today I have the pleasure to have Suzanne McKenna with me for a chat.
Hi Suzanne, and thank you for being here. Let’s start with how you came up with the idea for your book, the latest in the Toby And Claudia Series.
For many years I’d had the idea of my main character, Toby Faye, in my head. The story I envisioned telling back then was a ‘Caine and Abel’ tale of sorts—a young guy coping with abuse at the hands of his brother. While the abuse remains an important element of the series, once I started writing, Toby and Claudia’s love story took main stage.
If your story had a soundtrack, which song would it be?
A: If I had to pick one song that epitomizes Keeping Claudia, it would be OneRepublic’s “Let’s Hurt Tonight.” The song’s lyrics talk about lovers locking themselves together and getting it all out. We inherently understand that this couple has some difficult things to talk about that will most likely hurt the other, but they know if they’re going to stay together, they need to do it. Truths thrown like daggers from a loved one is a daunting showdown. Could it possibly resuscitate a waning relationship?
Check out KC’s playlist at: https://open.spotify.com/user/12121083994/playlist/3mWYN1zoeSJeAapHWFUli3
Oh, I LOVE that you have a playlist to share with us! Besides sharing music with them, what is the main thing you want readers to take away from your book?
A: I hope readers will be moved and inspired by the stories. I’m an advocate of personal growth, and I intentionally wrote to reflect that. Toby and Claudia face some disconcerting truths about themselves and their past. I believe the stories most powerful message comes from seeing the two of them become more self-aware. They realize if they keep doing what they’ve always done, the end result will be much the same. And they won’t ever truly be happy. They need to make a choice to change and follow through. I want my readers to come away from my stories stirred up, to believe that no matter what situation they consider themselves ‘locked into,’ there’s always a way out.
A hidden or uncommon talent that helps to write the story?
I am an empathetic person. I tune into people’s emotions like radio frequencies. I’m that person in line at the store listening to an unexpected earful of problems from a total stranger. ‘Empaths’ are known for being able to feel other’s pain and struggle. This can be overwhelming at times, and I have to limit my exposure to it, but this apprehension helps me relate to a variety of people and behaviors, and it translates extremely well in my writing. I am able to offer credible character perspectives.
Being empathetic, I can relate to that. Sometimes I come off as distant or indifferent, which I probably am, but it comes from the need to protect myself. When I forget to put up the shields, it becomes messy, and difficult to rein in….
What has been one of your most rewarding experiences as an author?
Having readers contact me to express how a story affected them. A woman found me on Facebook to tell me how my book, Saving Toby, impacted her emotionally. At the time, she’d been going through a difficult time, much like the series’ male protagonist. In the story, Toby receives a Saint Jude pendant and draws strength from it. The reader really connected to this and told me Saint Jude had become a sign of hope for her. In the days following, she came across the saint several times. I love that story.
Which kind of scenes are the hardest for you to write? Action, dialogue, sex?
I would say intimate sex scenes are the hardest, not so much because I can’t visualize and put words to the scene, but because it’s likely my mother and my kids will read it. They are all adults, but it’s an uncomfortable thought. While writing scenes of that nature, I really have to separate myself from those thoughts and only channel the characters.
Is marriage outdated?
This question is a perfect question for Keeping Claudia as one of the main conflicts is the characters’ differing belief on traditions. We are a world of many personalities and a traditional marriage can’t possibly suit everyone. Unfortunately, we are also a disposable society where a long-term commitment to anything has lost its appeal. We’ve grown accustomed to immediate gratification and are impatient with waiting for, or having to do, something that takes long stretches of concentrated effort to work out. People connect strongly to my characters because they’re like all of us, they’re impatient, fallible and their struggles realistic. In the end though, they realize the relationship they have is something worth fighting for. Love and marriage are often like that. I believe marriage can and does work, as long as a couple is committed to it.
Pen or computer.
Computer. I can barely read my own handwriting these days.
Music or silence.
Music. I love music playing in the background.
Alone or in public.
Alone. Writing is solitary endeavor, but I can’t be alone too often or for too long. Connecting with people replenishes the well.
Routine or when inspiration struck.
When inspiration strikes! If I have to force it, it’s probably not a story I want to tell … or one you’d want to read.
Outline or just write.
Just write. I unconsciously outline in my head prior to writing.
Thank you for sharing some of your thoughts with us, Suzanne. It’s honestly been a pleasure!
You can follow the other stops of Suzanne’s tour here:
Now, my friends, back to business. Keeping Claudia (Toby & Claudia #2) is an Adult, Contemporary, Romance released in June.
How do you love someone whose past goes against everything you’ve ever known or trust in a future you’ve yet to believe in?
Back home in a town she once fled, headstrong Claudia Chiametti returns to the arms of the only guy ever to awaken her heart. Everything about Toby contradicts her family’s traditions and values, but she’s ready to take a chance on love.
Toby Faye is a new man, and the girl he’s long dreamed of is finally within his reach. With Claudia’s help, he’s put the past behind him. But one last secret hides in the dark corner of his past. The one that could undermine it all.
Can Claudia love him unconditionally … or will the truth cost Toby what he wants most?
Keeping Claudia is the emotional finale to the love story that began in Saving Toby, an unforgettable journey of a couple who discover the only way to love someone is with an open heart.
Falling in love is easy. Staying in love is hard.
Full length, Contemporary Love Story.
Recommended Reading Age 18+
Though part of a series, may be read as standalone.
SAVING TOBY is her debut novel. The literary love story follows the moving journey of a damaged young man and his love for a girl who might just save him. An avid interest in psychology has Suzanne digging deep into the reasons for her characters’ behaviors. The native Long Islander is fascinated by the how and why of people’s actions. As a result, her characters come to life on the pages.