Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
                                       Philippians 4:8  (KJV)

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I'm a reporter covering four towns in northern New Jersey. I love to read on my Kindle and carry it with me everywhere. I like being involved in different creative arts. I have a puppet ministry through my church and lead a team of adult and teen puppeteers. I also sing in the choir/worship team and occasionally some groups, venturing into some solos. I wish I had more time and energy for this, but, occasionally, like hosting creative parties and planning fun games.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Finding the time around work and other involvements, especially with a somewhat irregular reporter's schedule is a bit challenging. I've tried to be involved with a couple of different writers' groups in my area, but it's hard for me to be available at the times that they're meeting.

An Ode To Coffee  
There are aspects of my story writing that don't just roll off the top of my head, but I find I have a lot of resources to help me via the Internet for both visual inspiration and information: various articles, Pinterest and YouTube for visual inspiration, Google maps streetview ... All of these things are helpful to me.

What is your current book about, and how did you choose your characters names?
Action Men with Silly Putty
My mystery comedy "Action Men with Silly Putty" is about two guys in the toy business, the toy inventor and business owner, Jack Donegal, and his marketing manager, roommate and buddy, Andy Westin. They stumble into a mystery when they buy an antique teddy bear at auction and suddenly find themselves of interest to criminals. All sorts of crazy things ensure. The two buddies discover a piece of the mystery at a time, chasing after criminals while criminals chase after them. Jack uses techno-gadgets, some of his own toy prototypes, and other silly items (including Silly Putty) in unusual ways in pursuit of justice for these criminals.

I picked the names Jack and Andy, just because they are men's names that I happen to like. Andy's last name, Westin, is a kind of tribute to Conan Doyle's Watson.  Andy plays the role of a Watson as the story's narrator and Jack's sidekick, although I think he contributes a bit more to the solving of the mystery than Watson did. I chose the last name Donegal for Jack, because it sounded like a nice Irish name. It turns out it is not an Irish surname at all but the name of county in Ireland. I decided to keep the name anyway.

For naming some of the suspects in the story - I don't want to give a spoiler here - after I chose their ethnicity, I found their names from an Internet list of names from that culture.

Choosing character names can be interesting. Sometimes, a name for a character will just pop into my head and, at other times, it takes more work. I've tried different things and methods. For surnames, I've tried randomly opening the telephone directory and pointing. I may not like the first name my finger lands on, but I'll try a few more times until I do. I have a character naming book at home with lists of names for different ethnic backgrounds. That's helpful. I also keep in mind that there have been different trends for names over the years. Sometimes, after I know my character's age, I may consult a list of popular names from his or her "birth year."

Give us an interesting fun fact about your book.
The character of Jack Donegal first showed up in a short story I wrote for a friend. The story was not a mystery. Ellen Danforth, Jack's friend and owner of the Salvador Deli, also showed up in this initial story. It was my friend who challenged me to try my hand a mystery writing. The mystery story went through several manifestations until it expanded from short story to novel. The character of Andy Westin was not in earlier drafts, but I'm glad he showed up. I have equal affection for both Jack and Andy.

Did you design your book cover?
No, a company called Acepub did my ebook formatting and cover design. The company did work from my suggestions for the cover design however. A friend suggested to me that each book in the "Action Men" book series - I intend for it to be a series - should have a different item important to Jack Donegal on the cover. Early on in the story, we learn that Jack has a unique pair of two-tone wingtip swing dancing shoes, so these were prominently displayed on the cover.

What do your fans mean to you?
I greatly appreciate my fans. I have a few enthusiastic ones that let me know how they appreciate my writing. I've had more people buy my book than give reviews or read my blogs (where I have some fiction serials) than comment, but I really love to read the feedback, what people thought of my stories and characters.

Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
One of the first, if not the very first, longer chapter books I read as a child was a book called Turkey Red. I don't remember much about it except that it was about Ukrainian immigrants who were farmers in this country in the 1800s. It inspired my imaginary play, so that I wanted to play the role of a Ukrainian immigrant farm girl. I remember I called myself "Charlotte" which seems to fit the time period but doesn't sound Ukrainian at all! Other books that were special to me as a child were The Wind in the Willows and Anne of Avonlea. I actually read Anne of Avonlea and Anne of Green Gables in reverse order.

What type of music do you like and how does it affect your writing?
Well, this a complicated question. I had a musical journey which I feel is unusual. I grew up listening mostly to my father's and older brothers' albums. My father had classic country albums from the '60s, but he also had classical, Christian, gospel, pop and some Broadway soundtrack albums. My older brothers had  country or Christian contemporary albums, and my childhood records were all Disney or other movie soundtracks. When I was a child, if another kid were to ask me what style of music I liked, I would have said country, although it wasn't quite true that it was the only style I liked. This wasn't a very popular answer to give in my northern New Jersey area. For a couple of years in junior high, I did develop a taste for the contemporary '80s rock, but after attending a seminar early on in high school on rock music and how much of the themes are pro-drugs or promiscuity, I mostly abstained and listened to Christian contemporary. Just a short while later, partly from the influence of listening to the classical radio station in Dad's car on my commute to high school and partly from the influence of being involved in
the high school choir, I developed more of an interest in classical, Broadway and opera music which lasted through college. At college, I took private voice lessons which furthered not only my interest in opera but a sort of operatic music standard for listening. In keeping with my idealist personality, I was not only putting my musical listening choices through a moral filter but a musical standard filter. I spent the summer after college graduation teaching English in Riga, Latvia. That summer, I met an American friend who was, at the time, a music teacher. I confessed to this friend that I had these filters and that sometimes I enjoyed music that didn't meet that second set of standards. He told me, "Well, maybe you don't want steak and potatoes every night. Maybe some nights, you just want a hamburger." He probably has no idea how much that impacted me, but the analogy made sense to me, and after that, I relaxed more. Now, while still being a discerning listener, I enjoy listening to all sorts of different styles. I still like opera or "popera"/classical crossover quite a lot, but I listen to jazz standards, Broadway, Disney and oldies and classic country and maybe even a little bluegrass, some of the newer pop songs and whatever interests me.

My interest in music comes out a lot in my writings. In my first book, And The Violin Cried, my character Annie Rosenberg plays an heirloom violin that, like her grandparents, survived the Holocaust in Hungary. (And the Violin Cried is currently out of print, but I'm working on republishing it.) In another work in progress, the characters of which have been mulling around in my brain since junior high days, the main character is a teen singer/songwriter who plays guitar.

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
With my two "Action Men" guys, Jack is a little bit like me in the sense of liking all sorts of music in different categories - some of which Andy feels is nerdy - and Andy seems to prefer the '80s music of his generation. I blogged recently that the book seems to have its own soundtrack, a quite eclectic one. It just maintained a pattern where there were lots of song references throughout the entire story.

Is there anyone special in your life that influenced your writing?
It's really hard for me to even know who or what influenced my writing style, because I must have had so many and such diverse influences, that I don't know how to dissect it anymore. I did have a creative writing professor at college who was very encouraging to me. In his class, I wrote a humorous short story about the boogie man, of all things. I wasn't sure how the class would fee about it, because all the other students in the class had chosen more serious subjects. However, they all loved it, and professor did too. One day, he called me up in my dorm to talk to me and encourage me to pursue getting published. That gesture meant so much to me.

What is something that you are really good at that few people know?
Kiri Te Kanawa
This perhaps relates to some of the earlier questions where I was talking about singing. After being in some sort of choir or singing group perpetually for so many years, and in spite of having private voice lessons all those years ago, I've only recently ventured into singing solos in church.  It's taken a while to develop the courage. I think I've already surprised a
Kathleen Battle
few people with this hidden part of myself. A few weeks ago, after a church solo, one lady told me my voice was very similar to Kathleen Battle or Kiri Te Kanawa. I am so flattered to be compared to such professional, trained and renowned singers! Because I have been so shy about singing, I think some of the people closest to me who have not yet had the chance to hear me, my brothers and some of closest friends, might be surprised to hear me.

What do consider to be your best accomplishment?
I've had the chance to do a few interesting things in life, but I still think my best accomplishment is publishing a book, well, two books. It's something I've aspired to do ever since I was a child. Even completing the writing of it feels like a major accomplishment, especially as I have several unfinished works in my computer.

What is the quirkiest thing you have done?
I'm not sure if this is the quirkiest, but this memory came to mind. Like my character Jack, I have some absent-minded tendencies. At college, I was involved with a team of puppet script writers, supplying script for teams of college student puppeteers. One time, there was a weekend retreat planned for all the puppeteers, writers and other creative teams, and I completely forgot about it and missed my ride. The director over all the teams had to make special arrangements for me, and as I was in the habit then of writing little stories or poems as gifts, I wrote him a story called "The Little Girl Who Lost Her Brain."

A big thanks to Susan for sharing a part of her amazing life with us. Many blessings for all future endeavors!

Where you can find Susan:            

Susan Clark You Tube
Susan Joy Clark Blog


Unknown said...

Loved the interview. You have me interested in your book! I'll check it out on

Shoba Sadler said...

What an eclectic life you have Susan. Intrigued by your interview and so much effort has gone into your book, for eg I like the way you choose names :) Thanks for sharing