Susan Holt

I am a bubbly and passionate actress and author living in Porirua, New Zealand. After studying linguistics, I followed my dream, moved to Sydney and completed a two-year acting course. During that sojourn, I accidentally discovered a talent for writing.
I’ve just started voicing audiobooks and am still acting when I can while trying to get some more writing done.
What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
Charles Dickens. To be frank, I hadn’t actually read any of his books before a couple of years ago, but I thought his stories were quite stuffy and/or twee. But now I’ve read his books. He’s a funny guy! And quite deep, too. It must be the production companies’ fault that I got the wrong impression the first time.
Do you try more to be original, or to deliver to readers what they want?
I just write the story that comes to me; one that I like. It’s hard to write a good story when you’re not into it yourself. My first book – ‘Catching the Last Tram’ – was originally a dream I had. I think I had a fever.
I hope I have enough instinct for a good story to create something others will want to read. And the editing process helps that a great deal.
How do you select the names of your characters?
Often names just fall out of the end of my fingers, through the keyboard and into the pages. But for my next book – ‘The Heart Casts No Shadow’ – I decided I wanted names that had a particular style to them so I sat down and made up a whole bunch and just came back to the list whenever I had a new character to name. They ended up quite Welsh-looking for some reason.
If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
Start writing earlier and realise that I was quite good then, too. Then practise like a maniac. Learn earlier to take criticism and write things I wasn’t familiar with or even liked. Try everything, every style. Keep my mind open, try things and keep discovering.
Have you Googled yourself? Did you find out anything interesting?
Yes. I actually have a search listed for my name. It is interesting. Some weeks you find that someone with your name has just died and you read their story and about the people that loved them – a life lived.
Then there’s the coach for the Irish women’s golf team. And the woman involved in politics in the US. I once had a Susan Holt contact me through Facebook and ask to be a friend. She wanted to be friends with all the Susan Holts around the world.
What was the first book that made you cry?
I remember the story and the circumstances, but not the name of the book. Someone had died during the story and their friend was shown a beautiful cave that reminded them of their dead friend. It was very sad and I cried so hard that night. Then I woke up with a cold the next day and thought the crying had caused it. LOL!
Are there any secrets in your books that only a few people will find? Can you tell us one? Or give us any hints?
I like to assume my audience has a brain, so I try not to make everything obvious, but just give clues and let the reader figure it out for themselves. For ‘The Heart Casts No Shadow’, much of the setting was based upon an Indian palace in Mysore. It’s beautiful – Google it.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? Why?
I did. I was considering publishing something in a different genre and thought it was necessary to have a different name for that. So far, it hasn’t been necessary. Sounds really complicated and time-consuming, too.
How did publishing your first book change your writing process?
I discovered the joys of developing a manuscript with an editor. That was fun and I will always use an editor in the future.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
One manuscript is about 160,000 words. It was basically the one I used to learn to write. Just like the first piece of music I wrote, it has way too many ideas in it and needs some serious re-writing to be publishable. But my husband really wants me to publish it one day. He loves it. I’m also 10,000 words into a trilogy.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters of the opposite sex?
So far, I haven’t. I feel that people are people and their gender plays a smaller part than their character. The thing I’m more concerned about is writing a character of a different (but currently existing) culture. My next lead is a Samoan/Scottish guy brought up in New Zealand. Thank heavens I have a Samoan son-in-law!
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Yes, I do. Most of them have been encouraging. I do read the negative ones, too. They haven’t been too bad, so far. In them, I mainly look for patterns, to see if their point is a valid one, see if I can learn from it. Then I go and read one of the 5-star ones again, hehe!
The ones that really get me are where it’s obvious that they have misunderstood or misread my story, and I know I can’t respond, though I really want to!