Message From The Author
Coming Undone With Susan Andersen
FANS CLAMOR FOR MORE OF THEIR FAVORITE CHARACTERS
By Stephanie Klose
Susan Andersen's latest release, Coming Undone (HQN), features two characters who will be familiar to fans of the author's Marines series.
P.J. and Jared first appeared on the scene in Hot and Bothered (2004) as teenagers who wound up living on the streets of Denver together after P.J.'s mother kicked her out and Jared was accused of his father's murder. Now they're all grown up with a book of their own.
Priscilla Jayne Morgan is poised to become a country music star when she fires her embezzling manager -- who also happens to be her mother -- and the tabloids rake her over the coals. When she sees Jared again, she's delighted -- until she realizes that her record company has hired him to keep her in line while she's on tour. The sparks start flying, but they must take time out from catching up to deal with a nightmare fan.
Andersen explains she was inundated with queries about P.J. and Jared after Hot and Bothered came out but had always planned to give them their own book. In fact, P.J. had such a hold on her imagination that "a story for her and Jared started forming in the back of my brain before I was even finished" with the first book.
She wrote two other books before telling their tale, however, since she planned to set the book 15 years later and, as Andersen explained, "I find it difficult to buy a character aging that much in a single year."
The move from her earlier thrillers to contemporary romance was "predicated by the market," she says, because "romantic suspense was not marketed well" at the time she was writing them.
It was a good move, since romance is where Andersen has found her niche. "My strong suit is relationships and that push-me-pull-you of men and women together."
Andersen is diligent about keeping to a writing schedule. She edits previous work early in the day and says she does almost
all of her original writing after three in the afternoon. She works Monday through Friday, taking weekends and vacations off, not even bringing a laptop to the weekend home she and her husband have in the mountains outside Seattle.
She has worked with her brainstorming partner, Silhouette Desire author Caroline Cross, since they met at their local Romance Writers of America chapter in 1993, and she also participates in writers' groups online. Getting feedback from other authors is "wonderful for that connection," she says, especially in a profession where most practitioners spend a great deal of time alone.
If Andersen's men seem very true to life, it may be because the author has always been outnumbered by males in her life.
She has spent a lifetime in what she calls "the deep end of the testosterone pool," having grown up in a household with two brothers, her father and her grandfather, a "spit-and-scratch world" that turned her "attention to things like the danger of answering nature's call in the dead of the night." (Her advice? "Check before you sit.")
She is married to her high school sweetheart -- readers of her blog know him as "the Soul Mate" -- and has one son. With the exception of a long-gone Irish setter, even all of their pets have been male.
Observing so many men at such close quarters has provided Andersen with ample fodder for her fictional characters. While she says she never uses their particular personalities outright, some of their mannerisms do surface from time to time.
There is a family tradition associated with her books, though. While she was writing Present Danger (2000), one of her nephews asked to be in it. Andersen obliged and granted him "a walk-on part as a cop." In the interest of fairness, she put his two brothers in her next two books.
"After that," she says, "the die was cast. My friends and family expected to see someone they knew in every book." All of her books since have had a bit player named after someone in her life.
Andersen plans to continue writing contemporary romances for the foreseeable future. "I'm not burned out on the genre," she says, "I still have lots to say."
"Given the size of my family," she adds, "it's probably a good thing I've still got a bunch of books left in me."
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