Susan Bischoff: on teen romance, the paranormal and writing

For those of you who read the news about upcoming author interviews with successful indie authors from this post … here’s your second treat. I’m chatting to Susan Bischoff

Susan Bischoff (Courtesy of author website)

today, author of The Talent Chronicles (TTC): Hush Money (Book 1) and Heroes ‘Til Curfew (Book 2).

If you’re dreaming of over 120 Amazon reviews for your book, or those sorts of numbers when you publish, read more about Susan and her awesome novels. Hush Money is an addictive, quick read. And Heroes ‘Til Curfew? or what about the upcoming Book 3, Heroes Under Siege?


How did literature affect you growing up?

I learned to read mostly from following along as my mom read to me every night. When I was little, Little Women was my favorite. I guess I must have been more tolerant at that age because Jo/Laurie was always my one true pairing and they never ended up together. Even though I read the book over a hundred times. Also, I was sure that Heidi’s desperation to return to the mountain had at least as much to do with goat-herding Peter than with the Grandfather.

I went through a period of not wanting to read or thinking I wasn’t a good reader, and then picked it back up again mostly because my 5th grade teacher did the Scholastic flyer thing and not only could ordering more books get me ridiculous animal posters for my room, but the young adult books teased with dramatic stories with a hint of romance that usually climaxed with hand-holding or a kiss on the cheek which was a lot more interesting than what most of the silly chapter books offered. When I ran out of money, I had to go up to the attic and read classics, which contained a lot of intriguing stuff I didn’t quite understand. Then I found Harlequin. Real romance! With fully described kisses and allusions to other stuff going on off camera (early 80s). I subscribed to Harlequin Gothic (possibly as a result of reading a handful of Georgette Heyer). Almost as soon as I did the line was cancelled and I was switched over to Harlequin Intrigue, which, at that time, put out two exciting romantic suspense adventures every month.

It was during that phase that I really made the shift from daydreaming to writing stories in my head.

It was during that phase that I really made the shift from daydreaming to writing stories in my head. In a gift shop on a family vacation, I came across Johanna Lindsay’s Hearts Aflame and my devotion to Harlequin was scorched by historical romance with its explicit content.

What do you love about writing YA and paranormal?

I think I write paranormal mainly because I’ve had this thing for superpowers since being a huge fan of them on TV as a kid. Here’s a Pinterest board of shows I loved. The fact that romance never seems to work out for those guys is probably why I had to daydream so many alternate endings/adventures for them. I didn’t actually set out to write YA. All of my writing prior to TTC was adult as that’s what I was reading. I’m sure it was mainly Buffy who made me want to try writing in a high school setting, and, once I got there, I realized that I love writing characters in their later teens because a part of me is definitely stuck there and relates.

What have you learnt most about writing The Talent Chronicles?

Hush Money (Book 1)

I’m both amazed at how easy it is and shocked by how hard it is. Not only had I not attempted teen characters since I actually was a teen, but I’d never tried to write a series. It’s wonderful to be able to come back to the same world and the same developed characters I love (and hopefully the readers have a fondness for), but it’s hard to keep those characters from becoming stagnant and to keep that world fresh with new discoveries.

Tell us more about The Talent Chronicles series.

I guess first I should say, for those who haven’t read any of it, that the series tells the stories of teens with supernatural abilities in a world where having those abilities is illegal. They deal with a lot of the normal teen stuff, perhaps more dramatically, while hiding from the threat of an evil government organization coming to take them away and lock them up for re-education and possible experimentation.

In my head, it’s a huge, sprawling, epic soap opera of different characters, powers, places, and events. Heroes fall, despair, and are redeemed (because I love me a redemption story); heroines kick ass, take charge, and change lives; love is found, held, and conquers all kinds of stuff. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

What did you do to keep the romantic interest fresh between the main characters, Joss and Dylan?

One of the challenges in having the same main characters over three stories has been in

Heroes 'Til Curfew (Book 2)

drawing out their relationship stuff. Hush Money is on the light side, romance wise. I think that works for the characters, especially Joss, and I’m very pleased with the way it came out and how their mutual interest blossoms and leaves them on the brink of something that has real potential. In Heroes ‘Til Curfew, things go deeper fairly quickly—possibly because it was so hard for me to hold back in the first book that I had a lot of kissing to make up for. But I think that also works for the characters because, at their age, they feel things very deeply, there’s an urgency, their sense of time is different. But they’re not perfect people, they’re not accustomed to the give and take of a relationship, and the world and the rest of the story also serves to keep their relationship imperfect and evolving. Heroes Under Siege will be more of the world getting in the way and trying to come between them. Then I’d like to give them a break and work my matchmaking on some other characters.

Message for the reader to take away:

One thing that’s come out for me as I’ve written is a theme of

“be what you are.”

“be what you are.” In the world of TTC, it’s actually necessary to hide your powers from others—because of that whole illegal factor. What Joss is discovering is that you don’t have to hide from everyone. Revealing parts of herself to even just a few people is changing her life. Not only opening her life up to some wonderful people and experiences, but embracing what she is will allow her to do great things to benefit others. Writing and sharing these stories has been a similar experience for me. I was thirty-eight when I published Hush Money, and it was the first time in twenty years that I had been willing to say “I’m a writer” out loud. The rewards from that have been unexpected and tremendous. I like it as a YA theme because, especially at this age, we tend to spend a lot of time hiding things that make us different and trying to be what we think is expected of us. Even if when we don’t have complete freedom to pursue our passions, or we don’t have the confidence to share what’s inside us with the world, sometimes starting out trusting one person can change everything.

Click for FREE story!

Your advice to writers on revising their manuscript.

The biggest problem I see in the indie samples I read is info-dumping on the front end—character backstory or details/history of the fantasy world—the things the author is certain we need to know before we can appreciate what’s coming. Until we have some kind of connection to the story, that’s probably a lot more interesting to you than it is to us. What pulls me into a book are questions. Not so many questions that I’m going what the hell are you talking about? but enough information about what’s happening right now to be satisfied being here, and enough questions about why? and what’s next? that I keep pushing on into the story, and then I appreciate getting to those details because I’ve been primed to want them.

I guess it’s kind of like having a friend tell you about the movie she saw over the weekend. She’s going on telling and on you all about this movie you never heard of and, even though she seems really enthusiastic, you’re just nodding and smiling and hoping she’ll be done soon.

Or, the movie your friend saw is one you’ve heard of, saw the trailer for, and are thinking about going to see. You want to know more about it. In that scenario, your friend has your attention because a little information up front has primed you to want more. In either scenario, the last thing you want is for your friend to tell you every single thing that happened in the story. You want to see it unfold for yourself.

Prime the reader with little bits of information. Make them want to know more. Then unfold events in front of them rather than tell them what you want them to know. When someone reads your work, is it like watching a movie or watching some guy on a stage reading from a book?

What’s up next for you?

I’m working on the third Talent Chronicles book, Heroes Under Siege. I wish I could be better about having an idea when that might be ready. I have very clear ideas about where the fourth book is going, and also about an interesting Talent Chronicles side project. I have plans for a six book romantic epic fantasy sort of thing, when I get a few minutes to spare, which is completely different from the Chronicles, and some thoughts about some collaborative projects I’d like to work on. But…one thing at time.


Hush Money: All formats for eReaders, devices and in paperback. Add to Goodreads.

Heroes ‘Til Curfew: All formats for eReaders, devices and in paperback. Add to Goodreads.

 Read more about the series. WATCH the trailer.


What do you think of TTC? Who’s buying?

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7 thoughts on “Susan Bischoff: on teen romance, the paranormal and writing

  1. Totally agree with the info-dumping at the front end of the book. I know when I first started out as a writer, I knew that the first chapter should be kick-ass. Then I thought the second chapter should draw back and offer backstory to explain why there was action in chapter 1. No! I finally realized (after many revisions and guidance) that I have to keep the action going. Show the fall-out in ch. 2 from the problem in chapter one. And keep moving forward.

    Backstory is great fun to write, but in small doses only and cleverly placed. Not that I know how to write small doses or well-placed backstory, but I know I’m supposed to! :)

    I have not read TTC, but I like this interview so much that I will put the series on my list of must-read-next!

    • You started out well! My first few thousand words was telling and backstory. Actually, my entire ms was telling but that’s a different story.

      Backstory is hard to get done well. You want the reader to crave it–not spot it a mile off. I’m still working on this. Lol

      TTC doesn’t have these problems we discussed, by the way. :D

  2. Thanks Susan for the great advice about priming the reader. After a few rounds of revisions (and deleting my info dumping), this really reasonated with me. :) Great example too with the movie.

    Rebecca, thanks for bringing us another fabulously insightful and informative post!

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