Susan wants us to keep writing. That’s what she has done and the advice she gives to other authors. We talk about writing more than one thing and how you keep writing regardless of your other feelings on the issue.
All right. Susan, welcome back to discovered wordsmith podcasts.
Let’s talk a few authors things. So you’ve done some screenplays and screenwriting. You’ve been an actress. So what did you learn from that, that you apply to writing book and what have you learned from writing the book that you’re applying to the next one?
[00:40:36] Susan: I’m good at dialogue, because I wrote so many plays and you really have to get good at making the characters, do what you need them to do within the, within the scene that they’re in.
I like my dialogue. I think it’s I think I get a lot of stuff in it. So I learned that from playwriting in terms of structure. I’m not a structuralist to begin with. I find if I [00:41:00] sit down and I know that I want to write something. If I think about it long enough I write little essays first.
What do you want to say? Do you want to say that a 50 year old woman could have a voice then once I’ve done that plotting out and essay form what the book is about? Then I sit down and the book writes me and I am very grateful for that. I very rarely have to make major cuts or major changes because I’m not really, it’s not, I don’t want to get all woo.
It’s not automatic writing, but it does come so directly from my soul and from my brain. And if I’ve already mapped out, I want to write about. This, that then it will write it for me. And I can tell if it’s not right and I will, I rewrite every day. So I go over what I wrote yesterday, every, the next day.
And that’s how I rewrite. I change words. I change phrases, but I very rarely writing novels have had writing a novel, have had to change big [00:42:00] chunks. And my second novel, which I gave to an editor, she said, you really don’t like commas. Do you? Which I’ve been told before. And there were no edits. She said, I didn’t put in any edits.
I think the book is ready. I put in a lot of commas cause you seem to have a prejudice against them. It’s the product of not having paid attention in grammar class. And my computer tells me when to put in commas and I get into arguments with it. But I learned from writing documentaries also, I learned a lot from writing documentaries about.
What are you writing about? W what are you doing here? You know what I mean? If you’re writing a documentary about, I’m going to try to keep it light, I didn’t write any light documentaries. If you’re writing a documentary about an election, okay. That’s as light as it gets then please don’t find yourself talking about what you wore to go vote that day, because it’s really not, nobody cares.
So I know how to stay on topic. And my topics are usually somewhat surreal, [00:43:00] or if not surreal, the debtors are usually a part of the living in my books. And I like that. I like to be able to do that. So I learned that is not part of documentaries, but it was definitely where I was headed. My first play was about a nightclub in the clouds where everybody had to perform something to get off the nightclub into their next existence, because they had all done.
So I’ve learned a lot of that. I’ve learned that
[00:43:29] Stephen: you mentioned your computer tells you when to put in comments. What do you use to write? What software or what services are you using to write your,
[00:43:37] Susan: I use Microsoft word. I write on a map. Is that funny? Cause it’s a little old. I write on Microsoft word on a Mac, it’s a Mac, 10 something or other it’s.
I re you know, I’m so not computer literate that I don’t, it’s not really. It’s like when I was younger and people said, you should learn how to change a [00:44:00] tire. If you’re going to drive on the highway. And I thought, yeah, I’m going to get a AAA card. I’m not that interest. I’m not good at, you have to know what you’re good at and what you stink at. I stink at technology. So I use Microsoft word. When I had to learn how to do the difference between a JPEG or a, what the hell is the form where the person can’t edit it. PDF, that was hard for me. It was just as hard as it just was to say it.
So I keep it as simple as I can. And I work, I have a husband who’s really computer literate. So if I really run into trying to connect with you today, it said you don’t have Chrome. You can’t talk to him. And I think. What Chrome should I go to my car? I don’t know what from, so my husband came in and did that.
So it hasn’t been a big part of my writing life to learn the technology. It has been a big part of my writing life to learn social media, because one of the ways you can talk about your product is to write about it on social media. And [00:45:00] that I’m good at, I don’t know why it’s not because I’m good at hitting the buttons or connecting or making graphics.
It’s because I can write about my book in ways that make I’ve done something called mapping the book in which I take the audience of my social media. Post and say, this is something that happened to the character. And I take her on a journey through something that happens in the book. And that’s made a lot of people interested because the road not taken, I realized could you have picked a dumber.
Robert Frost road, the road not taken. So if you go to look for me on Amazon, you’re going to read his book and it has nothing to do with me. Then if you looked at, then I looked the other day, cause you’re not ever supposed to look at your own stars on Amazon, but I just had to cheer myself up, which it did.
And there’s 25 books called the road not taken. So one thing I learned is don’t use a title, everyone else in the whole don’t call the book, the Bible because somebody else already used that title on the title. You know what [00:46:00] I’m saying? So I don’t know what my new book will probably be called 44 Horatio’s street because that’s the name of the house.
And nobody else is going to call it that. But people have said to me, what the hell does that tell people about your book that would make them want to read it? Say something. So I’m thinking about that. But I learned a lot from plays, how people spoke.
[00:46:20] Stephen: Yeah, it makes me think it could be a, an off shoot, like Sherlock Holmes,
[00:46:26] Susan: like 10 down the street, right? Yeah. That’s the nicest thing said about the title. And I made now go back to it because I would like the cover of it to be the house it’s been completely changed by a new owner, which should not have, it was a historic building.
So it shouldn’t have been changed on the outside, but the new owner changed it. So there is my entire life in a house that no longer exists.
[00:46:51] Stephen: We wanted to talk a little bit about you. You just keep writing, just write. Why is that important to you? [00:47:00]
[00:47:00] Susan: I think it’s really easy to get discouraged. I think COVID has been hard for people, but I think even before, COVID it, if you ask people questions, I live in Hollywood, so obviously everyone here says that’s never going to happen.
And then sometimes it does happen. Obviously some people. I’ve movies made, have TV shows made. I think it’s better for writers in London where almost talent has the most to do with it, as opposed to here where, who, has a lot to do with it. But I feel like if you’re a writer, it means that you want to tell people things, or that’s what I want.
I want to tell you some of my truth. I want to say things like don’t hit your cat. What’s the matter with you. I’m trying to keep it really into light strings that I think, but I think why would you take an old cat to to a, what the heck are they called to a shelter and take out a new cat and have the old cat sit there and watch you.
I want to say that to people. I think it’s [00:48:00] really, I think the way people treat animals is an important part of our planet of the. Of the what would I call it of what the planet feels like to me, an important part of that is certainly how people treat each other, but I’m not a psychiatrist. So the best I can say about treating each other is try to be nice.
If you can’t be nice, try to get out of the room. You know what I mean? But I want to say things to people. I had an older sister, I’m sure she won’t hear this. She was absolutely miserable to me all of my life until she got very badly, disabled by her own physical way of living by not exercising.
And then she got very kind to me and I had to make a decision. Who are you? Are you someone who can say she’s in trouble, man, you need to help her. And it turned out that. I’m her best source of comfort. And I appreciate that about myself. So I wanted to write that [00:49:00] way. I wanted to write and say, I’m not a goody two shoes, and I’m certainly not Mary Poppins.
And some of what I write is I certainly use strong language but I have found myself to think that compassion is the key to survival at this point. And certainly don’t ever hurt an animal in front of me because the other side of compassion is I’m an old Testament person. If you heard somebody in front of me, I’m going to hurt you back.
And I’m tiny, I’m five feet tall, but I scared a six foot, five inch neighbor. He dropped his dog and his garbage pail because he wanted to make his wife feel bad. And two of us who were five feet tall, went up to him and said, You take that dog out of the garbage. And he did. So I think writing is the same thing you say to people don’t do that.
Do this be nice. And if you and I’m not talking about nice, say it again.
[00:49:52] Stephen: I’m sorry. You’d probably get along. She had where we met, she had a Wolf and it got loose and killed a neighbor’s [00:50:00] rabbit. And the guy came walking up the drive by holding a machine gun, yelling at her and she walked down the driveway and was poking him in the chest and, got them to back off.
So yeah, I better get her
[00:50:12] Susan: on the phone. Let’s see, the thing is she was doing it righteously. I’m sorry that the Wolf killed the guy’s rabbit. I’m sorry for the rabbit. I really would feel bad, but you don’t shoot the Wolf. You could, I would have accepted it. If he had said to your wife, Don’t let the Wolf out.
He killed my rabbit. You know what I mean? There’s an acceptable way to have said to her what you doing? I like, I happen to like wolves. They’re not like coyotes, they’re quite loyal to each other anyway,
[00:50:42] Stephen: but
[00:50:44] Susan: is he a dog? Do you still have him?
[00:50:46] Stephen: Yeah, he’s out there. I can see them right from here.
He’s 75% Wolf.
[00:50:51] Susan: Oh, so he’s what do they call them? Wolf dogs. We call coyote dogs. And there’s a lot of greed a lot, but I would be, if [00:51:00] I own that rabbit, I would be just as mad, but I would’ve just yelled at her. You don’t let a Wolf out if there’s, don’t do that. What?
Oh, so then there’s always the option to apologize.
[00:51:14] Stephen: Yeah. He didn’t allow that, but let me ask you, Susan, you mentioned about, yeah, you mentioned about just keep writing. So when you were writing your book, were there any times when you felt like stopping, up not writing it anymore, what’d you do to overcome that?
[00:51:32] Susan: I went into what I told you. I do sometimes, which is I went into my note section and I said, what’s what are you doing? Why are you writing this book to begin with? And then I would answer myself and I would say you’re trying to leave messages. Not everybody in the world is going to get to hear you say, oh gosh, I’m sorry that my Wolf killed your rabbit.
I am truly sorry. If a guy has a gun, he’s not listening to an [00:52:00] apology and you do have to poke, poke poke, poke. But those are things I want to say to people. Did you know, people think, cause I’m living. That I am Anne Frank, that I’m like easy to push around and I’m not, I’m closer to someone from the Mossad keyed on unit.
If you really, if you heard a friend of mine, I’ll hurt you back and I don’t need a gun to do it, I just need my mouth. I just need to say, why the hell would you hurt someone like that? What did you get at? So there were times when I forgot why I was writing the book and I would go back to my notes and say, oh, you’re trying to say what you think about the world.
That’s why you’re writing because you want. If I got hit by lightning tomorrow, or I got terrible. COVID God forbid, even though I’ve been vaccinated with people do get COVID anyway, they should still get vaccinated. But see, that’s what I’m saying about why I write. Cause I want to say, get vaccinated for the rest of us.
If you don’t want to vaccination, then, pretend you didn’t do it. But [00:53:00] what about your family? What about there are also cases of large animals that have gotten the Corona virus from animals at the Bronx zoo. I don’t know if people know this three tigers and three lions got our variant of Corona virus from their hand, their feeder, and they were able to cure them.
But it can in very rare instances, travel to an animal. I’ve only heard of the traveling to one dog, but cats have their own form of Corona virus that is fatal. And because of Corona virus, they’ve probably found a cure for cats. I want to tell people that kind of stuff. So I keep writing. So when I get really lost, I look and I say, what was the point?
I don’t remember. Why are you writing about a 50 year old woman who cares? And then I would say I care. So that’s why I say yes, there were terrible times where my character stopped speaking to me and I had to think, did I hurt their feelings? Have I written this incorrectly? Did [00:54:00] I not give them enough cheese with their dinner?
But I always. I always make myself this, the new book too. There were many times, cause it is about real people who really lived in my real house and really were murderers, no foolin. I won’t go into it, but Jack Kerouac killed his wife. People know Jack Kerouac. I don’t know that they shot his wife’s head off.
He shot his wife’s head off. Do you know that they were playing? And so I kept saying to myself people need to know this stuff because he’s a famous guy and it’s important. How many of the beat writers killed people? And you think of them as smoking cigarettes. And so I write, cause I want to tell people what I know in the least of noxious way possible.
I try not to be a blabber mouth or a, I don’t know a civics teacher. I just want to say what I think about the world. And so if I stop writing, I go back to what my original intent was. And then usually the characters will save me. If I put my [00:55:00] fingers on the keyboard, the characters will start to talk.
[00:55:03] Stephen: And so one of the things I think a lot of writers do they hear, just keep writing as they keep writing one story they go back and edit it and they change it and they do it again. And they do this forever. What’s your thoughts on that?
[00:55:17] Susan: I’m really good at self editing. So I think I mentioned to you, I write, let’s say I write 10 pages Tuesday, Wednesday.
I will go back and read those 10 pages and I will make syntactical changes. I’ll add some commas. Cause I’m told I don’t use commas sometimes I’ll say no. That’s not what he would say to her. What’s the matter with you. But but I rewrite as I go and I go over stuff over and over again.
But then when that story, when the story is a 50 year old woman with the 50 million year old boyfriend, and thank you for the 50 50 that you taught me. I’m not telling that story. Now I will go back. My third book will be about Marie Laveau because no one knows anything [00:56:00] about her, except that she was a voodoo queen.
She was the largest abolitionist in the country. She freed more slaves than the entirety of the underground railroad. And nobody knows that they just think she’s a new Orleans floozy, and that’s not true. So I don’t write the same story I have. Okay. This is my theory about stories and I don’t think anyone but me thinks this, but too bad.
Cause it’s nobody else has to live with me. I believe a person is given a certain amount of stories in their soul and a certain amount of tears. Whoops. So like when, okay. I believe I have a certain amount of stories to tell and I’ve been writing stories, as I told you at lunch when I was six, everybody kids who hated me said, I’m going to sit next to her and hear her story.
And those were often about the same world. And when I had a godson, I made a world up for him and I always told him stories in that world, but never the [00:57:00] same story. And so there’s a difference to me. Between creating a world and you could write three stories that take place. The stories I told, the little kid I took care of were called magic mountain.
And it was an invisible mountain that only children could see and grownups could never see it. So when the kids took off for the magic mountain, the grownups couldn’t find them, but they were inside swimming and cherry juice that didn’t make you sticky. And was a great set of stories. But I never told the same story twice.
You can create a place. If you want I’ve written two books, both of which take place in Greenwich village, one on the east side and one on the west side, but the stories have nothing in common with each other. And that’s because of my belief of what I said, I’ve been given some stories to tell and I try to tell them tears are the same thing.
I think everybody has a certain number of sacks of tears inside their psyche or wherever things reside. And I cry when things die, my friend, who I told you, I had written the documentaries with [00:58:00] doesn’t cry, never fries. And I thought, how do you do that? I have a certain amount of tears that I have to cry for each event.
You know what I mean? And Oh my God. If I had seen the rabbit dead and seen the argument with your wife and the guy and the Wolf, I would have cried all day because I would have cried for the Wolf and the rabbit and your wife. So I think stories are unlimited within the human being. And you should try to go on and not repeat yourself.
I will say about Robert Parker. There are some similarities because the characters remained the same. He tells about Susan Silverman, Hawk, and Spencer, they’re all in the book. So you begin to get some repetitiveness, but let the stories aren’t the same.
[00:58:48] Stephen: So before we go, so it’s been really great talking to you today. Do you have any advice for nuance?
[00:58:55] Susan: Trust yourself, if you want to write your shit. I think it’s like everything else. If [00:59:00] I have a statement I’m making in a, I’m doing a video about the book so I can help people understand why I wrote the book.
I think if you want to do something, you should just do it. I don’t mean shoot somebody and I don’t mean hurt somebody but if you have an instinct artistically, I think you should follow it. I want it to be an actress when I was 18, I wanted to be a tap dancer. And I did all those things until I realized you’re not going to be an actress with what you look like.
And that’s just the truth of what was happening. The 200 years ago when I was trying to be a TV actress that just wasn’t going to happen. I became a very good tap dancer, all, what the hell do you do with that? You know what I mean? You don’t just tap dance around and there’s no.
as my mother would produce pronounce it. But if you have an artistic instinct to write then because you can, because the written word, unlike tap dancing, you can send a place as you can read it, you can hold onto it until someone says, what did you write? [01:00:00] And if that’s what you want to do, you have no, no reason not to do it because what are you going to gain from not doing it?
I thought my friends who are, who have been to college and are my age, those people who didn’t follow out their instincts to do something are not happy. And I’m not saying that I’m, a bundle of joy. I’ve suggested three times that you get me a straight jacket or call 9 1 1 for me. But I am fulfilled.
And following my art form, even when people said, why are you tap dancing? What is that going to get you? I wanted to tap dance. So I did. And I think the same thing about writing, if you want. Even if you have to write with a pencil on a yellow pad, right? It means you have something to say, so say it, we need to hear it.
You know what I mean? You need to hear it from everybody. This is a planet full of people. Mike, I would let my cat use my computer. If she didn’t keep stepping, she, all of my cats are so disrespectful. [01:01:00] I can be in the middle of writing something and they cross, while I go to relieve myself and I come back and think what did I write?
And then I look at the cat and they’re laughing at me. So if you want to write, you need to write. That’s what you need to do. That’s my answer
[01:01:17] Stephen: for me. Writing and a few other activities. I enjoy it and I have fun doing it and it’s almost accident. And then when people are like, oh, you should stop working.
I’m like, why I’m enjoying what I do. I would rather doing what I’m doing than sitting in front of the TV, flipping channels. If you’re, if you found the right thing for you, but you’re never working, you’re always doing something you love.
[01:01:43] Susan: I agree. I also, I don’t trust anyone who ever says to anyone.
You shouldn’t be writing that long. Why don’t you go? Why w what should I do eat, and get fat or call my sister. And what should you do? That is more important [01:02:00] than saying to the world, this is what I’ve learned. I’m a person, I’m a good person. And I’ve learned this and I want to tell it to you.
And if you don’t want to listen, of course, you have the right don’t. Listen to me. Anytime you want to close the book or in the book or the book, that’s bad for the environment, but you know what I’m saying? I want to tell you what I’ve learned about life. And it really comes down to, if you can be kind, if someone kills something on purpose, do not be kind.
That’s the end of that. That’s the end of kindness. If someone, something on purpose for no reason, Do something to tell them not to do that again, but for God’s sake, use your knowledge and your humanity, and nobody should ever tell anybody not to. Because it’s not like you’re using up. You know what I mean?
Just mind your own business, let them write. And you should write when you want to on.
[01:02:53] Stephen: I could go off on a ramp, but it makes me laugh. These people that usually face something like that because they haven’t [01:03:00] discovered creativity that you haven’t discovered the joy of greatness and they’ll come home and say, oh, I got to watch the next step survivor it’s 20 seconds seems so different than before.
No, it’s not. Or, oh, I just bought the Sunday pass so I can watch six football games every Sunday. That blows my mind. I can’t even imagine doing that.
[01:03:20] Susan: I can’t imagine I’ve been watching baseball with my husband because there’s only so much law and order that he can watch. And he’s so kind to me about it.
Cause I watch, I can watch the same episode three times in a row cause I can narrate the dialogue. I can do the dialogue with it. So sometimes I’ll do with the dialogue and they still listen to me and listen to Michael Moriarity, but stuff like baseball, I think, are they good, sweetie? Are they going to do something else so far?
They have a stick and a ball and they write. So there’s a stick and a ball and a stick and a ball, and they run a stick in a ball and they run. I would rather sit down at my computer and have my characters come to me and say, we’re going to talk [01:04:00] today about why this guy killed his wife because she was smarter than he was.
And that’s what we’re going to talk about. I always find anybody’s writing more. I’m not trying to knock baseball. I know that people get great pleasure. But to me it really is what I said is a stick and a ball and they run, I would rather sit at my computer and say, what are the high characters? Here’s mommy, what would you like to say to me the day?
So I encourage people to do that. The only other art form that’s as easy as painting because you don’t have to have other people like, it’s why theater is such a blessing to get rid of. Because every time I wrote a scene, I would have to try to get an actor and I did well, actors liked me. So I would say, could you read this scene with me and let me see if it sounds right.
I’m so glad not to do that anymore. You know what I mean? Writing and painting allow you or playing an instrument, but that’s a little harder. It’s good to have an art form that is just you and what you want to do [01:05:00] with you.
[01:05:00] Stephen: Agreed. Great. Susan pleasure talking with you this afternoon. I appreciate you taking some time to be on the podcast.
[01:05:08] Susan: Thank you. It was really nice to talk to you too. And you keep writing.