Salsa & Speedbumps ~ an Author Interview with Susan Baganz

Susan Baganz

I met Susan Baganz at an American Christian Fiction Writers meeting. It was my first experience with a writing group, and Susan went out of her way to make me feel welcome. She has the best kind of bubbly personality – the kind that hints at a deeper, more thoughtful nature. Her books are the same way. They are delightfully fun to read, but they touch on serious issues with compassion and sensitivity.

Her other books include Pesto & Potholes and a Christmas novella, Fragile Blessings. Her new book, Salsa & Speed Bumps (Prism Book Group), is a contemporary inspirational romance novel being released TODAY, January 22!

 

Salsa and Speed Bumps by Susan BaganzHi Susan! I’m looking forward to your new book! Is Salsa & Speed Bumps part of a series?
Yes! It is the second in my Orchard Hill Romance series. Book 1 is Pesto & Potholes (April 2015). Book 3, Feta & Freeways, is due out later this year and the next three are contracted: Root Beer & Road Blocks, Bratwurst & Bridges and Donuts & Detours. The individual novels stand on their own. You don’t have to read them in order to enjoy them.

What made you decide to set your series in Wisconsin?
The old adage “Write what you know” was kind on my mind. I used to live in the Milwaukee area, north side, Menomonee Falls and Germantown. I also used to work in and around Milwaukee. It seemed a good setting for the adventures I would come up with.

How did you come up with the title?
When I wrote Pesto & Potholes it was just as a fun exercise. I wanted to give a real-life example of the pothole concept that is brought out in the story. I thought it would be fun if my guy was an Italian chef. I love pesto sauce so Pesto & Potholes was born. It was just a fun lark but then a friend on Facebook said that book two should be titled Salsa & Speed Bumps. I hadn’t even considered writing another story at that point. This was just for fun! I loved the concept so when I was ready to write another book—I took the title and ran with it. I decided that my guy, Roberto, would be of Hispanic descent, and there’s a bit of “heat” in there so salsa fits. Stephanie definitely hits a speed bump.

Is there a message in this book that you want your readers to grasp?
The story explores how we, as people of faith, think about our circumstances and view others. I struggle with this myself. Philippians 4:8 is kind of a key challenge: “. . . whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (NASB) I know that when pain or depression or other challenges knock me off my feet—it is a huge challenge to do what that verse says and my characters wrestle with that. I suspect I’m not alone in that struggle. Otherwise the apostle Paul wouldn’t have addressed it in Scripture.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?
I’ve had several back injuries over the years and I will struggle with the after-effects for the rest of my life. I think in many ways I related to Roberto’s agony as he struggles. While my pain issues/injuries were not as severe, they have at times been debilitating like he experiences. I relate to the pain and sympathize with his suffering. Writing a person with a chronic health issue while they seem healthy on the outside . . . was a challenge. Chronic pain can be redundant and for outsiders who don’t have that issue it can get tedious and boring to hear about, especially when there’s little they can do to help resolve it. Many times there is no resolution. With Roberto you can get the sense of just how fatiguing and frustrating that ongoing battle can be, even when there might some opportunity for relief.

pesto and potholesTell us about your characters! How many of them appeared in Pesto & Potholes?
Renata was Stephanie’s best friend so she appears in Salsa & Speedbumps along with her husband Tony. It’s fun to see how their story continues and how they’ve grown and are there for Stephanie in her trials.
Stephanie works for De Luca’s Cucina (owned by Tony) as part manager and hostess. (There was a bit of a reorganization of the restaurant in Pesto & Potholes). She’s a live wire. Confident, beautiful. And single. She was there for Renata after her world fell apart and was instrumental in connecting Ren with Tony and encouraging them on their journey to love. Now the table is turned and Renata gets to be the one to help her friend through some painful circumstances.
Roberto in an attorney who has some skeletons rattling his closet which makes him more than willing to accept Stephanie’s (I don’t want to give it all away!). He’s a hunk and there’s definitely an immediate attraction between the two. He’s more button up but gracious and has an integrity that shines through when life throws him curve balls. For all his weaknesses there is much to admire in him.

Are any of the happenings in the book inspired by events in your own life?
As I said, the back pain I can relate to (but I’m allergic to pain medications that contain codeine, real or synthetic). There are others but I don’t want to give away all my secrets!

I’m looking forward to reading it. How about you? What book are you reading now?
Her Deadly Inheritance by Beth Ziarnik. It’s an Inspirational Romantic Suspense. It’s a fabulous debut novel by a talented author.

What is your favorite genre for your personal reading?
Absolute favorite? Inspirational Romantic Comedy – hard to come by which makes it all more wonderful. Janice Thompson is a master of that. Sandi Bricker has also written some quirky characters as well. I read a variety of things though, mostly romance. Contemporary, Romantic suspense, Regencies (harder to come by those in the CBA). Sometimes my editing work takes me out of that box though. There is so much wonderful fiction out there!

How about writing? What is your favorite genre to write?
I love writing the Contemporary Inspirational Romance but I started out writing Regencies. I find it fun to play with the language and rules of that time period. It’s weird to go from writing a story where people might be texting to each other to one where a woman can’t even write a man who is not a family member, unless they are engaged! To go from cars to carriages and ties to cravats. It’s fun but sometimes Regency language seeps into my contemporary writing and it did with Salsa & Speed Bumps. I would challenge readers to spot it. (Hint: It’s a short phrase used three times!)

Do you know the ending of a book when you start writing it?
I only know that it will be a happily-ever-after ending. How they get there and what that will be like? I have no clue until it emerges on the page.

Do you laugh and cry as you write your book? How emotionally attached do you get to your characters? If they were real, would they be your friends?
I don’t usually cry when I write but I might get sad. I have laughed while writing though! There have been times of tears when it’s done and I’ve read it.
I have a friend who is also a writer, who tells me I have an unusual relationship with my characters. If you get me talking, you would think they are real people. I will talk about them like that. Like they are my friends and I’m just taking dictation. So would they be my friends? I would hope so! In my inner world they already are and I love them all.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Fear. I wasn’t nearly aware of how much fear paralyzed me until I started the journey as an editor and author. I suspect it is for many writers. That’s why my word for this year is “Fearless.”

Do you ever experience writer’s block? How do you get past it?
I don’t call it writer’s block. With every story I write I hit a wall. I will be filled with self-doubt. The part of the story will seem like it’s boring to me. I’m a panster (write by the seat-of-my-pants) so I never know what’s going to come next. Sometimes I talk to a friend and brainstorm and the story might take a fun turn. Most often though, I just force myself to sit and write through the fear. When I’m done I could never tell you where that spot was. I think ultimately the wall is fear. I fear that what I’m writing is crap. But when I push through that I find my way to the happily-ever-after ending for my characters.

Fragile Blessings by Susan BaganzIt’s always interesting to hear about our favorite authors’ writing process. What does yours look like?
The house we rent has a sunroom and I have my office in there. It’s a large room so two bookshelves make a partial wall for a bit of privacy as my daughter has a computer on the other end of the room! My desk is an antique drop-leaf table that I sanded down and painted white a few years ago. To the left of that is another desk and some box type shelving. To the right against the wall is a long table which right now is a dumping ground but when it’s cleaned up it’s my spot for sewing (which I don’t enjoy but sometimes do because I need to!) and where I can make cards.
My laptop, named Rosie (because she is pink!) is on my desk in front of me and there is a larger monitor connected to it on the left. I have two windows framed in lace, to look out of to our driveway but also to the bird feeders there.
Sometimes I do editing on paper with a pencil and I do that on the loveseat in the living room with my puppy curled up by my side.
I usually write in silence. However, I do have children and computer games can make noise so at times I put on my headphones and listen to Classical music when I write Regencies. The last few contemporary novels I’ve written were to a mix of music by Burlap to Cashmere and Steven Delopoulus (his solo records). Their personal backstory was a spring board for two of my novels (#’s 3 & 4) and I love the harmonies and the amazing guitar playing.
I’m not a coffee drinker and right now am weaning myself off my Wild Cherry Pepsi addiction. I don’t have any “must have” kind of food. There is, however, a stash of chocolate hidden though for whenever I need it. (don’t we all?)

Do you have a job outside of your writing career?
My most important job is Mom. I also volunteer at my church in a “behind-the-scenes” type of role serving the worship teams and sometimes counsel and encourage women one-on-one when the pastors send someone my way.

What do you like to do that is completely unrelated to writing?
Sleep. Although that’s not entirely true because I’m often working through scenes as I fall asleep and wake up. I like to make cards (rubber stamping) but that’s kind of writing related too, because the art of sending a card in the mail is becoming rarer. I love to sing and pretend to play guitar.

What are your current projects?
I’m not writing a new story right now as I have a lot of revisions and editing to do on mine and other projects. I have been praying about my next contemporary novel which I suspect will be written this year when the characters finally decide to settle down and take over my life. I hope it’s not too soon though as I have a lot to do!
The next story (#7) in the Orchard Hill series is tentatively titled Truffles & Traffic since Kristen Hammer at our local chapter of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) has continued to challenge me to write a story with truffles. Hey, I love chocolate so why not? It will feature a romance between a couple, Jo March and Benedict Elliot (a British import) who’ve been divorced, come to faith and after some mishaps (of course) fall in love again. That idea is based on a real life story of a couple I knew in my past. Wonder if Lindt would sponsor or endorse that one?

Where can we find you online?
Blog: www.susanbaganz.com
Facebook fan page: www.facebook.com/susanmbaganz
Twitter: @susanbaganz
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/silygoos

Do you have any other books coming out soon?
Salsa & Speedbumps releases January 22, 2016
The Baron’s Blunder (a novella and a prequel to my Regency romance series), releases August 2016 as part of the “Love is . . .” series of novellas by Prism Book Group.
Feta & Freeways hopefully in September 2016

I’ll be looking forward to those. Thanks for sharing your book and your life with us, Susan. Have a blessed day!

 

Disclosure:   I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. 

Disclosure:   I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. 

3 thoughts on “Salsa & Speedbumps ~ an Author Interview with Susan Baganz

  1. Wonderful interview, Cathe and Susan! I love hearing other writers talk about their creative process. I have “Pesto” in my TBR pile. Think I have to move it to the top!

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