when you wrote SUMMER AT WILLOW LAKE followed by THE WINTER LODGE how many books would be in the series or have the characters taken you down those roads?
SW: No. I was hoping for a trilogy, at least. I never dreamed readers would take to the series the way they did. It’s really humbling and gratifying the way it all plays out.
As mentioned, in your author notes you talk about how there are many stories and we all have one. Can you see yourself writing the series in perpetuity? For instance will we see Olivia, Daisy and Sonnet become grandparents in the years to come?
SW: Sure. My friend Suzanne (www.suzanneselfors.com) , a talented artist, made me a cartoon about that topic: http://susanwiggs.wordpress.com/2008/01/14/how-many-books-are-in-the-lakeshore-chronicles/
In SUMMER AT WILLOW LAKE we have Sonnet's story. It is a powerful one, dealing with issues we may all face with our own parents. Was it a difficult story for you to write in terms of the emotional issues Sonnet has to deal with?
SW: It was difficult–each book is in its own way–but also very rewarding. I am in the generation between my aging mother and married daughter...it’s a wonderful but sometimes bewildering place to be. In that respect, I could related to BOTH Sonnet and Nina.
Most people envision an author's life as being really glamorous. What's your take on this?
SW: That it is entirely the truth. I eat, sleep and live glamour. For example, I had pixie dust for breakfast, a forbidden elixir for lunch and a chocolate souffle for dinner. Currently I am about to board my magic carpet to be transported to Xanadu. Here is a picture of me doing book research: https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/PPejR0YSd0tbhF3zFx8v6NMTjNZETYmyPJy0liipFm0?feat=directlink . It’s great letting your imagination run wild, like having a party in your head 24/7. Or wait, maybe that’s mental illness. Whatever.
What is the most glamorous thing you've done as an author?
SW: I told a guy I’d just met that I would meet him in Hong Kong at the Peninsula Hotel for an assignation. In the world of five-star hotels, the Peninsula rates ten stars–it’s that kind of place. We stayed for five days, exploring Hong Kong together and getting matching tattoos at Ricky Tattoo. It was glamour from the Rolls Royce airport pickup to the pink champagne in the suite to the Time Together couples spa.... BTW the guy is now my husband. Readers can go to www.facebook.com/susanwiggs and click “Like” for a sneak peek at our wedding video.
If you could be a character in any of the Lakeshore Chronicles, would it be and why?
SW: Olivia Bellamy Davis, maybe. I love to shop. Or maybe Jenny Majesky because I love baking. Or Sophie, because I love to travel. No, maybe Sonnet because she finally finds the love she’s been searching for all her life...it’s really hard to pick.
Looking over the past year, what has been the best moment for you in your writing career?
SW: Writing “the end” on RETURN TO WILLOW LAKE. There was much going on in my life while I was writing it, and I was determined to finish. When I finally sent it off, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment.
What do you enjoy doing with your spare time, your non-writing time?
SW: Seeing the world with my husband, visiting family and friends, sampling nice wine, boating, watching the sunrise over Mount Rainier, taking my chihuahua on the stand-up paddleboard, skiing in winter, cooking tasty food for friends and family, dreaming about my NEXT book....
If you could invite any famous person, dead or alive, for lunch, who would it be and what would you eat?
SW: Richard the Third, and I wouldn’t feed him a single bite until he told me what REALLY happened to the princes in the tower....
You've gotten the call, a Hollywood producer is going to turn the Lakeshore Chronicles into a television series. Who do you cast in the major roles?
SW: Oh, I’m in trouble now. I don’t keep up with actors very well. Maybe your readers can help me out in the Comments section. I’m all ears!
What are you working on now? Can you tell us a little about it?
SW: THE APPLE ORCHARD. It’s the start of a new series called “The Bella Vista Cooking School” about an estate in Sonoma. It’s awesome.
Is there anything you'd like to add?
SW: Just gratitude. Thank you so much!
Thank you for taking some time with us today!
You can learn more about Susan at http://www.susanwiggs.com