Susan McBride is the author of The Debs series which currently includes The Debs and The Debs: Love, Lies, and Texas Dips. The third book,The Debs: Gloves Off will be released in March 2010. She is also the author of the adult Debutante Dropout mystery series.
SM: Hmm, I think loving books was in my genes as my mom and grandma were book lovers. I do remember being read to often when I was really little, and I learned to read and write before pre-school. It was heavenly, picking up a thick pencil and scribbling in a Big Chief pad. I wrote stories in grade school, even a couple of books in fifth grade (I still have them!). Writing sort of flowed out of me, like I was meant to do this.
KBB: When did you discover that you wanted to write books for a living?
SM: It wasn’t until I was in college. I knew I loved writing, but I seriously never considered, “Hey, I can do this as a career.” My dad really wanted me to major in business in college. So I was pre-business at UT-Austin my freshman year, taking micro- and macro-economics, Calculus, all these math-related classes I hated. I was miserable. It wasn’t until I took a year off college before transferring to the University of Kansas Journalism School, that I had an epiphany. Driving to my grandparents for Christmas that year with my family, I heard a voice in my head saying, “I will write a book.” So I did. I wrote about a 600-page historical romance called THE THORN OF THE ROSE. It never got published, but I did submit it to editors, and I got some very encouraging rejection letters (including a few requests to revise and resubmit). When I went to KU, I took creative writing classes as electives while getting my public relations major. I wrote a book a year after I graduated from college, all different genres, and had various agents represent them. But nothing sold. So I entered a darker suspense novel, AND THEN SHE WAS GONE, in some contests back in the late 1990s. It ended up being a finalist in the St. Martin’s Press Malice Domestic competition, won the National Writers Association’s Best Novel contest, and won a contest sponsored by a small press with a prize of publication. AND THEN SHE WAS GONE came out in 1999 with a print run of about 2,500 and sold out. It was reprinted and that same small press published my second dark mystery, OVERKILL. That’s how I met a New York agent who got my first three-book deal with Avon, and I haven’t stopped working since.
KBB: Did you ever consider another profession if writing didn’t work out? If so, what was it?
SM: Honestly, I didn’t consider doing anything else once I realized “I am a writer.” I knew I would keep writing and trying to get published, even if I was on a walker by the time it happened. I did learn how to do medical transcription (via on the job training!), and I was very good at it. I could work that job part-time, pay my bills, and write without too much trouble. But I didn’t want to be a transcriptionist my whole life. I had great faith it would happen for me someday. It just took hard work, persistence, and a little luck.
KBB: What do you consider the best moment in your career?
SM: The thing that stands out the most is having BLUE BLOOD come out in 2004 to no fanfare whatsoever. It was a mass market paperback original, which traditionally means zero hoopla (or print reviews, for that matter), and it sold out its first printing of 25,000 even before its publication date. It was in a third printing within a few months, and it’s kept going back to press ever since. BLUE BLOOD turned the corner for me. It enabled me to sign a second contract with Avon for enough of an advance that I could write full-time. It was nominated for several mystery awards, and it won one of them. I feel like it provided the momentum for me to surge ahead after working so hard for so many years. I still love that book!
SM: I wasn’t a deb, but I knew plenty of them. I went to school in Houston with girls who debuted at River Oaks Country Club. I also pledged Pi Beta Phi at the University of Texas and had many Highland Park debs from Dallas in my pledge class. I was invited to deb balls, but I was pretty much an observer not a participant. Sometimes, I think with writing, it’s nice to have that space between real-life and fiction. So not everything I write about is something I personally experienced. But I’ve lived long enough to have done a lot, seen a lot, and just absorbed a lot. It’s fun using a little of what I’ve learned from my real-life and embellishing it with my imagination to create people and situations for my books.
KBB: Are any of your characters based on people you know or knew in your past?
SM: Um, can I plead the Fifth so I don’t say anything to incriminate myself? Seriously, yes, I take bits and pieces of people I’ve known and often incorporate them into characters. With The Debs, I used names I loved of girls I went to high school with in Houston, like Jo Lynn and Laura. I knew a girl named Ginger in college who was very nice and very granola (for the time). So it felt right to use it on Ginger in The Debs.
KBB: Do you have a favorite character from The Debs books?
SM: Yikes, that’s like asking a mother which of her children she loves best! I adore them all for different reasons. I love Laura’s openness and how willing she is to take chances with her heart, even if she knows she’s doomed to failure. I like how sensitive Mac is beneath her sarcastic surface. She’s having a hard time learning to trust, and I identify with that. Ginger has such a romantic side and wants to believe in people, and she really cares about the world around her. Those are all characteristics I admire. Jo Lynn’s a different story. She’s been raised by a very demanding mom on the stage of Texas beauty pageants. It’s no wonder she needs her life to be so perfect, and she’s so afraid of messing up. She sees Laura as her fun-house mirror image (all the things she’s most frightened of), which is why she’s bent on destroying her. But her perfect, orderly world can’t last forever. I really like the boys in the books, too. There’s a lot more to them as well than meets the eye.
SM: Yes, GLOVES OFF comes out next March, and that was by far the most fun and challenging of the books to write. More and more is revealed about these girls and their lives, and everyone’s in for a lot of changes. I do have another book due to Random House, and I have a new editor there now. So I might be taking a different direction for awhile. A lot depends on how things go with these first two Debs books. But I’m just happy to be writing, whether it’s a series or a stand-alone. It’s exciting to try new things, and I’m always game for an adventure! Readers can check my web site at SusanMcBride.com for more scoop. I keep it updated with book news and contests, so drop on by and see what’s up!
KBB: Thanks so much, Susan! I can’t wait to read Gloves Off. Readers here is your chance to win both The Debs and The Debs: Love, Lies, and Texas Dips. I have signed copies of each book for one reader. All you have to do is leave a comment here about the interview. Extra entries are as follows:
+1 leave comment
+1 become a follower
+2 already a follower
+2 for commenting on my review of The Debs 1 or 2 or both
+3 post a link on your blog (sidebar is fine)
So, in all you can get 10 entries if you do everything. Don’t forget to state everything that you have done in your comment! This contest is open until July 10 so you have a little over two weeks to enter.