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Of all of the many books I’ve written, I do have a favorite, which is why I’m writing this right now. Return to Willow Lake is the book I’ve wanted to write for a long time. It’s about a mom and daughter–one of my key themes in fiction and in life–and it features a glorious setting–Avalon, on Willow Lake, in the Catskills of Ulster County. And it features a grand, nostalgic love story. It’s just everything that’s important to me right now.
I’ve had a career as a teacher, but I’ve been writing since I was old enough to recognize what a story was. There was never a time when I didn’t consider myself a writer. My mom saved the stories I dictated to her before I was old enough to read and write. (I have a great mom.)
When I first started writing to publish, I wasn’t aware of genre distinctions. I just divided everything into Fiction and Nonfiction and considered myself a fiction writer. However, everything I wrote featured a dramatic love story, and that’s what I love to read, so romance writing was a natural fit for me.
I’m often asked who is my favorite character that I’ve created. It’s got to be Barkis the dog in Summer at Willow Lake. I loved him so much that I got a puppy the next year and named him Barkis. He’s my best friend in the world. Well, he’s one of them, anyway. I’ve also got Lenny, Fisher and Goose. Without really meaning to, I’ve turned into that Crazy Dog Lady people whisper about.
Friends and family constantly want to know if there are any characters fashioned after myself or anyone close to me. The simple answer is yes, all of them. Especially all the main characters. In my mind’s eye, I look just like them, right down to the size-2 figure and flowing locks! Seriously, I don’t think it’s possible to create a character without imbuing him or her with bits of oneself. Sometimes they are disguised. For example, I am more like Zach Alger in Return to Willow Lake than Sonnet Romano. He’s very straightforward, he’s all about family and friends and he wears his heart on his sleeve. I definitely share Sonnet’s fashion sense, though.
I find inspiration in my friends, family and the crazy thoughts that run through my mind while I’m hiking through the rain forest with the dogs. Also a blank page and fresh peacock blue ink in my pen–these are things that rev up my writing engine.
My typical writing day: I get up early with my adorable husband, let the dogs out (kicking them out the door and slamming it shut when the weather is bad, because they hate bad weather). Make coffee, read the “good news” section of Huffington Post, eat a banana, feed the dogs, go to yoga or take the dog for a big hike, meet a friend and eat more food, look at my e-mail queue (God forbid I should answer any of it!), screen my phone calls, check in with my elderly parents, chat with daughter in Chicago, talk everything over with abovementioned adorable husband...but at some point I pick up my notebook and pen and get down to writing. I take frequent breaks for eating and tea. For staring out the window and wondering if I’ve cleaned the can opener lately.
But somehow, some way, the words find their way to the page, and a story emerges. So some part of my undisciplined self is hard at work.
- Susan Wiggs
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