Susan Butler Colwell
Author, entrepreneur, passable baker
and lover of magical things
About The Author
Well, hello there!
Thank you for stopping by my website.
It’s a little daunting to stare at a blinking cursor with the words “My Story” in big black letters, but here goes. I grew up in Midland, Texas, which my husband says is why I’m so darned nice and polite to the degree that he has “never seen in another human being.”
I think it’s the water in Midland—crude oil mixed with sand and fluoride—creating a magical potion that makes people friendly. Now, I’ve not been to Midland in decades, but the last time I was there, the residents’ sweetness made me seem like Cruella De Ville.
These days, I’m a Virginian, and no, I don’t make fur coats out of puppy pelts due to the change in geography. Still, I am sometimes curt with telemarketers who call during dinner. Most of the time, I ask about their families, though. So I guess that cancels out the rudeness in my voice when I say, “Thank you so much for the phone call, but please put us on your “do not call” list … You have a cough, are you feeling okay?”
I live in Loudoun County, about thirty miles outside of Washington, D.C., with said lovely husband (who comments on my politeness) and an adorable gray cat that has many names but responds best to “Kitty Boy.” We’re always coming up with names for him, by the way. Last night it was Pablo Fanque (yes, from the Beatle’s song).
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a writer. Well, except for a two-month stint in summer camp when I wanted to be a country-western singer. (I was seven. Don’t judge.) But I ended up in marketing instead, which means you write and write and write some more. So wish granted, I guess.
I do think writing marketing copy helps in writing a novel. You must take an idea and keep reducing it until you have a concise nugget of information that gets the point across. The same thing applies to story crafting; you just have to do it in much larger doses.
They say to be an adept author, you need to have written at least a million words. I’ve probably written several million words in my decade’s long career of promoting products and services, so I felt that might qualify, and off I went. There was just one teensy problem … I had no idea what to write.
I considered my topic day and night. I could write about the grandmother who raised me. That’s a good story. Daught (short for Daughter Baby) was a funny lady, and some of her quips ended up in The Summerlands. Someday, I might have to write the story of Daughter Baby. But I wasn’t inspired to dig in just yet, so the idea sat.
When I was close to giving up, my husband, Cerphe (a big deal radio celeb) interviewed Robert Plant for his radio show. Bobby (as I like to call him, because, you know, six thousand degrees of separation) told Cerphe about his inspiration for a few songs by a band you may have run across if you live on planet earth…Led Zeppelin.
He mentioned J.R.R. Tolkien, light and dark, hobbits, and even Fatty Arbuckle (for goodness sake) in that interview. My ears pricked at “light and dark.” Thus began several weeks of musing on “light and dark” and “right and wrong” and the ever-important “gray areas.”
I’ll bet you think I had the story then and there. Nope.
It was a year or so later (once I’d finally decided I just didn’t have a tale worth telling) that I sat bolt upright in bed with my novel, The Summerlands, playing on a movie screen in my head…the whole thing!
Being 4 am, I crept out of bed, put on a pot of coffee, and got down to the business of novel writing. Thankfully, it was a Saturday, so I had the weekend to do nothing but type that movie out of my head and onto the page. Twenty days later, I had the first draft.
I’ve heard of songwriters “downloading” entire songs from the collective, the etherial stream of information that rides the in-between spaces, the dark matter of the universe. I remember thinking how cool that was and wondering what that would be like.
Singer-songwriter Tom Waits says that when an idea for a song comes out of the blue like that, his job is to do what it takes to get it down. If he’s driving, he pulls over. If he’s sleeping, he jumps up and scribbles it down. If he doesn’t react right away, the song goes on to someone else…like Tom Petty, maybe. (Goodness, I miss Tom Petty. He’s mentioned in the book and yes, I cried when I wrote that scene.)
Chris Martin of Coldplay (who Cerphe has also interviewed because my hubby is insanely cool) has a similar theory. I’ve heard him say, “You know, wherever songs come from,” and “I don’t write songs, I receive them.” Those are just two of the soundbites he uses to sanely describe content received in a mystical way. But I notice he usually looks up or waves a hand at the ceiling when he says it. Uh, huh, Chris Martin, I see you…
Taking part in this phenomenon is one of the most remarkable experiences of my life, and I will be forever grateful. Great Creative Force, bringer of ideas and wisdom, songs, and player of the movie The Summerlands in this girl’s head; if you are listening, let’s get cracking on book two!
The phone is ringing, and so I must go. It could be that nice telemarketer lady again, and I need to see how her kids are doing.
Love and light,