Tag Archives: Writing tips

Author Susan Macatee Shares Her Writing Journey and New Historical Romance

I’m pleased to have my friend and fellow Wild Rose Press author Susan Macatee with me today.  One of the nicest women I know and very talented.  Thank you for sharing your writing and your new story with us, Susan. What has this writing journey been like for you?

It’s been a long one. (*I hear you) I dreamed of being a writer when I was still in school and actually submitted my first story to a magazine when I was in college. It was rejected with a handwritten note from the editor. Being such a newbie, I didn’t realize this was a positive rejection, so was devastated, thinking my writing was no good.  *Yes,  we learn to we cling to the ‘good’ rejections.

Although I still continued to dabble in writing stories, I didn’t dare submit anymore.

Years later while a stay-at-home mom with my two oldest sons, I started dabbling again and purchased how-to writing books to sharpen my skills. It wasn’t until my youngest son started school that I joined Romance Writers of America. That started me on a serious journey toward publication, but it was years before my first romance novel, Erin’s Rebel, was purchased by The Wild Rose Press. I now have three novels and several novellas and short stories under my belt and have ideas for many more.

*Susan, please share a bit about your new release and characters?

Cassidy’s War is a post-Civil War romance based on an earlier published Civil War novel that’s now out-of-print. I used the same characters, but they’re now five years older and their lives have been forever changed by the experiences they lived through during the war.

The heroine, Cassidy Stuart, served as a nurse volunteer and worked alongside her physician father in his home town practice. Six months before Cassidy’s War opens, her father was killed in a carriage accident, but Cassidy wants to keep his practice going with the help of her older brother, a recent medical school graduate. Cassidy’s biggest ambition is to attend medical school herself, although the profession is frowned upon for a woman in that time period.

The hero, George Masters, served as a Union soldier during the war, alongside Cassidy’s brothers. Her oldest brother, Josh, was killed at Gettysburg and George, who was severely injured in the attack, witnessed his best friend’s death first hand. After recovering at home, he reenlisted and was captured late in the war, ending up in Libby Prison. After the surrender he returned home and proposed to Cassidy, then left two days before they were to be married.

Although post traumatic stress disorder wasn’t thought of in the Civil War, George did suffer from it. After five years of wandering, drinking and earning his living as a professional gambler, he straightened out his life and obtained a job working as a Pinkerton Agent. He returns to town undercover to investigate a new doctor in town who assaulted a young woman in his father’s practice in Philadelphia and is now hiding out in George and Cassidy’s small town trying to steal patients from Cassidy and her brother.

*Sounds very interesting and realistic.  I’ll bet a lot of them suffered lingering psychological trauma from that horrific war. My passion for the past has inspired me to write stories that are straight historical or paranormal romances with a historical bent.  What inspires you to write historical romance, and you also write paranormals, don’t you?

My years spent as a Civil War reenactor inspired me to write romances set in the period. What could be more romantic than gaslight, hoopskirts and a handsome man in uniform? I also write paranormal, because I’ve always loved reading and watching movies and shows with paranormal subject matter. My favorite paranormal element is time travel. It’s just so much fun to write about a modern day man or woman being thrown into the past to find love with a figure from history. I also have a few historical vampire stories out. I was inspired to write vampires from my years watching ‘Dark Shadows’, Anne Rice’s and the late Dawn Thompson’s books. In fact, I took a writing course from Ms. Thompson and she encouraged me to write a vampire tale.  (I love this pic!)

*An intriguing mix.  What helps you bring your historical characters to life and give them authenticity?

I learned enough of the small day to day historical details as a reenactor to give my stories that authentic feel. At least that’s what readers and reviewers have said.

*What challenges do you face in building emotional bonds between the characters?  I know I struggle at times when the H&H can’t stand each other, and have had to make some real adjustments, like a new pairing.

I use templates from a course I took a few years back on the psychology of building characters. I choose opposite templates for hero/heroine and use the personality traits of each type to give them tons of conflict, but they ultimately are able to work through all of that to find the happily-ever-after ending. And the templates make their decisions feel that much more realistic, because what they do is based on their personality types.

*A template hmmm….  Mine are often inspired by dreams.  But your practical approach sounds very helpful.  Which is more important in your stories character or plot?  And along those lines are you a plotter or do you write where the muse leads you?

I’m definitely a plotter, but that said, I have to develop the characters first. Without a well-drawn character, I have no story. But I wrote my time travel romance, Erin’s Rebel, without a detailed plot outline and spent over a year getting the story straightened out enough to submit. I decided I needed to plot out all my stories, particularly full-length novels, if I was to get them written and submitted in a year or less. Otherwise, I was just wasting time and effort. Can’t wait on a muse. Lol

*I wait on that doggone muse with a butterfly net in hand.  We have a very different approach, but yours works well for you. What do you find most rewarding about your writing career and not so rewarding?

Seeing a book with a beautiful cover and my name across it, is the most rewarding aspect of writing. I also enjoy the writing process, especially the first draft where I bring my characters to life.  *Ah yes.

The least rewarding is the time and effort spent on book promotion. While I enjoy interacting with readers, most of the time I end up just sending excerpts and promo info out into cyberspace. It’s less time I can spend in the actual writing process.  *Yes indeed.

*What advice would you give to new writers just beginning this journey?

If you get a rejection with a handwritten editor’s note, get to work revising and resending that story to someone else. And learn all you can about writing technique. If I’d done that from the start, I might’ve published years before I did. And lastly, you have to be determined to stay the course for the long haul. Despite stories you see in the news, it’s rare in this business for anything to happen overnight.  *Took me 12+ years to get published.

*Also, what are some of the things you often see beginning writers doing wrong?

Probably some of the same things I did in the beginning. Sending out one submission at a time and waiting months, even years for a response. And it was always a rejection. You need to keep writing, keep submitting, so you always have something out or in the works. It makes rejections so much easier to take.  *Amen to that.

*What’s next for you?

I have a new novella coming out in April from The Wild Rose Press. Cole’s Promise is a Civil War romance and part of the ‘Love Letters’ series.  *oh good.  I’m especially looking forward to this one and you joining me in the Love Letters series.

Here’s the blurb: Cole Manning, a Union lieutenant serving during the height of the American Civil War, expects a letter from his best girl, Hannah, who promised to wait for him.  But her post contains an unwelcome surprise.  She’s marrying someone else.  Heartbroken, he vows no woman will ever fool him again.

Claire Hirsch’s fiancé died in battle during the first year of the war.  Because she could no longer sit at home mourning, she volunteers to assist doctors in the camps.  Scarred by his death, she knows loving a soldier can only lead to heartache.

Cole and Claire find solace in each other’s arms, but is their love strong enough to overcome the fear of losing the one they love?

I’m also finishing up a new time travel novella called Thoroughly Modern Amanda. The story is a continuation of my Civil War time travel romance, Erin’s Rebel. But this story is set in 1881 in a small Pennsylvania town.

*Sounds fabulous, Susan.  I hope you will return and share more with each of these exciting new releases and mega congrats  Is there anything else you would like to share with, or ask our readers?

I’m a complete baseball fanatic and live for baseball season every year. I’m hooked on my local team, the Philadelphia Phillies. I try to attend at least one game each season and watch the rest on cable. I hardly miss a game. I   also have a collection of bobble heads that sit on top of my writing desk. lol

*Who knew. 🙂

*Finally, where can we buy your books and find you on the web?

My books are featured at many sites, including my website: http://susanmacatee.com

My blog: http://susanmacatee.wordpress.com

My group blog: http://slipintosomethingvictorian.wordpress.com

I also have a Twitter account https://twitter.com/#!/susanmacatee

An Amazon author page http://amazon.com/Susan-Macatee/e/B002GILTIS 

And Goodreads author page.

Blurb for Cassidy’s War:

The Civil War is over, but Cassidy’s War is just beginning.

Cassidy Stuart longs to attend medical school. Training beside her physician father and serving as a nurse during the war, have only increased her desire to be a doctor with her own practice.  When the man who’d left her at the altar returns, she’s determined not to let him upset the plans she’s set for herself.

Until his mission is accomplished, George Masters must hide his identity as a Pinkerton agent as he investigates a physician living in George’s former hometown, a short distance from Cassidy’s home. When he finds Cassidy hasn’t married, he hopes he can rekindle their love while trying to protect her and townsfolk from the evil Dr. Madison.

Can their love be renewed despite the villain’s desire for revenge against them both?


The man in the door wasn’t Matt, but George. Had her mother let him in? He eyed her and frowned, his gaze drifting to the post in her hand.

Oh, Lord, just the man I don’t want to speak to right now.

“Cassie, Matt tells me you got a post.”

Drat, Matt! She chewed on her lower lip. Might as well tell him, he’ll find out anyhow.

She swallowed. “It’s from the medical school in Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania.” She dropped her gaze.

“And?” George prompted.

“They won’t accept me as a student.” She gazed into his eyes and shrugged. “I shouldn’t have tried.”

“I’m sorry, Cassie.” He stepped to her side and settled his arm over her shoulder. “I know how much this meant to you.”

She longed to collapse in the comfort of George’s arms. She’d found solace there years ago, when she thought him the man for her. But instead, she stiffened her spine.

“It’s all right,” she said. “It was foolish of me to try.”

George enveloped her in his strong arms. She bit her lip hoping to stave off the torrent of tears threatening to course down her cheeks. She yearned to bawl and scream at the injustice. She had the same credentials as Quinn, except for his experience as a steward during the war. But she’d served as a nurse, basically the same thing. Why wouldn’t they allow her to try?

George rubbed her back in an all too familiar gesture. The men in her life always felt the need to soothe her hurt away. Her father would’ve done the same.

She glanced up, frowning. “What are you doing here, anyway?”

He grimaced. “Not happy to see me? Reckon I deserve that. I spoke to Quinn. He told me he’ll be rebuilding your father’s practice.”

She nodded. “Now, he’ll be able to see patients over the summer and I’d hoped…” She swallowed, crumpling the post.

“It’ll all work out, Cassie.” He spun her to face him, and she buried her face against his rock hard chest. He’d filled out since she’d seen him five years ago.

She raised her face to his, losing herself in his dark gaze. He brushed her cheek with his fingers, then lifted her chin, sending delightful shivers through her body. Her lips parted in anticipation as he lowered his face to hers. His mouth brushed hers, gently at first, then pressed against her, shooting hot sparks to her core. His comforting scent of sandalwood, leather, and male enveloped her.

She sighed into the kiss, her tongue swirling inside his mouth. Her insides coiled with spiraling heat. She’d never been with a man and often imagined what it would feel like to have limbs intertwined, bodies pressed tightly with the one who set your soul aflame.

“Oh, George,” she gasped as he released his hold. Her skin moistened, body growing hotter by the minute. As a physician she knew what went on between a man and woman, but George sent her analytical thoughts spinning as want and need threw everything to the wind. She didn’t want the kiss to ever end.

“I know exactly how you feel, Cassie, but we have to stop now.”

“I know.” She nodded, not wanting to leave the warmth of his strong arms, but knowing she must. She gestured to one of the chairs.

“Sit, I’ll make tea. Then you can tell me why you’re here.”~

*Excellent excerpt.

Thanks for hosting me today, Beth!

*Enjoyed having you.  I share your fascination with the Civil War and love the Victorian era.

Cassidy’s War is available at The Wild Rose Press.

An Interview I Did With A Local Student Writing Club

How did you write a decent description without boring your readers?

My cardinal rule since the onset of this writing journey has been, Never bore the reader. I write adventure, mystery, and suspense and make my descriptions pretty gripping while adding enough detail for readers to feel they’re ‘there.’

Why did you decide to write historical romance? How did you start to write books?

I’ve always been fascinated with the past and love books with historical settings. Period movies are also my favorite. I’m a natural born romantic so combining history with a love story came easily.  I made the decision to take the leap into writing novels after commenting to my mother that my favorite books were historical romances of some sort and I wished I could write one.

She said, ‘why don’t you?’  And I said, ‘do you have any idea how much research I’d have to do?’  And she said, ‘Begin.’

I was also inspired by family accounts of ancestors taken captive by Indians during the French and Indian War and others who fought in the Revolution.  With all the rich history surrounding us here in Virginia and my early American roots, setting my novels in Virginia and the Carolinas also came naturally. Now I’ve reached further back into my Scot’s roots with my upcoming release, a unique Scottish time travel Somewhere My Lass.

How do you get over writer’s block?

I have what I call my thinking times, when I scheme and dream. Certain movies or music inspire creativity, like The Fellowship of the Rings…

How do you come up with your ideas?

Some stories stem from accounts I’ve read, including family genealogy, and others come from dreams.

Do you ever have problems not going over the top details and plot lines? No, I’m perfect in every way. 🙂  OK, sometimes I have to rein myself in.

How did you find a publisher?

After years of writing books set in early America which New York didn’t want, I was invited to submit to the Wild Rose Press, a small but fast growing company that publishes novels in both digital download/E-book and print.  The Wild Rose Press is eager to build its American historical line, but considers all romance categories.  If you’re interested in submitting, check the submission guidelines on their website.

On average, how long does it take to write your books?

Far longer than it should.  I agonize over research and fuss over every word.  An average time would be six months, although I’ve written a novel in three, while some have taken years.

How old were you when you finished your first book?

Ten years older than 30.

Have you ever killed a character? How do you do it?

Oh yes. I’ve killed a lot of them, sometimes even envisioned individuals who’ve annoyed me in their place.  In the fort Assault scene in Through the Fire I killed one of the refs from my daughter’s basketball games (gave him the name Hutch, an abbreviation of his last name).  He was particularly aggravating.  That story is set during the French and Indian War and he’s a frontiersman attacked by a warrior who ran a knife up under his ribs.  Hutch probably also got scalped but I didn’t stick around to give those details. Some of my characters have been shot by muskets, pistols, had their throats cut, been tomahawked, poisoned…

How old were you when you really got interested in writing?

I’ve written since elementary school, diaries, short stories, poems, and non-fiction pieces before moving onto novels.

What was it that made you want to be an author?

I love to read and think the story tellers are vital to society.  Where would we be without them? They preserve history and inspire as well as teach and entertain.

Do you have a person in your life that you would consider to be your inspiration?

Many. I come from a creative family with parents who encouraged me in that direction.  I admire anyone who strives to achieve their dreams.

Were you ever interested in writing in other genres than historical romance?

I also write light paranormal as I’m intrigued by ghosts, time travel and fantasy. My stories have a lot of mystery and adventure in them so if I were to let go of the romance genre, I’d focus more on those elements.

How many total books do you have published?

Four novels and a Christmas story in an anthology that came out this past December, plus I’ve signed for another historical and light paranormal.

What would you consider to be your favorite book you’ve written?

My favorite is the first novel I ever wrote and the next one coming out, a Native American romance set in the colonial frontier, Red Bird’s Song.

How did you first attract enough attention to be published?

I finaled in a number of writing contests, even won a few, and that helped a lot.

Who’s your favorite author to read? Favorite book?

Ever and always my favorite author is CS Lewis and his Chronicles of Narnia.  He’s been a great inspiration to me.

How do you cope with rejection?

First mope then try to learn from it; see if any suggestions were made I can apply to my writing.  If not, then let it go and forge ahead.  I’ve had hundreds of rejections over the years, used to throw weekly rejection parties to cheer myself up.  I had treats and jigged around the kitchen with the dogs.  A good sense of humor is a must.

Do you base your characters on people you know?

Some are based on individuals I know, while others are drawn from historical figures I admire or even detest.  I’ve also been influenced upon occasion by an actor.  Captain Vaughan in Enemy of the King was inspired by the character Sark in Alias.

How do you determine the goals of your characters?

My stories are strongly character driven.  I have to know them well and consider what they would or wouldn’t do in any given situation…ask them what they want.  I listen to my characters. I can plot all I want but they have a way of asserting themselves and altering the story, usually for the better.

*When Rebecca challenged Tonkawa in the cavern scene in Through the Fire, I hadn’t planned on her enraged response and had to scramble. I tried to persuade her to calm down and await rescue but she refused. I wrote the scene her way.  It’s times like this I sound a bit skitzo.  I have a saying that ‘I talk amongst myselves.’  It worries my mom.  Highly creative people are a little crazy, I think.  Here’s to crazy creativity!

For more on my work please visit: www.bethtrissel.com