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New Release from Bookouture's Suzanne Kelman AND Author Interview

Book Description:

1942, Europe: Based on the true story of a female-only bomber battalion, this is a totally heartbreaking and unforgettable story about sacrifice, sisterhood and a love that transcends war. When the love of Tasha’s life, Luca, joins the air force to fight against the evil Nazi invaders, she knows she has to follow her heart—and him—into battle. Headstrong, impulsive and a daredevil, she’s the perfect recruit. Tasha’s sensible older sister Nadia plans only to stop Tasha’s madness and bring her home. But a chance encounter puts her in a plane, soaring above the clouds, and she also finds her calling. Underestimated by their superiors, Nadia and her sister find themselves in airplanes barely fit to fly, being sent on perilous missions with little hope of return. But before long their battalion is being nicknamed ‘the Night Witches’ by the Nazis, their ownership of the skies second to none. But danger is up in the storm clouds with them, and when both sisters are shot down behind Nazi enemy lines, and taken to a brutal prison camp, they expect to never see their beloved homeland again. Until Tasha’s eyes meet across the wire fence with someone she never expected to see again: the love of her life, Luca. But with love comes peril… Will one sister have to sacrifice everything to save the other? Absolutely unputdownable historical fiction, perfect for fans of All the Light We Cannot See, The Ragged Edge of Night, and The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

Author Bio:

Suzanne Kelman is a 2015 Academy of Motion Pictures Nicholl Finalist, Multi-Award-Winning Screenwriter and a Film Producer. As well as working in film she is also an International Amazon Bestselling Fiction Author of the Southlea Bay Series – The Rejected Writers’ Book Club, Rejected Writers Take the Stage and The Rejected Writers’ Christmas Wedding. Born in the United Kingdom, she now resides in Washington State.

Author Interview:

What literary pilgrimages have you been on in your life?

A few years ago, I made a trip to the UK. First, I toured the Lake District and the north of England. There, I visited Beatrix Potter's house, William Wordsworth's cottage, James Herriot's surgery, and the Brontes' parsonage. Lastly, I traveled to the center of England to visit Stratford-upon-Avon and Shakespeare's homes. I really love visiting other writers' houses. You can see what inspires them, and it inspires my own work.

Tell us the best writing tips you can think of, something that helps you.

My favorite writing tips are always about first-draft writing. I have met many writers working on a project they have been working on for many years. And it always makes me sad when I hear discouragement from them. So, one of my favorite quotes is, "First draft writing is only shoveling sand into a bucket to make sandcastles later." This has helped me to no end. Now I can happily go through my first drafts as fast as possible, not worrying about what my sandcastle will look like—just making sure as much of my story is in the bucket as possible. It really sets you free from being critical of your own work.

What's a common trap for aspiring writers, advice for young writers starting out?

I hinted at this in question two. A common trap for aspiring writers is they put too much pressure on themselves. When we start out, we often compare our first draft writing to somebody's fifth or sixth draft in a book. The truth is that writing is a craft you continue to learn. So, as a new writer, focus on enjoying the journey, writing your first draft for yourself and your second for your audience. And leave the inner critic at home until you're finished with at least the third draft.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

When I wrote my first book, I was what's called a discovery writer or a pantser. I literally got a thought and wrote it down, and then I got another idea and wrote that down. Then I brought it all together in chapters and an overall story, but it was a very chaotic process. I quickly realized that to get my books in on a deadline for publishers; I would need to change that strategy. Being a discovery writer just took too long. So now I plot a lot more. It doesn't mean my characters don't get to take off on their own journey now and again. Sometimes they like to drive the story. But it does mean that I have a beginning, middle, and end, and I plot most of my scenes out before I even start writing.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Any money I've spent learning the craft has been worth the money. I attended a class called ScreenwritingU for two years, which was intense. But I learned so many skills during that time that I still use today. And I love to keep learning. I never stop. Any writer considering this as a craft should fall in love with learning about it. It keeps your stories alive and hones your skills.

What is an early experience where you learned that language had power?

My background is in theatre. So, from a young age, I realized the power of storytelling and how it could invoke all kinds of emotions, from laughter to tears to compassion and love. The dramatic, creative arts were the building blocks that took me into my current career. It was on the stage I realized words could really move an audience and bring them into a greater understanding of themselves.

What's the best way to market your books?

You can't go wrong with building an email list. I was very resistant to this initially and wished I'd started earlier. However, the power you get by having a reader's list and connecting with them whenever you want is a fantastic experience. I now have nearly 20,000 people on my list, and I love connecting with them. It's a great way to promote my books and discover new readers.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

This question made me laugh. As a historical fiction writer, the majority of my work is research. The truth is, I can move a story around, but I can't change a historical timeline. I write about World War II, and there's a beginning, middle, and end to that. My story has to weave around it, not the other way around. I have to be meticulous about my plotting. Having a bomb go off in Paris when there was never a bomb at that date or time upsets readers who know about such things. Sometimes this takes a lot of creative skills to make the story fit. But I always like to be as accurate as possible, and I start researching the subject as soon as I have an idea, and that gets more intense as I work through all the elements of my second draft.

What are your ethics of writing about historical figures?

I am very respectful when I write about historical figures. I know that family members are still around, people who know the story. Occasionally I've used different names when I've changed a real person's life story significantly. That happened in my book When the Nightingale Sings. The scientist in there whose story my book was based on had a very different personal life to the one I created for her. It didn't feel fair to her memory to call her by her real name, but I ensured it highlighted all of her historical accomplishments in the book. I also gave credit to her in my acknowledgments and dedication.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I only ever read my five-star reviews, which sounds very egotistical. But it has nothing to do with making myself feel better. This is because my ideal reader will write me a five-star review, and I want to keep shaping my work on what my audience wants. I, like every writer, suffer from one or two-star reviews. But wasting my time going over what they didn't like is not as important to me as making sure my next book fulfills the expectation of my five-star readers.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

The most challenging part for me is editing. Because once I start the editorial process, I'm under a time crunch to get the book out on time. It is always nerve-wracking waiting for the editors to send in the notes because sometime a minor note could be hours or days of research. My editors still make my stories much better. I wouldn't be without them. But it's the most challenging part of my journey in the writing process.

Tell us about your novels or series and why you wrote about these topics.

I've written a series of three Women's Fiction books and six historical fiction novels. My humor series is called The Rejected Writers' Book Club, and my historical fiction books are called: A View Across the Rooftops, When We Were Brave, Under a Sky On Fire, When the Nightingale Sings, and Garden of Secrets. And at the end of November, I'll release my next book, We Fly Beneath the Stars, about female Russian fighter pilots during World War II.

A true story has inspired every historical fiction book I've ever written. I usually look for people in history whose stories are less well-known. I particularly like underdog stories, people who overcome great adversity, and everyday people doing extraordinary things.

For example, in my next book, We Fly Beneath the Stars, I wrote about the Night Witches, nicknamed that by their German enemy because they were almost soundless as they swept in each evening to bomb their targets. These incredible women, discounted by their male counterparts, were given flimsy planes with no navigation or communication system, anyway to defend themselves, or even parachutes. Yet they were expected to bomb night after night. These courageous women, most of them in their early twenties, went on to outshine everyone, completing three times the amount of sorties than their male counterparts and helping the allies win the war. This was a fascinating story to write. And I was glad and privileged to be able to write about it in my next novel.

What is your favorite line or passage from your own book?

This quote is from my first historical fiction book, A View Across the Rooftops. And it sums up how I feel about most of the characters I write about. The quote is, "Sometimes the most courageous love is whispered in the quietest moments."

What was your hardest scene to write?

My most challenging scenes to write are always when I have to kill a character. I've spent weeks or maybe months with a character I've grown to know and love. To have to kill them is heartbreaking. I always feel the emotion of the surrounding characters and the experience they're going through. It's never easy to kill your darlings. But still, it has to be done.

Tell us your favorite quote and how that quote tells us something about you.

My favorite quote is a Shakespearean quote, "To thy own self be true." And it's how I've always tried to live my life. We can spend too long trying to please everybody else in our lives, to the detriment of ourselves. And when we're true to who we are, we give back to this world something nobody else can, our unique individualism. And I believe that is the most authentic gift we can give to the world.


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