Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Bookworm's Tale

I’ve always been a bookworm. 

We moved around a lot when I was growing up so every few years we picked up stakes and went to a new place, wherever IBM sent my dad.  By the time I was thirteen, I’d lived in five different cities (four different states), and I’d been enrolled in four different schools.  It made it hard to keep friendships when we never stayed anywhere for very long.  The only thing I could count on in those days was books.

In fact, I loved books so much that I built my own library, putting pockets with cards inside the front cover.  I got a date stamp, and I made my brother and sister check books out.  To this day, they’re not big readers.  Hmm, wonder if I had anything to do with that?

When I was in fifth grade, I tried my hand at writing novels.  I have three saved in a box in the basement.  One is about two pals and a dog who solve crimes, another is an illustrated tale about a pair of nice monsters, and the third is a mystery called THE SECRET OF THE FORBIDDEN TEMPLE.  I even made a fancy cover for that one.  Inside the back flap, I listed “Other Books by Susan McBride” and made up a bunch of titles. 

I should have realized back then that I was destined to write.  But it took awhile longer for me to figure that out.  I didn’t seriously consider becoming a novelist until I was 19 and between transferring colleges.  My family was road-tripping to my grandparents’ house for Christmas, and I had an epiphany.  “I will write a book!” a little voice inside my head announced as I sat in the back seat, trying to keep a safe distance from my little brother.  I dug out a notepad and pen from my purse, and I started scribbling then and there.  What I ended up writing—a 600-page historical romance called THE THORN OF THE ROSE—was never published.  But I did send it out to various editors and agents who encouraged me to keep at it. So I did.

Every year after I graduated college, I penned a new manuscript.  I had at least ten done before I signed a book contract after winning a writing contest.  A small press published AND THEN SHE WAS GONE and OVERKILL, and I started doing the mystery circuit, meeting lots of other authors (many of whom became good friends).  I signed with a New York agent who got me a three-book deal with Avon for my Debutante Dropout Mysteries, starting with BLUE BLOOD in 2004 and ending with TOO PRETTY TO DIE in 2008.  That agent and I amicably parted ways about the time my second mystery came out in 2005, but I found the perfect match with another agency (I'm still with 'em, and I love them to pieces!).

In 2006, around the time my third mystery hit bookshelves, one of my agents lunched with a Random House editor who was looking for an author to write about debutantes in the South, kind of like GOSSIP GIRL with a drawl.  That’s when I devised THE DEBS, the debut of my young adult series that features four Houston prep school seniors during their debutante season.  (And, yes, debutantes still exist!  Even though I’ve gotten emails asking, “Didn’t debs go the way of the dinosaur?”)  The second of my Debs tales, LOVE, LIES, AND TEXAS DIPS, came out in 2009, and a third, GLOVES OFF, is (sadly) in publishing limbo!  Why didn't I make them vampire debutantes?  Yeesh.

My first stab at women's fiction, THE COUGAR CLUB (HarperCollins, February 2010), allowed me to write about a subject near and dear to my heart:  being a woman over 40 in a society that’s totally freaked out by aging (well, by aging women).  I married a younger man, and I didn’t chase him (and I don’t wear animal print), and I’ve met lots of other “accidental Cougars” since the book came out.  It’s been fun spreading the news that forty isn’t fatal.  Hopefully, I’ll get to revisit Carla, Elise, and Kat—my three Cougars—again!

But right now, I’m revising LITTLE BLACK DRESS, which is something entirely different.  It’s the story of two sisters and a daughter and a magical black dress that changes all their lives forever.  A pair of alternating viewpoints unravel the story, ultimately marrying the past and the present (and revealing a deep dark secret along the way).  One of my resolutions for 2011:  to find the perfect LBD to wear at book signings!

I’ve got two more books due this year: another women’s fiction title (yet to be determined) and a young adult thriller.  So even though my writing career took a good decade to get rolling, I’ve worked nonstop for the past 12 years, and it's been an amazing thing, getting to do what I love for a living.

My advice to aspiring authors:  read a lot, write a lot, and learn your craft.  Sometimes things don’t happen right off the bat for a reason.  Just keep putting words on paper and keep the faith!

Susan McBride is the author of The Cougar Club, named a Target Bookmarked Breakout Title and a Midwest Booksellers Association “Midwest Connections” Pick. She has also penned the award-winning Debutante Dropout Mysteries, including Blue Blood and Too Pretty to Die. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri, with her husband. Visit her web site at

**I’d love to give away a signed copy of THE COUGAR CLUB today!  If you’re interested, leave a comment, and I’ll draw the winner on Thursday morning.  Just part of the parade of GBC holiday giveaways!  Ah, I love this blog!


  1. Susan, there's so much that you've done that impresses and amazes me. I just LOVE that you started with a long historical romance at just 19...and also wrote mysteries and YA and, now, really fabulous women's fiction. I cannot wait to get my hands on LBD!! (And, someday, I'm going to sneak down to St. Louis and find that hidden copy of The Secret of the Forbidden Temple. Consider yourself forewarned. :)

  2. We led parallel lives up to sixth grade! And now we're sisters-in-editor. But I had no idea you'd published so many books! Congratulations, I loved this post and can't wait for LBD. Great title!

  3. "Vampire Debutantes"--I love it! Oh, Susan, I had a little library in my room, too. And my dad came in and checked out books to give me some "business" but went away on a business trip before he could return them. He was surprised (and amused) to find he'd racked up quite an overdue fine when he returned.

    Can't wait for LBD . . .

  4. You have a very busy year ahead of you. I like the way you've been able to write in more than one genre; that's enviable.

  5. Lol...and here I thought I was the only one to make library cards for my books. I even used to charge the neighborhood kids overdue fees. Lol.

    I hope you find the perfect little black dress. :D

  6. Melissa Keller ( 12, 2011 at 10:11 AM

    Love the story of perserverance to get to your dream! The fact that you had a library system is pretty comical too! As a fellow St. Louisan, I hope to see you at an author signing in the future! The Cougar Club sounds like one I definitely need to pick up.

  7. Hi Susan :)
    That was an excellent post.
    Thank you for sharing here.
    I did that "other books by" on my typed book in grade school too.
    Love the homemade library!
    Would you be able to self-publish GLOVES OFF via Kindle/Nook?

    All the best,

  8. I love that you made your own library when you were little! Do you still affix little pockets to your books when you loan them out?

  9. Marilyn, any time you to come to town and take a peek at FORBIDDEN TEMPLE, let me know. ;-) (And you impress and amaze me, too! So we're even!) Hugs!

    Cindy, yeah, I'm practically a publishing old-timer at this point. Strangely enough, with every book, it feels like I'm starting all over again! But then, every launch is pretty much a new beginning, isn't it?

    Judy, you had a library, too? I love it! Your dad obviously didn't read the library rules about returning books, did he? ;-) Too funny! Yes, vampire debutantes! I totally missed the boat there, didn't I? Phooey.

    Karin, what a nice compliment! It's been fun getting to try my hand at new things. I'd always hoped I could do that, but was warned early on that if I started in mystery, I should stay in mystery. I'm amazed no one's made me use a pseudonym, but that's been great. Easier for my family to know which books are mine. ;-)

    Joelle, you had a homemade library, too? Man, we should start a club! I hope I find the perfect LBD, too. First, I want to get back in shape then I'll go shopping!

    Melissa, yay, another St. Louis girl! Hope to meet you in the future, too. And enjoy COUGAR! There's lots of St. Louis stuff in there. :-)

    Hi, RK! So you must've had the writing bug in your genes from birth, too! I can't do anything with GLOVES OFF right now. My publisher still has the rights to the book and all its formats. But hopefully we can get something going one of these days. I feel awful every time I get an email saying, "When is it out? I need to know what happens!" So I'd sure love to resolve things. I'll keep crossing my fingers!

  10. Brenda, ha! That would be funny. My mother and I share books a lot, and I don't think she'd even blink if I loaned her one with a homemade library pocket in it. I'm surprised she didn't make my middle name "Quirky." ;-)

  11. Susan, now I've got a mission and it is to find you the perfect little black dress. Shouldn't be hard with your great bod! Maggie

  12. I love reading about writers and their journeys to publication and hope to have a story of my own someday. I wanted to be a writer when I realized that books didn't just magically appear on shelves but that people sat down at typewriters and wrote the words themselves. And most of all, I keep telling myself that late-bloomers like me will bloom someday.

  13. Maggie, have at it, girl! Although my bod is less than, er, fit at the moment. Must work on that soon.

    Michele, I think late-bloomers write the most fabulous books! Having lived life and experienced more makes for juicier stories. So write on!!!

  14. Thanks, BRN2SHOP9!!! (Hmm, I'm thinking with that screen name you might know just where to get a great little black dress). :-)

  15. I think we are kindred spirits :)
    When I was little we moved quite a bit as well and I always had a book with me starting at age 5 (still carry one everywhere). My dad used to tease me because we would be at the Chicago Bulls game and I would be on the floor of our box with a bag of books! ha
    Thanks for keeping us all inspired, I am about to start writing my second book...I needed a little nudge to stay positive and keep at it! xoxo

  16. Enjoyed the inspiring post, Susan! Looking for a little black dress sounds like a fun goal! And can't wait to read the book! Hugs!

  17. I am real interested in reading 'The Cougar Club". My first husband was three years younger than me and my second husband is nine years younger than me. I dated one man who was older than me by three years. One date only, he seemed like he was from different generation. He liked big muscle cars, Big Band music and lots of things that wer so different from me. I would like to find out what the cougars in this book found in their younger men. Very interested!!!!!


  18. Even though I'm married I have been called a cougar by people who I don't think know what it means! And by contrast my 32 year old engaged daughter has been called a lynx! We both have older men so I don't get it. Maybe your book can explain...:)

  19. SweetMelissa, I love the story about your taking a bag of books to a Bulls game! That's awesome! And, yes, get cracking on that second book! I think with everything we write, we strengthen our literary muscles a little more. :-)

    Thanks, Marian! I'm going to have to post later this year about my hunt for the perfect LBD. We'll see how it goes! (I can't wait for you to read the book, too! Now if I could just get finished with these revisions....) ;-)

    Carol, wow, two younger husbands! You have me beat by one! My hubby is nine years younger, too, and it works out well. If we end up with our soul mates, age doesn't really matter, eh? I'll be drawing for THE COUGAR CLUB winner tomorrow! So check back to see what happens!

    Ruthie, I don't even know what a lynx is! You'll have to tell me! I'm married, and I get called a Cougar, too, since my husband is younger (and looks even younger than he is). I can't wait until he gets a few gray hairs and wrinkles! ;-)

  20. Wow you've got a lot of books due! Both Little Black Dress and The Cougar Club look really interesting ^.^

    Sniffly Kitty
    Sniffly Kitty's Mostly Books
    Loving the Reviews Challenge

  21. I love how you had your siblings check out books when you were younger. Thanks for the amazing giveaway. I would love to read this :)

    mrsjohnson1982 at yahoo dot com

  22. The Cougar Club sounds like a really good book. Usually those Target Bookmarked Breakout Titles are great books. I'll have to look for it.

  23. Hi Susan, I love your books, and look forward to the next one! I also admire your ability to move between genres. I always feel like that's the mark of an incredible writer: mysteries, YA, women's fiction. Is there any genre you don't think you could get comfortable with? Great post, thoroughly enjoyed it!

  24. Thanks for sharing your journey, Susan. I love reading successful authors path to publication. As an aspiring writer, your story of perseverance is inspirational. Perseverance is my WORD for 2011. Thanks for reinforcing my decision to choose that word.

  25. Sniffly Kitty, thanks for stopping by! Yep, I'll be whining about deadlines all year. My husband is thrilled. ;-)

    MissReneer, thank you for coming by! I would love for you to read COUGAR, too. :-)

    Greeneyedmom, I agree that Target picks some real winners. I was unbelievably thrilled when they chose THE COUGAR CLUB, and they kept it on their shelves from February through August 2010 (so it's not there anymore). I--and plenty of my friends!--took pics of it on the Bookmarked Breakout shelves for posterity, though! ;-)

    Laura, thanks so much! It's been amazing, having the chance to write in different genres. I really love trying new things (although it's always scary at first!). Hmm, I'm not sure I could pen a fantasy novel or science fiction. But you never know! (Hey, hope your debut is going insanely well, btw!)

  26. Hi, jweatherholt! Very happy you enjoyed the post. I'm a big proponent of hanging in there and working hard for what you want. Love that it's your mantra for 2011! Go, j, go!

  27. Susan, I loved your post and learning so much about your life, and the dreams of a young girl can come true!! I read and wrote most of my youth, and mercy I hope no one ever digs out my journals and reads them...not to worry, they are well packed.
    So what is a Cougar? My husband is 6 years younger, but I just thought he was terribly mature..ha ha. I'd love to read the book, and having grown up in St. Louis I might recognize some places. I also went to Univ of Mo-Columbia, so I have fond MO memories.
    Best wishes on your new books, LBD sounds great.

  28. Here's to another 12 years of nonstop work, Susan!

  29. Hey, Anita! A Cougar is supposedly a woman who pursues/dates younger guys. I think with a hubby six years younger, you could qualify! When I started dating my husband (who's nine years younger), my family and friends started calling me "Cougar." I just laughed and reminded them, "He chased me!" I've found there are lots of women out there married to younger guys (sometimes MUCH younger) who're called "Cougars" now and they didn't do any chasing either. I'm not sure who invented the term, but a lot of women despise it (as I learned once THE COUGAR CLUB came out!). Yes, I think you'd definitely recognize some St. Louis places in the book. Ah, so you're a Mizzou Tiger! I'm a Jayhawk, so I'm not sure we're supposed to be speaking (just kidding!). Thanks for your good wishes for LBD! So glad you stopped by GBC!

    Thanks, Lauren! I would love that! Er, should I knock on wood or something? ;-)

  30. Loved your post Susan, especially about making your own library. I have thought about doing that myself recently lol. Everyone always wants to borrow and read my books it is so hard to keep track of who has what. Thank you for sharing your stories with us :)

  31. Tiffany, thanks! Got you entered in the drawing just in time.

    My hubby came home at lunch and drew the winner's name from a hat (okay, a wooden bowl!). It's...Melissa Keller! You're getting a signed copy of THE COUGAR CLUB. Hope you enjoy it! (You should have a note from me about the GBC Giveaway in your email-box already.) Thanks so much to everyone who commented! :-)