Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Q & A With Susan Diane Johnson (and a giveaway!)

The winner of a copy of Suzie Johnson's debut novel No Substitute is: 
Suzy Wagner


The Week of Suzie continues, celebrating the release of her first novel, No Substitute! Today Susanne picks Suzie's brain about her book and writing journey.

Congratulations on the release of your debut novel, No Substitute! Give us a preview of the book.

Thank you, Susie. No Substitute is a contemporary romance about a woman who goes back to the small town where her heart was broken. She knows the man who broke her heart is still there and she dreads running into him. At the same time, she’d love to have just one glimpse. Of course she gets much more than she bargained for. 

Is No Substitute the first book you’ve written?

It isn’t the first book I wrote, but it is my first contemporary. I think I wrote two-and-a-half historicals before I wrote No Substitute.

How did you learn the news that your book was being published? How did your family react?

I received an email from the editor telling me they’d like to publish the book. I immediately called my son since I’d promised him he’d be the first to know if I sold a book. He didn’t answer. I called him several times because I was just busting to tell someone but didn’t want to break a promise. Finally I texted him, and he called me right back. He was very happy and excited for me.

After I finished talking to him, I decided I wanted to go out to dinner with my family and tell them. Of course I had to tell my husband first, and he was – of course – wishing it meant he didn’t have to go back to work. But we all know that would be a rarity for a first sale.

He had to go back to dreaming…and inviting his brother, sister-in-law, and brother-in-law to dinner. I invited my mother. This wasn’t odd to any of them, because we often go to dinner together. But this time when inviting them, my husband said I had something to tell them. So they knew something was up and kept bugging him. And so…he told them I was pregnant. Of course they burst out laughing and realized it was a joke. Anyway, they were very happy and I had to make them promise not to tell anyone until I could call the family members who live far away. It was fun, and I hope I get the chance to do it again soon.
The cover is stunning. Can you tell us how it was designed?

Thank you. I love everything about the cover. Nicola Martinez, the publisher of Pelican Books, designed my cover. I sent her two photographs I’d taken. One is of a bluff where I like to walk and another of a lighthouse near one of my “writing spots”. I told her what my characters looked like. All of those elements were incorporated into my cover and I’m so happy with the way it turned out. 

What are your favorite things about your hero and heroine?

I love the way Quentin’s relationship with his daughter. I love that he’s trying to do the right thing for her. Even if he doesn’t always get it right or if it’s out of his comfort zone, he doesn’t give up. He’s also very forgiving.

Amy is stepping out in faith by coming back to town. It’s the place her heart was broken and she doesn’t want to revisit it. But circumstances throw her directly into the path she didn’t want to take, and she finds a way to press forward.

Speaking of Quentin's daughter, Shayna is a spunky thing! Were you like her as a kid?
Shayna wasn't based on me. I was never precocious. (Good thing you can't see my expression right now) She just kind of appeared in my stream of conscience when I was in water aerobics one day. She fueled the entire story. I actually toyed with adding her viewpoint, but it didn't ring true whenever I'd try to write her viewpoint so I took it out.

I love Shayna's pet, Rufus the Duck.What--or who--inspired him?

He was based on a goose my husband had when he was little.  Rufus was his name, and he would fly along when my husband was walking to school. And Rufus would meet him at the end of the day and fly alongside on the way home. We had ducks for several years, in our backyard and we do live in the middle of town. I'm not sure we could do that now because things have changed so much. But just like Shayna's pet duck, the mayor really did used to bring lettuce over and feed the ducks.

When I was with you at RWA, I was amazed by how many ideas for different novels you have going on in your head. What’s your inspiration? How do you find time to write, busy as you are?

Things that inspire me are the waves at the beach, sea creatures, fields of lavender, music. They don’t necessarily fill my head with ideas, but they fill me with joy and hope and help me maintain my inspiration to write.

I have a difficult time carving out writing time. I used to write on my breaks at work, but it’s hard to do where I work now because everyone in my office goes to lunch at the same time. They are a very close-knit group, and I’m either a part of it or I separate myself from them. I choose to be a part of the group because I’ve never worked in an office that was like family before. I can’t always write at night because my brain is so tired, so I try to write on my days off.

One fun fact about you: You love Disneyland! What do you love about it?

I was 43 when I first had the chance to go. My son couldn’t go, my husband didn’t want to go, and so I went with my mother. It was a lifelong dream to go there, and I was absolutely enchanted with everything I saw. But the most indelible memory I have is of my mother laughing harder and more joyously than I’d ever seen. I will treasure that memory forever. I’ve been back several times and my mom goes with me. I never get tired of seeing her let go and relax. I’ve also been able to take my son a couple of times, and we always have such fun together.

I love the way grown people can just let go and hold a little bit of childhood close to their heart. It’s a place of dreams. Cinderella and Snow White – sigh… I loved them so much when I was growing up. To visit their “home” was really a dream come true for me. And of course I love love love the rides. What can I say? Perhaps like Peter Pan, I’ve never grown up.

I had fun hanging around Disneyland with you and Anita Mae Draper. "Star Tours" forever! Anyway, back to your writing journey... Being a writer is a solitary endeavor, but no one does it completely alone. Who has been your support?

My son has been my biggest supporter – always. Then my parents, sister, and husband. Close friends. My critique group. The Inksters. I am so blessed to have so many supportive people in my life.

Thanks, Suzie! I loved No Substitute and I wish you every success.

More about No Substitute: 

 First loves never last . . . except when they do. When Amy Welsh returns to Goose Bay as a substitute teacher, she has no intention of seeing Quentin Macmillan, the man who once left her waiting in the rain clutching her suitcase and dreaming of becoming his wife. Seventeen years later, his teenage daughter shows up in Amy’s class with plans to reunite her widowed father with the woman he has always loved. When the assignment is forgiveness and healing, will this young teacher pass the test?

If you'd like to be the drawing for a copy of No Substitute, please let us know in your comment and leave your email address!


  1. Good morning Susie and Suzie, our west coast girls!

    I finished No Substitute last week and I'll add how much I loved the surprises that come along near the end. I think my favorite part was the father-daughter relationship. You did such a good job with that.

    Suzie, I was like you when I went to Disneyland. I had been to Disney World, and really it's hard to compare. But going to Disneyland was a childhood dream and I was giddy to stand at the gate and know I'd finally fulfilled that childhood dream.

    Oh my, hearing about Keith's duck was worth the price of admission!

    thanks, ladies!

  2. Good morning, Deb.

    I'm so glad you enjoyed it. And thank you for your sweet compliments. You just brightened up my day.

    Have you been to Disneyland since they opened California Adventure? I love that, too. So fun! I hope I can go next year.

    I'm glad you enjoyed v the duck story. Keith used to put leftover spaghetti outside and they loved it. There were more than a few Lady and the Tramp spaghetti moments.

  3. I love Shayna and Rufus the duck too. They both provide the book with a lot of extra sparkle. The plot never lags for a second, and I think these two colorful characters have a lot to do with that.

  4. Good morning, Dina. I will pop over to Seekerville as soon as I can. Thank you so much. I love that you love my favorite parts of the book. :-)

  5. Good morning! I'm off to do a school run, but I'll be back in a bit...

    1. It's okay, Susie. I'm going to be late for work if I don't get busy.

  6. Oh silly me. I forgot to say, I'm glad the plot doesn't lag. I wish that were the case on the one I'm working on. Aaack! I seriously dislike sagging lagging middles.

  7. Suzie, I wish we could have gone on the new Cars ride when we were at CA Adventure. But 2+ hours is more than I wanted to wait in line, especially considering we had a limited amount of time. At least we rode California Screamin' together!

    The stories about Keith and Rufus are great. Love them!

    Dina's right about the plot never lagging. I wish I could say the same for my wip. Ugh. Right now I'm wondering, is there even a plot? :)

  8. Aww, what a great interview. I love the story about your husband's goose! And I'm a Disney lover, too. I've only been twice and only to Florida, but I'd sure love to go to the California one someday. Yeah, I'm old, but I refuse to grow up!

    Congratulations again on your wonderful new book!

  9. Great interview Suzie. Ducks! What a hoot! So happy for this release.

  10. Growing up on the farm, we had ducks a couple of years. I remember them heading to the garden to raid the lettuce patch. If they'd gone quietly, they might of gotten away with it but they always quacked loudly as they headed in that direction!

  11. Sorry ladies, I'm at work. I'll get back here as soon as I can.

  12. DeAnna, anytime you head west, Suzie and I would jump at the chance to go to Disneyland with you!

  13. Hi ElaineK! You know, before this, I had no clue ducks ate lettuce. Goes to show what a city girl I am.

    Thanks for visiting! And if you want to enter the drawing, pop back again and let us know. We'd love to enter your name in the drawing!

  14. Susie, thank you so much for today. This whole week has been amazing.

    I loved the time we got to spend together, and the time with your family. I could go on those rides all day! Especially with people I love. California Screamin' all the way!

  15. Hi DeAnna,

    Thank you so much. I can't wait to tell Keith you all liked his goose and duck stories. I have more to tell but that's in the next book in this series. :-)

    I don't want to grow up either. Come to Disney with me sometime, DeAnna!

  16. Thank you, Lisa! Well ... if you ever need duck advice - you know who to call. Lol.

  17. I'd love to. Trust me, girls, if I'm ever even close to out that way, I'm going! :D

  18. Hi Elaine,

    I wrote you a post but it disappeared. I'm so sorry I couldn't answer sooner. It's been to to get breaks today.

    Aren't ducks funny? I don't know why they're so noisy when they eat. I thought maybe it was dinner-table talk. Family togetherness.

    I think it's cool you grew up on a farm. I always thought that would be kind of fun.

  19. Susie, I never thought ducks would eat spaghetti until Keith fed it to them. Too funny. They'll eat a lot of things.

  20. DeAnna, I totally agree with Susie. Anytime you want to go to my favorite place, I'll be there. As a matter of fact, I'm hoping to go in May. I can't remember if I said that already.

  21. Suzie! I just found out about this and immediately went to Amazon to download a copy for Julie's Kindle. I'm so excited for you. This has made my day!

  22. Hi Hugh! Thank you so much. I am so honored and happy that I made your day. :-) I hope you enjoy it and I hope Julie enjoys it, too.

  23. Hi Susie! And Suzie! What a delightful interview. I am suddenly compelled to go to Disneyland with your book and sit by the pond and feed the ducks.....
    Can't wait to look it up.

    Another Suzy

    suzanneliggettwagner at gmail dot com

  24. Suzanne, thank you for dropping by. I thinkvthere are swans in the moat at Snow White's castle at Disney. That would be the perfect reading spot. Sigh...

    Funny, we all spell our names different. Suzie, Susie, Suzy. :-)

  25. Hi Suzanne! (I never knew you were a Suzy!) Oh wow, what a great idea, reading by the swans at the castle.

    I always identified with Belle--if I lived in the Beast's castle, I'd never leave that fabulous library of his.

    I'm so glad you came by. We've got you entered into the drawing!

  26. a wonderful posting...thanks for the chance to read this wonderful story

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  27. Ah, that is sweet about your son and you ending up texting him so as not to break your promise to him. :) No Substitute sounds like a great story! Thanks for this giveaway!

    jswaks at gmail dot com

  28. Susie, I love Belle. Beauty and the Beast is such a wonderful story.

    Karen, I'm so glad you stopped by. You are entered in the drawing. If you do read the book, I hope you enjoy it.

    Jes, thank you for stopping by. I could never break my promise to my son. :-) You're entered in the drawing. I hope, if you read the book, you will enjoy it.


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We, the ladies of Inkwell Inspirations, would love to give free stuff to everybody. Since we can't, we will often have a giveaway in conjunction with a specific post. Unless otherwise stated, one winner will be drawn from comments left on that post between the date it was published and the end of the giveaway as determined in the post. Entries must be accompanied by a valid email address. This address is used only to contact the commenter in the event that he/she is the winner, and will not be sold, distributed, or used in any other fashion. The odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. NO PURCHASE, PLEDGE, OR DONATION NECESSARY TO ENTER OR TO WIN. ALL FEDERAL, STATE, LOCAL AND MUNICIPAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS APPLY. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.