Hey book lovers! Today I’m happy to share author interview with Susan Schaefer Bernardo, Author of Inspired- inspirational and entertaining mythological urban fantasy on Greek Muses with little family drama that I read and reviewed in January. It’s releasing next month on May 6th, isn’t it great?If you missed my review and would like to know about book click HERE.
I’ve been writing poetry and stories since I could hold a crayon! I am a big believer in the power of creativity. The process of writing poetry or making art allows me to express and understand my emotions. Through our imagination, we find ways to move through painful experiences and transform them into something very beautiful and healing.
I wrote my first book Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs because I wanted to reassure my kids (and myself!) that we are always connected to the people we love. Writing my poem “Tonic Waters” helped me cope with grief over my mother-in-law’s death. I was so honored when “Tonic Waters” was published in an anthology and read aloud at the 2014 World Cancer Day Concert – because it meant my words might console others experiencing similar pain. I’m currently finishing my first YA novel for girls, and I’ve just finished collaborating on a wonderful new book to support children who have suffered a traumatic event.
I love to learn just as much as I love to teach, and I hold a B.A. in English (UCLA), M.A. in English Literature (Yale) and elementary/secondary teaching credentials (Pepperdine). I keep my inner flower child happy and inspired by sculpting, dancing, exploring tide pools, raising chickens in the city, traveling to cool new places (and attempting to speak the language, even if it’s just please and thank you), and taking long nature walks with my sons and our rescue terrier Poppy. I’m happiest when I’m barefoot and surrounded by beauty.
Q. When did you decide to become a writer?
I have loved writing poetry and stories since I learned how to read! The first book I ever read by myself was Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham at age 4, and I think that inspired me to begin writing poetry. I’ve been keeping journals for many years, and as a little kids, I loved to create little handmade books with my stories and drawings.
Q. What inspired you to write Inspired?
In 1994 when I was living in Boston, I had a vivid dream about a girl at a museum who sees a painting of Greek Muses coming to life, and then becomes their apprentice. I tried for several years to write it as a screenplay, but it really wanted to be a novel.
Q. What sort of research did you do to write this book?
For me, it’s always a rich mix of academic research, field trips to locations in the book, hands-on experiential learning and just daydreaming into the ideas. I have loved the Getty Villa here in Los Angeles (a museum focusing on Greek and Roman antiquities) since I went on a field trip there in high school…so I spent a lot of time wandering around there and picturing scenes. I’ve spent time in Greece and Rome, including exploring Pompeii and the Vatican Museum. I also love “intuitive Googling” – just going down the rabbit hole of finding interesting facts and ideas on the internet! In order to make the glassblowing scenes realistic, I took a glassblowing workshop – it was hot and exhausting work, and cool and exciting, too! I love doing art of all kinds.
Q. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I’ve also published three children’s picture books: Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs, The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm and The Big Adventures of Tiny House. I can’t name a favorite – every project was a wonderful experience, and I am proud of all of them! One of the things I love about my picture books is that they were all written with the intention to help heal and inspire children going through loss or trauma. So it feels good to have them out in the world. Inspired is my first novel, and I have two sequels for it in draft stage.
Q. Describe what your ideal writing space looks like.
I am a wandering writer! I have a little old Mac Airbook, and I move around a lot when I am writing. Sometimes, I sit on my deck. I live on a hill and have a great view of trees in the canyon below and blue skies above. Sometimes, I write in a big tent in my backyard (I just dyed the tent purple last week!), because it feels very creative and cozy. Sometimes, I take my laptop or journal to a favorite coffeehouse or the library, so I don’t get distracted by all my clutter or unfinished projects around the house (like laundry!). And my favorite of all is to take my laptop or journal with me when I travel, and get creative in an exotic place! I have written overlooking a lake Bali, sitting on the Hill of Tara in Ireland, and while at a bistro in Paris, to name a few!
Q. What was your favorite chapter (or part) of writing this book and why?
The scene that takes place at the Getty Villa was my favorite, because it really blended the angst of growing up with the magical possibilities of the fantasy aspects of the book! I channeled my teen self from when I went there in high school, including the annoying boy in my class….and also got to dream about meeting a cute boy and a bunch of magical Muses.
Q. What was the hardest part of writing the book? Was there anything that you deleted or altered?
Revising. I revised the book for a very, very long time. I let go of whole plot threads, changed the beginning, the end, the middle – over and over. I think the book just didn’t want to be ready for me, until I was ready for it! In the past 6 years, I have learned SO MUCH about indie publishing – and now I feel confident about launching Rocket (that’s my main character’s name!)! Two years ago, coincidentally (?!), a book I co-wrote with LeVar Burton was sent on an actual rocket to the International Space Station and read aloud by Astronaut Kate Rubin!
Q. Your favorite quality in a protagonist.
Three of them: intelligence, a sense of humor and kindness.
Q. What is the main thing you want readers to take away from your book?
Trust and enjoy your journey! Pay attention to the voice inside of you — and notice the things that light you up and make you glow – those things are clues about your soul purpose. We are all here with our piece of the puzzle for making the world a better place. Even the parts of our lives that seem hard while we are going through them are valuable parts of our human, creative process.
Q. Who are some authors that inspire you?
SO many – I read about three books a week. JK Rowling, of course! Anne McCaffrey. Ursula K LeGuin. Dr. Seuss. Tomi Adeyemi. Erin Morganstern. Virginia Woolf. Stephen King. Anthony Doerr. And for creative support, I love Anne Lamott’s guide for writers, Bird by Bird, Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic.
Q. Your favorite childhood book.
A Little Princess
Q. Do you read book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
I read them obsessively! The good ones feel like hugs. When I get a bad review, I try to see if they feel true and useful, and if I can use them to improve for the future. If they get me too depressed, I re-read the good ones and cuddle my dog, Poppy, or write about my feelings in my journal. I don’t love every book that I read, so I can’t expect every reader to love MY book, right? That’s what makes the world interesting – everyone’s got their unique tastes and opinions. Please leave me a review if you read the book – it means so much to authors to know that their words are reaching readers!
Q. What are your future project(s)? What’s it about? (*if relevant)
I have a few books in the pipeline! My picture book partner Courtenay Fletcher is currently illustrating a picture book biography I wrote about the artist Theophile Steinlen, and that will be released by early 2019 (it was inspired by a little bronze cat sculpture I found in an antique store in Paris a few years ago!). I am working on more YA novels in The Firefly Tribe series – telling more of Rocket’s story, and also focusing on the other “apprentice Muses” we meet in INSPIRED, who come from other cultures and time periods (the other books in the Firefly Tribe series will be exploring Celtic mythology, South American shamanism and Hindu goddesses).
Q. Advice for aspiring authors.
Explore your world! I believe that our job as a human is to be creative and curious – so get out there and fill your imagination with rich experiences. Travel. Daydream. Hug trees. Go to museums. Learn other languages and meet people from all walks of life. Try something new whenever you can – whether it’s listening to different music or wearing a funny hat – go for it! Get your hands dirty – make art, plant flowers, build sandcastles, climb mountains. Be kind to yourself, and surround yourself with encouraging, loving people. Be an encouraging, loving person yourself! Read lots of great books. Experiment with writing in different styles, voices, genres. Believe that the Universe is always showering you with blessings and gifts. And persist. Some projects burst out of you – others take decades, like Inspired. It’s all okay.
Q. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I see you – and you are AMAZING!!! I know it’s tough being on this human journey sometimes – but isn’t it also magical?
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Book Links: Amazon
Thank you, Yesha, for the opportunity! xoxo Susan
Thank you very much Susan for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview. 🙂
I hope you all enjoyed reading this interview.