Tule Author Q&A: Susan Lute chats about her childhood adventures, her passion for history, and her love of dragons!

Susan Lute decided to stop by the Tule Blog to chat about finding time to write, her inspiration for her stories, and how her childhood adventures fed into her becoming a writer.

Your childhood as part of a military family must have been quite an adventure. How has this nomadic lifestyle influenced your writing, particularly in creating bold and brave characters?

Up until I was 12, moving from base to base and the military was all I knew. I loved it. Except that I now have a family and home, I would still move to a new place at the drop of a hat. What that means for my heroes and heroines is that often they are both strong-minded and generally not afraid of what chance throws at them. One of them is sometimes former military and one doesn’t know how to stay in one place. And they have a lot to overcome to discover who they are and who they would be if they gave someone their heart. The thing they have to learn is that falling in love and putting down roots doesn’t mean they have to change who they are or that they have to give up everything. They just know themselves better. They find a way to be happy and when they do that, they can “bloom where they’re planted” (as my mother used to say).

You have a passion for ancient history and myth. How do these interests weave into your contemporary romance, women’s fiction, and romantic fantasy novels?

My passion for ancient history and myth shows up predominately in my fantasy romance (romantasy) stories. I’m working on a series about post-apocalyptic dystopian dragons set in the future where humans and dragons are struggling to survive against an evil that will do anything to take over what remains of their civilizations.

Being an award-winning author across multiple genres is impressive. What are the unique challenges and rewards of writing contemporary romance versus romantic fantasy?

I love this question because I don’t have a straight answer. I started out writing contemporary romance. My first published novel, Oops, We’re Married?, was a HOLT Medallion Finalist and Reader’s Choice Nominee. Logan: The Shadow and the Pen Dragon recently finaled in the HOLT Medallion Contest. The challenge? Writing a story that speaks to my heart and creative mind, then stopping long enough to enjoy completing the stories. The rewards? Finishing the story and finding that judges and readers love them as much as I do.

Dragons feature prominently in your bio. Can you tell us more about your fascination with them and how they inspire your stories?

It’s a funny story. Kind of. My agent was shopping around a women’s fiction novel I’d written—to this day it’s still one of my favorites—and it garnered a lot of interest. At the last minute, the market went out from under women’s fiction and the publisher decided not to buy. This is not an unusual story, just one of the things that can happen to a writer. Anyway, obviously I was disappointed, so I decided to give up contemporary romance and try my hand at something new—a story with my favorite hero (a mercenary), heroine (a thief), and favorite place (a bar and gathering place, in New Orleans). I hopped on a plane to visit my husband who was training in Oklahoma and started writing. Immediately, my mercenary was a dragon, the time—a future when civilization had been destroyed by an alignment of the solar system with the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. Ever since dragons have been my thing. I have a lot of dragons in my house. Dragons are strong. They fight against evil for what is right. No matter what, they don’t give up. I will probably always write about them. Oh, and PS… yes I wrote more contemporary romances.

With such a busy lifestyle, how do you find time to write, and what does your writing routine look like?

I am a believer in making time to write. Not to say I’m always good at being consistent and not getting distracted, but I try. I’m a retired nurse and a morning person, so I write three hours a day (in the morning) and if I don’t get my pages in (my goal is three pages a day), or have things to do like Q&As ( ;-D ), promotions, marketing, and all the other things that go along with publishing a book, I come back in the afternoon for a few hours. I don’t write in the evening. That time is reserved for my husband.

Traveling is one of your favorite pastimes. Do you have a favorite destination that has inspired a story or character in your books?

I love to travel. One of my favorite places to go (besides Bath and Oxford, England) is the Oregon Coast. Angel Point is inspired by Cannon Beach, Oregon, and Strawberry Ridge, my current series, is inspired by Durango, Colorado. My characters are all made up. There may be an occasional aspect of, for instance, my mom, a tough cookie who made some mistakes, but always kept going. She never settled in one place for long.

Gardening and remodeling your house are quite hands-on activities. Do these hobbies provide a creative outlet for you, and do they ever influence your writing?

Gardening and remodeling are activities that let me breathe and take some time away from writing, especially my contemporaries. The creative juices need a break, you know? You’ll almost always find a serene garden somewhere in my books.

You mention that your house is finally starting to feel like home after thirty years. How has creating a home environment impacted your writing process and creativity?

My husband will be the first one to tell you that we moved twenty (or was it twenty-two?) times in our first five years of marriage. When we bought this place thirty years ago, every time I came home from a trip, I swore we would be moving “soon”. I can write anywhere, but I think it’s the search for home that has always surfaced in my books. Now that this place has become my unfinished sanctuary, I’m thinking it will be finished in the not-too-distant future.

Can you share a particularly heartwarming story or feedback you’ve received from a reader that has stayed with you?

This is my favorite review:

“Susan Lute is a beautiful keeper of the human heart. She explores the soul and leaves the reader certain life is worth the journey.” – Wendy Warren, Nationally Bestselling and Two-Time RITA Recipient.

This is why I write and remember these kind words every time I start a new story.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers who want to write across multiple genres like you do?

Marketing and promotion are hard work. Much harder, I think, than finishing a book. So choose to write, even though in today’s publishing world you will be expected to do much more to get every story you publish out there. Readers gravitate toward the novels that make them feel better. Sometimes, that means they are reading a lot of the same genre, contemporary romance, sci-fi, fantasy, etc. I read across all kinds of genres. My advice is just to write the story you are inspired to write. If it’s a series or in the same genre as your last book, that’s okay. But if it’s in a different genre, that’s okay, too. It’s the story that counts; the one that you want to tell. If your heart is pleased when you’re done, and if you’re lucky, you will gather an eclectic group of readers. For me, I couldn’t ask for more.

BONUS: What is one book that you would consider to be your comfort read that you will always reach for?

I have read Anne McCaffrey’s Crystal Singer trilogy three or four times. And despite seeing the movies more than a dozen times, I’m just finishing my third reading of the Harry Potter books (print copies are the best). All I can say is I love these books.

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