Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Author Guest Blog: Susan McBride

I Heart Books

by Susan McBride

I’ve always been a bookworm.

We moved around a lot when I was growing up so every few years we picked up stakes and went to a new place, wherever my dad’s job sent him. By the time I was thirteen, I’d lived in five different cities (four different states), and I’d been enrolled in four different schools. It made it hard to keep friendships when we never stayed anywhere for very long. The only thing I could count on in those days was books.

The first thing I did whenever we got settled was to visit the nearest library and get a library card. I’d check out a stack of books, as many as they’d let me take, and I’d read them in my room in our new house. The stories took me away from all my worries and fears about starting classes mid-term with people I didn’t know and trying to find friends in our new neighborhood.

I loved books so much that I built my own library, putting pockets with cards inside the front cover. I got a date stamp, and I made my brother and sister check books out. To this day, they’re not big readers. Hmm, wonder if I had anything to do with that?

When I was in fifth grade, I tried my hand at writing novels. I have three from back then saved in a box in my closet. One was about two friends who solved crimes on their street, another was an illustrated tale about two nice monsters from Monsterville, and the third was a mystery, like a Nancy Drew, called THE SECRET OF THE FORBIDDEN TEMPLE. I even made a paper cover for it with artwork on the front and spine. Inside the back flap, I noted “Other Books by Susan McBride” and made up a bunch of titles. I loved the thrill of conjuring up characters and putting them in situations I could only dream about. It was the perfect escape, and I let my imagination fly.

I should have realized back then that I was destined to be a writer. But it took awhile longer for me to figure that out. I didn’t seriously consider becoming a novelist until I was 19 and between transferring colleges. My family was road-tripping to my grandparents’ house for Christmas, and I had an epiphany. “I will write a book!” a little voice inside my head announced as I sat in the back seat, trying to keep a safe distance from my irritating little brother. I dug out a tiny notepad and pen from my purse, and I started scribbling then and there. What I ended up writing—a 600-page historical romance called THE THORN OF THE ROSE—was never published. But I did send it out to various editors and agents who encouraged me to keep at it.

Every year after I graduated college, I penned a new novel. I had 10 of them written before I ever signed a book contract after winning a writing contest. A small press published AND THEN SHE WAS GONE and OVERKILL, before a New York agent took me on. She got me a three-book deal with Avon for my Debutante Dropout Mysteries, starting with BLUE BLOOD in 2004 (and ending with TOO PRETTY TO DIE in 2008). About the time my third mystery came out in 2006, my agent was approached by an editor looking for an author to write about debutantes in the South, kind of like GOSSIP GIRL with a drawl. That’s when I devised THE DEBS, the debut of my young adult series that features four Houston prep school seniors during their debutante season. (And, yes, debutantes still exist! Even though I’ve gotten emails asking, “Didn’t debs go the way of the dinosaur?”)

I’ve had a blast devising tall Texas tales about best friends Laura, Ginger, and Mac and their arch-enemy Jo Lynn. Since I went to junior high and high school in Houston where the series is set, I’ve had the chance to revisit my roots there and put old memories to good use. Everything really is bigger in Texas—like hair, personalities, and drama!—so it’s been a hoot using the Lone Star State as the backdrop for THE DEBS novels as well as for my Debutante Dropout books.

Although it was never much fun moving around when I was growing up, in a way I’m grateful for the challenges I had to face early on. I don’t think I’d be the person I am now without those experiences. Because of them, I learned to use my imagination, both as a reader and a writer. Isn’t it amazing, how words can transport us to other worlds, especially when we need to escape from our own? I love that!

No matter what, no matter where, it’s always home if books are there. J

1 comment:

  1. I love reading about other people's love of books and reading. I think it's awesome that Ms. MacBride got a library card wherever she went, as wherever you go you can find a dear friend in a book. I also like how persistent she was about writing.

    Awesome blog today! :-)