The Writing Process Blog Hop

Welcome to my blog! Thanks for dropping by. I was tagged in this blog hop by Beryl Belsky of The Writer's Drawer.

Beryl was born in Eire, raised in Australia but now lives in Israel. For 30 years she worked as an editor for academic institutions. Her website, The Writer’s Drawer, is an intercultural site for authors of all genres, languages and status.

Beryl recently published an anthology of short stories and poems. I'm honoured and proud to say that my short story, A Certain Kind of Freedom, is the title story. The anthology is filled with wonderful creative works from all over the world. Reading it transported me to countries I may never have the opportunity to visit. It was a treasure trove of stories and poems, perfect for your bedside table or as company on a flight.

1. Susan, have you always lived on Prince Edward Island? How has this remote location, associated among many of us with childhood memories of Anne of Green Gables and its sequels, influenced your creative work?

I was actually born in New Brunswick. My parents moved the family to P.E.I. when I was four months old. There is a standing joke on the island that if you weren't born here you are not an islander! Despite having lived here for much of my life I am still a CFA - a 'Come From Away.'

After High School I attended University at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia. I then found myself living in the Canadian province of Alberta, then Ontario, where I studied Museum Management and Administration. I worked in Nova Scotia for a few years, then returned to my beloved Prince Edward Island where I stayed until I decided to go to film school. After a year in Vancouver, I returned to P.E.I. I'd love to see more of the world but this breathtaking small island is my home.

One of our lovely sandy beaches - this is where you'll often find me on a warm summer day!

The peacefulness of the island influences my writing immensely. We seem to move at a slower pace here. I still find that sometimes I have to seek respite from my own busyness, but once I climb into my car and go for a drive in the country, or take a bike ride through historic Summerside, or perhaps soak myself in some down home fiddling, the tension eases. The landscape here is inspiring - sandy beaches, fields of golden canola or leafy potatoes, stark red cliffs and serene lighthouses standing sentinel over all - and so are the people, a mixed culture of Mi' kmaq, Acadien French, Scottish, Irish and, lately, other cultures who've settled with their families, bringing ethnic foods, music and rich traditions.

2. You write both screenplays and novels, among your other creative activities. Do you find that one form of writing comes more easily than the other?

Back in the days when I worked on the television series 'Emily of New Moon' it seemed like a lightbulb went on. On some level I've been writing in my head forever, but it wasn't until I saw the scripts from Emily that I realized the thoughts in my head would easily translate to paper. I went downtown and bought an old second hand PC and wrote my first screenplay, 'The Story of Jack & Emma,' between seasons of shooting Emily. It took a few short weeks and launched me into writing and a desire to make films. 

A few screenplays and a number of years later I realized it would be near impossible to A) sell my screenplays or B) produce them. I thought I would try writing a novel but I admit I didn't know if I could do it. It seemed like a very daunting task! Plus I always thought my stories lent themselves to the screenplay format. However, once I started on that first novel - the novel from which my short story A Certain Kind of Freedom is drawn (2011 Atlantic Writing Awards Finalist for unpublished manuscripts) - I was amazed at how easily the images became sentences and at how beautifully the 'art of the written word' flowed. It was liberating, in some ways. Suddenly I could expand on the imagery and thoughts of my characters. The mantra in writing for film is really 'show, don't tell' - I suppose in good novels as well - but in film, even moreso. Writing a novel was like a release. I'd suddenly discovered a new freedom in my writing, one that I felt might easier reach an audience than a screenplay that may never get made.

3. You say the three books in the Drifters series make you very happy. What is it about the series that you love? Since you work in film, would you make a feature or TV movie out of them?

I think what I love most about the Drifters books is the friendships portrayed within the series. Drifters is a fictional television series. The characters in the books meet on the series. Despite an overwhelming sense of feeling unlovable, the main character finds herself surrounded by real and sincere friendships. Many times in my life I have found myself  alone. I was a single mom for thirteen years and, even now, sometimes romantic relationships can be lonely. I work alone, most of the time. It was wonderful to write each day on the Drifters books, to enter Jessie and Josh's world and feel like I was a part of it all, somehow, of that magical world of friendship and dining out and working on a successful television show, never having to worry about money…it was very liberating. I still feel like the Drifters gang are just friends who live in another town.

It would be an incredible, amazing experience to bring those characters to life in an actual film or television series. But the reality is that, unless an experienced Producer picks them up, it's not a project I would have the wherewithal to do. Most of the story takes place in Vancouver. One thing I've learned in the difficult journey of my life is that I am a creative person. I don't have a great capacity for finance. I would need someone else to take the lead on that. I've often thought I could be incredibly successful if I could just find that one person who believes in me and my talent as a storyteller - that one person who could make it all happen. Maybe that's a copout, but I know my own strengths as well as my weaknesses. Still, that being said, I do plan to make a feature drama soon, but it will be on a simpler level than the Drifters books and it will be made near and around my hometown, hopefully with the help of some local business folks who can look after the financial details and let me be creative!

4. What are you working on now?

I've finished the first draft of a new short story, A Gentle Peace, which I'm in the process of editing for possible inclusion in a local anthology. I plan to enter some contests with it and perhaps even try to get it published in some online magazines.

I've finished other novels and need to set aside some time to get them polished. One is the fourth in the Drifters series (Riptide), one is my first novel (A Certain Kind of Freedom), and one, 23 000 words in, is called Seasmoke.

I'm also nearing the end of the editing process on my first feature documentary film, The Healing Place. I'll be glad when it's done - it's been a long process and I believe it's a film that will help a lot of people.

I also do a lot of client work - small videos, some larger documentary style film projects, and I've just taken on a new history book project chronicling the growth and success of community schools on Prince Edward Island.

I also keep a part time job at our local performing arts theatre's box office - after spending so much time writing the Drifters novels I needed an outlet where I could meet people and think about something other than my own work. It's a creative atmosphere I enjoy very much and, in the past few years, I've started to act in community theatre productions. It's a new, exhilarating world that I've often wanted to experience!

Moments before going on stage to play Elizabeth Caulder in Laundry & Bourbon a few weeks ago!

Here are the bloggers I've tagged: (Thanks Joe and Jennifer for participating! Have fun!)

Jennifer Hatt

Jennifer Hatt was born in Halifax and raised in Liverpool, NS, earning her first writing award in high school for her short story of a family living in coal mining’s shadow. Eight years later, she and fellow editorial staff were awarded the 1992 Thomson Newspapers Award of Excellence, North America, for their coverage of the Westray Mine Disaster. She released her first novel, Finding Maria, in 2010 and is currently working on Book 4 in the series, based on true events of one man's search for love that begins and ends in Nova Scotia. She is also an active participant in Writers in the Schools, introducing youth to opportunities held within the written word. She lives in charmed chaos with her husband, three children, and one cat in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia.

Joe Mahoney 

As a recording engineer for CBC Radio, Joe recorded, mixed, and often created sound effects for more than one hundred radio plays ranging from The Muckraker to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale to Mordecai Richler’s Barney’s Version.  Joe has also written radio plays (The Cold Equations, Captain’s Away!), produced them (Steve the Second), directed them (Canadia: 2056) and story-edited entire series (Steve the First, Steve the Second, Canadia: 2056.)

As a writer/producer, Joe has been a finalist twice for the Aurora Award, Canada’s top science fiction award (for Faster Than Light with Robert J. Sawyer and Six Impossible Things with Nalo Hopkinson) and won a Mark Time Silver Award for Best Science Fiction Audio Production of the Year 2005 (for Steve the Second). Joe is also a published author with several plays and short stories under his belt. He is also darned near finished his first novel.