Susan Wiggs is a #1 New York Times bestselling author. Today she’s agreed to answer some of our questions, so we can gain insight into her character-driven books that have won reader’s hearts around the world.
Return to Willow Lake is Susan’s latest release, which continues the series of the families who live in the tiny, friendly town of Avalon.
When Sonnet Romano gets a message from her family calling her home, she only knows half of the reason. Her mother, Nina Bellamy, who’d been a teenager when twenty-eight-year-old Sonnet was born, is now pregnant again. Which is shocking in itself. But when Nina tells her daughter of a serious health problem, Sonnet realizes her stay in her hometown of Avalon just got extended.
I’ve read several of Susan Wigg’s books over the years and am a great fan of her work. Return to Willow Lake didn’t disappoint. In fact, I think it may be my favorite so far. Susan has always drawn the reader into her world of family and community, but this book seemed to pull me in even deeper into the fictional world of Avalon.
WOW: Hello, Susan. Thank you for taking time to answer some of our questions today!
I read you recently gotten married. Congratulations! Since weddings are a common theme in your Lakeshore Chronicles series, did your own wedding resemble any of those of your characters?
Susan: Absolutely! Every crazy, joyous wedding I’ve ever written was a dress rehearsal for my own. Happily, mine did not have the tragedy and drama from Marrying Daisy Bellamy or the crazy factor of The Firebrand. There were some identical elements to the memoir by my daughter, Elizabeth Wiggs Maas, who wrote the hilarious How I Planned Your Wedding. Readers can go to www.facebook.com/susanwiggs and click “Like” and they’ll be able to see a couple of video clips from the wedding.
WOW: In Return to Willow Lake, Sonnet Romano goes home to the small town of Avalon when her mother, Nina, is facing a crisis. Was it difficult to write about her mother’s illness?
Susan: It was emotionally intense to write about cancer. It is such a universally feared horror of an illness. Having a sick family member causes all conflicts to sharpen and things to bubble to the surface. Ultimately, it can be cleansing and healing (one way or the other) but in the midst of crisis, every character is exposed.
WOW: The prominent theme in this book revolves around Sonnet and her childhood best friend, Zach Alger, although many characters are intertwined in the story. Your stories dig deep into each character’s thoughts and emotions, allowing your books to speak to a reader’s heart. Was there a character in Return to Willow Lake that was harder to write from his or her perspective than others?
Susan: For me, it’s always the main character. She has to be so many things to so many people in the story, and to the reader. She needs to seem real and consistent, and also imminently understandable if not likable. I hope Sonnet is both.
WOW: I love how we see your characters grow not only in any given book, but also throughout the series. Do you have romances between certain characters planned out in advance, or do you decide that as you get to their particular story?
Susan: It varies. Sometimes an obvious chemistry develops between secondary characters in a book, and they end up getting their own story. Sonnet and Zach were not planned. I always thought she’d end up with someone different, but she kept coming back to Zach.
WOW: You’ve written so many books in your career. Is there a book or series of yours that’s your personal favorite?
Susan: The NEXT one. The one I haven’t yet spoiled by writing it. Of the published books, my current favorite is Return to Willow Lake, because I wrote it at such an insane and magical time in my life. It’s going to remain special to me forever. Plus I love the endpapers, which I had nothing to do with, but I love them just the same.
WOW: Every time I read one of your books, I notice the strong family connection between your characters. Does that come from your relationship with your own family?
Susan: Most probably, yes. We’re a tight-knit clan, emotionally. Sometimes we’re far flung–my sister currently lives in Australia–but we manage to stay close. The launch of the Lakeshore Chronicles was a salute to my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. That book was Summer at Willow Lake.
WOW: Camp Kioga is a frequent backdrop for your characters. Were you able to draw from camps as a child for this?
Susan: Not at all. I used to yearn to go to summer camp. I was addicted to movies about summer camp. But I never went. So Camp Kioga is my idealized version of the summer camp of my imagination. Maybe that’s why it’s so idyllic. Real life hasn’t ruined it.
WOW: With the Lakeshore Chronicles being so popular, do you have plans for more books in that series?
Susan: Always. I’m working on a Christmas novel for the series right now.
WOW: Thank you, Susan, for today’s interview. WOW is all about women writers and their journeys and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning more about yours. We wish you the best in your writing career and new marriage. And we eagerly look forward to reading more of your books!