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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight: Susan McCormick

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? Fiction provides anything and everything for a reader; any topic or emotion can be found in books. I write to bring joy and information. For instance, my cozy murder mystery series, The Fog Ladies, provides a lighthearted respite from worries, as spunky senior sleuths solve murders from an elegant apartment building in San Francisco. Because I am a doctor, I hide medical Easter eggs, like “don’t cut a bagel in your hand” and “don’t get a jailhouse tattoo.” In my recent middle grade and up medical/STEM fantasy, The Antidote, I wove disease and past pandemics and information about the human body into an exciting adventure story, with more Easter eggs like when and how to use an Automated External Defibrillator. Fiction provides a framework to make any topic (like growing old or health and disease) interesting and entertaining. Add feisty older women and humor, or action and suspense and a kid who could be any of us, and we are captivated.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? I’m a doctor and a mom, so my writing time on weekend early mornings was precious. I had from about 4:30 am until my family roused around nine. Time was so short that when I was writing, I was writing. No matter what. If it wasn’t flowing, I’d turn to research. If I had a sticky plot point or a narrative that was going nowhere, I’d write a different scene that flowed more easily. My writing time was so minimal, I tried to use every minute. Then, later, I’d go off for a run and look at the trees and the lake, and into my head would invariably pop the solution to the problem or the exact dialogue I’d tried so hard to create. I used to carry paper and pencil to write it down. Now I dictate it into my phone so it’s there when I sit down to write. For me, it’s never when I’m walking or cooking or driving. It’s while running, or in the shower or in the middle of this night that these mental miracles occur. Thank goodness.

What is your favorite time to write? Being a doctor and a mom, time was always in short supply. This year I retired, and my writing schedule is much different. But for most of my writing career, it was the same. In Seattle in the summer, the sun rises at 4:30am, shining bright light into my bedroom and waking me up. For years, on the weekends that I wasn’t working, I wrote in those early morning hours before my family woke up. My giant, black, fluffy, silent Newfoundland dog, Albert, would dutifully pad downstairs with me and lie by my side as my constant writing companion. In the winter, it was harder because it was dark and cold, and I’d have to set an alarm. Having that warm, steady dog next to me made all the difference. I wrote three full-length books plus a picture book this way.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? There is a secret to life no matter what your profession. Show up, on time, with enthusiasm, and a smile on your face. A cruder way to say this is “butt in seat.” Putting in the time and looking forward to putting in the time go a long way to a successful career. For writing, it also helps to have imagination and a talent for storytelling. But if you don’t sit down and write, you will never be a writer.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? When I was young, I wanted to be a ballerina, a doctor, and a writer. All together, all at once. My ballet days ended before they began at age four when my first performance’s curtsy took out the backdrop and crashed it to the floor. All that was left was being a doctor and a writer. The latter took me a while. Being a doctor was a straight shot, four years of medical school, three years of residency, then fellowship, then a stint in the Army because they paid for medical school, and here I am. Being a writer took far longer, finding the time, finding the grit to persevere, finding the publisher. I am so excited to be a writer, of a picture book about dementia, of a cozy murder mystery series with Book 3 coming out in October, of a timely middle grade and up medical fantasy–I would be excited in any age.

Susan McCormick’s The Antidote is out now with the Wild Rose Press.