Today I’m welcoming Susan Koenig to my blog. Sue has just indie-published her short novella, NINETEEN HUNDRED, a story set on the cusp of the century. Welcome, Sue. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?
Sue: Mae, thank you so much for inviting me. As a first time author, interviews are a new experience, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to talk about Kathryn and Gideon. Especially Gideon. 😀
When I retired in 2009, I became involved with groups on the ‘net, at first to learn more about photography, then to blog and, finally, to write. Somehow I gravitated to the writers and started to blog several times a week, then met more people and it snowballed. In the fall of 2010 I signed up for writing classes with the continuing studies branch of the local university. At the time my main characters were a very emotionally disturbed husband and wife who I had great plans for. Alas, Gideon entered my life and the couple faded into distant memory.
Let’s take a look at your book blurb for NINETEEN HUNDRED:
The right love, the wrong time.
December 31, 1899. At a dinner hosted by her landlady to celebrate the new century, Kathryn St. Clair meets sophisticated and handsome Gideon Thomas. He is a new lodger at the boarding house where she has settled since arriving in the city for a teaching position. His air of mystery speaks to her romantic imagination. Later, over a game of Whist, they pay more attention to each other than to the cards on the table. Her honesty reaches out to him; her rare innocence touches his dark soul.
Together, they visit several city amusements. But when, in her naiveté, Kathyrn demands explanations for Gideon’s irrational comings-and-goings, wondering if he is a gentleman after all, his secrets forbid him from answering. He fears the truth would throw her into madness, and that her intelligence would not allow for his reality.
If they don’t conquer their conflicting natures, their new love will die, leaving Gideon to live with the bitter consequences of his misconceptions.
Your story begins on New Year’s Eve 1899. As someone who loves a glimpse into yesteryear, I’m curious why you chose the turn of the century for your backdrop. We tend to think of any new year as an opportunity for a fresh beginning and, certainly, a new century would be loaded with possibilities. Your heroine, Kathryn St. Clair, has taken steps to move forward in her life by accepting a teaching position in a city away from home. She’s led a sheltered life and, in essence, is ‘starting new.’ Did you choose the turn of the century to symbolize the fresh outlook on her life, or am I reading too much into the setting?
I didn’t deliberately choose the turn of the century. My character, Gideon, was born in 1830, died and started to work for the devil, Mr. D, in 1860. In an earlier WIP a friend asked what I referred to when she read “The last time ended badly.” He never said another word about that ever again
. I never intended to explain that line but that’s what writing classes can do. Hence working backward, I arrived at 1900. You are, and you are not, reading too much into it. I didn’t know Kathryn well when I started the story and, yes it did turn out that way: a new life and the possibilities of a new century.
Kathryn is a breath of fresh air. Innocent and naïve and, in some respects, the proverbial country mouse transplanted to the city. But she’s also very black-and-white in her belief structure of right and wrong. Did you find her a hard character to write?
Sue: Mae, you continue to amaze me with your insights. She was easy to write. I let her speak to me in different situations and I realized she would need strong opinions regarding right and wrong. Without giving anything away, her morality is an integral facet of her character.
Let’s talk about Gideon Thomas. When I create a character, I often dream up a complicated back story for him or her that doesn’t necessarily make its way into my novel. It does, however, give me an understanding of what motivates my character’s actions. I got the impression you did this with Gideon. Would that be a fair statement?
Sue: Gideon and I have been living together for about two years. Yes he has a back story not referred to in NINETEEN HUNDRED. In fact, NINETEEN HUNDRED is the back story for my new WIP, AN ORDINARY COUPLE, which continues Gideon’s story today.
Gideon is attracted by Kathryn’s innocence which is understandable for a man with a secret in his past. Your tag line for the novella is “The right love, the wrong time.” I find that extremely clever, especially given the story doesn’t end with the closing page. You obviously have more to tell. Was that your intent when you began writing NINETEEN HUNDRED?
Sue: My intent? Lord knows. I was simply explaining his comment. As I got to know Kathryn better I realized they were a good fit. But I also had to explain the comment. And, remembering the era I placed them in, it was obvious they could not be together. He made a reverse faux pas, if you will, in that he kept to the culture and mores of the times when he shouldn’t have. I was going to call the book Faux Pas but realized that is an awful title for a book *laugh*
The dialogue of the early century was courtly, even elegant. Did you find it hard to switch gears and settle into those speech patterns?
Sue: In AN ORDINARY COUPLE he retains his formal speech pattern. First of all, it’s a readily identifiable characteristic, and anyway he’s 182 years old so he speaks like he was taught as a child.
I know you did a fair amount of research while writing this book. Given your knowledge of that time, is there anything in particular you wish would not have changed and would still be the same today?
Sue: Nothing comes to mind.
We’ve learned about NINETEEN HUNDRED. Let’s learn about Sue. Plotter or pantser?
Sue: I think it’s clear I’m a pantster — I didn’t even know the term until fairly recently. I write. At some point when I know I need structure, I do a mini plot line. Lately, friends of Gideon have been visiting and, even though I created them last year, we haven’t spoken much. So I just write and they tell me their story. When I decide to incorporate them into a new WIP, I may have to plot it out.
Aside from writing and reading, what’s your favorite thing to do when you have free time on your hands?
Sue: Love the cinema, not the theatre (unlike Gideon), photography, visiting with friends and during the summer hanging out at the pool. *shows off tanned arms*
Lovely. 🙂 You’ve written a story about the past, so let’s pretend you could spin back the hands of time and drop in for a visit on any event in history. What would it be?
Sue: I don’t know about a specific event, but I have always been fascinated by the 20s. I belong to a peer learning group and my first course was Fashion in the 20s. In school I wanted to be a fashion designer. I was so disappointed when I asked an aunt what it was like during the 20s, and she said, boring! The other historical time that intrigues me is during WWII and the French Resistance
Well, thank you very much for the interview, Sue. Do you have any parting thoughts before we close?
Sue: Yes, for one thing, I know some people aren’t keen to read devil stories, but like vampires, they’re often used as a vehicle to deliver a message. Also, as my characters in AN ORDINARY COUPLE learn, it pays to take a risk. And lastly, thank you again for having me. I’ve learned so much from my writer friends. Writers are the busiest and most supportive group I‘ve ever met.
Susan Koenig started writing fiction when she retired in 2009. It now has become almost an addiction, fueled by the amazing writers she has met online. Writing became a vehicle for meeting new and interesting people who she never would have met otherwise. Their support, encouragement and knowledge further induced her into discovering many writing avenues. As a result, her stories continue to evolve. Sue’s characters are a constant source of companionship and they all hope to make it into one of her (published) stories some day.
She is an occasional poet and regular contributor to a monthly Haiku site, as well as a consistent participant on the blog challenge, Blogophilia, which weekly tests her creativity. Her poetry has been featured in a local online literary magazine.
Her home is Southwestern Ontario, Canada, where, when not writing, she and her camera take junkets to explore new inspirations for incorporation into her writing.
Gideon’s story will continue in the near future.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Susan Koenig, you can find her at the following haunts:
NINETEEN HUNDRED is available in e-book format through Amazon.com and Smashwords and can be purchased here: