Susane Colasanti is the author of WHEN IT HAPPENS, TAKE ME THERE and WAITING FOR YOU. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree from New York University. Before becoming a full-time author, Susane was a high school Physics and Earth Science teacher for almost 10 years. She lives in New York City. For more info, visit her website.
Let the conversation begin!
Do you let anyone read your work-in-progress? Or do you keep it a secret?
No one reads my manuscripts before I submit them. I get the impression that this is unusual. Lots of authors I know belong to writing groups. Most of the others give their early drafts to several people for feedback. If I tried showing my work around before submitting it, I think I’d be pulled in so many different directions with feedback that I’d be too overwhelmed. Everyone has an opinion about how a manuscript should be improved. But my editors are ultimately the ones who decide what should be changed. I’d rather wait to hear what they have to say and go from there.
Do you write with music?
Dude, it’s so weird. When I wrote my first three books, music had to be playing. There’s no way I could write without it. Things are really different now. I don’t need music to write. In fact, with my past two books I’ve actually preferred to write in silence! Music used to enhance my writing experience, but now it usually distracts me. Not really sure what all that’s about…
If you could only write one more book, what would it be about?
The same thing I’ve been writing about: soul mates. I’m fascinated by soul mates! This topic never gets old. Everyone seems to have different definitions of what a soul mate is, so I’ll clarify. To me, a soul mate is someone who inspires you to be a better version of yourself, someone who supports everything you are and gets you in a way other people don’t. You feel happy when you’re around them. I just love writing about that kind of strong connection and how it changes people’s lives forever.
How many words do you write each day?
When I’m writing a new book, my schedule is to write five pages a day, five days a week. Well, that’s the ideal schedule. Life sometimes gets in the way, as it does for any job. I try to have a first draft written in three months.
Are you an outliner or a seat-of-the-pants writer?
Setting up a chapter outline before I begin writing works pretty well for me. I like to know how the story will begin and end before I start. It’s also good for me to have a few key scenes planned for a sense of direction.
Every scene must move the story forward in some way. Knowing where the story needs to go helps me to not ramble on for hundreds of pages. I can be extremely tangential! That said, the chapter outline does change dramatically as I’m writing the book. New ideas are sparked all the time.
Characters reveal more of themselves to me as the story unfolds. Sometimes they even take control of the story. I’ll be writing some dialogue and all of a sudden a character will take over I’ll be like, “He did not just say that.” Those are fun times.
When are you the most productive?
I’ve always been a night person. When I was a teacher, I somehow managed to bring the energy mad early. But that was only because I believe every student deserves a quality education, regardless of time of day. What’s cool about being my own boss (other than smack talking my boss – corny alert!) is that I can set my own hours. So I write or revise in the afternoons.
If I’m on deadline, I’ll work a 12- to 16-hour day. But usually I try to do some online work in the morning, go to the gym around noon, and then spend the afternoon working on the book.
What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?
Archival scrapbooking is my preferred artistic activity when I have some time off. The old-school part of me loves playing board games with friends. I’m freaking out right now because a mini-golf course just opened on a pier at my park and I seriously cannot wait to play. On a daily basis I have to do some fun reading and walking around New York to recharge. I love the energy here in my neighborhood. It helps me work and relax.
Was it easier to write before or after you were published?
Definitely after. Before I was published, there was a lot of uncertainty. I wasn’t reading much contemporary teen fiction at that time, so I wasn’t sure what publishers were looking for exactly.
Plus I was a teacher. Doing both was exhausting! It was really difficult to find writing time. I mostly wrote on breaks and over the summer. The process was much slower. I resigned from teaching after my first book was published. Now that I’m a full-time author, I can focus on having a new book out every year.
Are your characters completely fictional? Or do you base them off real people?
It varies. Some characters just suddenly burst in, like John from So Much Closer. I don’t know anyone like John in real life. I wish I did – he’s incredible! Some characters are influenced by real people I’ve known. Tobey from When It Happens was inspired by a real boy I knew in high school. Which is awesome. Because when readers ask me if boys like Tobey actually exist, I can say that they totally do.
What advice would you give young writers?
Read. Read a lot. The more you read, the better your writing will become. Write about what makes you feel alive. If you’re passionate about your writing, you will always feel inspired. Listening (what some people call “spying”) is good. Some of the best dialogue in my books was taken right from actual dialogue I overheard. Be in the Now. You’ll notice so many quirky details if you take the time to be present. No devices, no screens – just you and the world around you. You’ll be amazed by what you notice after even one minute of quiet observation.
Tell us about the book you’re working on.
Right now I’m revising my sixth book, which will be out next year. It’s a bit too early to share the title or details, but I should be posting about it by the end of this summer. So please stay tuned!