This month's spotlighted author loves libraries, magical books, and dresses. Need I say more?
Susan Maupin Schmid is the author of the 100 Dresses series. The first book, If The Magic Fits, follows Darling Dimple, a worker in the palace who discovers a closet full of magical dresses. When Darling puts on a dress, she transforms into different people in the palace. Darling soon discovers how much she'll need the dresses. She unearths an evil plot in the castle, as well as more magic than she could have ever guessed.
Susan herself is a dress aficionado (read on to hear about the dresses she's sewn for her books!) and a lover of libraries. Both of these things earn major points in my book. Read on to hear her share her best advice for aspiring authors, tell about Red Sox bobbleheads, and, of course, talk about dresses.
Your book If The Magic Fits features beautiful, magical dresses. Did you have a favorite dress?
"Thirty-six is a favorite. I sewed 18 inch-sized versions of some the dresses, including Thirty-six. Readers can view them on the Candace’s Closet page on my website: SusanMaupinSchmid.com."
If you could turn into any person when you put a dress on, who would you turn into?
"The Royal Dress Designer, Madame Zerlina Trinket. Zerlina doesn’t appear until The Starlight Slippers, which is the third book in the 100 Dresses series, but she’s who I’d choose. Zerlina spends her time dreaming up fabulous creations and choosing gorgeous fabrics."
What does your writing space look like? What inspires you? What makes it hard for you to work?
"I share a small blue office with my husband, so it contains such mismatched things as a Red Sox bobblehead, a Corvette mousepad, and an antique portrait of my grandmother. I like to write when everything is quiet. I know some writers fill their offices with intriguing objects, but things don’t inspire me. Ideas do. What if there were a hundred dresses? Who would they belong to? And…how would their existence change things?"
What do you think is the hardest thing about writing? How do you overcome it?
"It is a toss-up between getting started and finishing…oh and the middle is tough too! Writing is hard, period. I think that most people who try it are surprised to discover that. It’s a little like juggling: characters, voice, pace, action, story-arc, mood (and on and on), you can’t drop any of those balls or your story will suffer. A key thing for me is knowing where I want to start, where I want to end, and why writing this particular story matters. I find the best stories matter deeply to the people who write them. My stock advice to new writers who ask, which of several ideas they should pursue, is always: find the one story you MUST tell and write that one."
What’s your favorite genre of book? Do you have any books that you’ve read over and over again?
"Fantasy, no mysteries! Maybe adventure? OK, a fantasy with mystery and adventure! Lord of the Rings, Pride and Prejudice, A Christmas Carol, Rebecca, and Half Magic are a few that I reread, usually every five to ten years. I think I circle back to certain authors because I learn so much about writing from reading them."
In your book If The Magic Fits, the main character Darling Dimple works in a palace. What job do you think you would have if you worked in a palace?
"I’d be one of the Royal Seamstresses, of course. I love to sew, especially the sort of things you almost never wear, fancy clothes like velvet cloaks and ball gowns."
Describe the first time your writing was published.
"My first published work was Lost Time, a science fiction novel, in 2008. Writers are always in a hurry to get published, but often wish that they could rewrite their first book and make it better. I’m no exception. I’d rewrite Lost Time. There are things I’ve learned about writing since then that would make it a better book. That’s true of If the Magic Fits too."
How long does it take you to start writing a book? Do you like to mull over an idea for a while or start writing right away?
"Years. I have a file of story ideas that date back to…a while ago. When I heard Eleanor Estes’ book, The Hundred Dresses, read to me as a six-year-old. I was SO DISAPPOINTED that Wanda didn’t have any dresses! She should have! It would have shown Peggy and Maddie a thing or two. The 100 Dresses books rose up out of that early disappointment. I jokingly tell people that I’m still ten on the inside and it’s true in a way, I still remember vividly how I felt about things as a kid."
Do you read reviews of your books? Does that impact your writing at all?
"I appreciate that someone took the time to read and comment on my books! But I try to avoid reading them. Good reviews make you think that you know what you’re doing; bad reviews can undermine your confidence. I write my best when I focus on the next book, not the last."
What’s the absolute best thing about being an author?
"Letters from kids! I’ve received images of 100-dresses-inspired art projects and dioramas; I love those! Some of my readers are so talented. It touches me that they took the time to express themselves that way."
Finally, what piece of advice do you think is most important for aspiring authors?
"Be determined! It will take more effort than you thought, longer than you’d like, and be more challenging than you expect. It’s a little like pouring your heart out on paper for others to see (and possibly distain). But touching someone else’s heart with your words is absolutely priceless."