Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Featured Author: Susan Allison-Dean

Susan Allison-Dean is on tour with CLP Blog Tours, and she's here today to talk about her contemporary women's novel, I Know You're There. Keep reading for an excerpt of the book and a rafflecopter giveaway for a $35 Amazon gift card.

About the book:

Jill Bradley is a twenty-four-year-old nurse whose life is going great; she has established herself in her new career and she’s looking forward to getting engaged to her high school sweetheart. But faced with a watershed moment, she has to deal with simultaneous family tragedy, injury, and betrayal, and feels it’s way too much to cope with. In a moment of despair, Jill books a trip to a Caribbean island in an effort to escape. While she finds respite and romance, her problems have also packed their own suitcase.

Helen Bradley, Jill’s mother dedicated her entire life to her family like many mothers in the 1970’s and 80’s. Despite her best efforts, however, she hasn’t always been able to be the type of mother she wished she could be. She has a secret she was hoping would just go away, but it won’t. If she doesn’t share it with Jill it might bring her daughter more harm.

I Know You’re There is a mother-daughter journey, celebrating the highs and delving into the lows of family life. Can the power of love heal all things?

Interview with Susan Allison-Dean

Susan, how did you create the plot for this book?

From personal experience as a nurse and observation of nurses, I felt a need to share an example of the life experience of a nurse. I wanted to write a book that would hopefully represent the level of dedication nurses exhibit even when their personal lives are in turmoil. I wanted to balance this with the message that as strong as nurses are, they are human too.

Nurses were my target market for this novel. However, since there is such a strong mother-daughter story in it, many non-nurse women of all ages have given me very positive feedback. This has been a very welcome surprise.

Is your book based on real events?

The book is fiction, but there are some real events included.  For example, some of the marine mammal encounters and the ship rescue scene really happened to me while visiting the Caribbean.
What song would you pick to go with your book?
In the book, the protagonist, Jill wakes up hearing repeatedly the chorus to a song she has never heard.  That is how the title came to be, ‘I Know You’re There’.  I would love to see the rest of the song developed and made into its own song for the book.

How do you get to know your characters?

This has been a very exciting phenomenon as a new novelist. I find that my characters reveal themselves and their plights best when I am outside, alone in nature, either walking or gardening. Sometimes in the middle of the night, if I awaken and can’t fall asleep, my imagination will further develop them.

What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)?

I am currently reading, The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I bought the hardcover, because the book itself is a work of art.

I don’t claim to be an expert on writing, but there are some writing techniques (or mistakes) that stand out to me when I read (e.g. when an author switches POV mid-scene). What’s one pet peeve you have when you read?

I get frustrated when writers inject a big vocabulary word into their story that doesn’t have enough substance built around the word so the reader can infer what it means. It feels like I am stubbing my toe, when I am flowing with the story and then, ugg, what does that word mean? Perhaps one of the best things about the invention of e-readers is that they help define words quickly.

Do you have a routine for writing?  Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?

Yes, I walk the dog in the morning and return to a place of solitude in my home and write as long as the story wants to flow. This is usually most of the morning. I have a really hard time writing fiction in the afternoon or evening. I write 5 to 6 days a week, I generally always take Sundays off.
You’re leaving your country for a year. What’s the last meal (or food) you would want to have before leaving?

Homemade stuffed organic roast chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy, yumm, although, that may soon be changing. I am weaning myself over to becoming a vegetarian. I love animals and there are a growing number of health concerns with our meat these days.

Where is your favorite library, and what do you love about it?

The Armonk library in the town I grew up in. It has a room on the end that houses all the magazines and has two-winged backed chairs positioned by a sunny window. It’s the perfect place to sit and peruse for ideas and entertainment in the afternoon.

You’re given the day off, and you can do anything but write. What would you do?

Head for the beach if at all possible.

Why did you decide to self-publish?

I was originally planning on going the traditional publishing route. I even submitted one query to an agent and got a letter of interest back in just one week, which I am told is rare. At that same time, the self-publishing options were growing exponentially.  In the end, I chose to go it on my own for a few reasons.

1. I had a timetable in mind and I didn’t want to delay it another year, two or more if the agent ultimately decided she wanted to represent the book.

2. I have experience in running a business. I was just as excited about the process of publishing and marketing my book as I was about writing it.

3. I needed validation from readers that I didn’t personally know that what I was writing was something others would want to read. Writing is a big time commitment, especially a book. I didn’t want to be like one of those poor American Idol contestants who think they can sing just because the people who love them say they’re good.

Are you happy with your decision to self-publish?

I am happy with my decision to self-publish. It has enabled me to understand in depth the different facets of the publishing business. Like any business, now I know which parts I want to delegate out because either I am not the best person to do that particular task or I don’t enjoy doing it.

Going forward, I have to say, I would be interested in entertaining a traditional or hybrid publishing option. I know now what parts of publishing are worth sharing the fruits of my labor for.

What steps to publication did you personally do, and what did you hire someone to do? Is there anyone you’d recommend for a particular service?

I wrote a blog called "Is it really ‘self’ publishing?" In that blog, I basically talk about how this, in my opinion, is generally a misnomer. It would take a really talented person to write, edit, create a cover, and format his or her own book. I imagine there are some that can, but I certainly am not one of them. There are new tools coming on the market as we speak, however, that may make these steps easier.

I outsourced the graphics to Debra from Tugboat Design. She was amazingly patient and creative. She did my cover, formatting, and web art. My writing coach and editor, Alice Osborn was essential to my success as a writer.

What’s one of your favorite quotes?

"In the end only kindness matters" from the song "Hands" by Jewel. 
I try very hard to remind myself of that.

What’s your favorite candy bar? And don’t tell me you don’t have one!

Are Rolos considered a candy bar? I love the blend of chocolate and caramel! 

What’s your favorite line from a book?

“How can you prepare to have a life without someone whom you have always had in yours?”

What three books have you read recently and would recommend?

Me, Before You by JoJo Moyes. Miss Moyes states in the beginning of the book that she considers it a love story. I would say it’s more a story about the power of choice.  Bravely written.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed. This struck me as a women’s version of Bill Bryson’s, A Walk in the Woods. Wild was not funny like Bryson’s book, but thought provoking and inspiring.

I haven’t read this last one, but I just heard Sue Monk-Kidd speak at a book signing last night. Her new book, The Invention of Wings, is going to the top of my read pile! I love her work.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Anything outdoors--walk, explore, go to the beach. I love to travel, especially to places that haven’t yet manipulated the natural habitat.

What are you working on now?

At present, I am working on a sequel to I Know You’re There. It should be available later this year.

Excerpt from I Know You're There

Chapter 1

OCTOBER 22, 1995

I woke up screaming, “It’s my fault! Jill, it’s my fault!”

Startled, I sat up and got my bearings. The top half of my white flannel nightgown was drenched in warm sweat that was now starting to cool. The alarm clock glared 12:20 am.
Thank God, I told myself. My daughter, Jill, a nurse at our local hospital had told me she was working a day shift, so she would be home in bed now. In my nightmare, Jill was in a room with two patients who both died at the same time. Frantic, she was screaming at them, “No, no, you can’t die!! No, you have to wake up! They will blame me, they will say it is all my fault!”

Guilt eroded my stomach. Somehow I would need to tell my baby the truth.

About the author:

Sue Allison-Dean is a nurse who retired from traditional practice in 1999, after working 13 years as a Wound, Ostomy, Continence Clinical Nurse Specialist. She found a second career in gardening after working in a garden center and completing an organic gardening internship at Highgrove Garden in England. She now co-owns Naturescapes with her landscape designer husband, Robert. She has authored several clinical and horticulture articles and was a contributing author to the bestselling book, Touched By A Nurse. She is passionate about the sea and loves exploring tropical islands. She extends this passion by doing volunteer work benefiting dolphins and whales. Sue splits her time between Armonk, New York and Cary, North Carolina, with her husband and English bulldog, Bubba.

Connect with Susan:
Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads 

Buy the book:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble