Dash-Board Interview – Suzanne Kalb

25 May

Welcome to my Dash-Board member Suzanne Kalb. Suzanne and I actually met at a lock-in (okay, a realllllly long retreat, but sometimes it felt like an old-school lock-in 🙂 ) a few months after I started writing. So it’s really exciting to kind of come full circle with her!

Let’s start off with a short bio:

Born and raised in LA, I’ve spent the last 23 years on the east coast with my husband and 4 kids. I’ve been writing all my life, but only recently focused my voice in contemporary single title and YA.

Tell me a little about your GH book. (can be a blurb, one liner, pitch or just a casual description)

A jock and a brainy artist want nothing more than to get to college and start their futures, but when the principal forces them to work together on a project to make up for missing credits, the rush to leave town turns into a fight against time.

What’s the opening line.

Castle Parkhurst glanced at the clock.

Exciting, I know. But it gets better after that!

Tell me about your GH call… and aftermath J

Honestly, I wasn’t thinking about the GH. I’d entered the book hastily—not wanting to miss yet another year of entering the GH because of timing.

That morning, I’d received contest results for one I hadn’t finaled in. I opened up the file to an unusually low score. I zeroed in on the particulars to find she’d given me a 1 (on a scale of 1-5) for conflict, dialogue, pacing, plotline, description, and synopsis. She offered a 2 for mechanics. There wasn’t a page of the entry that didn’t have whole passages crossed out. She changed words, sentences, paragraphs, and the entire premise of my story. A weight settled over me, and I couldn’t think for all the noise in my head.

That’s when the phone rang. I didn’t recognize the area code or the last name: Landry. So when she told me I’d finaled in the Golden Heart, I cried. I was very quiet. And then I asked, Are you sure? My husband stood nearby, anxious to find out why I was crying. As soon as I hung up, he pulled me against him and held me tightly. He whispered, You deserve this. And that’s when I snapped out of it. I realized that my first reaction had been—No, it can’t be. How could I final in the GH?

But he put it into perspective. I’ve been writing for decades. I’ve studied my craft. I’ve written like a professional for years. I don’t believe I deserved to final—but I definitely earned it for the number of manuscripts written, contests entered, conferences/retreats attended, craft books studied, on-line classes taken. And then I went back and looked at the contest entry and realized that anyone who felt the need to change my ms so entirely was not really even reading my story. She was trying to change my voice to hers.

What got you started writing?

When I was 12, I read Harriet, the Spy. I loved it. I bought a journal and started taking notes on the activities of my neighbors, friends, family. From that moment on, I was a journal writer. I have countless boxes of them. As far back as I can remember, I had dream sets. They were stories I saw in my mind each night to put me to sleep. Never once did I consider myself a writer. I didn’t have the burning desire for others to read my work. Just the burning desire to spin them. Then, in my mid-twenties, when my friend and I were hiking, we came upon a strange sight and I started making up a story about it. She said, You should be a writer. That was it, right there. The moment I set myself on this path. Together, my friend and I began writing screenplays. Then, I moved away, had a baby, and continued writing on my own. I hit a wall with screenplays and tried a creative exercise: I’d write down one of those dream sets. It turned into a 650-page novel. I loved it! I’d found my medium.

Have you always written YA?

I’ve written 2 YAs. Most of my books are contemporary single titles.

What’s your book’s or character’s theme music?

This book had no music! I’m not sure why. Each book has a totally different process, and this one has no sound.

Now, let’s do the fast money round!

Chocolate or Vanilla?

Oh, chocolate!

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter?

Summer, absolutely!

Movies or TV

Movies for sure!

Hot or Cold

Definitely hot.

Beach or Mountains


Travel or Staycation

I’m a travel nut.

Soccer Boys or Some Other Sport Guys (yes, we’re a little partial here at Luv YA)


Silly or Serious

Equal parts of each.

Early or Late Bloomer

Proudly, the latter.

Morning Glory or Night Owl

There aren’t enough hours of the day, so I could keep on reading or writing or baking or catching up on email, but since I always wake up around six, I find I’m more cheerful to be around if I go to bed early. Did I answer the question?

Since we’ve been doing Quirky Facts on the GH Loop – share the quirkiest one you have… about you J

I couldn’t decide between 2 major quirks, so I’m giving you 2 for the price of 1. 1: I spread my butter, peanut butter, honey, jam all the way to the edge of the bread, bagel, English muffin. There are no untended spots in the garden of my meal. It’s beyond my control. 2: I absorb lyrics. Car + music + singing my heart out = my bliss. I HEAR lyrics and remember them for ages. Love music, love singing.

18 Responses to “Dash-Board Interview – Suzanne Kalb”

  1. Sharon May 25, 2011 at 9:21 am #

    Brainy geek is forced to work with jock? Sounds adorable. Jocks scared me to death in high school. Congrats on your GH! Have you ever noticed that the lyrics to Louie Louie sound like they were sung by someone who just ate a perfectly peanut-buttered piece of toast?

  2. Jenn May 25, 2011 at 9:27 am #

    What a great interview, Suzanne! Your GH story made me absolutely tear up. I’m so glad to be meeting you soon!

  3. Madeleine Carter May 25, 2011 at 12:53 pm #

    When does your first book come out?? We’re waiting…

  4. Suzanne May 25, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

    Thank you, Jenn. Seems it’s as long a road to self-esteem as it is to publication! I can’t believe we’re a month away from the conference–do you have your dress yet?!

  5. Suzanne May 25, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

    And I’d like to add that the “lock-in” Bria describes was actually a beach-front house in South Carolina, more commonly referred to by the other guests as a RETREAT! With the inimitable Jenny Crusie as our instructor. So, please, no tears for the poor “convicts.”

    Thanks for having me here today, Bria!

  6. briaq May 25, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

    LOL – that’s true! Suzanne, I and 3 other lucky ladies got to work with Jenny.

  7. Suzanne May 25, 2011 at 3:28 pm #

    Why did jocks scare you, Sharon?! They pretty much ignored me, so there wasn’t much interaction to instill fear in me! Thank you for the congrats. It’s exciting to be a finalist, that’s for sure. I can’t say that I’ve ever considered the song in those terms, but I’ll be sure to give it a special listen. Amazon, here I come!

  8. Suzanne May 25, 2011 at 3:29 pm #

    Yeah, uh, lemme get back to you on that publication date, Madeleine–working on it!

  9. Laurie May 25, 2011 at 5:22 pm #

    I am a big fan of Suzanne’s work. Her writing is fresh and unique and I love her brand of humor. You go, Girl!

  10. Gwen Hernandez May 25, 2011 at 6:13 pm #

    Suzanne: I love your idea of dream sets. That’s what I was doing before I started writing. Making up little vignettes and love stories in my head before falling asleep. Only later did I realize there was a market for them.

    And I’m so with you on the edge-to-edge toppings! Why should only the middle be tasty? 😉

  11. Shoshana Brown May 25, 2011 at 7:29 pm #

    Another vote for edge-to-edge toppings here. Who wants to eat that bit at the edge of the english muffin that doesn’t have any jam?

  12. Suzanne May 25, 2011 at 8:15 pm #

    Aha, Gwen and Shoshana, not only sistren in GH’11 but sistren in total food coverage! And Gwen, VERY glad to hear I’m not alone with the dream sets. Okay, vignettes. Much more mature. Thank you both for stopping by today!

  13. Suzanne May 25, 2011 at 8:17 pm #

    Thank you, Laurie! I’m so glad to see you here!

  14. briaq May 25, 2011 at 8:23 pm #

    I loved that too…. Actually, I often skip reading before bed to go tell myself a story into sleepy land. Of course, this isn’t the type of thing you can admit to those non-writer folks.

    Great post Suzanne!

  15. Suzanne May 25, 2011 at 10:13 pm #

    Hm, wonder how many of us do that, Bria? Sistren…!

  16. Kerry Armstrong July 25, 2011 at 9:40 pm #

    Suzanne! the Suzanne who introduced me to journal writing as we roamed northern France?
    If it is you, I knew you could do it!!!!

  17. Suzanne July 27, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

    OMG, Kerry! You found me! How exciting! I can’t wait to catch up with you!

  18. briaq August 1, 2011 at 8:04 pm #

    My work here is done.

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