Susan grew up in central Wisconsin, only to move to rural Ohio in adulthood. She's a country girl through and through with progressive and optimistic ideas of nation and society. A heathen by faith and major sci-fi fan she is an eclectic person and welcomes as much diversity into her life as she can to feed her fertile imagination. She lives by the motto, "Let your freak flag fly!"
Susan is the author of "Silent Heart", "Under A Twisted Moon", "Morning Song", and other titles forthcoming. Susan also has her one and only zombie short in the JEA anthology "All That Remains". In addition she has published articles on the Yahoo! Contributor Network in a wide variety of subjects such as the validity of deity in the American government and the use of easy to find herbs.
Susan is the Executive Editor with J. Ellington Ashton Press as well as a graphic design student at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online Division. She does a large portion of the cover art with JEA and has worked with businesses in the past for logo creation and event announcements.
Yahoo Contributor Network: http://contributor.yahoo.com/user/1652160/susan_simone.html
1) Morning Song is a great story about a wise woman and hedge witch facing her fears and owning her strengths to find that life has a great deal in store for her and the strange man she meets near the beginning of the book. What inspired Morning Song?
It started with a name. I know that sounds odd. I wanted to write a BBW heroine and started thinking about how that would work. There was this idea of calling her Morning. It was almost surreal. With that one thought I could see her in my head so clearly. I was actually the biggest snob picking a model for the cover because I knew what Morna (Morning) looked like to me. I started with the opening scene and that was the last part of that book I wrote consciously. The rest just poured out. It was as if Morna and Arrick existed in another realm or dimension and they were simply telling me their tale.
Yes, writers really are that insane. We have to explain all those extra voices somehow.
2) Was it difficult writing a post-apocalyptic fantasy romance and handling the midwifery and herbal magic Morna uses in the book?
Post apocalyptic was harder because I’m not used to it. I had to think how the country would be broken up. What parts were important? I had this very clear idea of music. As a singer myself, I’ve picked up all kinds of folk music, madrigals, classics, contemporary. I played with this idea of what music would stand the test of time and turn into folk songs over the years. The music I chose was not a prediction, but more of a secondary idea of getting people to listen to the music and understand how it enhanced the scene.
Midwifery and herbals were much easier. They are subjects I have a fascination with. I do have some midwife skills, but I am not currently licensed because of the direct entry laws. The state I live in won’t let me apprentice under a midwife, I have to have an RN to practice which is another eight years of school. However, I still love it and I’m one of those very annoying people who hand out random unasked for advice when around pregnant women. Lol
I do the same with Herbs. “Oh you’re sick? Try this, this, this and this, but watch out for that, and only use this at this time of day.” That is only an amateur study for me, though. I ascribe to the American Indian belief that everything we need to live happy, healthy lives, and dispel illness grows somewhere on the planet. With doctors and scientists help we need to use it.
3) Under a Twisted Moon also deals with a heroine discovering herself and growing stronger for it. In this case she learns the part of herself she hid was really her strength. Do you feel that many women find themselves in a position where other people cause them to fear their strengths?
That’s a deep question. I think any *person* of any gender or orientation who finds themselves in an abusive situation, regardless of the abuser or type of abuse, is there *because* their fears have been berated and their strengths twisted to weaknesses.
Some of Amelie’s experiences with Rick were based on things I lived through. I kept that under wraps for a long time, and even came up with politically correct answers to the inevitable questions. In a way, watching Amelie survive and thrive opened the door to a lot of conversations we need to have as a culture. Yes, we all know abuse is bad. We all know abuse comes in many forms and can sneak up on you, but until you’ve lived it, it’s very hard to understand how you got there.
The worst thing I hear is, “Why does she/he stay?” I want to shake people when I hear it. Fear. Fear of the abuser’s reactions. Fear that all the things they told you to keep you down were really true. A very real fear of society taking over the abuse and victimizing you when you just want to live in peace. Fear of being alone because you’ve been beaten down so hard you won’t ever have a normal relationship with anyone ever again, like an abused animal is never normal again.
“Why does he/she put up with it?” Because it’s not clear. Before you all scream at me, listen for a moment. It sneaks up on you. The line of the initial abuse is blurred. You can’t see it clearly from the inside. It doesn’t start with violence. It starts with an unreasonable argument. A personality disorder. A little niggling in the back of your head that makes you wonder if they really were being that manipulative or if they were having a bad day. Then there are more bad days. A lost job, or a fight with a friend. Oh of course they’re having a bad day. They don’t mean it. Pushing away your friends and family, slowly one by one. Life is really hard right now. He/she needs me. The line is blurred and by the time you realize it’s been crossed you’re so far over you start to believe all the lies you’ve ever been told. You worry about staying for the sake of kids, forgetting that by allowing it you’re teaching them that it’s normal or okay. Eventually you find yourself alone; facing things that you know may end your life.
4) You write about strong female characters that are grounded in the real world. Do you think this gives your book a leg up on books that feature women in more unrealistic or unhealthy fantasy relationships?
I think that was on accident. I’m always interested in the psychology of it. Why do people do what they do? How do people get into these situations? But that’s on behavior alone. I do think it important to reflect women and men who are real, flawed. I pick characters because their flaws are interesting to me. I can’t stand the perfect blond bombshell types, or the overdone hardcore, but really sensitive and sweet deep down types. Everyone is a jumble of all that. No one is perfect, and society’s ideas of how genders should act or what they look like is nothing but a construct created thousands of years ago by a few that were insecure with their own image so they had to spout their way was the only right way. (That was *not* a religious diatribe, btw.)
5) You write about some tough subjects in your books, how do you approach these? Catharsis or characterization?
Courage? For me and many other writers, the characters are like living people with their own separate lives. I don’t control them. I’ve had several die or get into relationships completely without my approval. I write the hard stuff instead of glossing over because I am honoring them and all the living people that have survived the same things. It’s a disservice to cut it out or gloss over because it’s ugly or makes me cry. In reality my characters may be fictional, but real people, myself included, live these things. There are no tasteful cutaways, or suspenseful music. The world did not stop moving just because your life as you knew it is forever changed. If we are to grow as a society, *that’s* what needs to be known. That’s what needs to be said.
6) Under a Twisted Moon is a very strong empowerment piece about owning your strengths and coming out of a place where things had been very bleak. In a very real way while one of the male leads helps her to start out on her path to self-discovery it is she who must stand up and take up the reigns of her own life. Is this a message you hope will help others to do so for themselves?
Absolutely. No one can walk your path. It is entirely unique to you. Sometimes you need a little love or a loving kick in the rear, but you still have to be the one to stand up and be counted.
7) While there are some very involving dramatic pieces there are also lots of humorous and endearing ones too. Was it difficult to write humor into Silent Heart, Under a Twisted Moon and Morning Song or does it come naturally to you and your stories?
I’m one of those dorks that laughs at her own jokes. I’m even snickering as I write this. The humor is very organic. I’ve noticed my dialogue follows my moods. The jokes, the tough conversations, the arguments reflect what I was feeling at that time. Sometimes I’m slap happy and everything in the world is hilarious. I’m also a horrible smart ass, and I think my own natural voice comes out a lot. The things I really want to say but often just laugh to myself about, or the things I wish I said at the time.
8) Silent Heart was your first book and you’re currently at work on a new cover for it(See the new cover for Silent Heart and Under a Twisted Moon below). Is it hard to go back and try to think of a new way to represent your books after they’ve been in print?
Sometimes, covers make me want to cry. Lol When I did the original cover for Silent Heart, I was new to graphic design and still had a lot to learn. It was not a good cover. So right now I’m revamping a few covers, Silent Heart among them.
I had this perfect image in my head. Red and golds. This layout involving a band of color over top of a pivotal scene in the book in which Paige, a talented artist, takes back some of her power by doing this charcoal drawing on leather of her love. I even managed to make the perfect model for Stone look like it was a charcoal drawing. I was so proud of it. Thought it was great, (I still love the hell out of that image). I showed it off for feedback, which is very important for any work of art. Survey said? No. It was a cool image, but just didn’t work. It didn’t peak anyone’s interest to read the book. Well fudge.
So I slept on it and tried something else the next day. That finally worked. I grudgingly admit it’s a better cover. It fits the genre, but stands out from the crowd, which is what you want. That kind of redo and version after version is really normal for cover art. Never settle for the first thing an artist shows you. Push them and get something great.
9) You’ve been a cover artist and executive editor at JEA for a long while now. You’ve even trained a few interns and earned an award for the cover of A Fish to Die For in the 2013 Predators and Editors competition. Do you feel like you’ve learned a lot since you first started out?
Yes. Each cover is learning something new. Finding this tool I hadn’t used in quite that way before. A new layout or idea. It’s amazing to take a concept from an author’s mind and turn into a picture for all to see. I love seeing how excited they get. I even love the tough ones that make me go through 10 versions before it’s right. The end result is always amazing. Every once in a while, something will happen, a new thought from one of my classes, a certain request I’m unfamiliar with, and it’s like someone flipped a switch and my work is never the same after, always moving forward.
10) In recent months you’ve also branched out from providing covers for JEA to becoming a freelance cover artist for other writers. What kind of services do you offer and how can people reach you to ask about their projects?
The best way to contact me is through my website. I have a contact form on the artwork page. I offer original design and full rights to the author. In other words I won’t get angry at you down the road and say you can’t use my art anymore. I also do something new that I want to make industry standard. I provide the client with documentation of where the images used on their cover came from. There is so much image plagiarism out there it’s rather insane. Covers on some sites are lawsuits waiting to happen. I’ve personally had to replace covers done by so called “professional” artists because they used a video game screen shot or stole one small part, like a hand, from a major piece of art and blew it up, both of which are illegal. I want to put out such a high standard that it forces authors to demand it from others and other artists to adhere to it.
11) Will you stick to the romance genre or do you think there are some other genres you’d like to explore?
I never intend any specific genre. I just write where the story takes me, following along in its wake attempting to capture the important parts. I get an idea in my head and I run with it. Sometimes that’s romance and sometimes not. I’ll figure out the classification when I’m done. I’m the same way with length. I don’t believe in word lengths based on popular books in the genre. I just write until the story is told. Sometimes that’s longer, sometimes shorter. If I need to flesh something out, I’ll worry about that later.
12) Do you have anything in progress you’d like share?
I have this one I call, Kiss of Luck. It’s a dystopian society with alien mind control and young adults, still teens really, that want out and stage daring escapes. I’m kind of careful with my ideas. I know more than one person that has had ideas stolen. Kiss of Luck, is a special one for me. I dreamed it one night, start to finish, the entire plot line. I’m just filling in details as I go, but it’s going to be really cool.