Susan Heyboer O'Keefe                                                   
                                        

Did you always want to be a writer?
Yes, always and forever, and before always and forever. I wanted to be other things, but each one was an AND. I was going to be a ballerina AND a writer. A fireman AND a writer. A missionary AND a writer. 

 

A missionary?

It’s a Catholic thing.

 

Do you have any weird writing rituals?

I wear big headphones while I work. I’m not listening to music, and they’re not blocking out any noise. I just…have to…wear them. When I do need to block out noise, I wear earplugs: not those sissy little foam things, but the ones that look like huge wads of wax. Once they settle into place, they’re super effective. And then, of course, I put the headphones on.

 

Which is easier to write—picture books or novels?
They're both very hard. A picture book leaves no room for mistakes. When you goof, it's like the Mona Lisa on a bad hair day. A hat is not going to hide it. On the other hand, novels require stamina. You can work on a picture book anywhere, anytime—just by thinking. But no matter how much mental developing and problem solving you can do with a novel, at some point you have to spend actual, huge, daunting chunks of time physically writing it.

 

What are your worst habits?

I drive myself too hard and I always demand perfection…Oops. wait. That’s the answer for a job interview. I love computer games too much. My current favorites are Snood Slide and Spider Solitaire. I don’t like timed games. And I don’t like shoot-’em-up games, because I have no physical dexterity.

What’s your favorite book?

There’s only one possible way I could have a favorite book, and that’s if I’d read just one book in my entire life. Heaven is going to have a huge library, with open borrowing privileges, every single book ever written (including those by aliens), unlimited copies of every book so there's no wait list, and no fines for overdue books.

 

Well, how about three books if you were stranded on a deserted island?

One would be Getting Off Deserted Islands for Dummies. Seriously, being stranded on a deserted island is an ideal situation for a digital book-reader thingy with its ability to hold a thousand books. I’m not mentioning any particular brand of digital book-reader thingy, but I would willingly accept a gift of such, in exchange for product placement in the answer to this very question.

 

Is it a problem coming up with ideas?

Never! There are so many ideas everywhere that the real problem is trying to decide which one to work on. For example, here's an idea: This is not a real interview, but a writer pretending to be interviewed, and asking herself only questions whose answers won’t make people hate her. Now that has possibilities!

 

What’s your advice for people just starting out?

Read everything, including outside your genre, and above and below the age of your audience. Don’t take rejection personally. Don't take acceptance personally. Rewrite when different people have the same criticism. Set up a regular routine that allows you to write as often and as long as you can. Write something new; don't keep rewriting and submitting the same thing. Limit rejection-sulking to one day. And never, ever give up.

 

Which parrot do you like best?
Ha! How many grapes did they promise you for asking this question?

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