Sue Rovens is a huge supporter of authors. I first stumbled across her name when she offered to introduce authors via her interviews. As any author knows, getting your name out there can be difficult; extra help is always appreciated. But Sue is an author in her own right, having written several novels and short story collections, and she’s working on a new novel, entitled Rage. We’re now friends on Facebook, and I have to say, based on her posts, which seem to run toward the humorous, I’d love to meet her in person someday. We’ll see, I guess. Like almost every other person I interview, Sue is busy! So I’m thankful she took the time to answer a few questions.
Christina: You write “suspense with dollops of horror mixed in.” What do you like best about the suspense/thriller genre? Have you always been drawn to those sorts of stories?
Sue: I guess if I really thought about it, yes, suspense/horror/thriller stuff has always attracted me, even if it was on the fringe. I watched Twilight Zone and One Step Beyond with regularity. I was a fan of the TV Movie of the Week (’70s) when they featured scary ones (unless they were TOO creepy). Seventies horror/suspense movies (Poseidon Adventure, When a Stranger Calls, Amityville, The Omen, Carrie, The Wicker Man, Dark Secret of Harvest Home, Burnt Offerings, The Other . . . the list goes on forever!)—all amazing. Great storytelling. Great characters. While a few of these require you to suspend belief a little bit, none of them were SO far out (I’m looking at you, Zardoz) that you couldn’t find yourself relating to it.
Christina: Speaking of suspense, who are some of your favorite authors in that genre? Do you feel suspense writing has changed over the years? If so, how?
Sue: Jack Ketchum, hands down. The way he wrote was so succinct and yet pulls the reader in—I try to emulate his style. He dealt with harsh subject matter and didn’t shy away from getting “down and dirty.” I appreciate that. It’s not that he used gore and disgust to shock his readers—it was done in relation to the story and characters, so it wasn’t out of place or “just thrown in.” Besides him, I would say Stephen King’s early work (short stories, Salem’s Lot).
Changed? Hmm. I imagine some of the more current authors are writing with a different mindset these days. What was once acceptable in the ’60s/’70s/’80s is probably frowned upon (with good reason for the most part) now. Minorities (is that even appropriate to say?), women, LQBTQIA+, any other marginalized groups were probably not depicted in a positive light (or at all). These days, I don’t believe that’s going to fly with readers.
However, and I might get some flack for this, a story written as happening in the past will most likely have some of these “unacceptable overtones” in them because that’s how the world was at the time. In my upcoming book, Rage, there are certainly behaviors and commentary which can be seen as disturbing. BUT the book is set in the late ’80s and has flashbacks to earlier times (’40s to ’70s). So, the dialogue, action, and characters are all behaving “normal” for the time.
Christina: Your background is varied—you’ve “worked briefly in radio, delivered pizza, sold vacuums over the phone, waited tables, and cleaned hotel rooms,” you work at a library, and you have degrees in kinesiology and speech communications. Do those experiences show up in your writing? Do you think you’re a better author because you had those experiences?
Sue: Well, I’ll tell you this. If you ever work in a hotel, you’re going to see some things. LOL. I suppose some of my past experiences have found their way into a character or situation, but the overarching ideas for my books come from other places. That being said, I did write a short story about an evil librarian in a library setting. If you read it, just remember I write fiction. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 😉
Christina: Last year, thanks to COVID-19, book events were canceled, and who knows how long it will be before events are back up and running. Describe your ideal book event. Where would it take place? Who would attend? What would it entail?
Sue: Ideal Book Event—I sell everything I brought! 😊 Actually, the ideal book event would be inside, well-lighted, large enough so people can get from table to table, and long enough but not crazy (four to five hours is good. I’ve done a two-hour slot and it’s just not enough time. I’ve also done a nine-hour one. Too long, but that was the gig). The biggest thing a good book event needs is publicity. That’s huge. I think we’ve all sat through events that were not publicized and in turn, not well-attended. To me, that’s the killer.
The place could be anywhere—just as long as it’s big and well-ventilated. Who would attend? Anyone interested. I’m an equal opportunity seller.
Christina: If you could have dinner with one author, living or deceased, who would it be and why?
Sue: Jack Ketchum. I was able to interview him on my blog (I believe it was his last interview before he passed in 2018), but I never met him. I think I could learn a lot about writing from him.
Christina: What does literary success look like to you?
Sue: This is a tough question. I think my answer would change depending on what’s going on in my life at the time. A couple years ago, I attended a Steampunk event and sold more books there than anywhere else—so I considered that a raging success. I recently won a 2nd place award in an indie short story contest, so that’s another successful moment. However, I’ve had a few reviews that slammed my books. I didn’t feel so successful after reading those.
It’s not necessarily about money, but knowing that people are reading my books, buying them (or gifting them), and hopefully liking what they experience, is how I’m currently measuring success as an author these days.
Thanks to Sue for agreeing to this interview! If you know of an author who’d like to be featured in an interview (or you are an author who would like to be featured), feel free to leave a comment or email me via my contact page.