The RITA Award-winning author of more than 30 novels, Susan May Warren served with her husband and four children as a missionary in Russia for eight years before they returned home. She now writes fulltime as her husband runs a lodge on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota, where many of her books are set. In this interview, the author discusses the latest volume in her Deep Haven series, My Foolish Heart (Tyndale House).
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO TELL US ABOUT MY FOOLISH HEART?
I’m very excited about My Foolish Heart because it represents a return to Deep Haven, where my first novel, Happily Ever After, was set. It’s a small town in northern Minnesota, set on Lake Superior, and is a town very much like the one I currently live in. More than that, it has all my favorite things in the story—football, donuts, a dog … plus secrets, betrayal, surprises and sweet romances. It’s a story about second chances and the power of perfect love. I hope readers will enjoy this fresh take on You’ve Got Mail set in a small town.
THIS IS YOUR FOURTH TRIP BACK TO DEEP HAVEN—WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS TOWN THAT KEEPS BRINGING YOU (AND READERS) BACK AGAIN AND AGAIN?
I think it is the community, the dream of a simpler life, the beauty of the north shore, and the delicious romances. It’s like a familiar vacation—you know what to expect, but each time you come away with sweeter memories.
ONE OF YOUR CHARACTERS IN THE BOOK, CALEB KNIGHT, IS A VETERAN WHO IS NOW HIDING HIS DISABILITY. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO INCLUDE THIS ANGLE IN YOUR ROMANCE?
I kept thinking about the different online communications and how easy it might be to share your heart with someone if you didn’t have the vulnerability of looking in their eyes as you shared your heart. What if you were hiding something, and it was something that made you “difficult” to know, like Caleb’s disability, or Issy’s private world? What if you found someone online that understood you—would you have the courage to face them with the truth of your secrets? I think there is always a fear about meeting someone you’ve gotten to know online—will they be as perfect in person?
I also wanted to show how Caleb, as well as Coach Presley, were amazing, capable people despite their disabilities. I think sometimes people with physical challenges can get forgotten, as if their opinions and skills aren’t valuable anymore, and I wanted to show the fallacy in this.
WHEN CALEB NEEDS ROMANTIC ADVICE, HE SEEKS HELP FROM A CALL-IN SHOW—WHICH LEAVES HIM MORE CONFUSED THAN EVER. WHAT INSPIRED THE “CALL-IN SHOW” COMPLICATION IN YOUR NOVEL?
I was intrigued by these people who have spent years in their homes, yet have online friends and a rich online life. Also, I wanted to have my hero and heroine get to know each other in a way that was intimate, but not face to face. Finally, I am always intrigued by people who give advice to strangers—how it affects the callers life, and wanted to explore this concept. Who are these callers? Does the advice the “therapist” gives nag at them? Do they worry about callers after they hang up?
HOW MUCH OF YOURSELF IS IN YOUR CHARACTERS?
An author always must pull from their own lives to create a realistic character, or realistic emotions for the characters. I pulled from feelings of being trapped, or afraid while living in Russia to create Issy, and feelings of frustration and pain from when I broke a bone in my neck and had to wear a neck brace for six month to create Caleb. (Although that wasn’t near his challenges, I tried to tap into the emotion of being limited in physical capabilities.) I tapped into my feelings of lost love to create Polly, and the sense of wanting to be a hero in my hometown to create Seb. I also put into all the characters my love for football.
IS YOUR FIRST GOAL TO MINISTER TO READERS—OR TO ENTERTAIN THEM?
My goal is to tell a great story. A great story is always about a truth journey of a character—but that must be entertaining! I start out with the question—what would I like to read? Then I discover the characters, and ask them what lie they believe to discover the truth journey they are on. I never write to agenda, but I do find that every great book has a story-question, and a truth behind it. It’s that universal truth that ministers to readers.
WHAT IS THE BEST THING ANYONE HAS SAID ABOUT ONE OF YOUR BOOKS?
That it changed their lives and brought them back into a relationship with the Lord, or a family member.
WHAT DO YOU MOST HOPE READERS TAKE AWAY AFTER READING YOUR BOOK?
That they can trust in God’s perfect love for them regardless of what happens in life. It’s a hard concept that we have to hold onto, but one that, I believe, can change the way we see our lives.
WHY DO YOU THINK STORY IS SUCH A POWERFUL WAY TO SHARE TRUTH?
Jesus told stories—sometimes called parables!—and they stick with us because we see ourselves in them. I hope that in my books people both see themselves … as well as see truth that can change their lives.