I began blogging about books in February of 2019. I had so much to learn about reviewing, publicity, and publishing, and I am so grateful for all of the reviewers and authors who guided and supported me. As many of you know, Dr. Shahnaz Ahmed is my first and best friend on Bookstagram, and we have been partnering together on her podcast, Living a Life Through Books, over the past year. What you may not know, however, is that Susan Miura is the first author to send me a copy of her book to review. A few weeks after I started posting, Susan sent me a direct message complimenting my reviews and asking me to read and review her young adult Christian fantasy book, Healer. I was home for spring break and was thrilled to share this new hobby and milestone with my family. I still remember having my mom record a video of me holding my first ever book mail package for my stories as I beamed from ear to ear with bookworm-ish delight.
I couldn’t have asked for a better first partnership. Susan’s book is populated with miracles—both ordinary and extraordinary—that make the world a better and brighter place, and she masterfully balances the anxieties and angst of the teenage experience with a hearty dose of heart, emotion, faith, and friendship. Even a year later, I still stand by my proclamation that Kenji, Shiloh’s love interest, is on my “top ten literary boyfriends” list.
Healer follows Shiloh, a seemingly normal teenager whose life is turned on its head when her prayer of healing for an injured child is miraculously fulfilled before her eyes. Shiloh must grapple under the weight of being a vessel of God’s power while also protecting herself and her loved ones from the prying eyes of the world.
If you love Healer, you’re in luck because it is part of a duology! Shards of Light, the captivating sequel, follows Shiloh and her friend Melody as they partake on separate journeys of self-discovery. Sent to an Italian convent for her protection, Shiloh leans more about her powers as Melody recovers from a career ending injury and strives to find her birth mother. From nuns taking down human trafficking organizations to heartfelt reunions to the introduction of a new love interest, Shards of Light will hold your attention until the very last page.
Below is my interview with Susan in which we discuss her writing and research process, her travels, and her passions.
If you had to describe yourself as an ice cream flavor, which would you choose and why?
Without a moment’s hesitation, Susan immediately identified herself with Moose Tracks. She explains that the mix of vanilla and rich, gooey peanut butter and fudge represent both sides of her personality: the quiet writer who likes her alone time and the adventurer.
Prayer and faith have a strong role in your books. How has your personal faith influenced and informed your writing?
As a Christian, Susan believes that her faith is what supports her in the good times and the bad and that her religion shapes how she treats others. Her faith has evolved and grown over time, and she infuses her understanding of being a Christian in her characters. People of faith are not angels or perfect she argues. Faith does not keep you from yelling or sobbing or having insecurities. Rather, Susan demonstrates that people of faith treat one another with compassion and love. In earlier drafts of Healer, Susan felt that her writing was too preachy. In her edits she focused on demonstrating her and her characters’ faith through their kind and selfless actions.
Where do you find inspiration for your teenage characters?
Susan is the proud mother of two young adults, and she fondly remembers that the house was filled with rock band practices and soccer gatherings when her son and daughter were teenagers. She studied the teens’ mannerisms and speech to bring authenticity to her own characters. Shiloh’s sister, Julia, was inspired by Susan’s daughter. Both young women are geniuses who are fascinated by geology. Shiloh’s friend, Melody, is based upon Susan’s friend who is of Nigerian descent. Her friend read the manuscript and provided advice and valuable cultural insights. Susan asks teens and young adults to beta read her manuscripts to ensure that her characters act and speak authentically. In fact, her daughter is the first person to read her work. Susan lauds her daughter’s keen eye and explains that if she were not pursuing a career in psychology that she would have been a wonderful editor or English teacher.
Speaking of research, how did you ensure that all of the details were correct?
Susan admits that it was a surprise for her that Melody was a ballerina. While she is familiar with soccer from her own children’s participation in the sport, she does not have personal experience with dance. However, it was important for her to give Melody a passion that was completely different than Shiloh’s. Susan reached out to the director of the Northwest Academy of Ballet who generously read the dancing scenes and corrected and rephrased them when necessary. Susan emphasizes that it is important to always have a Plan B and Plan C when searching for fact checkers. You don’t need a Plan B, she joked, when you’re asking your family. Her niece was able to provide insights about Melody’s injury because of her work as a physical therapist. Similarly, Susan’s husband, a retired police sergeant, provided her with guidance about her gang scenes.
What were your inspirations for Kenji and Shiloh’s relationship?
Susan voices an essential truth when she asserts that some things about dating and romance don’t change. Those raw emotions we experience, she believes, have been the same since the first people walked the earth. Susan drew on a combination of her memories of dating her husband and her observations of her daughter’s dating experiences. Susan laughingly says that her daughter and husband don’t hold back when they read her drafts, and their advice and insights help her to shape her characters in the most authentic way possible.
Tell me a little about your publishing process.
The secret recipe to publishing, according to Susan, is patience, heartache, and more patience. Because of her career in public relations, Susan is comfortable pitching her work in person, and she has found the most success in meeting with agents and publishers at writers’ conferences. The experience, she warns as she reminisced on the anxiety that many authors feel at this step, is not for the faint of heart. If an agent or publisher likes your pitch, she says, they will ask you to send either a proposal for your novel or a manuscript. Each proposal took Susan roughly an hour to write because they had to be tailored to each agent or publisher’s requirements. After sending in these documents, an agent or publisher can reject the manuscript, ask for additional chapters, or ask for the full novel. She said this waiting process can drag out for 6 to 8 months, and it is disappointing to receive a rejection at this stage. Susan ultimately found success with Vinspire Publishing, an independent company that specializes in family-friendly young adult and middle grade novels. While the company was not open for proposals at the time that Susan was submitting her work, her friend told her editor about Susan. The editor invited Susan to submit her manuscript, and the rest is history. The novel was published in about ten months. Healer and Shards of Light will be sold as a bundled duology beginning on July 15, and Susan’s new release, Signs in the Dark, will be released in October.
Tell me a little about your journey to becoming an author.
Susan began her career as a reporter before transitioning to corporate public relations. After becoming a mother, Susan chose to work closer to home, and she began and continues to work in public relations for her library. Each of these careers taught her to write concisely, and the constant demand for material helped her to hone her skills. While working at the library, Susan met many authors, and she took these opportunities to ask them about their publishing paths. Susan has since written three young adult novels, a children’s wildlife book, and several short stories.
What piece of advice would you give to new and struggling writers?
Susan urges all writers to just keep writing and not to let a rejection keep them down. She hopes that writers will not be afraid to pitch their work to editors and that they will not take rejection personally. After writing in various forms for 40 years, Susan states that she is still learning constantly and that rejections should be treated as learning opportunities.
Where is your favorite place that you’ve travelled to, what did you like doing there, and what was your favorite thing that you ate?
Susan made my mouth water and gave me some serious travel envy when she described one of her idyllic vacations. She could not think of a better memory than eating baklava in an open-air café in Santorini, Greece. Between the sun, the sea, and the delicious dessert, I can see why this is easily her favorite. Susan has also had the opportunity to travel to Italy twice, and she spoke highly of the breathtaking architecture that she saw. These sights inspired some of the scenes in Shards of Light and helped her to conceptualize the convent that Shiloh stays in. If you are interested in learning more about Susan’s adventures, she offers beautiful travel presentations that highlight the sights and foods of Sicily, Italy, Greece, the Florida Keys, and the Midwest.
Do you have any parting thoughts?
Susan is passionate about the need for diverse representation in literature, and she is certainly leading by example. Her upcoming book features a Deaf protagonist, and she has consulted with two Deaf teens to ensure that her character’s experience and mannerisms are authentic. Melody’s Nigerian heritage is incredibly important to her throughout Shards of Light, and Kenji, like Susan’s husband, is Japanese. Susan also believes in weaving human rights issues into her novels to inspire change and to raise awareness of injustices. Healer discusses the consequences of domestic abuse and Shards of Light shines a light on human trafficking. It is mind blowing to Susan that more people are not aware of the dangers that girls and young women face, and she hopes that her work is able to organically educate her readers.
It was an absolute pleasure catching up with Susan, and I can’t wait to read her upcoming release, Signs in the Dark. More information about Susan and her books can be found on her website. My original reviews of Healer and Shards of Light are linked here.