Today I am pleased to welcome Australian Author of western romance, Susan Horsnell. Welcome, Susan! Please introduce yourself. Tell us a little about the person behind the pen.
I grew up in Sydney, Australia. I am the eldest of 5 to British parents. They migrated to Australia in 1952 as £10 Poms – a migration system which cost the Brits £10 each to come. I attended public school and high school near where we lived and at the age of 13, as part of my studies with the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, I became a volunteer at our local hospital. This sealed my decision to be a nurse and at age 15 I entered Nursing at the same hospital. In those days we were hospital trained and lived in the quarters at the hospital. I have been married to a Naval Officer for what will be 40 years in March. We have 2 wonderful sons, 2 gorgeous Daughters-In-Law and 5 very special grandchildren which we adore.
Why did you decide to write Western romance? What is the appeal?
I was always fascinated with North American western history. I am very close to my Dad and grew up watching cowboy and indian movies on wet, rainy weekends. It fascinated me and as I grew older I read more and more about it. I felt an affinity with it for some strange reason. My imagination began to run wild with stories so when I retired, 4 years ago, I decided to give it a try. I was always an ‘A’ grade English student and had written some pretty good short stories and essays at school.
How much research goes into your books, and how do you tackle that?
I research quite a bit by using the internet and hoping they have it right. Being an Australian and writing American themed books I have to be very careful. My books are not factual but I do weave some facts throughout them.
What is the best comment you ever received from a reader? The worst or weirdest?
The best comment was my very first. The reader said she had stayed up until 3am as she had been unable to put the book down. That was for The Glenmore’s: Revenge. My worst, which did hurt, was for The Stuck-Up Governess. The reader didn’t like my use of American slang eg: ya, y’all. She said she couldn’t finish it as Americans didn’t speak that way. I did a rewrite on that book and removed it all. My characters all now speak perfect English which I think took some of the atmosphere from the book. Being a new author I hated the fact I had offended someone.
Tell us a little about your writing style? Do you plan and plot your stories, or do you just plow through them?
I do a little of both. I have a wonderful mentor in Margaret Tanner now and I run the plot by her before I begin. She will tweak it and give me ideas of how to develop certain sections. She then reads chapter by chapter as I write and basically edits for me. It has made my last two books much, much better. I am a good student and take everything she suggests onboard. I tend to have ideas pop into my head as I write too so I usually try to incorporate them as I go.
Can you tell us a little about your current work, Blind Achievement? Is there a story behind the story?
Blind Achievement is the sequel to Blind Acceptance. The little boy, Phillip, who was blinded in an accident at the age of 6, has grown up and is going off to a College for the Blind. I worked with the blind for four years, teaching techniques to help them cope more independently. I worked mainly with newly blinded teenagers and their families. It gave me the idea to explore how dangerous a ranch is, not only for a young child, but a young, blind child. I also focused on the trouble fathers have accepting their child is blind, especially when it is their son and heir. It was particularly hard in the 19th century as people believed if you were blind you were also insane and many were locked away to live their lives in asylums. Being in such an environment usually did send them insane – very sad.
What sets your heroine Belinda apart from all the other women in your hero’s Phillip’s life? Why is she perfect for him?
Phillip ‘rescues’ Belinda from unwanted advances and when she seeks relief in his arms, he is smitten. She is soft-spoken with a musical lilt to her voice that he loves. She is an administration assistant at the school, always around, caring and helpful. She knows the restrictions of the blind but encourages them wherever possible. She is not fazed by Phillip’s blindness like so many others are.
Have you ever had writer’s block? How do you deal with it?
Usually I suffer with writer’s diarrhea but I did get block during my last book. I visited an historical site nearby, sat and meditated. Worked wonders and after talking to volunteers there about the history I now have ideas for my next book.
Can you give us a little background on your hero Phillip that’s only in your author notes, and not found in your story? What inspired you to create this character?
He is wary of females and their honesty after his mother’s betrayal. I do touch on this in the book though as I do pretty much everything in my notes. My inspiration was to show blind people have enormous value to society and should not be cast aside.
Describe a favorite scene in your current novel?
My favourite scene is when Phillip’s father, Luke, suddenly realizes Phillips’ sister, Edwina, is growing up and becoming interested in boys, including Phillip’s assistant from the school. I could picture the look on his face and his feelings.
What else do you have in store for your readers?
In this book there will be the love that blossoms between Phillip and Belinda despite her secrets. The danger she places them both in because of her secrets. Attempted murder and kidnap.
Excerpt- Blind Achievement-: Due for release in late September/Early October
“I’ll get us checked in,” he said as he strode to the reception desk.
The other members of the family, except Phillip, were craning their necks skywards to take in the ceiling of the lobby. The opulence and splendour was breathtaking.
While they waited for Luke, Rachel positioned herself by Phillip’s side and began describing their surroundings.
“We are in the lobby which has high ceilings up to the very top of the building. There is a walkway around the second floor and you can look over the railing into the lobby. I can see people moving around up there. The floors are exquisite marble and there are huge supporting beams also in marble. Four of the largest chandeliers I have ever seen hang from the ceiling. I have no idea how they would have been lit before electricity.”
Rachel brought her gaze down to floor level and spun in a circle to ensure she wasn’t missing anything. The children stood quietly listening while she explained it all to their brother.
“There is a wide, marble staircase sweeping up to the second floor with red carpet laid down the center. The reception space is made of wood inlaid with marble. Gold framed paintings are scattered on the walls, the chairs are gold with red velvet backs and seats. It is all breathtaking.”
“Who is breathtaking?” Luke asked when he returned with their keys.
“I was describing the lobby to Phillip.” Rachel explained.
“Here I was thinking you thought I was breathtaking.” Luke laughed.
“Father, men aren’t breathtaking. Please be sensible.” Eddie slammed her small hands on her hips and glared at her father in disgust.
He gave Rachel a shocked look at his daughter’s outburst. She inclined her head to the side where the young men from the station now stood.
Luke frowned, grasped his daughter’s hand and began leading the way upstairs.
“Father, please let me go.” Eddie struggled against his hold.
Luke stopped on the steps, crouched down and peered into his daughters’ face. “Edwina, listen carefully. I will say this only once. You are too young for boys and you can drop the high and mighty attitude. Am I understood?”
Her lips quivered and tears began to well in her eyes. “Yes father.”
He released her hand, not wanting to embarrass her any more than she already was, and the family proceeded upstairs to their rooms.
Luke reached over, placed the key in the lock of room 103 and swung the door open.
He stood back while Rachel guided the younger children in first.
“We have adjoining rooms and Phillip has his own room straight across the hall.” He led his son to the room opposite. “Either your mother or I will help you. We know it’s difficult for you being in a strange place.”
“Thanks. It does feel odd not knowin’ where I am or where things are.” Phillip conceded.
Supper was taken early in the hotel dining room. Everyone was too tired for a tour of the city so it was decided to postpone it to the following day.
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