Lucy Arlington was originally conceived by the writing team of Ellery Adams and Sylvia May, two friends who collaborated on an idea that became A Novel Idea Mystery Series. Together, the duo penned the first three books in the series: Buried in A Book, Every Trick in the Book, and Books, Cooks, and Crooks. As time passed and their personal writing workload grew, the two decided to pass the baton to another writer: Susan Furlong. In addition to writing as Lucy Arlington, Susan Furlong is the author of Peaches and Scream, the first book of The Georgia Peach Mysteries, releasing in July of 2015. To learn more about Susan, visit her website at www.susanfurlong.com
PJ: How long have you been writing?
Susan: I’ve been working as a professional writer for over twenty years, mostly as a contracted academic writer and a ghost writer. My first piece of published fiction was a short mystery with Untreed Reads Publishing.
PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?
Susan: The first time someone, other than family, said they read my work and enjoyed it.
PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?
Susan: Yes and no. I’ve always understood that writing takes discipline and a constant effort toward self-improvement. However, I underestimated how much juggling is involved between writing and promotion.
PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?
Susan: Yes. But perhaps that’s because I have realistic expectations. With that said, I don’t make enough money to support a family—especially not my family. (We have four kids who love to eat … a lot.)
PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?
Susan: My focus has shifted to writing my best possible novels and making my deadlines on time. I’m also working hard to promote my new books so my contracts will be renewed and I can keep writing more books in each series.
PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?
Susan: My first short story was accepted on the initial submission. I was shocked and really pleased. On the flip side, my first novel took over three years to find a publisher.
PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?
Susan: I make a list of monthly goals, weekly goals and a task list for every day. We still have children at home, so first priority goes to family. For that reason, I do end up working a lot of late nights and almost every weekend. Actually, I probably don’t juggle everything too well, but I just try to keep my priorities straight: family first, then work. Except when I’m approaching a deadline. Then things tend to go crazy. The house turns into a disaster, laundry piles up, and we eat a lot of take-out food…
PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?
Susan: Hands down, the most exciting thing was receiving an offer of representation from my agent. I knew she had good connections, great business sense, a reputation for honesty, and could help me achieve my goals. I’m extremely fortunate to have her on my side.
PJ: What’s the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?
Susan: When pursuing publication, every rejection letter is a disappointment. Many editors deliver professional rejections, mostly form-letters, and some with handwritten suggestions or words of encouragement. Once, however, I received a particularly harsh rejection letter from an editor who told me, very blatantly, that my work annoyed the crap out of her. It really knocked me back for a few days. I was tempted to delete her email into oblivion, but instead I kept it and reread it a few days later. This time, her comments prompted me to take another look at my submission. I decided to do some rewriting, tone down some scenes, and submit to a different editor. That editor accepted it right away. Then that book led to another and another and … here I am! So, in retrospect, that editor did me a huge favor.
PJ: What is the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?
Susan: Once, after an author talk at a local library, a teenager approached and asked how to become a writer. We sat and talked for a long time about what she liked to write as well as her goals and dreams of becoming a published author. She’s in college now, working on staff for her university’s newspaper. We still stay in contact.
PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?
Susan: I like to think my strength is in character development. I mostly enjoy writing about every day, ordinary people who find themselves caught up in extraordinary circumstances. I hope my characters resonate with readers.
PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?
Susan: Locally, I give library talks and conduct signings. Whenever I meet a new reader, I always ask if they want to sign-up to receive email alerts for my next release. This has been an effective way for me to build a reader base and personally keep in touch with readers.
On-line, I find that Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads are helpful tools for connecting with readers. I also participate in several mystery-based Facebook groups and Yahoo forums.
PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?
Susan: Cold calls to bookstores. Just this week, I made several calls to area Barnes and Noble stores to set up signings for my next release. My fingers actually shook when I dialed the numbers. (I really, really have to build myself up to make that initial call.) Then, when a couple stores said yes, I was elated … for about ten seconds, then I realized that I’d just scheduled myself for a public appearance, which also makes me a little nervous.
PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?
PJ: Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:
Susan: *Deep Breath* If you’d enjoy escaping to a quaint mountain village where the people are gracious, the food is southern delish, and books are a way of life, then come to Inspiration Valley, North Carolina, and spend your days with literary agent Lila Wilkins and her quirky team of co-workers at Novel Idea Literary Agency as they discover new writing talent, plan extraordinary author events and sometimes finds themselves facing down a few real-life mysteries. *Whew!*
PJ: Where can we buy it?
Susan: You’ll be able find PLAYED BY THE BOOK by Lucy Arlington on the shelf of your local bookstore and library, or on-line at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Walmart, Powell’s or just about anywhere else. It’s currently available for preorder here:
Barnes and Noble/ BN.com: http://tinyurl.com/m38hkf5
PJ: What’s the last thing you would like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?
Susan: I can’t write without eating candy. It’s a horrible habit. I rotate between mini Tootsie Rolls, Jolly Ranchers, Twizzlers and Tootsie Roll Pops. Sometimes, after a particularly difficult scene, I find a couple dozen wrappers on my desk and I don’t even remember eating the candy!