Sunday, August 29, 2010

Interview with Critically Acclaimed Author Susan Vaught

Join us as we chat with Susan Vaught, author of the critically acclaimed My Big Fat Manifesto. Please note that this interview was conducted in April so a few of the answers may be a bit dated. For more up to date information please visit Susan Vaught's website at

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1)Tell us about yourself? I’m old now, older than I ever thought I’d get, but I’m finding that’s okay. I still love football (college and professional), women’s basketball, the Olympics, and other sports. I love reading and writing and farming—and I have way too many animals (kitties, a dog, and lots and lots of birds, including a parrot). I still work in the field of psychology and truly enjoy what I do. In that, as with many things, I believe I’m fortunate.

2)How long have you been writing? What drove you to pick up that pen for the first time? I’ve been writing since I was about eight years old. I started with a novel about a horse. I believe all little girls should get to write at least one horse story. That’s what I loved reading the most, tales like Misty of Chincoteague and all the Marguerite Henry books, Black Beauty—if it had a horse in it, I was there. When I couldn’t find any more horse books, I tried to write one of my own. Next came science fiction, then short stories and poetry. I never stopped for long after that. Writing soothes me, but it’s also a bit of a compulsion.

3)My Big Fat Manifesto is about an overweight high-school senior who writes a column in her school paper about being fat. Please tell us a little more about My Big Fat Manifesto. What motivated you to write this book? What would you like readers both teens and adults to take away from this book? I spent my life as Fat Girl, until I was around 40 years old. At my heaviest, I was over 400 pounds and couldn’t get an accurate weight. When I was 40, I made changes in my life and found a computer program that helped me process food and exercise mentally in ways I hadn’t before, and across a year or so, I moved down to “normal” weight—not ideal, but no longer obese. Toward the end of this process, I was working on a story about a girl who, amongst other things, was struggling to lose a few pounds to make weight for her sport. Every time I’d try to write in that girl’s voice, another louder and more sarcastic voice in my head would make obnoxious comments. I finally had to stop writing the first story and let Jamie, the main character in Big Fat Manifesto, have her say. As I’ve told people, I wasn’t Jamie, strength and attitude-wise, when I was her age. Jamie is the girl I wished I could have been. Through Jamie, I was able to give voice to some of what I went through and how I saw the world as a very large person. I’d love for teen and adult readers to walk away from My Big Fat Manifesto with a strong taste of Jamie’s humanity, her real-ness, her individuality. I want readers to see Jamie as a whole person, no matter what size she is, and I’d like readers to have a better grasp of what Fat Girls face on a daily basis.

4)Are there plans for another young adult plus size character in the future?
I don’t have plans at this time, but I suspect I will have characters like Jamie in future books. As Jamie noted, Fat Girls really should get to play the lead, at least as much as everyone else!

5)In December 2009 the second book in your Oathbreaker series (co-authored by JB Redmond) was released. Please tell us a little about this series. The Oathbreaker series is one story in two volumes. The tale centers around Aron Brailing, a young man taken from his family against his will and forced to become an assassin’s apprentice. He lives in a dangerous, treacherous world where people once had great psychic and magical powers, but destroyed their own abilities through stupid choices. Children like Aron are being born with these abilities again, and they’re all at risk. JB, my son, has always been an avid reader of fantasy and science fiction, and he’s always been a storyteller. He focused on the training of the assassins and many of the battle scenes. Because he has Cerebral Palsy and doesn’t see or use his hands well, he had to record his portions, and I typed them in for him. It was a wonderful and inspiring process.

6)You have written a good number of young adult fiction novels. Is this the only genre we will find books by Susan Vaught. Yes, if you don’t count some very boring nonfiction articles I’ve written professionally. I have some essays in some BenBella collections, about topics like Edward in Twilight, Eragon, and Prince Caspian. I do write grown-up romances under a different name, but I keep that work separate from my young adult endeavors.

7)What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a writer? Deadlines. Sometimes deadlines make me anxious and I freeze up a little in my writing. I usually meet deadlines or come very close, so I don’t know why I worry about them so much, but I do. Also, for myself, I’ve learned that “writer’s block” isn’t exactly writer’s block. When I get the sensation of not moving forward, I usually realize, after a brief break, that something’s off in my plot or characters. Once I adjust that, I move forward again. But, like deadlines, I worry about this when it happens, too!

8)As a woman juggling two demanding careers (Psychologist and Writer) how do you manage to find time for your careers and then squeeze in time for self? How do you keep a balance with all the roles you play in life? This is a significant challenge. I’ve adjusted my professional and writing schedules several times, trying to find optimal balance. I’m not sure I’m there yet, but I try. I also need at least an hour to two hours a day to do physical activity like walking and yoga and strength training, so that I keep off the weight I lost. It’s hard to work everything in on a regular basis, but I do fair at this.

9)Where do you see yourself a year from now? In a year, I would like to be continuing with my psychology day job, which I truly enjoy. I’d like to be working on a contemporary young adult novel, and a YA with a fantasy component (maybe with a romantic element to try something new). I’d also like to have better pens built for some of my birds, and for the number of cats in my house not to have increased past current levels (six). The last thing will probably be the hardest.

10)What are you reading now? Who are your favorite authors? What I’m reading now—Mistress of the Art of Death, by Ariana Franklin. It’s set in 12th century England, and the heroine is investigating a politically charged murder. I just finished Fatal Grace, by Louise Penny (I love her mysteries), and also just re-read Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard Book (adored this, especially the audio version that he reads). Neil Gaiman and George R.R. Martin are amongst my favorite authors, and Marion Zimmer Bradley and Octavia Butler, and Nnedi Okorafor (her latest, Who Fears Death is just as awesome as the first two books I read of hers). I also like Orson Scott Card and wait pathetically for new Ender novels, and I think I will always be a Stephen King fan, because horror is a secret pleasure…I could make this list endless. Really.

11)Do you have any personal appearance (either online or off) currently scheduled over the next couple of months. Where can readers connect with you up close and personal? I don’t have any personal appearances scheduled, but if I schedule one, I’ll post it on my website. Readers are welcome to email me. I try to answer everybody, even if it takes me a ton of time.

12)How can readers get in contact with you? Do you have a website?, and My son has, too!

13)What is the one thing you would like all of your readers to know about you?
That I’m grateful for every single one of them, and always try to write with them in mind—to intrigue, to satisfy, to give them the rewarding experiences they’re seeking when they pick up a story and start reading.

1 comment:

Leni said...

I enjoyed reading your interview. You have a busy schedule and seem to have a system that makes it all work. I'm not too familiar with YA books, and this interview has helped me to see that this is a rich genre.