Interview with author Susan Wittig Albert

Last week I reviewed Susan Wittig Albert's wonderful Loving Eleanor, a historical novel about AP reporter Lorena Hickock and her relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt. I'm delighted to share my interview with Ms. Albert, so please read on to learn more about her and writing.

What was the plot of your very first piece of fiction?

I sold my first short story when I was still a teenager. It was called “Her First Violin,” about a young girl who played violin in her high school orchestra--and finally got to play first violin. It was published in a children’s magazine called Jack and Jill, which paid a penny a word. I still remember the delight of holding that check in my hand. I’ve been writing ever since.

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

No rituals, a fairly stable routine. I show up at the computer early in the morning for a date with my social media friends, then catch up on email, do volunteer work for Story Circle Network (a women’s writing organization), and--by 10:30, I hope--settle down to the current work-in-progress. I start by revising the previous day’s work, then move into the new material. I’m currently alternating between mysteries and historical/biographical fiction. If I’m working on a mystery, I aim for about 1500 words a day; if the project is historical fiction, I aim for 800-1000 words. I quit for the day about 4:30 or 5. I do my research reading (usually for the next project) in the evening.

Was Loving Eleanor the original title of your book?

Yes, actually it was. When the book was done, I made a list of about 5-6 other titles for consideration and asked my beta readers what they thought. Loving Eleanor was their choice, too.

As you were writing Loving Eleanor, was there a particular scene or character that surprised you?

Lorena Hickok was always a surprise, all the way through. Hick was a skilled journalist (I collected literally hundreds of her newspaper articles), a marvelous correspondent (her letters are enormously interesting), and she was well ahead of her time in her understanding what women could do and supporting their efforts. In my research, I was also surprised by FDR’s behind-the-scenes manipulations of people--and created several fictional depictions of his interventions.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?

I love needlework, especially needlepoint and cross stitch. My husband Bill and I live on 31 acres in the Texas Hill Country, where I have a large veggie garden and a flock of laying chickens. Over the years, we’ve had an assortment of animals here: cows, horses, geese, ducks, peacocks--and of course cats and dogs. They’re all an important part of my life.

Read any good books recently?

For research, I’m currently reading Closest Companion (edited by Geoffrey Ward), the diaries of Daisy Suckley, with letters she exchanged with FDR. On my list for the weekend: John Sandford’s new thriller, Extreme Prey.

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My thanks to Ms. Albert for her time and thoughtful responses. To learn more about her and her books, visit www.susanalbert.com and follow her on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Comments

  1. I remember Jack and Jill! It's nice to know what an early publication like that can mean to someone.

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  2. I've read some of Susan Wittig Albert's mysteries but didn't know of her historical fiction. Loving Eleanor sounds very interesting! Thank you for this peek into a writer's life.

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  3. I've read this one and enjoyed it as it gave a completely different perspective on Eleanor Roosevelt's life.

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  4. This is a very interesting interview.

    The subject matter of Loving Eleanor also sounds fascinating. Eleanor Roosevelt was a fascinating historical character who was worth knowing about. I want to read more about her myself.

    So interesting that the early readers helped to choose the title foe the book.

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