October 28, 2016

#interview with Susan Clayton-Goldner

I am pleased to introduce Susan Clayton-Goldner who is joining us today on Maya’s Musings.

Q: Tell us something about yourself.
A: I grew up in New Castle, Delaware, one of five children and the only girl. A grenade blew up in my father’s hand during WWII. It was before the birth of 4 of his children, including me, but in many ways that bomb blew up in our lives as well. He was in and out of VA hospitals for years and suffered from what would now be called PTSD. He was often difficult, but had more tenacity than anyone I’ve ever met. Tenacity is a wonderful gift for a writer. My father and his struggles have influenced my writing more than any other person. He never gave up. He was a carpenter by trade and the grenade blew off most of his right hand. It broke nearly every bone in his legs. He was told he’d never walk again. But he did with the help of a brace. And he became a pretty good one-handed carpenter, as well. If he could overcome all of that, I could survive the rejections that come from being a writer.

When I’m not writing, I enjoy making quilts and stained glass windows. There is something similar about the three forms of creativity. All of them tell stories using fabric, glass or words.

Q. How did you get into writing?
A: My father won a portable typewriter in a poker game when I was 6. I taught myself to type on it and started to write stories and a little neighbourhood newspaper. Many years have passed. I never became a poker player, but I did continue to write novels and poetry. In college I majored in creative writing. It is hard for me to remember a time when I was not writing. I often don’t know how I feel about something until I spend time writing about it.

Q. How do you develop your plots and characters?
A: My plots and characters usually come out of a “what if?” question.  Something triggers an idea for the story. I think about it for a while and then begin to ask myself the “what if” question. Sometimes the triggering thought is a concept.  Maybe I want to write about redemption. What if a priest falls in love with a parishioner? What if he tells her he wants to leave the priesthood and marry her? What if, hours later, her little girl finds her dead in her car—an apparent carbon monoxide poisoning? What if it turns out to be murder?

Or in the case of my novel, A Bend In The Willow (scheduled to be released by Tirgearr in January, 2017) a woman murders her abusive father, disappears, changes her name and reinvents herself. What if she is leading a respectable life, married to a medical school dean, when her young son is diagnosed with leukemia? What if she must return to Kentucky, where she is wanted for murder, in order to find relatives who may be a bone marrow match for her son?

Q: What inspires you to write?
A: I’m inspired by what I see around me. By the questions life raises. Sometimes I’m inspired by stories I read in the paper or hear about on the news. Mostly I’m inspired by questions about forgiveness, redemption and love. I often write about characters finding a way back to themselves or to the family they abandoned.

Q: Who is your all-time favorite character (from your books) and why?
A: Catherine Henry, from my book A Bend In the Willow is one of my favourite characters because of her tenacity and the way she reinvented herself after a horrible experience. I admire the fact that she’d give up everything, even her life, in order to save her little boy.

Q: Do you prefer coffee or tea?
A: tea

Q: What’s better than chocolate?
A: Not much. Maybe that feeling a writer gets when she writes, “THE END”.

Q: If you believed in this sort of thing and could channel an artist from the beyond, who would it be and why?
A: I think it would be Van Gogh because he was so off the bell curve and so talented. I’d like to talk with him about the fine line between sanity and insanity—if there is such a thing—and the role art plays. Was it his supposed “insanity” that allowed him to see and create The Starry Night? Would he have changed places with a saner man if it meant losing his amazing creativity?

Q: What are your plans for the future? Where do you see yourself in five years?
A: I see myself still writing novels, still finding joy in creating fictional characters, still trying to discover my own truths.

Q: Any advice for those aspiring novelists out there?
A: My advice is to stick with it. Tenacity pays off. I received over 100 rejections letters before I finally got a New York agent. I thought my trials and tribulations were over. She loved the book and was very vocal in her praise. But a few months later, she accepted a salaried job with another agency and let go of her clients who weren’t yet making money for her. I can’t blame her, but it was a huge blow. This was the first time I ever considered quitting, but I couldn’t. I have to write. I was born to write. And if you were, too, don’t let anything or anyone stop you.

Thanks for your time, Susan.

Susan Clayton-Goldner was born in New Castle, Delaware and grew up with four brothers along the banks of the Delaware River. She is a graduate of the University of Arizona's Creative Writing Program. Susan has been writing most of her life. Her novels have been finalists for The Hemingway Award, the Heeken Foundation Fellowship, the Writers Foundation and the Publishing On-line Contest where she received a thousand dollar prize. Susan won the National Writers' Association Novel Award twice for unpublished novels and her poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Her poetry has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies including Animals as Teachers and Healers, published by Ballantine Books, Our Mothers/Ourselves, by the Greenwood Publishing Group, The Hawaii Pacific Review-Best of a Decade, and New Millennium Writings.

Susan shares a life in Grants Pass, Oregon with her husband, Andreas, her fictional characters, and more fiction and poetry books than one person could count.

Website: http://susanclaytongoldner.com
Blog: http://susanclaytongoldner.com/my-blog---writing-the-life.html


  1. Thanks so much for sharing this on your blog, Maya.

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