Greetings from Sarah Sundin in California, where the plum and nectarine trees bloom in the rain. One of my favorite March happenings is the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. Last year I was at Mount Hermon to see Susanne Lakin (writing as C.S. Lakin) win Zondervan's First Novel contest and receive her first contract. That novel, Someone to Blame, will release in August 2010. Today we hear from Susanne and see what exciting things have happened since winning that contest.
Susanne, how did you get into writing?
I was raised by a Hollywood screenwriter. Both my brother and mother were successful TV writers and producers, so I was raised collating scripts, helping with storylines, and developing series for TV with my mother. I wrote my first TV show pitch at age twelve, which got turned down. I wrote my first novel twenty-two years ago, which was picked up by the first agent I contacted – a top ABA agent, who assured me he could sell my book in a New York minute. But that never happened. I'm on books ten and eleven now, and I've had six or seven agents. Currently I have two agents – one for my fantasy books and one for my psychological mysteries. They are both ABA agents who sell to New York houses. I'm trying hard to break into ABA, as I want to write to nonbelievers and work my way into issues of faith and God.
How many books do you have published? What are a few of your titles?
I have four books contracted and scheduled for publication. My contemporary novel, Someone to Blame, won the Zondervan First Novel contest at Mount Hermon in April 2009, and will release in August 2010. The other three are contracted with AMG/Living Ink, the start of a seven-book fantasy series. The first book, The Wolf of Tebron, will release in September 2010. This is a series of stand-alone fairy tales of Christian allegory in the style of CS Lewis, heavy on scriptural themes but designed to reach unbelievers with a message of hope.
How did you get your first book contract?
Through the Zondervan contest, although I was offered my fantasy book contract around the same time. I met both editors at Mount Hermon and pitched to them there. All successes through Mount Hermon!
That's where I made the submission that led to my first contract too! Mount Hermon is a wonderful conference to meet editors and agents, learn about writing craft from top authors, and soak in the beauty of the redwoods. This year's conference is March 26-30, and there's still time to register. Mount Hermon website
What has helped you promote your books the most?
I'm a bit flummoxed by the marketing challenges of two books releasing at the same time in two different genres. So far, the best way I've gained readers, reviewers, and endorsements is through conferences and Facebook. And I'm a networking maniac!
Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
So far I see God connecting me with just the right people who want to help me promote my books. I never underestimate the power of prayer and divine appointments.
Now that you've been writing a while, what do you find works best for you in promoting your work and why?
Helping other writers! As a copy editor, I volunteer a lot to read, critique, adn edit books for other writers if they have a need and can't pay. I trust God to bring these people to me. Also, sometimes my editing clients lead me to ways I can promote – people they know, etc. Again, it's all God matching me up and my trusting in him to lead me. Having a generous, giving heart is the best way for me to give back. Not to do it for that reason, but trusting it's the right way.
I love to see how God rewards generosity!
What are your top tips for writers with their first book contract?
Keep writing and follow God's lead for what to write. I just keep writing and know the contracts will come when they're supposed to. I wouldn't encourage writing a book and sitting around and waiting for it to sell. Not if they know they are led to write as a career. Davis Bunn said in his workshop at Mount Hermon that you are not your book. If you are called by God to write, it's a career, and what happens to your one book is not the important factor. It's how you live your writing life and follow the career God has put in your heart.
That's great advice to any writer at any stage in their career. We must follow God's leading first and foremost.
Thank you for sharing with us, Susanne – and I'll see you at Mount Hermon!
To learn more about Susanne and her books, visit her website and her blog:
Writing for Him,