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Interview with Susan Steggall 

Published 2021-09-01.

How has Smashwords contributed to your success? 
Smashwords has enabled me to reach a much greater audience beyond the borders of my native Australia, particularly my many friends in Haute-Savoie, France.
It is a somewhat intangible association but an important one nevertheless. 
What is the greatest joy of writing for you? 
The greatest satisfaction (not sure about 'joy' - it is often a difficult and frustrating process!) is in exploring worlds that are familiar and unfamiliar at the same time, for example: France, its culture and people; and my professional world of art history.
I am currently writing a kind of sequel to 'The Heritage You Leave Behind' in that I am following the lives of the same characters. The work is set in my home town of Maitland NSW, Australia and, to my surprise, it is allowing me to explore in some depth not only my parents' lives but also my own childhood and teenage years. 
What do your fans mean to you? 
Fans? I prefer the term 'readers'! I am only too happy when I discover someone has not only read one of my books, but appreciated aspects of it. I came late to writing so, although I would like to earn a fortune (probably not) it is sending my thoughts and dreams out in my writing. 
What are you working on next? 
Repeating myself. I am working on a sequel to 'The Heritage You Leave Behind', provisionally entitled 'Identity' (at the moment). I have given it this title because I am following my character, sculptor Ellie Gilmartin, as she marries, has children and continues her ambition to be a professional sculptor. I suppose the central question is: Can a woman in the 1950s and 1960s in rural Australia be woman, wife, mother and have a professional career without emotional and relationship damage along the way? 
Who are your favorite authors? 
Ah... a tricky one. Internationally, Hilary Mantel and Margaret Atwood. Closer to home, one of my favourite books is Kate Grenville's 'The Idea of Perfection' although I don't warm to her recent works. Chez 'les blokes'? Probably the Brits Ian McEwan, Julian Barnes and John Banville.
I am currently reading novels by Christina Stead and although there is much intellectual and literary nourishment in, for example, 'For Love Alone', I find the prose somewhat 'over-egged'. Jane Austen's novels, on the other hand, never date or drag - her light, perceptive touch speaks through the centuries. 
What inspires you to get out of bed each day? 
The promise of a new day with new challenges - hopefully writing ones. I have always been an early riser. I am currently in our residence in the Snowy Mountains region of south-east NSW. Seeing the rising sun brush the indigo mountains (in the west) never fails to delight. 
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time? 
At the moment, it is early spring in Australia. There is still plenty of snow and although the ski lifts are currently closed (due to lockdown) I go touring as often as possible. Otherwise... walking, communicating with grandchildren, admin work (occasionally), housework (as infrequently as possible). When sitting still I listen to the birds - currawongs, magpies, ravens, cockatoos, rosellas, wattlebirds and a myriad of small birds in the native flora. 
How do you discover the ebooks you read? 
A light sleeper I often tune in to podcasts - frequently about books and writing. And I'm a sucker for a good review. When a book takes my fancy I usually order it straightaway as an eBook, not wanting to wait for the hard copy. However with books about art history I usually buy hard copies. 
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? 
Yes - although it was a biographical essay of an Australian woman sculptor, Wendy Solling, in 1995. I entered it in a competition and it made the short list of seven. I didn't win but it was published in an anthology. Writing is easy I thought! The journey hasn't been smooth sailing with many detours and roadblocks, but rewarding all the same. 
The success of this piece encouraged me to write a memoir of the ten years I, my husband John and two kids, Zeke and Zali, spent in the alps of HauteSavoie, 'Alpine Beach. A Family Adventure'. 
What is your writing process? 
Haphazard would be an appropriate word. Most days I try to write a scene or two - 500-800 words but this is interspersed with short pieces on Australian artists. I work at home so daily chores, etc often interrupt. 
I used to be a 'pantser' 100% but a first-draft novel writing course enabled me to see the value in plotting - some plotting. For example, I know where I want my current manuscript to end but the pathway to the ending is still somewhat misty. However there is plenty of room for serendipity. Sometimes I start a scene with a fair idea of what I want to say but end up with a completely different scene. However, in retrospect, these rough scenes contain kernels (or thought bubbles) that will be significant in the story. 
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you? 
I learnt to read when I was quite young and became a voracious reader in childhood. Mostly I remember being immersed in the world of books and stories. However I do remember sobbing my way through Paul Gallico's 'The Snow Goose'.
In teenage years I read all the romance novels my mother borrowed from a local private lending library. Not the most suitable material for an impressionable girl. I very much enjoyed Georgette Heyer's novels. 
How do you approach cover design? 
I try to visualise some essence of the story. For example on the cover of 'Forget Me Not' there is a blue background of small blue flowers. The foreground featured the large memorial sculpture which is at the heart of the book. In 'It Happened Tomorrow', there is plastic surgery and skullduggery, so the cover shows a slightly menacing capped and gowned figure holding a a scalpel. 'Tis the Doing not the Deed' was designed by the publisher and cleverly encapsulates the mystery surrounding a large portrait in oils and, again, the mountain region in which the book was mostly set.
On the cover of my most recent novel 'The Heritage You Leave Behind' - about a young woman sculptor - I have featured some of my own small sculptures, influenced by figures in the paintings of French artist Marie Laurencin. 

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