Oct 6, 2008

Meet S M Kirkland - CFRB

Originally Posted at Bibliophile's Retreat by Melissa Meeks


This Month CFRB is featuring Susan Kirkland and her book Higher Honor.

Yes this is a romance but not a typical romance with the HEA ending or the fluffy feel good story fanatics of the categories in this genre are used to and expect. Regardless of the new ground being tread here this is not only a valiant attempt at something new and different it echoes with lessons of life, faith and the ripple effect of one choice on many people for the long term. Read my review on Thursday for a bit more of a taste of this story unlike any other I have experienced. It was emotionally draining to read yet well worth my time, effort and energy to do so. I believe it is also worth yours.

I am launching my contributions this week by interviewing the author herself. Some of the questions pertain directly to this book or related works but there are also some questions to allow readers a bit more of a glance at the person behind the book as well. Enjoy - leave us your comments pertaining to the interview and come back on Thursday for my review of the book.

1. Who do you want to meet and why?
Wow, I couldn’t just choose one. I really, really want to meet some of the friends I’ve made via the internet – there’s quite a few of them. Annie Bannanie, Caprice, Cathi, Daniel M. As far as writers – Pat Conroy, my all time favorite. Faulkner and O’Connor are awesome, but Conroy just captures that incredible Southern spirit.

OHOHOH, I know, I know!!!! Condeleeza Rice. She rocks! Secretary of State – how cool is that? She’s incredible – strong, but empathetic, smart, tough. Yes, I’m one of those politicos praying she’ll run for president one day. I think she would bring dignity and honor to the White House.


2. What’s your favorite comfort food?
It depends. Brownies are pretty high on the list. So is butter with mashed (now, ain’t that southern?) potatoes, nachos with cheese, salsa and sour cream. I could pretty much exist on those three. Can’t forget topping it off with Diet Coke.

Well if Butter and Mashed Potatoes is Southern food I'm in the wrong part of the country.

3. What would be your dream vacation?
All my vacations are dreams. . .oh, that’s not what you meant. I love to travel, so, open road, family and/or friends and I’m content. I’d love to go back to Italy. When we talk about retiring, we have this idea of travelling both by motorcycle and then by trailer, so we can take our horses places to ride.

Taking the horses toride sounds great to me but I'd be fine with leaving the motorcycles behind.

4. Is there anyone who has influenced / encouraged you to write other than God who ultimately gives us any talents including creativity? Who and how / why?
There are so many. Dr. Sally Allen, who was my academic advisor at North Georgia College, was very encouraging. She asked me what I planned to write about and I answered “This place.” Her response was “Someone needs to and it should be you.”

All my friends – Val Barton, Adam Harm, Bev Wharton, Darrin Smith, Lisa Robin just to name a few. They’ve all encouraged me. Working for the newspaper gives me a chance to absorb so many cool stories and events and I think I pull from those. This couldn’t have happened without my family’s unwavering support. George, Gabbie, Georganna, Savannah, Chloe and Grace all made sacrifices to help this book make it to print.


5. Can you give a brief synopsis of your journey to publication with your first book?
Brief? I’ll try. I started writing “Higher Honor” shortly after graduating from NGC. It was not a flattering look at life as a cadet. Very dark, disturbing. Even when I became a Christian, it remained a secular work and very negative. But I kept stalling out. I’d hit a brick wall. Finally, I threw my hands up, banged my head on the keyboard and said “You told me to write this book and it’s not working. So tell me what to write.” After almost a decade of brick walls, I completed the first draft in four months. Shoulda listened in the first place, huh?

I needed a book cover and had no idea how to do that when Jackie Seger, whom I work with at the paper said she’d always wanted to design a book cover. We talked about it, arranged with NGC to come up and use some cadets and the campus. I spent eight hours in a book store researching covers, trying to figure out what grabbed my attention. Thanks to Chief Benny Wyrick, Josh Bugosh, Stephanie Joppitt, Matt Streaver, and Mountain Order of Colombo, Jackie was able to make an awesome cover.

I hired an editor, Mary Busha, who helped me polish the manuscript. Then I got an offer from The Writers CafĂ© Press about publishing. They did “Light at the Edge of Darkness” and we’d developed a relationship there.

Cynthia McKinnon has held my hand through this whole process. I’ve panicked, I’ve been discouraged, I’ve been frustrated. It’s worse than being pregnant.


6. What else have you written / are you currently writing (including unpublished works)?
“Fair Balance,” is a gothic supernatural thriller in “Light at the Edge of Darkness.” It received such great reviews that I’ve written a novel based on the characters. It was part of NaNoWriMo and I’m editing it now.

Also working on the sequel to “Higher Honor,” called “Higher Courage.” This follows my cadets into their active and National Guard careers. Because I like to address social issues, this one deals with drug abuse and faith.

I want to write a third one in the “Higher” series. I have another two story ideas set at the John McIntosh Military Institute, involving the drill team and the band.


7. What first gave you the idea for Higher Honor?
I was very fascinated with the culture of military colleges (thanks to “The Lords of Discipline”), so even as a cadet, I was content to observe and compare what I saw to books I’d read.

I’ve heard the first novel is always more autobiographical, and this one is. I pulled from my own experiences and shaped them to fit a good story.


8. What else would you like to share with readers about yourself or “Higher Honor”?
As a rape survivor, it was very frustrating to read books where the emotional impact of that trauma (or any trauma) was glossed over, especially in Christian fiction. When I wrote “Higher Honor”, I wanted to examine that healing process from the inside out. I wanted to show that it’s not a straight path to healing, there’s twists, turns, sprinting, crawling, going backwards, but when you hold onto your faith, eventually, you change from victim to survivor. And when you realize you’ve allowed Christ to make that change for you, it’s an awesome feeling.

9. Share with us one of the craziest things you've done or that's happened to you?

I need to check the statute of limitations on some of these. . .just kidding.

My second date with the man I married was cow tipping. I drove from Georgia to Missouri for one of my best friend’s wedding (I only had two days off from work and was quite pregnant).

My husband and I drove to Mardi Gras from north Georgia when I had two days off. We had about $60, $30 went to the hotel, $20 for gas (those were the days. . .) $10 to eat off of.


10. What five books would you take with you to a desert island?
If I have a Kindle, can I take more? No? In that case:
The Bible, Funny Cide, whatever survival guide the Rangers and Special Forces guys use, Never Ceese, The Lords of Discipline.


11. What concept or scripture is God revealing more deeply to you in this season of your life? And how is that revelation influencing your life?
God is showing me just how important forgiveness is -- and not just big things, but little issues too. He's also showing me that forgiveness is a process. We may forgive, then for whatever reason, let that anger, hurt, or bitterness back in. So we have to practice. We have to lean on Him and rely on Him to get us through the process. Once we do, it's very liberating.

12. Why did you start writing and when?
When I could hold a pencil. My mom loves to tell people that, when I was five, I told her I was going to be a soldier and a writer. I’ve done both now. They say I’m stubborn and hard headed. I prefer to call it determined. I won the Lt. Governor’s Award in 5th grade for writing and I was hooked.

In middle and high school, I entertained my friends by writing about them. It was a blast – where else could you always get the guy, hang out with the bands, and have great adventures without worrying about silly curfew, not having any money, or being old enough to drive?


13. How do you choose names and get to know your characters?
I love strong, but pretty normal names, especially for guys – hence Ryan, Michael and Chris. I love the name Eric, too. Everyone knows someone with those names. One of my friends sent me a list of last names from a directory once because I was running out of “different” last names. I also use www.behindthename.com

14. What’s your favorite character / scene from Higher Honor?
Michael is my favorite character. That’s one reason why I ruined –er—gave him some challenges in the sequel. He’s down to earth, strong in his faith, but has had a tough life, but he doesn’t begrudge anyone for having an easy life.

My favorite scene is when Cassidy is at her lowest point and she goes to Ryan’s room to see him. She’s so desperate to stop her pain that she’s not herself. It was just real, raw emotion, very tense. One of the editors I worked with told me this scene needed to come out, that it was out of character for Cassidy. I think she felt it didn’t fit well with a very conservative Christian audience. I took it out and replaced it with a far less dramatic moment, but hated it. Finally, I stuck it back in there and it works.

The fact of the matter is, when you are hurting like Cass was in that scene, you act out of character.


I agree with that point. When we have been hurt we try to avoid more and sometimes even when we haven't try to fill a perceived lack in our lives with unhealthy things that we wouldn't normally even pursue. In her case it was physical intimacy in an attempt to feel safe, protected and loved after those had been taken from her.

15. Do you have any teasers you can share for the sequel to Higher Honor?
Oh, yes. “Higher Courage” finds our cadets as officers, parents, and spouses. One is deployed and kidnapped, leaving her husband behind as a single parent, and one is facing a drug problem that could end his career. . .and possibly his faith. How does God work in these situations?

Thank you for taking the time to share with my readers.

Codicil:
Visit the author's site, where you can preorder a copy with free shipping. If you mention this blog tour when you preorder you'll have a chance at one of two copies of Light at the Edge of Darkness, an anthology featuring the author's short story Fair Balance.

Read an excerpt from the book. Read my review on Thursday. Read David's daily posts this week at the main blog.

Also don't forget to comment as the author will be choosing 3 winners for free copies of the book during the blog tour from amongst the commenters.
Last but not least don't forget to visit these other CFRB members as well:

5 comments:

Susan said...

I can't wait to read the review, Melissa! You know, I forgot to mention Saracutta in the people I'd love to meet :)

Rae Byuel said...

Great Interview!!!!!

http://c-romance.blogspot.com

cathikin said...

Ah, Susan, you are so sweet! I want to meet you, too. I was hoping...but maybe next year.

Wow, you never know what you might learn about a person in these reviews. There's a lot here.
Cow tipping, huh? He sure knew how to show a girl a good time.

Caprice Hokstad said...

Great interview, Melissa. I'd love to meet Susan also!

Susan said...

LOL, we were young and BROKE! Now, we're midde age and BROKE. We have our own cows to tip now :)

Anytime you guys are passing through Georgia, let me know! I can show you a good time that does not involve livestock :)

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