I’m happy to be the first to interview newly published author Toni Sue Versteeg. I “met” Sue on Romance Divas and have been impressed with her good nature, how supportive she is of her fellow authors. I’m excited for her–her first release, Another Time, Another Place, releases December 1 from Port Town Publishing.
Ciar: Should I call you Sue or Toni Sue? Firstly, thanks very much for your willingness to get grilled, I mean politely interviewed!
Sue: I was the ‘little sister’ in my family, so I pretty much answer to anything. Sue is preferred though, and it is an honor and my pleasure to be your sacrificial lamb…err, interviewee.
Ciar: Start off by telling us about living in Missouri, in the Ozarks. It brings up all sorts of images to me, and I wonder if they are accurate? What are the biggest misconceptions about your “neck of the woods?”
Sue: Living in the Ozarks has been a wonderful experience. I met my husband, who is also the love of my life, while living here. I can’t imagine making a home anywhere else. Woods, wildlife and lakes, all with the comforts of city living nearby; it doesn’t get any better than this. The biggest misconception one might have with SW Missouri is that it is a backwoods, rural area. While there may be a fair share of hicks, we blend nicely with everyone else.
Ciar: Many congrats on Another Time, Another Place, coming out December 1 at Port Town Publishing. Am I correct that this is your first release? Tell us a little bit about that book…
Sue: This book is my baby! It was so much fun to look at another century and pretend to be there. Another Time, Another Place takes you on a wild ride to the past. The 13th century, to be exact. Tessa Garrett leads a mundane existence in the present, but wakes up in the castle of her dreams and is quickly pulled into the life of Lord Hadley, and into his arms. Gretchen, his wife-to-be from an arranged marriage, has other plans. She has Tessa abducted and left for dead in an abandoned tower. Will someone get to Tessa before it is too late? If they do, can Tessa and Eric find a way to follow their hearts? You will have to buy the book to find out.
Ciar: Had you written other books before this? Has it been a long, slow road to publication or does it feel like a whirlwind?
Sue: This is the first book I’ve ever written. I’m going to go with ‘slow road’ on this one. It has taken me five years to get this far, and only with my wonderful husband’s support and the grace of God, have I made it. I can’t tell you how many times that I would get a rejection letter, sit down and cry, then announce to my family that I was giving up. My husband would lend me his shoulder, dry my tears and then announce that I was going to get more query letters ready the next weekend, just as soon as I was done feeling sorry for myself. You know how tough it is to ride that emotional roller coaster!
Ciar: Was there any time when you doubted your ability to get your work published? How did you fight through that doubt?
Sue: Daily, hourly, and sometimes every minute. I have to give my husband most of the credit for this. He is my rock, and my biggest fan. Most guys won’t admit to reading romance, but my husband loves me enough to even do that. I’m sure that he follows that statement with something along the lines of being my inspiration for all of the love scenes, but I have to take what I can get.
Ciar: I bet you get all kinds of advice as a first-time published author, right? How much of it has served you well, or is it too early to tell?
Sue: The Romance Divas! Their support and encouragement, along with all of the publishing advice, has been priceless. The biggest help has been the stories of triumph and their advice to never, ever give up.
Ciar: Do you write everyday? How much? What are you working on now?
Sue: I try to write a little each day. Even if all I can do is open up my latest work in progress and edit a little bit, at least it is a step in the right direction. I actually have a query out to a publisher right now on my next finished story. It is a short story titled One Wild Weekend. Keep your fingers crossed for me on this! I have three other projects that I’m currently working on. One is a ghost story, the second is another time travel, and the third is a contemporary main-stream novel. There are blurbs about them on my website.
Ciar: What has been the biggest surprise about this publishing experience so far? How is it unlike what you pictured?
Sue: I had heard the horror stories about the editing process, but I never believed them. I do now! I have to admit that it has been the biggest learning experience in my life so far. I had pictured the publishing process like something from a movie. I thought it would be all glamour and fun. Not that it has been horrific, but it has been challenging.
Ciar: Tell us about that fab cover! I understand one of our pals at Romance Divas did the artwork? It’s lovely.
Sue: The background picture was taken by my husband down at Table Rock Lake. Night Diva Maria took the task to hand with her wonderful graphic art talents when my publisher was hospitalized and had emergency surgery. Maria jumped in and helped me out of a hard situation by working her magic. It turned out better than I had ever dreamed! If anyone is interested, she is available and very reasonable. Email me and I will have her get back with you.
Ciar: What are your writing strengths (in your opinion)? Your weaknesses? Do you work with a critique partner?
Sue: My biggest strength in writing would have to be my vivid imagination and ability to tell stories. I used to get my mouth washed out as a child for that, and now I am getting paid for it! My dad got a chuckle out of that revelation. My weakness would have to be not having enough confidence in myself, or my work. I guess that is why I keep the hubby around, for moral support. And no, I’ve never had a critique partner, but always wanted one.
Ciar: What direction would you like your writing to go? Are you writing for yourself, the “market”, or both? What’s the heat level of your writing? Have you struggled with that at all?
Sue: What direction do I want my writing to go? Well, straight to the top of the NY Times Bestseller’s list, of course! Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. I would be extremely happy just selling enough copies to be considered a published author by RWA standards, or to merely be able to quit my day job and write full time. As for whom I write for, that would have to be me. I honestly don’t think I could write something under someone else’s direction, but then again, I’ve never tried it. On the subject of heat levels, Another Time, Another Place would be rated mild. It has its moments, but it is far from the popular erotica genre of today. One Wild Weekend, which is the short story I mentioned earlier, has a substantially higher heat level, so I guess I’m open to all areas.
Ciar: What does Sue do for fun? Tell us your hobbies, fav guys, TV shows, etc.
Sue: My husband and I adore the outdoors and the many lakes here in the Ozarks. We have a ski boat and take full advantage of any nice weather to use it. Now that we are well into the fall season, I will undoubtedly get more writing done. We have a son who is a senior in High School, so the only television that I get to watch is when I’m bonding with him, or spending time with our 22 year old daughter. I have become extremely fond of Family Guy and American Dad, which bring me to my favorite guy. Seth MacFarlane, creator of the aforementioned shows, happens to be my flavor of the month. I have his picture on my blog, and his voice, whew! Talk about heat level.
Ciar: How would you describe your personality?
Sue: Serious, professional, workaholic…anything that you could use to describe someone that is completely the opposite of that, can be used to describe me. My husband says that the word ‘ornery’ pretty much sums me up. So, I have a playful side!
Ciar: Finally, where can folks find you on the Web? Give us the lowdown!
Sue: My website is http://www.tsueversteeg.com . Please leave me a comment in the guest book area! Don’t make a grown woman beg! You can access my blog from there, so take a peek at Mr. MacFarlane. I also have a MySpace page. Yes, I’ve joined the herd. http://www.myspace.com/tsueversteeg I’m always hanging out with the guys and gals at Romance Divas too. http://www.romancedivas.com If you are a reader or writer of romance, you have to check them out. They are a wealth of knowledge and experience, not to mention the friendliest people I’ve ever met! It’s free to sign up, so take a look around.