Tuesday, July 21, 2015

An Interview with Sue Owens Wright

MM2: Sue, take us through your typical writing day.
Photo by Aniko Kiezel

I have two senior basset hounds who demand a lot of my time and attention these days, but I write for a few hours every afternoon while my hounds are getting their beauty sleep (bassets are great sofa warmers; they sleep a lot no matter what age they are). Sometimes I write late at night after the house is quiet.

MM2: How many genres and how many books have you written? 

I’ve written both fiction and nonfiction.  Besides the Beanie and Cruiser Mysteries, five in all now, I’ve also written a paranormal romance novel set in England. I wrote it after being inspired by a magnificent Tudor estate we visited during our travels. I have also written books on pet care: What’s Your Dog’s IQ? and 150 Activities for Bored Dogs.  In addition, I wrote chapters in People’s Guide to Dogs for Borders Books.  Several of my dog stories have been published in anthologies, one most recently in PEN Oakland’s Fightin’ Words, where I’m proud to share the pages with such literary icons as Norman Mailer.  I was thrilled to learn that my mysteries are on the American Kennel Club list of Best Dog Books (http://www.akc.org/akc-dog-lovers/looking-for-a-good-dog-book).  I was especially honored to be included because many of the classic dog books I grew up reading are also on that list. 

MM2: Where is your favorite place to write? If it is your office, describe your office.

I have a home office with a large-screen Apple desktop computer, but I don’t work there much because there are usually too many distractions and interruptions at home.  If I need a big screen for editing or other projects, I will work there on occasion.  Most of the time, I prefer working on my laptop at cafés. I find I can focus better while writing there and sipping tea, so that’s what I do every afternoon. My favorite café is Peet’s Coffee & Tea. They usually play classical music there, which boosts my creativity. Mozart and mystery, a perfect blend.
MM2: Tell us about your latest book. 

A fifth book in the series is complete but not yet released.  I don’t want to give away too much, but here’s a peek: 

Trouble crops up in Native American Elsie “Beanie” MacBean’s neck of the woods at South Lake Tahoe one Indian summer during Tahoe’s worst drought of the century. Beanie already has her hands full dog-sitting Calamity, her daughter Nona’s rescued basset hound. She’s feeling overwhelmed dealing with her crazy new boarder’s behavioral problems and chronic ear infections while juggling writing deadlines, including one on ear cropping in certain dog breeds, but things are about to get deadly. She becomes involved in a murder investigation while on a woodland hike when Cruiser and Calamity sniff out the body of Chuck Sweet, one of Buzz Baxter’s ax men who harvested lumber in the area until he was cut down. Beanie hates that Baxter Lumber has begun clear-cutting pine trees near her tranquil mountain cabin to make way for an upscale alpine resort, but someone is dead set on putting an end to the project.

MM2: What are your words of wisdom when writing a series?

Don’t be too eager to jump at the first offer of publication. Be patient. Shop around.  Once you sell the first book in a series, it’s hard to place subsequent books with another publisher. Most want to get in on the ground floor of a series, so hold out for the best contract.  It’s also good if each book can stand alone so readers don’t necessarily have to start with the first one in the series to get to know your characters.

MM2: Do you belong to a critique group or writers’ group?

I’ve tried joining a few critique groups over the years, but I never seemed to have much luck finding the perfect one.  There’s usually too much idle chit-chat, and it can even get a little weird sometimes, like the group where a guy only wrote stories about collecting human body parts in Mason jars in his basement.  He was starting to creep me out, so I dropped out of that group pretty fast.

Truthfully, I think you can learn more about the writing craft from books and classes on writing, but mostly by actually writing. I’ve always felt like the time spent in groups talking about writing was time I could have better spent writing.

I’m a member of the Dog Writers Association of America, based in New York, too far away for me to attend workshops.  I do occasionally participate in a local writer’s social group called Writers Who Wine.  I find it’s most useful for networking, and wining, of course.  It’s nice to chat with your own kind now and then, because writing is a lonely profession.

MM2: Now for fun, what is your favorite movie or television show?
My favorite movie?  Gosh, it’s hard to choose just one; there are so many I could name because I have always loved going to the movies. Dances with Wolves, Braveheart and Titanic stand out.  The musical scores are amazing. My TV favorite is Law & Order SVU, especially the older episodes with hunky Chris Meloni.

Your favorite meal, dessert?

My mom, who will be 92 this August, used to cook her famous Swiss steak and mushy white rice for my birthday every year.  Also, her banana pudding and chocolate cake were the best.  Anything chocolate for dessert is a winner for me.

Your favorite place to vacation?

Besides beautiful Lake Tahoe, where my mystery series is set, or at the coast, I’d love to go back to Ireland.  I was there in 1998 for five weeks while studying writing at Trinity College in Dublin.  Best vacation ever!

MM2: Do you have a favorite book you like to reread?

James Herriot’s stories of a country vet are still my all time favorites.  In the early 90s, when I visited the charming Yorkshire village of Thirsk, on which his fictional Darrowby was based, I discovered a lovely little bookstore, just a few doors down from his real-life surgery; we also toured the TV set for “All Creatures Great and Small.”  There on the shelf were autographed copies of his books.  I bought his latest books at that time, “Every Living Thing” and a collection of children’s stories. While in Yorkshire, my husband and I stayed at a charming bed & breakfast owned by a family friend of Alf Wight, which is James Herriot’s real name.  We were told he walked past there every day on the way up to Sutton Bank, a craggy promontory that affords a spectacular panorama of the Vale of Pickering.  This landscape must have provided great inspiration to the author for writing those unforgettable tales of his life in the Yorkshire Dales.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get to meet Mr. Wight.  Sadly, he passed away not long after our visit to Yorkshire. 

MM2: In closing, what would you like to say to your readers?

Thank you for reading and rereading my books.  I love writing them, and it pleases me greatly to know that people continue to enjoy them.  I always like to close with a little Cruiser wisdom, which applies to sniffing out crime, writing books, or life in general: “Stay on track, and follow where the path leads you.  Stop to smell the roses, and leave your mark along the way.”

MM2: Last, do you have a pet project? 

Besides exploring my artistic side with pastel painting (dogs are frequent subjects), I’m currently working on a memoir and short story collections about what else? Dogs!


  1. Sue, I absolutely love James Herriott's books - too bad you didn't get to meet him!

  2. OH show us some of your pastel paintings. I love dogs too and our Pepper is another who will keep the sofa warm. LOL


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