Friday, August 31, 2007

Susan J. Breen, Author of "The Fiction Class" -- An Interview

by Linda Della Donna

Today, I am proud to present, Susan J. Breen, author of The Fiction Class.

Recently I caught up with this prolific writer, teacher, comic, wife, mother, and more, and requested an interview. Lucky me. Susan J. Breen is friendly, too.

Here's what Susan J. Breen had to say:

Q: When did you know you were a writer, Susan? What's your story?

I was a reader before I was a writer. I was one of those kids who was always sitting in a corner, reading a book, and my idea of a good time in high school was to read through the dictionary, looking for words I did not know. I was not popular. Somehow though, I never considered being a fiction writer. I had this idea that novelists had to be bohemian and cool; so instead I went into journalism and became a reporter for Fortune. It wasn’t until I was a wife and mother (at home with my four children) that I began to write fiction. Literally, one morning, I was sitting in my living room and my kids were taking a nap and I looked at the TV and I thought, No. I want to do something else. Instead of turning on the TV, I picked up a pad of paper and began to write. At that moment, I consciously chose the future I hoped to have.

Q: Has growing up in the New York area contributed to your writing?

The Fiction Class is the first fiction I have ever set in New York. All my stories have taken place in Long Island (where I grew up), Mexico City (where I spent a lot of time) or Westchester (which is where I live). Manhattan seemed too big a subject. How do you come up with anything new to say about it? But with The Fiction Class, I figured out that instead of writing about Manhattan as a whole, I could write about West 93rd Street, and I did have something to say about that. So now my plan is to tackle NY one street at a time.

Q: Please share with readers where the idea for The Fiction Class came from?

The Fiction Class is based on my own relationship with my mother. I loved her dearly, but we fought all the time, especially when she was older and in a nursing home. One day, not long after I got my job at Gotham Writers’ Workshop, we were in the midst of some argument and I mentioned something that had happened in class, and suddenly we stopped arguing and began to talk about fiction. It turned out that she had always dreamed of being a writer, and she began to tell me her stories, and I told her mine. After she died, I thought how grateful I was that she and I had had this special year together and I began to think of writing a story about a woman who heals her relationship with her mother by teaching her to write. That became The Fiction Class.

Q: I know you are published in other major venues. Please share: Who, What, Where, When?

My stories have been published by a lot of literary magazines, among them American Literary Review, The Chattahooche Review and North Dakota Quarterly. My articles have been published by The Writer and Writer’s Digest.

Q: Was it difficult getting The Fiction Class published? And are you satisfied with the results?

Actually, getting The Fiction Class published was not that hard. I started to write it in December 2005 and my editor bought it in June 2006. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I spent seven years writing an earlier novel that I never did sell, and three years working on yet another unsold novel. So depending on how you look at it, I either sold it very fast or very slow.

I am very satisfied with the results. Publishing is everything I dreamed it would be and seeing that book with my name on it is just thrilling.

Q: What about the book cover? Care to tell us where the brilliant red apple came from, without giving away the story, of course.

My favorite part about that apple is that it is so red. I love the way it catches the eye. There is an apple in the novel, and it has to do with the romance that is an important part of The Fiction Class. I have to say that that apple on the cover is the most controversial part of the whole book. There are people who love it and people who hate it (such as my boss.

Q: Susan, what is the secret of your success?

First of all, thank you for considering me a success. The hardest thing about being an unpublished writer is that it’s hard to believe you will ever see something in print. And of course it doesn’t help that your dearest friends and relatives also wonder if you will ever see anything in print. You have to find the joy in your writing and keep at it no matter how many times you are rejected. Because you will be rejected a lot. I think I am successful now because I didn’t give up (and I hope I write well.

Q: Do you have a favorite writing tip, something a new writer can wrap her brain around and use as she/he writes her/his book?

My main tip would be to write every day. Sometimes (often) I will be tired and not feel like writing, but I will force myself to sit down, and almost always, that is the day I break through and write something I like. You have to have discipline. Also, you have to approach writing as though it is something that matters. This is not a hobby. This is life.

Thank you, Susan J. Breen. Thank you for your time and and for your wise words. Best wishes and continued success in all your writing endeavors.

You have permission to visit Susan J. Breen's website, to learn more about her and where to purchase your copy of her new book, The Fiction Class. Feel free to email Susan Breen at

1 comment:

  1. Great interview! I just finished reading "The Fiction Class" and must say it is one of the best books I have read in a long time (aside from poetry). As a fellow writer and someone who has endured a lot of loss, I found myself relating to the book on an intimate level, something that doesn't happen too often for me.


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