I’m very excited to share an interview with one of my favorite authors, whom I’ve had the privilege to meet and call friend —Susan May Warren.
I was first introduced to Susie’s novels when a friend and I, while vacationing in Florida with my family, spotted the Christian fiction section of a local bookstore. My friend picked up a book by an author neither of us had heard of before. The book was Happily Ever After, the first book in Susie’s Deep Haven series. We were hooked on this terrific writer whose characters became very real to us.
Last September I attended my first American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Nashville, TN. Wow! What an experience! Not only did I meet a great group of people who understand it’s okay to talk to the voices in your head, but I met many published writers whose books line my shelves at home. One of the highlights of the conference was the opportunity to hang out with Susie Warren and to realize she’s quite normal. A total sweetheart. Not only that, but she’s an Alias fan too, so that must be worth something! Anyway, here is my review of Everything’s Coming up Josey and an interview with Susie.
When Josey Berglund’s ex-boyfriend marries her sister and her best friend/secret crush announces his engagement to someone other than her, Josey feels the need to get out of Dodge…or Gull Lake, Minnesota.
Feeling confined in her job as a journalist for a small town newspaper, Josey’s interest is piqued when a visiting missionary tells about the need for missionaries in Russia. Josey’s friend, H, urges her to do something to get more out of her life, so she takes the plunge and applies for a position as an ESL teacher with Moscow Bible Church.
Josey flies across the big pond and ends up in Russia, committed to teaching English to adults for Moscow Bible Church. For an entire year. Life in Russia isn’t living up to Josey’s expectations, however. For one, where are the bistros she envisioned?
Through the challenges she experiences, Josey is reminded of God’s grace for His imperfect children and His purpose for her life, her calling. Above all, she learns what “to the praise of His glory” truly means.
Susie writes a delightful and witty story about a young missionary’s struggle to grasp a new culture. She gives the reader a glimpse of what a missionary’s life is like. And guess what? They’re not perfect! Susie had me laughing in parts and tearing up in others. I enjoyed this read very much and hope we haven’t heard the last of Josey.
This award-winning novelist knows a thing or two about culture clash. She and her husband served as missionaries in Far East Russia. This is Susie’s first chick lit novel, but hopefully not her last.
With Josey being your first chick lit novel, how did you find it different writing in this genre versus the romantic suspense novels you’re also writing?
Writing a Chick lit novel is laugh-out loud fun! I had a joyous time exploring Josey’s fears and expectations and reliving those experiences in Russia with her, through her eyes. Chick lit also has a different format – it’s more of “slice of life” writing, where the reader experiences a season in Josey’s life with her, and while it might not answer all life’s questions, it does interact with the issues of the moment, issues we have all experienced and struggled with. Romantic Suspense takes an event, and the story has to be driven both by external and internal needs. Chick lit is more about the internal events. And thus, I think, can be hilarious.
Josey is based on your experiences in Russia. How much of what Josey experienced happened to you?
Well…let’s see…what didn’t happen to me? Oh, I know – my sister DID NOT marry my ex-boyfriend. *grin* And my mission board was much less stuffy. And, there was no Vovka in my life. But, everything from the airport bathrooms to the fish incident, to Venetsia came from first-hand experience. Hey, missionary life can be hilarious if you take a step back from it!
What’s next for Josey? Will this be the first in a series?
Josey 2 (I know – creative name, huh?) comes out next summer, and is about Josey and her first year of marriage. She and her hubby decide to go back to Russia…and Josey finds out about twelve hours before her departure that she is pregnant! Only problem is…she doesn’t tell her husband for, well, a while. Bad, bad, Josey! I again laughed out loud as I wrote from my own experiences of being pregnant in Russia!
Josey struggles to understand “to the praise of His glory” means for her. Do you have a favorite verse that helps you understand God’s glory?
Wow, that’s a tall order! But I’ve been interacting with Phil 2:13 in a recent “wip,” and it strikes me constantly that it is only through God’s grace that anything gets accomplished in my life, and that is to the praise of His glory.
When did you realize God was calling you to the mission field?
I knew He wanted me to be a missionary when I was a teen, involved in short term missions. Even as a child, I loved missionary stories, and when I tried it missions first hand, God really spoke to me. BUT, I didn’t surrender to that calling until my junior year of college.
Did you have preconceived notions about a missionary’s life before you went into the field?
For sure! I thought I’d be really spiritual and deep and people would flock to know Christ because of my great testimony. Uh, not. But I did discover that God could work in my life and others despite my flaws, and that was the point, really. And that God had sent me to the mission field to teach me to depend on Him.
Did you choose Russia?
Uh, well, no. And yes. God put the burden in my heart for Russia years before it ever opened up to missions, so when the opportunity came, I just had to say yes to God’s open door.
Now you’re a full-time novelist. When did you feel God calling you down a new career path?
I never really thought I’d be a full-time novelists…it sorta just happened. I simply committed my writing to him, in whatever capacity he wanted, and I saw God open door after door until suddenly I was standing in the middle of this career going, oh, hey, something has changed! I thought I’d be a foreign missionary for my entire life. I think God brought me into this place so that I could see His hand, and be confirmed in this calling, which was so close to my heart.
What advice do you have for writers as they strive for the brass ring?
I think that the only thing we can all do is commit our skills and plans to the Lord, use our talents wisely and be good stewards of our time and energy. I believe that every writer should continually study craft, and be a voracious reader. But remembering it is God who is at the helm of our lives and has given us talent and opportunity allows us ot “work out our salvation with fear and trembling because it is God in us who works both to will and do according to His good purpose.” In other words, He put the words inside you, and He will do what He wants with them, as you surrender to Him. That’s the SMW application of Phil 2:13.
What other writing projects do you have in the works?
I am currently working on a three book series with Tyndale entitled the Noble Legacy – about a family in Montana and their struggle to hang onto their ranch. But it’s contemporary, with cute cowboys and sassy cowgirls and has a Deep Haven Goes West kind of feel. Check out my website for excerpts and the cover for book 1, Reclaiming Nick.
A huge thanks to Susie for sharing with me…and you! I invite you to check out Susie’s site to learn more about this terrific author and visit her blog to hear some inside scoop into this writer’s life. Susie is also blogging at eharlequin about her missionary experiences! Pick up Everything’s Coming up Josey or one of Susie’s other books–you won’t be disappointed!