Writing superheroes: Susan Mason-Milks

What does Dr. Seuss have to do with today’s writing super-hero?  Read on and find out…

superhero copyIf you were to write the ‘origin’s episode’ of your writing what would be the most important scenes? What did your early efforts look like? Are they still around to be used as bribes and blackmail material?


If you were to write the “origin’s episode” of your writing, what would be the most important scenes?

Scene One:  My mom and I going to the library to check out books and then going home and reading them together.

Scene Two: My friend and I creating stories from our imaginations based on Nancy Drew, fairy tales, mythology and Dr. Seuss. Maybe it’s significant that my first Dr. Seuss book was “To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” in which the main character invents what he saw on the way home from school because what he actually saw wasn’t nearly interesting enough. Remember that one?1181-D052no(c)


What did your early efforts look like? Are they still around to be used as bribes and blackmail material?

My early efforts at fiction were so dreadful that I stopped trying. I learned how to analyze literature in college and as a high school English teacher. After leaving teaching, many of the jobs I had included technical writing like handbooks, procedures, newsletters. That was the time when I really learned how to write. Oddly enough, it was doing this type of non-fiction writing that helped me find my own style which eventually carried over into fiction.


All super heroes have their mild-mannered secret identity. What is yours?

My outer self is the mild-mannered one. My secret identity is much wilder.


Who are your partners in crime? What are their superpowers?

I rely on the support of some friends and family as well as some other writers on Austen Authors.


Where do you get your superpowers from?

I love brainstorming with friends and other writers. My best ideas always come out of that type of collaboration.


What is your secret lair and what does it look like?secret lair

I usually do my best writing in the morning at my desk in the basement family room. I listen to classical music or movie soundtracks. Anything with words is distracting. Sometimes I choose the music to go along with what I’m writing. For example, for working on an outdoor scene between Darcy and Elizabeth, I put on Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, often referred to as The Pastoral. It set just the right mood.


What kind of training do you do to keep your superpowers in world saving form? How do you ensure they are used only for good?

 I’ve learned so much from the writing I’ve done for Austen Authors blog, especially the ‘back stage’ scenes for our Pride and Prejudice 200 Project (which is now out in ebook and print as “Pride and Prejudice: The Scenes Jane Austen Never Wrote”) and the Reader’s Choice stories. Reader’s Choice stories give fans the ability to vote as to the plot direction of the next week’s chapter. I’ve never been a particularly fast writer so having to create a new chapter in less than a week for our Reader’s Choice stories has been a challenge. At first, I was terrified, but it turned out to be a great learning experience. Now I look forward to the challenge – and I think it’s important to do something that scares you from time to time. It’s a great way to grow.


SMM-DarcysProposal-cov-smWhat is your kryptonite? What are the biggest challenges you are faced with in your writing?

Getting myself started is my biggest problem. I tend to get overwhelmed when I try to think to big. I have to immerse myself in one scene at a time.


What important lessons have you learned along the way?

You can’t make the characters do something they don’t want to. If you try to force the story and they rebel, it’s time to rethink the story.


What have been the best/most memorable experiences along the way?

I remember the first time I saw my book up on Amazon. I was both elated and terrified. Suddenly my name was out there (I don’t use a pseudonym) for everyone to see. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.


If you did this again, what would you do differently and what would you not change?

I wish I’d focused on writing fiction sooner.  I didn’t come to it until I was in my fifties. Sometimes I look back and wonder what I might have accomplished if I’d pursued the dream when I was younger. Then on the other hand, maybe I wasn’t ready.


What is the best (writing or otherwise) advice you’ve ever gotten and why?

There’s no crime in setting aside story that isn’t working. Sometimes, it’s best to just set it aside. If you revisit it later, you’ll either see what needs to be done or wonder why it took you so long to let it go.


Tell us about your new book and why we need to drop everything and get it now.SMM-PMD-postcard-cover-240w

I’m very close to finishing my second book, Please, Mr. Darcy. I had a first draft about a month ago, but I wasn’t happy with it so I let it sit for a while and now I’m working on it again. I’m hoping have it completed in the next month. It’s another Pride and Prejudice ‘what if’ story that begins just after Darcy’s first proposal. Instead of waiting months for Darcy and Elizabeth to meet again, I have them accidentally meet at the theater in London a few weeks after the proposal while Elizabeth is staying with her aunt and uncle. In this story, I’ve envisioned Georgiana as a more mature character who tries to help her brother by playing matchmaker.  There are a lot of accidental meetings and misunderstandings, but for the most part, they’re amusing—more humor and less angst than my first book. I’m really excited about it!


What’s in store for you in the future? Do you have any other big projects on the horizon?

I have ideas for other Jane Austen-related stories and several non-Austen romances set in either Regency or Victorian England. At some point, I’d like to build a series of three to four books all about the same family or group of friends. Each character would have his or her own story, but the characters from the related books would also appear.


 You can find Susan at:

Twitter~Facebook~Amazon~Pinterest~GoodReads ~B&N~Audible



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    • junewilliams7 on January 26, 2014 at 9:40 am
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    Maria, I love your interview questions – “what is your secret lair” and “what is your Kryptonite.” Heh-heh!

    Susan, might I ask how you decided to not use a pseudonym? I’m just curious about how authors make that decision. I’m very curious about what kind of story you will write in the Victorian age. I’m sure it will be fun. Thank you for the interview!

  1. June – About twenty years ago, I was introduced to an author who said, “You need to write a book! You have the perfect name for an author.” I guess he was saying it’s unique because of the hyphen. So when it came time to decided about using my name or a pseudonym, I decided to go with my own name. When I first saw my name on my book, I had a few second thoughts, but really, I’m proud of my work and feel good that my name is on it. Actually, if I were going to change anything it would be my first name. I’ve always felt like I should have been a “Susanna” instead of just Susan.

  2. In case anyone is wondering about the picture of the cat in the post, that’s my guy Bentley standing on my desk helping me write.

  3. Very insightful questions and answers! Really like the cover for ‘Please, Mr. Darcy’ – it screams “Elizabeth.” Do hope you eventually put up a AustenVariations.com/Zazzle mug with both your covers!

    Bentley is very polite – our cats prefer to lay on our keyboards.
    Will be watching for the release of your new book!
    Also, do enjoy all the Theo chapters – makes Wednesdays tolerable.
    Cheers to you and Maria!

    1. I loved the questions! What fun! Bentley is more polite than our other cats who think nothing of climbing in my lap when I’m reading on my iPad – and look very indignant if I don’t let them! Theo is definitely alive and well over at Austen Variations.

    • Exciting update! - Random Bits of Fascination on January 27, 2014 at 9:52 am

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