Today’s author interview is from a fellow Chicagoan—Susan Bass Marcus—a woman submerged in creativity. From early childhood to years working at a museum, she has led a life that lets her imagination soar. Give a warm welcome to Susan.
Describe yourself in 150 words or less.
A creator of alternative worlds, from childhood on, I’ve explored many ways of expressing my imagination, including the visual arts, performance, and art education. Whether entertaining my younger siblings with shadow puppet stories (a babysitting strategy that distracted them from squabbling) during my adolescence, doing the same with my own children, performing with my puppet theater, or spinning archaeology into an accessible and interesting subject, I’ve been telling stories throughout my life. Since leaving a long career as a museum professional, I have found great satisfaction in writing fiction, and turning out blog pieces about the creative process and its outcomes, which I publish on my website www.malevir.com and on Goodreads.
Which do you enjoy most—character or plot development?
My characters drive the plot. I enjoy watching them unfold and reveal their inner life to me. Sometimes the narrative gracefully falls in place because a character surprises me with some action or response that I didn’t anticipate when I sketched the plot.
Tell us about your published works.
Malevir: Dragons Return is my first published novel, in the fantasy genre. I aimed it at both a middle-school audience (little violence and no sex) and adult fantasy fiction fans. Publishing the book was quite an education. My editor helped a lot at the time I was preparing the manuscript, but the real lessons sank in months after publication last November, 2015, and affect the way I approach my writing now. I am about 100 pages into the sequel, working title: Where Dragons Follow, and I must say the second book is tighter, the story arc is like a rainbow, and the characters have a depth not explored in the first work.
Otherwise, online journals have published three of my works: a supernatural horror story, a speculative dystopian short story, and a psychological fantasy. The latter also appeared in print this summer in After Hours Journal, promoted at the Printers Row LitFest in Chicago.
Do you belong to any critique groups?
I do. The first one I joined is a rather relaxed group of avocational writers who socialize more than critique, but it’s a great group for raising self-esteem. The other group I attend regularly is the Writers Group at the Union League Club of Chicago, a mix of serious writers and dabblers who do not hesitate to offer constructive criticism. Recently, members have proposed me for membership in the Chicago Literary Club, a venerable institution founded in the mid-nineteenth century.
If you were a picture, which room in the house do you want to be in and why?
We live in a very open, big loft, without many partitioned spaces. I’m tempted to say the bathroom, because it’s private and allows for contemplation, but since I like to be out front and noticed, probably I’d want to be installed along the long inner wall facing a line of windows that offer a great view of our metropolis.
What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?
I can’t say much that is original. For example, my first impulse is to advise practice: write something every day, parse out a story, devise a list of compelling prompts, caption cartoons, draw a comic book/story board, and if you’re up for the commitment take a class. The best preparation for writing is the practice of active observation.
What’s your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor?
Oops, I don’t eat them. But if I did, I’d go with licorice. I used to love Good N Plenty candy.
In regards to writing, what are you working on now?
A sequel to my first fantasy genre novel and a bunch of short stories, mostly in the surreal realm. Karen Russell is a big influence.
Where in the virtual world can people find you and/or meet for a chat?
I asked Susan to send a picture of a place in history she would have liked to have been present.
Conversations and Creativity,