I’m pleased to welcome Susanna Fraser, author of The Sergeant’s Lady and the newly released A Marriage of Inconvenience. Her first book, written in the fourth grade, was set in a magical land ruled by talking horses. Later, she armed herself with an eduction from the University of Pennsylvania (yea Philly!), and went on to real world explorations, including time in the Regency get-away of Bath. She now lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family, where she creates vivid tales of emotional realism set in Regency England. 

Thank you for having me here, Wendy!

Unlike the PROs who have appeared in this feature so far, I already have two historical romances published. So, why am I not PAN? Because my publisher, Carina Press, pays royalties only, not advances, and I can’t apply for PAN membership until I’ve earned $1000 inroyalties on a single book. (It has to be one book–you could publish 20 books and earn $999 on each of them and it wouldn’t count.)

There’s a real chance I’ll make PAN sometime in 2011 on my first book, The Sergeant’s Lady. My fingers are crossed. I love all my books, whether published, buried on my hard drive, or still in process, but that cross-class following-the-drum adventure will always have a special place in my heart. When I started
it, my goal was to write the exact book I was always hoping to find in the bookstore but never seeing there, so it’s a thrill to finally have it on (virtual) shelves.

I’m so excited to hear that The Sergeant’s Lady may help you to achieve the ‘PAN’ designation! It’s a fabulous book, and one I gushed about on this blog. 

Susanna, you’ve already pitched and sold your manuscript, but, just for fun, will you share the twitter-pitch (140 characters or less) of your favorite finished manuscript? 

I’ll give you the real one, then two goofy ones I use at least as often:

a. The Sergeant’s Lady is a tale of star-crossed lovers in Wellington’s army who must overcome the class barrier to find happiness together.

b. It’s kind of Jane Austen meets Sharpe’s Rifles.

c. Picture Nathan Fillion in a Rifle uniform. Like that image? You’ll like my book.

I swear c. is the one that moves the most copies!

Love it. Nathan Fillion in a Rifle uniform… *sigh*  What about The Sergeant’s Lady do you love most?

The bond Will and Anna build on the four days they spend alone together after escaping from French captivity. I felt like to make a cross-class HEA work, I had to give them a deep bond, far beyond mere physical attraction, so throwing them together and making them depend on each other in a fight for survival was a no-brainer. By the time they fully acknowledge their desires, Anna would say what she loves most about Will is his honor and innate chivalry, while he treasures her for her courage and resilience.

Your cross-class scenes were realistic without being trite or condescending, and the tension in the scene when Anna meets Will’s family made my heart pound nearly as hard as it was during the life-or-death action scenes earlier in the book! But, back to the interview 🙂

Will you describe an ah-ha writing moment and its trigger for us?

Several years ago, I went to a Q and A with Bernard Cornwell at the Surrey International Writers Conference. (Which is an awesome conference you should by all means attend if you ever get the chance.) Someone asked him what he did about writer’s block. His reply: “There is no such f*cking thing as writer’s block. There are lots of harder jobs than writing. Take nurses, for example. The day a nurse gets to call her supervisor and say, ‘I can’t come in today. I have nurse’s block,’ and have the supervisor reply, ‘Oh, you poor thing. Well, we wouldn’t want you to try to nurse when you’re feeling blocked,’ is the day writer’s block becomes a valid excuse.”

That’s a paraphrase, since I wasn’t recording the session or anything, but the first line is an exact quote.

The ah-ha moment there was about treating writing as a job. Yes, my stories START in moments of creative inspiration, but if I only wrote when driven by artistic fire, it’d take me at least five times longer to finish anything. So now, whenever I think, “But I don’t FEEL like writing tonight! I’m not in the mood! I have…WRITER’S BLOCK,” I tell myself, “Stop being such a diva. There’s no such f*cking thing as writer’s block,” and sit down at the keyboard anyway. And 9 times out of 10, when I look back at my work weeks or months later, I can’t tell the difference between the work I produced feeling blocked and what I wrote feeling inspired.

But I’ve added my own corollary to Cornwell’s Rule of Writer’s Block: Accept your limitations. Nurses get vacation, sick, and bereavement leave, and you too need to give yourself the time off and self-care you need to stay functional and feed your muse. Especially if, like me, you write on top of a full-time day job and family responsibilities.

Very insightful! Walking that razor thin line between holding yourself accountable and allowing time/ resources for self-care or ‘refilling the well’ as Julia Cameron put it becomes, I think, essential to discover–and it’s tricky because it’s in a slightly different place for every writer.

On to a joyful question: What’s your favorite Romance and why?

Oh, you want me to pick just ONE? Impossible.


Like Bill Haggart a couple weeks back, some of my favorite love stories are in other genres. Lately I’ve been re-reading the romanciest books in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan novels (which are science fiction), Komarr and A Civil Campaign. Miles and Ekaterin don’t even kiss until almost the end of the second book, but the way Bujold writes Ekaterin’s growing awareness of and attraction to Miles is one of the most sensual things I’ve read in a long time.

I also love the Peter-Harriet arc in Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, and I’m a fan of Joscelin and Phedre in Jacqueline Carey’s original Kushiel series. Oh, and I can’t leave out Russ and Clare in Julia Spencer-Fleming’s mysteries. They break all my rules–no contemporary settings, no hints of adultery, no large age gaps–and make me root for them anyway.

As for romance, I have many favorites. A few I especially love are Mary Jo Putney’s Shattered Rainbows for its richly evoked Waterloo setting, Rose Lerner’s In For a Penny for its pitch-perfect voice and lovable characters, and Patricia Gaffney’s Wild at Heart and To Love and to Cherish for heroes who make me want to be their heroine.

Oh, Like The Sergeant’s Lady, I loved Rose Lerner‘s In for a Penny because of it’s wonderful realism.

I’m so glad you agreed to in interview! Thank you so much. Before we wrap up, do you have any other thoughts/advice on pursuing publication?

Be persistent, flexible, and willing to take risks and make mistakes. The publishing industry is changing fast these days, and I don’t think any of us really knows what’s going to happen. So you have to accept that whether you self-publish, e-publish with a publisher, or hold out for print with your first book,you might just fall flat on your face and have to pick yourself up and try again.

Thank you!

Readers, please post any comments and/or questions you have for Susanna. Tomorrow, commenter chosen at random will win a e-copy of The Sergeant’s Lady, from All Romance. I’ll announce the winner in the comments section by tomorrow afternoon, so please check back.

9 Responses to Susanna Fraser, In PRO-suit of Publication (In this case, already published!!)

  • What a great interview!  I loved The Sergeant’s Lady.  And thank you for sharing the quote from Bernard Cornwell.  LOL!  That will certainly keep me motivated. 

    Susanna, I would love to hear more about your experience with Carina Press as they are relatively new to the publishing world.  What do like best about working with them?

  • Well, keep in mind that since I’m ONLY published by Carina at this point, I don’t have direct experience of other publishers to compare them to!  But I feel like it’s the best of both worlds in a lot of ways–they have the flexibility and willingness to take chances of a brand new venture, but with the stability of a big traditional company behind them.  I like that Carina lets me be myself–there’s no pressure to conform to a mold of what a historical romance is “supposed” to be or what’s trendy right now.

  • Hi Susanna!  The Sargeant’s Lady looks sooo good.  Can you give a hint of what the class differences are?–they sound very intriguing. 
    I was talking to one of my chapter-mates this wkend aobut Carina and she said being under the Harelquin umbrella was great–you get workshops and mentorship, plus you get invited to the Harlequin parties!  Have you found the workshops helpful? 

  • The hero is a common sergeant from an ordinary background (the son of a village innkeeper) while the heroine is an aristocratic heiress, daughter of a viscount and on her mother’s side niece to an earl.

    The Harlequin party at Orlando RWA was a blast, and I’ve found the conference calls and seminars the HQN staff give on social media and the like helpful.

  • Great blog!  I’m getting off of here to order A Sergeant’s Lady right now!  Meant to do it when Wendy blogged about it but got distracted – looking forward to reading it and seeing more! 

  • Just ordered both books on Kindle – you have great reviews on there which makes me think you couldn’t be too far off that 1,000 mark.  BTW – very interesting about digital publishing and PAN.  As you said, publishing is a changing world!

  • Thanks!  I hope you enjoy them.

  • Thank you so much to Susanna!!  & Thank you to everyone who commented.

    And today’s winner is……Sarah! I’ll email you.

  • Going to download TSL now…thanks, Susanna! 

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