Apr 16, 2009

Interview With Susan Higginbotham, author of The Traitor's Wife

Hello. I would like to welcome Susan Higginbotham, author of The Traitor's Wife, which I reviewed here, to Savvy Verse & Wit.

She was kind enough to take some time out of her schedule to answer some great writing questions. Please give her a warm welcome.

1. How would you introduce yourself to a crowded room with audience members eager to hang on your every word? What would you disclose? What would you keep secret? and why?

Well, if it’s a secret, I wouldn’t tell it here, would I? I’m not a let-it-all-hang-out person, so I’d probably talk about my books and/or the history behind them and crack a few jokes.

The most successful speech I ever made was in law school when as an exercise to get us used to arguing in front of a jury, the professor had us get up and tell a story about ourselves. I told my classmates about the time I had gone to my college library to study for my biology exam and the man sitting in the seat near me exposed himself, which was a bit too much biology for me. My classmates loved it.

2. Do you have any writing routines or habits?

I try to write pretty diligently once the family goes to bed, and I have my writing space all to myself. It’s hard to avoid the temptation to surf the Internet instead of staring at a blank monitor, but I’m getting more disciplined.

3. Do you have any obsessions that you would like to share?

Aside from medieval history, I’m passionate about Coca-Cola, Barbie dolls, old graveyards, Mini-Coopers (I don’t own one, but I love to admire their sheer cuteness), checking my Amazon ranking, and finding new ways to waste my time on the Internet. (Don't we all have this problem? I know I do.)

4. Most writers will read inspirational/how-to manuals, take workshops, or belong to writing groups. Did you subscribe to any of these aids and if so which did you find most helpful? Please feel free to name any "writing" books you enjoyed most (i.e. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott).

I used to read Writer’s Digest and The Writer every month when I was in my teens and twenties—which was a couple of decades ago--but I finally stopped. I think after a while the advice just started getting repetitive. I began to concentrate more on reading novels and noting what techniques worked for me as a reader and what didn’t work—I found that helped me as a writer immensely.

5. When writing The Traitor's Wife, did you have a specific list of songs that you listened to; if so what would be the top 5? Or if you could choose a list of five songs to represent your work, what would they be?

I don’t listen to music while I write; I find it too distracting, but I did find that I tended to associate certain songs with The Traitor’s Wife. I’m going to be lazy and give you a link to the interview Julie K. Rose did for me, where I listed five songs back when the writing process was fresher in my mind.

Now that I have an iPod like the rest of the civilized world, if I was asked this question with regard to my current work in progress, I could answer in a flash! Back then I was at the mercy of whatever was playing on the radio.

6. In terms of friendships, have your friendships changed since you began focusing on writing? Are there more writers among your friends or have your relationships remained the same?

My core relationships have pretty much stayed the same, but I’ve met some great folks online, writers and readers alike, through my novel. It is nice to have other writers to whine to. (AMEN!)

7. How do you stay fit and healthy as a writer?

I don’t have any of the epic bad habits associated with writing—no booze, no drugs, no cigarettes. It’s awfully tempting when I’ve had a good writing spell to reward myself with a nosh, however—writing can be very dangerous that way. I try to work out once a week, at least in theory, and the dog and I take a nightly walk together. Thank goodness he’s not a cat or I’d never get any exercise. (I've now got a new-to-me word for Wondrous Words Wednesday; can you guess what it is?)

8. Do you have any favorite foods or foods that you find keep you inspired? What are the ways in which you pump yourself up to keep writing and overcome writer's block?

I have an extremely limited diet, with Coca-Cola and pork being the main staples. I’m picky; it’s a family legend.

Having a blog is a great way to avoid writer’s block. If I’m not working on my novel, I can at least find something to blog about, even if it’s just doing a meme.

9. Please describe your writing space and how it would differ from your ideal writing space.

Ideally, I would have a book-lined study in a city brownstone with the soothing noise of traffic outside my window. (I would enjoy this writing space as well)

In reality, I have a corner of the kitchen of my small suburban home in which to write, with no doors to close against the noise from the rest of the house. Because of that, I do most of my writing when the rest of the family is sleeping.

10. What current projects are you working on and would you like to share some details with the readers?

I just finished the first draft of my third novel, which is set during the Wars of the Roses. It bucks a trend in that it’s not particularly sympathetic toward Richard III. It’s narrated by Henry Stafford, the Duke of Buckingham, and his wife, Katherine Woodville, sister to Queen Elizabeth Woodville. It’s been quite fun to write, and I’ve gotten into some great (mostly friendly) arguments during the process.

Thanks for the interview! I loved these questions, once I got into the swing of them.

Thank you, Susan, for answering these unusual questions. What did you think of Susan and her answers?


I have 3 copies for U.S./Canada residents available from Sourcebooks and 1 copy, my gently used ARC, for an international recipient.

1. Please leave a comment here on my review about your favorite historical novel for 1 entry.

2. For a second entry, come back tomorrow and leave a comment on my interview with Susan Higginbotham.

3. Spread the word about the giveaway and leave a link on this post for a third entry.

***Remember to leave your email address and indicate if you are international in your comments***

Deadline is April 22 at 5PM


Shelley said...

I would not be able to write and listen to music at the same time either! Great interview.

saz AT chainreader DOT com

Anna said...

No need to enter me. Just wanted to drop in and say I enjoyed the interview. Her next book sounds interesting.

Diary of an Eccentric

bermudaonion said...

This was a fabulous interview. I loved question number 1 and her answer to it! I also love that she survives on Coke and pork. She sounds like quite a character. I haven't read a lot of historical fiction, so I'll say my favorite was Galway Bay. milou2ster(at)gmail.com

Toni said...

Hey great interview. I loved the questions and the answers. I love a person who can drink Coke openly and not feel guilty.. Awesome! I think the new book sounds great. This was an awesome stop on my limited blog commenting today. And the giveaway is just a bonus! Woo Hoo. Favorite Historical Fiction is tough for me.. but I really enjoy Margaret George's, The Autobiography of Henry VIII, but I agree with Bermudiaonion.. Galway Bay is up on my list also.

Dar said...

Well the wondrous word for me had to be nosh-was that yours too. I had to go look it up but now I'll probably find myself using it because it sounds cute. Great interview Susan and Serena. I survive on coffee and pepsi-we all need our vices.

Serena said...

Dar: Nosh was the word! and I live on coffee as well. I love me a mad cream soda or root beer anytime!

Valorie said...

Old graveyards! I am a frequently haunter (okay, bad joke) of graveyards. I obsessively take pictures of gravestones, the older the better.


Anonymous said...

lol. I share your issue with blank computer screens. It's just too easy to let your fingers do the walking, straight to the internet, and once that happens you're really in trouble. Theoretically, I prefer to type out all my writing, but I actually accomplish more hand writing, simply because there's less distraction readily available.

Thanks for a great interview. The next book you talked about sounds amazing as well. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

oops. I always like to leave my e-mail, and I forgot.


Alyce said...

The book lined study sounds like a fabulous writing space - I'm sure most of us would love that!

It sounds like we have similar work spaces - I'm in the corner of my dining room. I have a hard time writing when the family is all around me too (and that's just writing blog posts - anything more difficult than that would be impossible with all the noise and madness here).

akreese (at) hotmail (dot) com

Melissa - Shhh I'm Reading said...

I wouldn't be able to write and listen to music either. I can't even read with the TV or radio on. Way too many distractions for me!

THanks for the giveaway. I left my historical novel on the other post.

Jo-Jo said...

Old graveyards and Barbies...interesting combination!
This was a great interview Serena. Please enter me in your contest.

teabird said...

I'd be listening to music and writing if the house was noisy - bless the person who invented the mp3 player!

teabird 17 at yahoo dot com

Elina said...

Great interview. Can't wait for the new book!

Jenners said...

This was a great interview! Loved it!

Ladytink_534 said...

I'm a picky eater too but my husband tops me by a mile! Do you like music from this period? I know you said that you find music distracting when writing but I was wondering if you listened to classical music written during this time when you aren't writing.

Great Q&A!

Gwendolyn B. said...

Wow! Great interview! I'm surprised by how much I have in common with Susan Higginbotham - I, too, would choose to write where I could hear the traffic outside; I'm a Coca Cola fiend; I love Mini Coopers and don't own one!

geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

Cheryl S. said...

Great interview! Your ideal writing space sounds wonderful - it would be my ideal reading space.


VioletReads said...

Fun interview! Thanks!

violetreads at gmail

Teddy Rose said...

Wonderful interview! Susan's third novel sounds very promising! I really like novels set in The War of the Roses period.

I had to chukle when she said that it's a challenge for her to sit down to write on a blank screen rather then surf the net. I tend to feel the same way when I write my book reviews. Once I get going, I'm fine. It's just the starting. LOL!

♔ jessica.marie said...

It's weird reading interviews of authors because it reminds me that they are just normal people!

We learned about the War of the Roses in one of my history classes last year, so I look forward to that release!

lovejessicamarie [@] gmail [.] com

LuAnn said...

I love wandering through old graveyards. You can really learn a lot about the history of an area by reading old headstones!

Annell said...

I enjoyed reading that, thank you. I love old graveyards and I cannot write with music either!


Susan Higginbotham said...

Thanks for the interview, and thanks to all who have commented on it! I'm enjoying my morning Coca-Cola this very minute!

Llehn said...

It's always interesting to gain an insight into an author's mind! Thanks for the interview!


Tudor Daughter said...

Oh my gosh a woman after my own heart Coke and graveyards. Can't get started in the a.m. without my diet coke. Graveyards call to me where ever we go on vacation :-). Enjoyed the interview very much, I look forward to reading Traitor's wife.