From the Cupboard by Susan Crawford

This guest post is written by Susan Crawford, author of The Pocket Wife and The Other Widow by Morrow-Harper Collins. She and nine critically acclaimed authors will be featured at the Women’s National Book Association Charlotte’s 7th Annual “BIBLIOFEAST” Book & Author Dinner on Mon., Oct. 17.

susan-crawford-9780062362889_1_a0496Readers occasionally ask me where I get the ideas for my books. “Well,” I say, “there was this article in the newspaper equating homicides with mental illness,” or, “There’s so much more to PTSD than soldiers coming back from war,” or, “I thought it would be challenging to write a sympathetic ‘other woman.’” And these are reasons for writing what I write. They are, at least, the origins, the seeds. What sprouts from them though, the stories, the characters that populate the living rooms, the subways, the streets, and ultimately the pages of my books, are not as easy to explain. In a way, they’re far less rational.

They live inside my head. Like dreams or words I’ve overheard, they dance onto the page. I unlock a cupboard and the characters spill out. With a little nudge they grow and blossom. They invent themselves, become the people that will talk and love and die and kill for the next year of my life, the next three hundred pages. The voices of dead fathers whisper in their ears or turn their hearts to stone. A pinkish sky, a certain smell, a sound, can snatch them from their lives and set them down beside a beach decades before or underneath a blanket from the Andes in a winter room with dirty glass, a broken wall.

For me, the characters make the plot work. They should grab readers by the hand and spirit them away – to a party, down an icy street at midnight, to a lover’s rented room – toward a happy ending, toward redemption, hope, or straight into a wall. Whether they are sunny or demonic, honest or deceptive, they must entice the reader to be right there with them – missing phone calls, burning dinners, losing sleep – following with loyalty and expectation, waiting for motives to come to light, for actions to jar, to change events, to make a difference, to enlighten and inspire. The characters can be right or wrong, good or not so good, as long as they’re believable, as long as they can touch the reader in some way.

book-jacket-the-other-widowMaybe they’re composites, bits and pieces of people I’ve known, or seen or heard or been.  Or maybe they’re forgotten words or incidents I’ve tucked away to look at later, to sort through and analyze, to try to make sense of the world. Maybe that’s what we all are underneath, behind our flesh and tears and smiles – composites of our pasts, of those we loved, or touched, or couldn’t quite, of those we lost. Maybe we’re like antennae shifting through space, picking up frequencies, picking up stories, other places, other times, other rooms. Maybe I am really just a scribe.

I don’t write about real people. I write fiction. But I wonder sometimes if the two are all that different – if their fragments and details fall together in a certain way to make a character in fiction rather than my next-door neighbor or my friend from high school. I’ve read that there are only seven basic stories told in countless ways – the human condition, thrown down like cards to land in myriad configurations – Dorrie from The Other Widow, different from the woman in the book I’m writing now because she grew up in a different place, a different situation. Just as we are molded by circumstance and chance, by where we landed and began and where we go from there, the characters fall from their cupboards, brush themselves off, and march onto the page.

Susan grew up in Miami, Florida. She later moved to New York City and then to Boston before settling in Atlanta to raise three amazing daughters and to teach in various adult education settings. A member of The Atlanta Writers Club and The Village Writers, Susan works for the Department of Technical and Adult Education and is a member of her local planning commission. She now lives in Atlanta with her husband and a trio of rescue cats, where she enjoys reading books, writing books, rainy days, and spending time with the people she loves.

More about Susan:  wwwsusancrawfordnovelist.com, Twitter: crawfordsusanh, Facebook: Susan Crawford Author

Want to write a guest post for All About the Authors? We welcome guest posts from authors and those who are experts in the book industry. What is your writing process? Where are you in your publishing journey and what advice do you have? Have you successfully marketed your book and do you have tips to share? All About the Authors wants to hear from you! If you’re interested in submitting a guest post to All About the Authors, please send your information and topic idea to priscillagoudreausantos@gmail.com with the subject line “Guest Post”. 

 

Author Names = Author Brands

As a writer, your name is your brand. I know, I just said brand, and you’re thinking that brands belong to businesses, not to writers. But you’re wrong. If you want to make money as a writer (and who doesn’t?), then you need to have some business savvy. And that starts by creating a strong author brand.

Priscilla Goudreau-Santos wrote a great blog post about ways to build your author platform. You can read it here, so I won’t rehash those details. Instead, I want to talk about your name.

The name you choose to write under will be your author brand. A lot of writers get hung up on whether or not they should use a pen name. Sometimes they’re concerned that their writing could impact their current careers. Sometimes they don’t want to upset their grandmother. And sometimes they think it sounds cool to have a nom de plume. That’s a fancy way of saying pen name. So is pseudonym.

There are some great reasons to write under a pen name. A few of these include:

-Your name is the same as an already published author.

-You do need to maintain some privacy (i.e., you’re a high school English teacher writing erotica).

-You want to tackle a different genre and you want to give your readers a heads-up that this book will be something different (think Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb).

There are some terrible reasons to write under a pen name, too. A few of these include:

-In today’s information age, it will be hard for you to maintain your privacy (J.K. Rowling learned this the hard way).

-You already have a following on a popular blog or social media. Using a pen name means you start from scratch.

-You want a name that is cooler, more you, more something. A pen name isn’t going to make you cooler or make readers more likely to pick up your book. The opposite might be true, especially if you choose something outlandish.

Your Name = Your Brand

Regardless of the name you decide to publish under, know that your author name equals your author brand. Your author name is what you want to use to build your platform: your website, your social media accounts, your blog, etc. You want readers to connect with you the author, not with one particular title of your book. If you make the mistake of choosing your website’s domain name as your book title, what happens when you write another book? Always stick with your author name.

Creating your author brand around your author name has another added benefit. It builds your confidence as writer. When you have an entire website devoted to you and your words, you get a little boost. So the next time you walk into a crowded room, you can say, “Hi, I’m So-and-So, and I’m a writer.”