IndieView with Susan Schoenberger, author of The Liability of Love

I don’t know of any writer who can claim a character is entirely fictitious. They have to be born out of your experience in some way, but I’ve learned from other writers to think of it like a blender. For each character, you throw in about a third of yourself, about a third of someone you know, and about a third specific characteristics that make the person come alive. Pulse until combined.

Susan Schoenberger – 21 July 2021

The Back Flap

Margaret Carlyle is searching for an epic love as she heads to college in 1979 after the loss of her beloved mother to cancer. When a charismatic boy named Anders rapes her on their first date, she wants nothing more than to forget it ever happened. But as the years pass, each life decision she makes seems driven by what happened that night.

When Anders becomes famous as an actor, Margaret can no longer ignore her past—and she must make choices that will affect everyone around her, most notably her husband, Douglas, and Fitz, the man who has loved her patiently since college.

This deeply moving novel is a window into class and privilege, the mysteries of marriage, and the destructive power of secrets—and an examination of what happens when we try to bury the past, as well as the consequences of confronting it.

About the book

What is the book about?

It’s about a young woman named Margaret who gets raped as a college freshman, wants to forget it, but keeps making decisions that stem from that traumatic experience. It follows Margaret into young adulthood, an early marriage, and a reckoning with her past.

When did you start writing the book?

I started writing this novel in 2014, just after my second novel came out.

How long did it take you to write it?

I worked on it for a good five years before the whole publication process began.

Where did you get the idea from?

It started out as a challenge to myself to write more believable male characters. There are two male voices in the book, though they didn’t turn out to be the main focus.

Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?

I struggled mightily with this book. I wrote it with a strange sort of fairytale lens the first time and threw most of that out. But two of the main characters – Margaret and Douglas – emerged from that attempt. Then I rewrote it in a more realistic voice, adding two other main characters, but it had a terribly sad ending. The version being published is more hopeful.

What came easily?

Strangely, the easiest parts to write were about two minor characters who are neighbors of Margaret and her husband Douglas. Ollie and Tiffany – he of the cargo shorts and motor oil manliness, and she of the postage-stamp-sized skirts – came to me whole. I can picture them sitting here with me right now.

Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?

I don’t know of any writer who can claim a character is entirely fictitious. They have to be born out of your experience in some way, but I’ve learned from other writers to think of it like a blender. For each character, you throw in about a third of yourself, about a third of someone you know, and about a third  specific characteristics that make the person come alive. Pulse until combined.

We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?

Hundreds of authors have influenced me over the years, but here are a few that stand out:

Donna Tartt (author of The Goldfinch) for her incredible powers of description and her unforgettable dialogue.
Lauren Goff (author of Fates and Furies) for her fresh and whimsical characters who make shocking choices.
Lorrie Moore (author of A Gate at the Stairs) for showing me how to weave humor into a story that isn’t necessarily humorous.

Do you have a target reader?

My target reader is probably someone very much like me: a middle-aged (or slightly older) woman who loves what some call “book club fiction.”

About Writing

Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?

Since I have a full-time job other than writing fiction, my process has been to write in the early morning before work, on weekends, and on vacations that I devote to writing. It’s slow-going, but that seems to be the only way for my characters to emerge. I don’t think I could write a book in a year even if I didn’t work full-time.

Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?

I don’t so much outline as attempt to outline. No matter how hard I try to see the arc of the story before I write the chapters, it always veers off in directions I didn’t anticipate.

Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?

I do both.

Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?

When I read about authors who listen to music as they write, I’m amazed. I have to have dead silence so I can hear what’s happening in my head.

About Publishing

Did you submit your work to Agents?

I’ve had the same wonderful agent since 2007.

What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher?

This book came close with several of the larger publishers, but I don’t think it was quite ready when it was submitted. I did another significant rewrite after deciding to submit to She Writes Press.

Was it a particular event or a gradual process?

A gradual process.

Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?

The book cover was done by the talented staff at She Writes Press.

Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?

I’ve hired a publicist, but authors still have to do a lot of their own marketing.

Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?

There are many paths to publication. The best thing you can do is educate yourself about your choices, including the pros and cons of each.

About You

Where did you grow up?

New Windsor, NY

Where do you live now?

West Hartford, CT

What would you like readers to know about you?

I would love for them to know that their reactions matter deeply to me. If you like a book, please reach out to the author. That’s why they write.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a novel about a hyperpolyglot, which is someone who speaks an unusually large number of languages. But based on my track record, the story that emerges could be completely different!

End of Interview:

Get your copy of The Liability of Love from Amazon US or Amazon UK.

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