Easy as Pie at Bobby’s Diner: Interview with women’s fiction author Susan Wingate

Award-winning author, Susan Wingate, gets a monthly column about writing and the publishing industry in her local newspaper, The Journal of the San Juan Islands. She will also be posting weekly discussions about the writing industry for the regional online newspaper, the PNWLocalNews.com site.

You can view Wingate’s discussions by clicking on the “Entertainment” tab and then finding Wingate’s discussions under the “Blogs” section of the Entertainment Page.

Born in Phoenix, Arizona to James & Amie Ajamie (a writer and an artist, respectively), Susan Wingate tried to fly, at age five off the roof of their family house using newspaper, wire hangers and scotch tape. She’s been dreaming of flying ever since. Oh, by the way, she never jumped. Her mother ran out in the nick of time to stop her from take-off.

Wingate realized her dreams when she entered the world of writing. At first, she only wrote songs and poetry but then her writing blossomed when she tried her hand at fiction. In 1997, she devoted her days to writing and in 2004, she began writing full-time. Since then, Susan has written several plays, one screenplay, one short story collection and seven novels with two more scheduled to be written in 2010. In 2008, she started writing a memoir.

A lover of the arts, Susan draws and paints abstracts using oil as her favored medium. She has taken up playing the violin (it’s been a squeakly start) and she loves the theatre. Susan lives in Washington State.

Wingate’s novel, Bobby’s Diner, received three finalist awards in the following book competitions:

■2010 International Book Awards,

■2009 National Book Awards (USA Book News),

■2009 Next Generation Indie Book Awards

In May 2010, two of Wingate’s novels were released, they are:

■A FALLING OF LAW, and

EASY AS PIE AT BOBBY’S DINER (the no. 2 book in the Bobby’s Diner Series)

“Camouflage,” Wingate’s fourth novel (written as Myah Lin) received a Finalist Award and an Editor’s Choice Award in the 2009 Textnovel Writing Contest.

To date, Wingate has written seven novels, two short story collections, a memoir, hundreds of poems, a few plays for theatre and one screenplay.

Her books can be found online and in bookstores across the country and her articles, short stories and poetry can be found in magazines, journals and reviews.

Locally, Wingate volunteers with the San Juan Island Library. She offers workshops, readings and presentations at writing conferences, bookstores and libraries throughout the country.

You can visit her website at www.susanwingate.com.

Thank you for this interview, Susan. Can you tell us what your latest book, EASY AS PIE AT BOBBY’S DINER, is all about?

Well, thank you for the opportunity to plug my book a little. Yes, I can tell you a bit about EASY AS PIE. First off, it’s the number 2 book in the Bobby’s Diner Series. The third and fourth books will follow late in 2011 and early in 2012, respectively. However, EASY AS PIE tells the tale of returning protagonist, Georgette Carlisle. Georgette is the owner/chef of Bobby’s Diner which is located in Sunnydale, Arizona on a nowhwere strip of land between Phoenix and Bullhead City. In this book, Georgette has just gotten engaged and things seem great until her old friend, Helen returns from a five-year stint in Seattle.

Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Love to.

Georgette Carlisle is a southern gal. She doesn’t attempt to be one of the upper crust but her diner makes a killing there on this corridor strip of land as people travel from Phoenix on their way to Las Vegas.

Roberta is the daughter of Bobby (after which the diner is named). She is the mayor of Sunnydale but also helps out at the diner where she grew up.

Helen is an old friend who shows back up in Sunnydale after living in Seattle for about five years where she tried to become a writer but failed.

Hawthorne is Georgette’s new love-interest.

Willy is the police chief of Sunnydale who has always had a soft spot for Georgette.

Zach Pinzer is a land developer who has always had his eye out on the land under which Bobby’s Diner sits.

Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

I usually use a combination of both. I ALWAYS use the bodies of people I know. Let me explain… I will visualize a person who I feel is the perfect body-type for my characters then I blend in new psychological traits, background information and all that personality stuff we writers must do before writing toward a character. But, using someone else’s body makes the writing of each character’s physcial traits so much more easy. When I use a person’s body it might be someone I know well or not. I often use actors as well. I can think about, say, Clint Eastwood and develop the character’s new personality around the image of Clint Eastwood.

Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

I am always aware of the plot before I write a novel. If a writer doesn’t have a firm grip on the progress the story will take, the writing will float around, become leggy and usually goes off too often into back story. I use outlines after I get a good idea of how my story will proceed—the overarcing idea. I begin by understanding my character, then I ask myself how will my character get out of the trouble I will be putting her in, THEN, I fill in the middle. That’s my first step. The second step is to develop a very complete and expanded outline and then the third step is to write to the outline.

Your book is set in Sunnydale, Arizona.  Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

Sunnydale, AZ is a fictional town fashioned after a real place called Wikieup, AZ. I love Wikieup and have passed through it many times while traveling through Arizona. I grew up in Arizona and was born in Phoenix. My father used to drive us all around the state and we usually passed through Wikieup on our travels. It’s a great place.

Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

The setting becomes a major part of the story because it’s a perfect small town in which a large developer want to take control. The town sits on a corridor highway and a developer has always wanted to turn the spot Bobby’s Diner sits on into the latest, great new Sedona. He has high hopes of doing so and he will stop at nothing to get the land.

Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

Roberta is telling Georgette that she needs to clear the air with Helen. She is explaining to her that if she does not, she will always have wished she had. That it will eat at her the rest of her life.

Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

I’m happy to.

Chapter 2

The day began with Georgette Carlisle reading  about NASA slamming a rocket into the moon. No one really cared. It was only the moon, not Jupiter or Saturn. The moon, somehow, had slid onto a backlist of newsworthiness by current day standards.

The day coasted out of sight into a flotsam of more noteworthy press and seemed to fade against the furor still being aired and printed about Michael Jackson. Things seemed topsy-turvy. It was the exact same day, Georgette had posted her first ever monthly recipe contest on Facebook. So, when her old friend called, the moon’s event slid into other things that didn’t seem quite important at the moment but would, eventually, change people’s lives.

Helen tried to hide a tone of desperation in her voice. Georgette still heard it. Call it intuition. Call it what you will, Georgette heard a tightness in her speech.

Even with her friend hundreds of miles south, even through the tiny phone, the one she pictured Helen holding to her face, Georgette imagined her lithe jaw line quivering as she spoke into her cell phone somewhere outdoors, her mousy almost colorless hair unruly around her face, a ballet hand grappling at the wispy thin strands as she looked around the busy street corner in Phoenix, cars rushing past her like hot wind and, as if Georgette were standing there with her, she imagined a nervous frown bridging her forehead, causing that single soft fold to form between the skin of her eyebrows.

She saw her glossy lips moving over each fractured word.

The two women, complete opposites in mind and body. But, Georgette knew this woman well. Always cloaked in something. Always scheming.

Even so, she still trusted Helen, with reservations, of course. Helen, although slippery at times, Georgette believed, would remain a true friend.

The call startled Georgette. A mounting bank of clouds trimmed the perimeter of Sunnydale’s desert landscape and threatened action.

It was early morning, a time when the diner’s kitchen remained quiet in a soulful way, the way only early morning hours can produce. Except for chopping food on the butcher block counter’s soft wood, the place at this time, remained perfectly peaceful.

She had been dicing up a chunk of milk chocolate for a mousse she planned to serve as a special dessert that night. The cocoa scent attacked her nose and sent a pang of hunger like a knife into her gut.

First, the unnerving quality of the ring on her cell, something she hardly used but kept on just in case, made her jump. In fact, the ringtone, Beethoven’s Fifth she’d chosen for unknown callers.

Hearing those first disturbing solemn four chords, da da da dum, and then its second set the same but different, made her look around, wondering for a second what the sound was and where it came from.

Until she figured out the ringing originated from her own purse.

Seeing her name displayed Georgette realized Helen had gone from using her married name to using her maiden name again, Wellen. She quickly flipped open the cell.

Thank you so much for this interview, Susan.  We wish you much success!

Thank you, Dorothy. I had fun with all of your great questions.

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Dorothy Thompson is CEO/Founder of Pump Up Your Book, a full service public relations agency specializing in online book promotion agency.
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