Welcome to Café Lopez’s very first “In the Biz.” Every Wednesday, we’re going to feature someone new to get a fresh perspective on writing by way of five direct questions relating to the business. Today, we’ll be interviewing Suzanne H. Patton. When I first met Suzanne here at the Café, I was immediately impressed with her passionate, articulate, and thought-provoking responses to previous posts. Imagine my surprise when I discovered she’s only 19! The surprises didn’t end there. Suzanne is also a moderator at the Young Writers Society, part of the writing duo at Two Swords, One Pen, and is embarking on an exciting quest to write a novel on a typewriter in her newest blog, The Ink Ribbon Writer. If anyone can be said to embody youthful exuberance, it’s her. Now on to the interview!
1. What made you want to write?
I have to give all credit to my fifth grade teacher. Because before fifth grade, I didn’t read. But when I left his class, I was a complete bookworm. He’d have a reading hour every day where he’d read us a book aloud. I remember the first one was The Phantom Tollbooth. I started creating my own, silly, childish stories in my head then. It was fun, but I never really wrote. Then when I was 13 or 14 I started writing actual stories, though they weren’t much better. I think I started taking writing more seriously when I got into high school. But either way, I started writing once I discovered the amazing world of books. They sent me on adventures, I got to go places I’d never otherwise visit, meet people I couldn’t meet in real life. Somewhere along the line, I decided I want to create those places and people. For me, it just seemed like a logical step forward. Now that I’m older, I just want to do the same thing for other people. I want to build adventures.
2. You’re 19, quite young for an aspiring novelist. What motivated you to take the leap from talking about writing to actually writing?
I started taking myself and my writing seriously when I realized I had something worth saying, I think. And I’m not the kind of person who thinks I have anything to say about my life, because it’s actually pretty boring, but I think I have things I’d like to say about life and humanity in general. I read a lot of literature and I always loved thinking about the meanings in the books, much more than about the characters. You can talk about so many things without actually talking about them, and I think that’s really cool. I think I also started becoming serious when I wanted people to read what I wrote. I know a lot of people who write, and write to get better, but they’re not really at the point where they want to share it freely. I want people to not only know what I have to say, but I want them to experience what I’m writing. It’s not that I actually think it’s good enough for them to want to experience it, but I want to have the opportunity. I also have to give a certain level of credit to a web forum I joined when I was 16 (Young Writers Society). The site helped me develop my writing and my understanding of the “Writing World” early.
3. Writing well requires a tough skin. How do you handle peer criticism?
I love getting reviews. I used to hate them, they hurt a lot. It was hard because it felt like people were beating me up. My poor babies, my writing! I couldn’t understand why people hated it so much. Somewhere along the line though, my view shifted dramatically. Now, reviews are like the oil to my writing machine. I think of them in a much more positive light. If someone gives me a review that hurts, I always remember that the reviewer is trying to help me. They want me to make my writing better. Writing is like a house. (Or, at least, I like the metaphor of a house.) Occasionally, you can get away with painting it and making it look good, but sometimes you have to tear it down and start all over. But I’ve also learned, just as important in my mind, that I can reject reviews. If I think the person reviewed my style or that I like my writing as it is, and I have enough of a backing for how it currently is, I’ll reject the comment of the reviewer. I won’t reject everything, of course. But I’ve learned to stand my ground. It’s good, in short measure, and as long as you know when it’s right to do so. Standing your ground because you have a big ego is the wrong way to do it.
4. Where do you see yourself in five years?
I really don’t know. I have a lot of goals in what I think of as my “professional” life. I’m not the kind of person who believes in the whole “I’m going to become a best-selling author and never have to work a day in my life!” thing. Doesn’t work like that. My father raised me to be reasonable about my life, especially my career, decisions. I love writing and I’d love to get professional with it, but I’m not betting my life on it. Now, with that said, I’d like to be published in five years. I made a personal deal with myself when I graduated from high school (last year) that I’d like to either be querying for an agent, or have an agent around the time I graduate from university. But even that goal might be changing, but for a very different reason. I’ve been learning a lot more about the change in the Self Publishing/Indie Publishing industry and it fascinates me. I might go that route. I might not. There may be a different route entirely five years from now. That’s one of the major reasons I’m excited to be a serious write right now. The writing/publishing world is going through a great (albeit, slow) change with self publishing, print on demand, e-book, and so many other things. Publishing may look very different five years from now. I’m hoping things will be more solid, and less tentative.
5. What is the best advice you can give fellow aspiring writers?
Believe in yourself. But not so much that you can’t believe other people. As much as writing is an antisocial hobby (I won’t come out of my room for hours if I’m in a good writing mood), if you want to have it as more than a hobby, you need to let other people in. You can’t be so full of yourself that you don’t accept other people’s opinions. But still, believe in yourself. Never think that you can’t do it. And if you’re a writer – you’re always a writer. The most depressing time in my life as a writer was last year. I didn’t write for a whole year. I didn’t consider myself a writer anymore. I thought I was done. Writing was a childish aspiration I gave up for “real life”. Then, I got inspiration again, and now I’m working on a second draft of a novel, which is something I’d never managed to do before. Believing in yourself, and never giving up, I think are the best lessons anyone can learn about writing. It takes a long time to do it and get good, but time doesn’t matter if you enjoy what you’re doing.
Thank you Suzanne for the wonderful insight!