Thursday, October 31, 2013

Stealing Fire by Susan Sloate Blog Tour and Giveaway

Title- Stealing Fire
By-Susan Sloate
Expected Publication Date- late August 2013 

“How do you recognize your soul mate?

In glittery 1980’s Los Angeles, Beau Kellogg is a brilliant Broadway lyricist now writing advertising jingles and yearning for one more hit to compensate for his miserable marriage and disappointing life.

Amanda Harary, a young singer out of synch with her contemporaries, works at a small New York hotel, while she dreams of singing on Broadway.

When they meet late at night over the hotel switchboard, what begins will bring them each unexpected success, untold joy, and piercing heartache ... until they learn that some connections, however improbable, are meant to last forever.

STEALING FIRE is, at its heart, a story for romantics everywhere, who believe in the trans formative power of love.”

STEALING FIRE was a 2012 quarter-finalist in the amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest. 

Actually, I’m one of those writers who doesn’t listen to music while writing. (I keep thinking of Kathleen Turner in ROMANCING THE STONE, typing madly away on her romance novel while listening to the soundtrack of HOW THE WEST WAS WON, but that’s never been me.) I always concentrate better in a quiet place, and truthfully, I love certain music so much that if I tried to ‘get in the mood’ by listening to it, I’d end up too distracted to write at all! That’s happened to me before, and it became very clear after awhile that I wasn’t going to produce a lot of pages if I had music playing. So I stopped even trying it.

But since STEALING FIRE is in part about the musical theater, I WAS thinking about certain music while writing it. There are a lot of show scores mentioned, including WEST SIDE STORY, CATS, LEAVE IT TO JANE and many others. Some are very well known, others less so. I wrote in a guest blog post recently that I could sing over 100 show scores, and after writing it I wondered if it was accurate, so I sat down with paper and pencil. Twenty minutes later, I had a list of 76 shows for which I could sing virtually every song. Another 20 or so, I know at least one or two songs in the score. Scary, huh?

Book Soundtrack

It would be lots of old romantic songs (think movie soundtracks, like BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S) and plenty of Broadway show music!

Since the novel is set in the 1982-83, the soundtrack would only have music that was available at that time. (This would eliminate a lot of music that we associate with the ‘80s, like the soundtracks from TOP GUN and FLASHDANCE, which weren’t released till years later.) We might JUST be able to use Marian’s Theme from RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, since it came out in 1981. But I’m really finicky about historical details and not sticking anachronisms into my work, so if it wasn’t publicly available in 1982, I wouldn’t use it.

There’s one song, though, that I’d throw in just for sentimental reasons. STEALING FIRE is based on an incident from my life, and while it was occurring, I had just heard the song “Back on the Chain Gang” on the radio. I got it and played it again and again, and to this day, when I hear that song I think of that time in my life. Needless to say, I’ve always loved it.

Also, Andrew Lloyd Webber, the composer who wrote CATS and PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, among many other shows, is mentioned several times in the story, because his shows and their big production values made it almost impossible for Beau, my hero, to return to Broadway writing the kind of shows he used to. Consequently, Beau hates him, and so does my heroine, Amanda (not just because of Beau but because she doesn’t like glitzy productions either - she’s all about the music and lyrics). So though his music certainly fits into the era, we would have NO Andrew Lloyd Webber songs on this soundtrack!

Susan Sloate is the author or co-author of more than 20 books, including Realizing You(with Ronald Doades), a recent self-help novel, and the 2003 #6 Amazon bestseller, Forward to Camelot (with Kevin Finn), which took honors in 3 literary competitions and was optioned by a Hollywood company for film production.

She has written young-adult fiction and non-fiction, including the children’s biography Ray Charles: Find Another Way!, which was honored in the 2007 Children’s Moonbeam Book Awards. Mysteries Unwrapped: The Secrets of Alcatraz led to her 2009 appearance on the TV series MysteryQuest on The History Channel. Amelia Earhart: Challenging the Skies is a perennial young-adult Amazon bestseller. She has also been a sportswriter and screenwriter, managed two recent political campaigns, and founded an author’s festival in her hometown outside Charleston, SC.

Stealing Fire was a Quarter-Finalist in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest and combines autobiographical experience with her lifelong love of the musical theater. She is proud to be distantly related to Broadway legend Fred Ebb, the lyricist for Cabaret,Chicago, All That Jazz and New York, New York.

Visit Susan online at

What would you have done differently if you were the main character of your book?

I WAS the main character in my book! I never could figure out, for the longest time, why I wrote across different genres and dealt with all kinds of different situations. Then I finally realized not long ago that every heroine of mine, on some level, is me. STEALING FIRE’s Amanda is the very young me--and the story of the impossible love affair, while differing in some details, is really the story of what happened to me when I was 25. I did meet a fascinating and magnetically attractive older man who was as drawn to me as I was to him. We did get involved. There was a lot of pain. And the connection did last.

So I’d have to say, I wouldn’t probably have done anything different - because what Amanda does to cope is what I did to cope. It was all I knew how to do.

What was your inspiration behind this book?

As I said, it happened to me--not detail for detail, but definitely the general outline of it. And while it was going on, I didn’t understand what was happening, so because writing things down has always been the way I coped with emotional issues, I started to write these pages--on the typewriter--many years ago. I had no thought that it was a novel. I was just writing to try to understand the situation and to make the pain go away. I ended up with 275 pages, written in wild disarray, with whole sections missing while others were written with no connecting passages. It was too many pages to throw away, at that point, and when I wanted to enter the first Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest in 2007, that was the book that was closest to finished. So I spent a week cutting, rewriting and cobbling together a cohesive manuscript. Earlier this year, I finally polished it and finished it. And here we are.

Why did you become a writer ?

I’m not sure you choose to become a writer; you’re really born with that sensibility, or discover it later in your life. You think in stories and narrative connectives. I just knew that I loved being read to early in my life, loved to read on my own later, and started writing down my own stories around the age of six or seven. It was something I knew I would always do; it was just a part of me.

What I did learn over the years, though, was that I had to trust that the stories I wanted to write were going to have value for SOMEBODY. For a long time, when someone said they didn’t like my ideas, I would just curdle, and hide the work away. It’s ridiculous. At this point in my life, I’m going to trust that there are readers out there who want to read what I want to write, because I want to tell the stories in my heart, whether the publishing gurus think they’ll sell or not. Luckily, we live in a brand-new era for publishing, and it gives me lots more freedom to experiment with my own interests and my own voice.

As a reader and writer I think it is important to get to know your fans and make a connection with them as an author who takes the extra step to hear what their fans think and want in their continued writing is continued success and key to selling more books .Do you agree with that ?

Yes. Writing is an act of communication, and good writing draws a response from the reader. The most urgent response I’ve had from readers usually involves asking me to write a sequel to a certain book. That’s fabulous, because it means they’re so invested in the characters that they want to go on with that relationship. I also learned that readers bring to your book their own experience and point of view. So what you write mildly they may react to as though it’s emotional hot sauce. As long as you’re aware of it, it’s fine.

Do you have a favorite author or authors?


Dick Francis (probably my all-time favorite--the best mystery writer on the planet). Max Allan Collins--meticulous historical research, wonderful stories beautifully written. Noel Streatfeild--best English theater stories ever. Daphne du Maurier--the mistress of mood; fabulous, evocative and romantic. Ayn Rand--brilliant and unique. Robbie Branscum--one of my closest friends ever, and an Edgar-winning writer of marvelous young-adult stories. Simply the best natural writer I’ve ever known. She’s the one who urged me to finish STEALING FIRE; she loved it and wanted to read the whole thing. It’s partially dedicated to her.

Other writers have written one or two books I love, but the authors above--I’d read anything they wrote; they’re that good. Newer authors like Nancy Bilyeau, who wrote THE CROWN, kept me turning pages without stopping. And Robin Maxwell writes superb historical fiction.

Do you like to write your books in a continuing series ?

Some, yes. Some lend themselves to a series. STEALING FIRE is of necessity a single title; there’s nowhere left to go with the characters after the ending. But in November I’m re-publishing FORWARD TO CAMELOT (with my co-author, Kevin Finn), which is an alternate-history thriller about the JFK assassination. And I’m taking my heroine and a couple of other characters from that book and putting them into a new novel which I plan to publish in 2014. There’s definitely potential for that to go on and on. I’m also working on three series which are planned as series books: all three are for the young-adult market, so we’ll see how they go.

If you could date any character from any book, who would it be and why?

Jake from MANHUNTING, an early novel by Jennifer Crusie. He takes wonderful care of you, he’s smart and kind and sexy and funny and totally dependable, and for a romantic hero, he’s surprisingly real!

What kinds of books do you like to read in your spare time ?

Historical fiction. Y/A fiction. Mysteries, when they’re well plotted and I can’t figure them out! I also love nonfiction books on history, politics and biography; I learn so much from them. And true crime stories. I know they’re bad for me, but they do fascinate me! I also read a lot of self-help books (which is useful, because I just wrote a self-help NOVEL with my partner, Ron Doades--it’ll be published this fall). I especially like books that use prose well; I HATE trying to wade through a book full of typos and bad usage - life’s too short!

Do you cry  when writing sad scenes?

I cry at just about anything, including Hallmark commercials. Usually I’m too caught up in the writing process to cry WHILE I’m writing the scene, but I’ve re-read scenes that I’ve written years later and choked up. That makes me so happy -- it means the scene works for the reader, which is so important!

Did you have a Cover Designer ?

Not one that I work with again and again. But I really appreciate all the hard work put in by all the graphic designers on my books; they make such a difference!

Who is your fictional boyfriend or girlfriend crush ?

Probably one of Judith McNaught’s heroes from her 80’s books (the 80’s were a good era, let’s face it--lots of good movies, good books and good music!)

If you were able to dine and have a one on one with your favorite writer/author who would it be ?

I think I’ll choose someone who’s not known for writing, though he did write his autobiography (so that counts, right?) Desi Arnaz--the man who produced I LOVE LUCY and invented the TV rerun--is one of my heroes, and his life was amazing. He’s the person I’d most like to dine with. And his autobiography, titled A BOOK, is just terrific, and surprisingly humble.

Do you re-read your favorite books ?

ALL THE TIME! I still have a full set of Nancy Drew mystery books, along with Connie Blair and Donna Parker (fans of these old series will know what I mean). Wonderful stuff! I also constantly re-read the books I bought as a child in the Scholastic Book Club. I’ve read them so much I can repeat all the words without reading them. But I always get something out of reading them again.

Do you ever get in a reading slump like your readers do ?

Not sure I know what that is. Do you mean reading too much of the same genre, or the same subject or author, and getting tired of it? Sure. I just put it down and go on to something else. Believe me, at any given time I’m always five to ten books behind in what I plan to read!

What is the funniest book you ever read ?

TWO LUCKY PEOPLE by Tony Kenrick. I picked it up at a supermarket checkout counter in 1981 and just roared with laughter when I read it. And I’ve re-read it at least every six months since then. WONDERFUL stuff! Have no idea why that never became a movie!

Your writing process

Everyone’s writing process is personal, but mine is mostly aimed at getting pages written without getting blocked. I tell myself that a first draft is just the impulse, and that dashing down the words, no matter how awful they are, is the goal. (I adopted this attitude from Nanowrimo, the great November marathon where your goal is to write 50,000 words of an original novel in one month.) If I get a first draft finished, I’ll go on to finish the book, so there’s an urgency there.

In other cases, I’ll start writing and add scenes wherever in the book I’m ready to write-- not in chronological order as they happen, but whichever ones come to me in the most detail. The good news about this is that it keeps me writing. The bad news is, sometimes you end up with an unwieldy lump of pages that you have no idea what to do with.

STEALING FIRE was written that way. In the beginning, I just started writing because I was in a painful relationship I didn’t understand, so I fictionalized the two lovers and began to write. Details came up in my mind as I wrote, and without consciously deciding anything, I knew that my hero was a Broadway lyricist and my heroine was an aspiring Broadway singer. I knew that they lived far apart, and that the girl worked a day job in a New York hotel. (None of those details, btw, was true of the actual relationship - but they came to me and I just went with them.)

I began the novel almost at the beginning, but then I started writing in different parts of the story. I had no idea how they’d connect - or if they ever would - and at that point, I had never finished a full-length book of any kind. So it was almost a pipe dream that I’d finish this one. But I kept the files on my computer, and when I looked at them years later, there were 275 pages! That was way too many to throw away, and I still loved the novel. Didn’t know how I’d finish it, but I kept it and kept adding to it, till a time when I was motivated to finish it in a hurry (a writing contest), and I did substantially finish the book in a week. I did the last polish on it a few months ago, when I was ready to start the publishing process. But that’s a lot of years to get a finished book, and frankly, I recommend the quick first draft if you’re going to have a finished book without its becoming a life project! And if you want a writing career, you need to be planning to write more than one book. So you can’t afford to spend that kind of time on one project.

When I’ve finished the first draft, I find it’s helpful (especially if that draft was written during Nano) to do a short outline of each chapter, maybe a paragraph, so I can know what actually happens in that chapter. Then I have an overview I can refer to, which allows me to see where the story is going and cut big chunks if I need to.

I do a LOT of cutting, usually - not just whole parts of the story, but also minute word changes - I’ll change a sentence so it’s the same meaning but might be four words less. The tighter the writing is, the better I think the experience is for readers. I don’t want to bore anybody, or waste time saying something I could say in a more concise way. Tell the story; keep it moving; keep it interesting. So far, it seems to be working!


susansloate said...

Thanks for hosting me today, Joelle - it's so good to be here!

Mary Lou Gerrish said...

I really enjoyed reading STEALING FIRE The romance between Amanda and Beau is one that you will not forget soon. We don't often get to read a love story as good as this one. A real page turner, hard to put down and also a tear jerkier. Don't miss this one.

susansloate said...

Mary Lou -- THANK YOU for the lovely comment! Nothing makes an author happier than praise like that from a reader!