Please join me in welcoming Suzanne Trauth, playwright and author of the Dodie O’Dell Mystery Series, which ties her love of theater together with the novel form. Her newest novel, released this past summer, What Remains of Love follows the main character as she grieves for and learns about her father’s life. Her experience writing plays for stage and screen comes through in the first-person present tense voice of this intriguing and emotional novel.
What is your favorite book (or other source) about the craft of writing? Why?
Suzanne: Save the Cat! Writes a Novel. I love both this book and the original screenwriting version: Save the Cat! What I appreciate is the structural approach to writing a novel: the author outlines a clear, three act structure with detailed examples. She helps me move from point A to point B, with a logical step-by-step process. And yet she isn’t dogmatic about it!
Sarah: This is the first mention I think I’ve had about Save the Cat! I’ve only glanced briefly, but this inspires me to look further. It makes sense to me, given that the original was about screenwriting and you have written both drama (play & screenplay) and novel. I’m curious about your experience writing in these different styles – script and novel, but also emotional drama and mystery series.
Suzanne: I enjoy exploring a range of artistic styles. For example, I think writing screenplays really helps me when it comes to structure and dialogue. Also plays, but less so than screenplays where the three act structure is so specific. I realize some folks may not respond to this kind of strict story shape but I find it provides me with a productive “lesson plan.” So I have no trouble, or at least not much trouble, jumping from drama to fiction.
What do you like most about writing a first draft?
Suzanne: I love the freedom, the ability to create with limited restrictions, the permission to write a messy, even convoluted, draft. Anything is possible!
What is your favorite part of revision?
Suzanne: Having done it! Seriously, I enjoy watching character, plot, and stakes come together…seeing detailed moments crystallize. It’s at this point that I’m able – hopefully – to convince myself that I have a story worth telling.
What book (not about writing) are you reading right now or have you recently finished that you would recommend to others? Why?
Suzanne: I just finished Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden. He does a fantastic job of creating a world within which characters fight their demons while negotiating their love for one another. It is an uncommon, not frequently seen setting: an Indian reservation in South Dakota. I highly recommend this book.
Sarah: Thank you for mentioning this book. It’s been on my to-read pile, but I’m moving it to the top!
Can you give an example of how you have been kind to someone else recently, in real life or through one of your characters?
Suzanne: Well…this week a friend and former colleague is contemplating retirement and trying to negotiate a pathway through health care plans while debating the date of potential surgery. I suppose my kindness was, first of all, serving as a sounding board, and then answering questions, checking out my current health plan, and offering some advice. It can be overwhelming to sort out options. I hope I was a help.
Sarah: Indeed, sorting out the options can be an immense task. I imagine it was a help, even just to know one has a friend to turn to. Thank you for sharing.