Linda Hengerer and Suzanne Fox talk about her re-issued book One Hot Summer, Key West, and life before cell phones.
Linda is talking with Suzanne Fox. Writing as Suzanne Scott, she is the author of One Hot Summer. Originally published in 1997, Harlequin re-released it as an ebook.
Suzanne Fox writes fiction and nonfiction, reviews books for Publishers Weekly, edits the online journal Society 19, and works with authors to shape, publish, and market their work. Her handmade jewelry and digital art, including that used for the Tart Words Mary Stewart podcasts, is inspired by favorite books and authors. A graduate of the Columbia University MFA writing program, Suzanne now lives in North Carolina.
Find out more about Suzanne at www.bookstrategy.com and www.SocietyNineteenJournal.com. Visit her on Instagram to see digital art, her feline mistress Miss Boots, and other visual delights.
Get to know Suzanne: The Tart Words Baker's Dozen
1. Plotter or Pantser? Combo? Pantser
2. Tea or Coffee? Both
3. Beer, Wine, or Cocktails? Wine
4. Snacks: Sweet or Savory? Sweet
5. Indie Published, Traditionally Published, or Hybrid? Hybrid
6. Strict Writing Schedule: Yes or No Not currently
7. Strictly Computer or Mix It Up? Strictly computer
8. Daily Goal: Yes or No Yes
9. Formal Track Progress: Yes or no No
10. Special Writing Spot? With cat
11. Writer’s Block? No
12. File of Ideas: Yes or No Yes
13. Favorite Author(s)? Too many to list! However, "big 4": Austen, Bronte, DuMaurier & Sayers
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Transcribed by Otter.ai; Lightly edited by Linda. Please forgive typos and grammar errors.
Episode 116 - Suzanne Fox
Welcome to Tart Words. I'm your host, Linda Hengerer. And I'm a writer, a reader and a baker. I talk to writers about their latest book and what inspires them; chat with fellow author Suzanne Fox about what writers can learn from reading their favorite authors; and share fast and easy recipes for anyone looking for a sweet treat. Join me as I share Tart Bites, Tart Thoughts, and Tart Words.
Today I'm talking with Suzanne Fox. She writes fiction and nonfiction, reviews books for Publishers Weekly, edits the online journal Society 19, and works with authors to shape, publish, and market their work. Her handmade jewelry and digital art, including that used for the Tart Words Mary Stewart podcasts, is inspired by favorite books and authors. A graduate of the Columbia University MFA writing program, Suzanne now lives in North Carolina.
Today I'm talking with Suzanne about her book One Hot Summer, written under the pseudonym Suzanne Scott, written in in the 1990s and released by Harlequin. It's been reissued as an Ebook. Welcome to the Tart Words podcast. Suzanne, how are you today?
I am good. Thank you so much for having me.
I am looking forward to talking to you about One Hot Summer, which you wrote under a pseudonym. Do you want to tell me a little bit more about the book?
I had just finished my first book, which was a memoir called Home Life. I did not want to jump into a big complicated nonfiction project. I was interested in writing fiction. And it just so happened that I actually read a book by Jennifer Crusi, who's now a very successful standalone comic romance author at the time was writing for Harlequin. And it really gave me a glimpse of that you could write a sort of smart comic romance novel, at which point since my challenge was always plotting and I understand the basic arc of a romance novel I thought, Oh, that looks fun. And One Hot Summer as it was eventually titled was born.
Where did you get the idea for your main characters?
I had visited Key West, where the book is set. And I found it quite charming. And I tend to like to set fiction in places that I actually know something about but I don't know super well, just because then it's easier for me to create a fictional world there. The two characters, Jillian Sanderson, the female protagonist, I think that she was a reflection in a way that I would love to have a little antique store.
I see that.
I have to say there was, yeah, there was one piece of her that was pure wish fulfillment, other elements of her personality really developed as I got into the story itself and developed for other reasons or more organically, Kit Malone, the male protagonist, I think, was what I would have loved to see more of, in my years on Wall Street, which was a supposedly aggressive Wall Street type of guy that at heart was really a teddy bear. And I did meet some people like that, but he certainly to me was the best of both worlds, that he is a strong-willed character. He's used to sort of being a Master of the Universe, you know, at the time. And yet, when he meets a strong, interesting woman, he is very quickly able to see the appeal of that. And that was fun to write.
And he had a good relationship with his grandmother, I think it was, so he was used to a strong woman, and a woman with a business and a business brain.
I think that that's right. And I think he was a character who at the start of the book, even though he doesn't realize it was probably looking for something as Jilly was. And I think that neither of them were looking for romance. But I think both of them in a certain way, had retreated to a certain kind of identity, because it felt safer. That Jilly after being married to a high society man, had really decided I'm just not going to even try to operate in that world. And Kit had done almost the opposite. And I think part of what I love in writing a love story, is that the characters really earn true love, like coming to terms with themselves, they have to learn in a way what they've been afraid of. And they have to learn to trust themselves and someone else in a new way. And so writing this relationship of people who in some ways are quite opposite and other ways are very similar was fun.
I could see that. And both were, at the time, ready to embrace who they are, and share that with another person.
And I think that that's a classic situation for romance, that they often don't know that, but they are ready on some level. Yeah, I will also say that, that I wrote the book, it was published in 1997. Actually, you know, so I was writing it in the 1990s, around 1995. And certainly today, I would write it somewhat differently, because there's so much, there's just a very different awareness of sexism on Wall Street, and things like that, you know, that people have a different consciousness. So hopefully, he's not an egregious offender in that way. But certainly, people were just less conscious of it. So you know, it was a different time, but in other ways, they are characters that I still think that you could meet today that have a plausibility,
Yes. The biggest difference for me was no cell phones, you know, they're ubiquitous now. And in the late 90s, they were not, it was still a rarity. And it is refreshing, actually, to read a story where people are not at the beck and call of the computer in their pocket.
Well, and you know, it occurs to me, and I hadn't thought about that. That's a great point. The other thing is that, of course, there was no cell phone, there was I don't actually remember when we started, you know, having the dial-up internet, but there certainly was no social media, there was no broadband. And the entire first scene is comic, in part because they have no idea what the other one looks like when they're brought together. And it's a totally ridiculous conceit for a book. And in fact, my editor at Harlequin said, you can tell how much we adored this book because it's such a lame premise. And I agree, the two people are going to inherit half a bed and breakfast and they have to run it together. You know, it's silly, but hopefully, it actually occupies logistically in a way relatively little of the book. But today, the first thing we would do is we would say, Who the heck is it that I inherited half of this operating business with, they would find the other person on LinkedIn, or Facebook or just Google. And they couldn't do that. And so they are quite surprised by, he, in particular, is surprised he sees that her middle name is Mabel and sort of assumes that she's a contemporary of his grandmother's. You know, that plot point just couldn't happen today. We have too much information if anything.
Yes. Certainly, as a business owner in Key West, she would be prominent on social media or with the Chamber of Commerce or some avenue where he would be able to easily find out who she is, what she looks like. And if he is the principal of a boutique investment firm, the same for him, even though he's in Miami, which is a bigger pond than Key West, he would still have some media attention. Certainly, they would both have business websites, at the very least.
Oh, absolutely. And also on a smaller point, I don't want to say the Key West of the time was totally different. But when I went in the early 90s, there were still a few antique stores, which don't actually exist anymore, you know, real estate prices started going up. And the town became even more touristy, in a way. And so some of that original Key West sort of sleepiness started to disappear. So there definitely are things that sort of set it as a historical novel in a way now.
Yeah, even though it's only, you know, not even 30 years old.
It's funny how times change. It truly is times change, but people don't the way they relate to each other. That still holds up.
I'm glad to hear that. And I have to say that the delight for me was writing a comic novel. My second novel, Harper’s Moon, which I wrote under the pseudonym Suzanne Judson and I can mention why is a broader work of women's fiction that does have a romance storyline but also has something of a mystery. It has a romantic suspense element, but it also has a very large canvas, where this [One Hot Summer] is a much shorter book. It has fewer subplots, etc. But the thing that I realized about myself and writing that type of pure romance novel was that I would not have done well writing a serious one. And what was fun for me and I hope is fun for readers is that you get two smart people bickering amusingly with each other, throughout the book, and I hope the story has a sort of deeper emotional pull as well. I really just enjoyed writing the kind of byplay you know, that sort of traditional romance almost more like a classic romance movie.
Right. That's what I was thinking of.
There's a lot of verbal sparring that I really enjoyed writing.
Yes. Talk for a minute about pseudonyms. You mentioned it briefly before, you do write this as Suzanne Scott, which is a pseudonym for your real name, which is Suzanne Fox.
I had an interesting situation. Because strangely enough, the timing turned out that I had two radically different books coming out virtually at the same time. I had written Home Life that really needed to be published under my own name, it was a serious work so that I felt very much it's sort of a core book for me. And so I contracted with Simon and Schuster, which published it under my own name. A year or so later, Harlequin bought what became One Hot Summer, which I did not title One Hot Summer, they bought it over the transom. And I really couldn't use the same [author] name for both books, because among other reasons, I mean, today, you will, you wouldn't do it just for marketing reasons, that was less of a problem at the time because again, you didn't have websites, you know, so you didn't have author platform in the same way. But what you did have was that each of the contracts stipulated that the publisher had an option on your next book. The only way to have Simon and Schuster not have an option on a Harlequin romance and vice versa was to say they have the next option on the book that I would write under the name of the book that was under contract.
And you have a third pseudonym also.
I do have Suzanne Judson, I'm very happy to say and Linda, since you and I originally met at a romance writers conference, I think I had already heard this, but I have very fond memories of a romance writer who wrote with several pseudonyms saying always use a first name that is or is very similar to your own first name, because you don't want to be walking down a hallway at a conference and having somebody yelling Esmerelda, Esmeralda, and you have no idea who that is.
And then two minutes later, you realize, Oh, that's me.
That's me. Exactly. The three different pen names was sort of an oddity of the fact that I was writing in such different genres. And so it just practically speaking, made more sense to have different pen names. But I did as you notice, always keep to Suzanne, which just seemed to make things simpler.
How about creative outlets? I know that you have several.
I do. I make jewelry, beaded jewelry, with antique and glass beads that often is inspired by an author or a book in some way. And I also do digital art, including some that was really fun to make for the Tart Words podcast conversations about Mary Stewart. Those are the way that I balance my immersion in words, which also is my day job. I'm an editor and book consultant and book reviewer during the day. So I really feel like I need an outlet that has nothing to do with words. And so working with shapes and colors and textures, even though my visual artwork, again, often is inspired in some way by books or authors. It's a really nice treat to not have to think about sentence structure at all.
Yes, just go for the color, the shape the visual delights instead of the lyrical delights of a perfectly written sentence.
That is exactly right. And let me say you can also finish a necklace a whole heck of a lot faster than you can finish a novel. And that's a treat too.
There's definitely something to be said for that because writing a novel is a long-term endeavor. It's a marathon, it's not a sprint. And it is nice to have something that you can do in an afternoon or a day or even an hour.
It really is. And again, I think that's what makes it an outlet. And part you know that you can hold it up and say, Wow, I like that or you know, you've only spent an afternoon or a day on it. And if it's a necklace, you snip the wire and you put your beads back in their boxes and you don't really care. So for me, it's more lighthearted. It's faster. And again, someone who just loves color and texture and shape and doesn't really mind going to bead stores full of beautiful beads and browsing around. It's really fun.
It is fun. Do you have a writing routine or schedule?
I did at that time. At the moment, it's a little bit less routine because of my paying work. Sometimes when I'm on deadline on a book review or on a client project, I will go through periods of time that I don't write. I did write very regularly and hope to get back to that soon. I tend to write actually in the afternoons. That's my most creative time. I like to try to make my sense of how long I have to write shorter. I find that if I say I'm going to write for three hours, I'll sit there and feel panic for three hours. So I tend to give myself some kind of a word or page count so that if it goes quickly, I have the option of doing something else. And if it doesn't, I know when I'm finished. So that's my routine. And the other thing that I would say is, unlike some writers, I really don't outline, I really love finding out the story as I write the story, which unfortunately means that I have scenes I really love that I end up having to cut. So it's not efficient in a way. But for me, I really don't have a sense of the best manifestation of the story until I'm allowing my intuition or my emotions to play. And I really don't access that well, when I outline. I always go into it with a sense of the arc, the main characters, you know, I have a sense of the premise of the book. I don't have a sense of every story step along the way. And I find that in the long run, you know, I end up with what pleases me more from that, even if there is a very painful process in which I have to revise and cut out a lot of stuff that it turns out, I needed to know and be able to see, but the reader actually does not need to see.
I think that's a good point. And I think on that note, we'll end. I'll have the link in the show notes, and to reach Suzanne and see her digital art on Instagram, in the show notes as well. And I thank you for coming on the Tart Words podcast. This has been a pleasure.
Thank you so much.
Thank you for joining me this week. To view the complete show notes and the links mentioned in today's episode, visit Tart Words.com/tart116. Before you go, subscribe to the podcast to receive new episodes when they're released. Subscribe now in the app you're using to listen to this podcast or sign up for email alerts through an easy signup form for bakers, readers, and writers at TartWords.com/About. Thank you again for joining me, Linda Hengerer, for this episode of Tart Words.
Author, editor, book reviewer, and book consultant Suzanne Fox earned her MFA in Writing at the Columbia University School of the Arts. Her first book, the memoir Home Life, was published by Simon & Schuster; appearing under the pseudonyms Suzanne Scott and Suzanne Judson, her women’s fiction novels have been published by Berkley Penguin Putnam and Harlequin. Suzanne works personally with writers in many genres on book structure and publication, reviews literary and mystery fiction for Publishers Weekly, edits the online journal Society Nineteen, and teaches workshops in memoir, fiction writing, and the creative process. Until recently a resident of Vero Beach, Suzanne now lives in North Carolina. More information about Suzanne can be found at www.sfoxarts.com.