Monday, July 22, 2013

The Essence and Work Ethic of Blue Collar America: A Chat with Susan Flett Swiderski

I've been following Susan Flett Swiderski's blog, I Think; Therefore I Yam, for a long time, and Sue was one of the early participants in my First Impressions series, sharing her first page of HOT FLASHES AND COLD LEMONADE, which she has now published. Sue has been a great supporter of my books, and I'm thrilled to have her here today, talking about hers!

Living the perfect life has always been easy peasy for Pearl Bryzinski, because she’s practically a pro at ignoring the negative and putting a positive spin on the facts, but it’s impossible for her to find anything positive about Daddy skipping town with that blue-haired floozy in a flashy brown Pinto. No matter how hard she tries, she can’t ignore the fact that he’s gone… or the fact that she’s becoming a drama queen who can sweat like a sumo wrestler doing push-ups in a sauna. It’s almost enough to suck the blush out of her rose-colored glasses. Whether she likes it or not, she’s gonna have to turn some of her wishbone into backbone.

Layer by layer, assumptions and misconceptions peel away, as Pearl learns to buck up in the face of reality, and to laugh at her imperfect… but not so bad… life. Supported by a down-to-earth husband who loves her with every blue-collar bone in his body, a mother who isn’t the self-centered witch Pearl imagined her to be, three terrific grown kids… okay, make that two terrific kids, and a Golden Boy who’s a far cry from 24-carat… and a bunch of wonderful wacky gal pals, Pearl comes to realize that her mixed bag of family and friends makes her life damned near perfect. Pearl being Pearl, she’ll never give up her rosy specs entirely, but learning to handle reality also means learning to deal with death.

1. What was the inspiration for HOT FLASHES AND COLD LEMONADE?

Miss Brown, my second grade teacher, told me I was gonna be a published author some day, and by golly, I believed her. (Okay, so maybe I was a little slow to embrace my destiny, but better late than never, right?) My mother and her sisters inspired me, too, and I tried to capture some of their wonderful wackiness in my book.

2. How long have you been working on this book, and what transformations has it seen along the way?

I finished the first draft in the early to mid ‘90s, and then the manuscript sat in a box at the back of my closet for almost a decade. Good thing I had it in that box, too, because the original was typed on an Apple IIE. (Oops!) I had to scan the whole darned thing into my P.C. in order to get back at it.

The evolution from that first draft to its final (billionth?) is pretty startling. Pearl became less ditzy, and her husband George, more likeable. Another character turned gay, and another became even more of an SOB. My writing style underwent some mutations, too, and went from being more literary (and kinda stiff) to more easy-going and readable. I also became more cognizant of that ol’ show, don’t tell mantra, and lost a lot of adverbs and flowery descriptions.

3. I know the story takes place in Baltimore, where you grew up. What parts of Baltimore did you most want to capture in your book?

A lot of the local landmarks are included to give an authentic feel to the setting, but what I most wanted to capture is the essence and work ethic of blue collar America. I see a certain heroism in the people who work hard year after year at thankless jobs they hate, just so they can provide for their families. That’s as true in Pittsburgh and Detroit as it is in Baltimore.

4. Are any of the characters based on people you know? (Do you think they'll recognize themselves?) Which character is most like YOU?

Um, of course not! Okay, so maybe a teensy bit. I mean, don’t you think it’s inevitable for certain facets of the people who make the biggest impressions on us in real life to be incorporated into the characters we create? One of the highest compliments a reader can give a writer is to say, “I could see myself… or my friend, aunt, grandmother, son, etc…  in your story.”  The more easily readers can project themselves and the people they know into our story, the better they’ll relate, and the more they’ll enjoy it. Without a doubt, Pearl is like me in many ways, and I hope most female readers will see themselves in her, too.

5. Would you like to share anything about your journey to publication and why you chose the self-publishing route?

I went through the traditional query-synopsis-edit-reject-repeat meat grinder for a while, but the bottom line is, I’m not a spring chicken. I wanted to stop fooling around with it, and get my book out into the world before I stopped breathing and rigor mortis set in.

6. What else would you like to tell us about HOT FLASHES AND COLD LEMONADE?

Its target audience is female, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised (No, make that astounded!) at the positive reactions I’ve been getting from male readers, as well. (And guess what? Only one of them sleeps with me!)

Thanks, Dianne. It’s been a blast.

Susan, thank you! HOT FLASHES AND COLD LEMONADE is available through Amazon


25 comments:

  1. Congratulations again, Susan. I'm glad you're having such great feedback with Hot Flashes...

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  2. Hi, Susan! I'm am currently enjoying the heck out of HOT FLASHES AND COLD LEMONADE. Sadly, I've had next to no reading time lately (real life dumped a boat-load of, um, "real" on me), but I keep my Kindle in my purse & pull it out whenever I find myself in a waiting situation. Love passing the time with Pearl & crew! :)

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  3. I remember this first page and am a big fan of Susan's blog :) Love this line 'flashy brown pinto.' Ha!

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  4. Thank YOU, Anne. I couldn't have done it without you, m'dear.

    Hi, Linda! I'm THRILLED to hear you're reading... and better yet, enjoying... my book.

    Hey, Marcy. Thanks!

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  5. Ooops! How could I be so DUMB??? (Don't answer that!) How could I have forgotten to thank Dianne for having me here today? Sheesh.

    Thanks, Dianne. I really do appreciate it. (You rock.)

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  6. Okay, I know just from the title and voice of the summary that this book is right up my alley! Fun interview, and thank goodness for your 2nd grade teacher, Miss Brown :) Thanks Dianne and Susan!

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  7. Hi, Jess. Well, I certainly hope the book is right up your alley, because these characters live in a pretty neat neighborhood. Yes! Here's to Miss Brown and all those teachers out there who encourage their students to follow a dream. (Let's hope others get off their butts and produce a little "faster" than I did.)

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  8. Boy does that journey sound familiar...except I've been able to keep 80% of my drafts in digital format. I don't think I'll ever publish anything else from the 90's. (That was an interesting writing phase.)

    This book's going on my TBR list.

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  9. I'm a Baltimore girl, too. :) I'll keep an eye out for this book!

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  10. Hi, Crystal. Most writers probably share a pretty similar path... only a select few have pounded out an entire book over a weekend and went on to best seller status without doing a single edit. (The bums.) I understand what you're saying about not publishing anything you wrote in the '90s, but this story would NOT leave me alone.

    Thank you, ma'am. I hope you enjoy it.

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  11. Hey, Lydia. All right! Baltimore has a way of getting under you skin and staying there, doesn't it?

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  12. Congrats on the release - sounds like a great story!

    Love that your teacher inspired you when you were so young :)

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  13. Thanks, Jemi. Teachers are the unsung heroes of the world.

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  14. I'me reading the book right now and enjoying it.

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  15. Great interview! I have Susan's book on my Kindle, and I'm looking forward to reading it :)

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  16. Thanks, Carol. I hope you enjoy it. My "hero" may not be as hot as yours, but there's a lot to be said for aging men with receding hairlines, thickening waists, and boyish smiles.

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  17. Dianne Thank you for sharing some insight into Susan's writing world.

    Susan, I have your book still sitting by my bed and still unread. I have this hex on me of summer work and I can't read anything until winter. Your book promises the delight found at the end of a wait.

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  18. I love the name, it really sets a tone. Good luck!

    -Vicki

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  19. I'm about 1/4 into the book, and I love it. The characters in the book all feel like people I know, ordinary, hard-working folks with all their lovable imperfections.

    Susan, you WILL write another book, won't you?

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  20. Hi, Manzie. You've gotta move all those rocks around in your yard before cold weather sets in. You'll have plenty of wintertime to read the book. (I hope ya like it!)

    Vicki- Thanks! So far, so good!

    Pixel- Thanks. I'm happy you're enjoying it. I PLAN to write another book... if I can drag myself away from Blogger long enough to get 'er done.

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  21. Fun interview, Susan!

    I'm reading your book now too!

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  22. Thanks, Jennifer! Woo HOO... I hope ya like it!

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  23. A lovely interview. Now I am even more intrigued and interested in reading Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade...
    Congratulations Susan!

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  24. Hi Dianne and Susan .. so pleased for you .. it's sitting here waiting for me to read ..

    I love the idea of the blue collar storyline - that's interesting to me re the Detroit fiasco of late and the remembrance of the Detroit background for the film I posted about (Rodriguez in Sugarman).

    Self- publishing does give us the opportunity to at least get our work out there .. so pleased you've achieved a latent goal.

    Cheers Hilary

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