Please welcome Susan Bishop Crispell to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Secret Ingredient of Wishes was published on September 6th by Thomas Dunne Books.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
Susan: I started writing in the fall of 2000. (Wow that feels so long ago!) It was my sophomore year of college and when I was registering for classes the previous spring, I signed up for Intro to Fiction on a whim. I couldn’t get into any art classes because those suckers got filled up quickly, and fiction seemed like something I might enjoy for a semester. Or you know, my whole life. :)
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
Susan: I’m very much a plotter. Before I start a story, I have it all mapped out, chapter by chapter, scene by scene. That’s not to say that things don’t change along the way, because as the characters grow and do unexpected things, they change the plan. But then I re-plot, factoring in these new details and characters and tangents until the story feels right.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Susan: For me, it’s finding time to write. I work full time and have to fit writing in around life in general. Some days my brain is tired and I just want to snuggle up and read or binge watch some TV. But if I don’t make time for writing, my stories won’t ever get told.
TQ: What has influenced / influences your writing?
Susan: My biggest influences come from magical stories, whether in book form à la Sarah Addison Allen’s gorgeous novels or television/movies like the movie Penelope or Bryan Fuller’s whimsical shows Pushing Daisies and Wonderfalls. I love quirky towns and unforgettable characters and magic that feels real and of course a little romance. These are the things I enjoy reading and watching, which makes them exactly the things I want to write about too.
TQ: Describe The Secret Ingredient of Wishes in 140 characters or less.
Susan: Rachel Monroe's ability to make secrets come true has taken everything from her. But getting lost in Nowhere, NC just might lead her home.
TQ: Tell us something about The Secret Ingredient of Wishes that is not found in the book description.
Susan: When Rachel was young, she accidentally erased her little brother from existence with a wish. She’s the only one who remembers him and not matter how many times people told her she was crazy for believing in him, she never stopped hoping she could somehow wish him back.
TQ: What inspired you to write The Secret Ingredient of Wishes? What appeals to you about writing a contemporary novel that includes magic?
Susan: I love the idea that the world is filled with magic. But for me, I’d rather it be whimsical and offbeat and life-changing but not necessarily world-changing. So instead of creating sweeping fantasy worlds, I like to keep things set in the real world (or fictional towns in the real world, anyway). That way my stories skirt the line between real life and fantasy and leave readers thinking what if that really could really happen?
TQ: What sort of research did you do for The Secret Ingredient of Wishes? Do you have a favorite pie?
Susan: Most of my research came in the form of pies. Not so much eating pies, but collecting recipes that sounded delicious and teaching myself to make crust from scratch and learning the best ways to peel peaches. I also researched organic soaps and lotions, etc. for the shop where Rachel ends up working. As for my favorite pie, it’s probably a peach raspberry pie. Though I make a blackberry sour cream pie that is a very close second.
TQ: In The Secret Ingredient of Wishes who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Susan: Catch, Rachel’s landlord and the town’s secret-keeper (via the pies she makes to bind the secrets from getting out) was the easiest. She’s sassy and cranky and likes to use nicknames for people when she’s annoyed. Her voice was loud in my head from day one, which made scenes with her so easy to write because I knew exactly who she was.
Rachel was probably the hardest. Her character changed a lot from the initial draft and learning how to really draw out who she was turned out to be a challenging and long process. It was worth of all the rewriting and deleted scenes and subplots that were dropped throughout my revisions because I finally figured her out.
TQ: Which question about The Secret Ingredient of Wishes do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Susan: I keep waiting for someone to ask me where Catch’s name comes from. And it hasn’t happened yet! So, I’ll tell you that I stole it from my great aunt. Her name is Catherine but everyone calls her Catch. When I was trying to find the name that fit my character, I knew I wanted something a little different. Then my aunt’s name popped into my head and I wasn’t able to shake it. Now I can’t imagine this character being called anything else.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Secret Ingredient of Wishes.
Susan: Ooh, such a fun question. Here are two quotes (unrelated) quotes that I love:
“Well, Little-Miss-Doom-and-Gloom, too damn bad for you, ’cause I’m gonna do it anyway. And you’re gonna sit there with your mouth shut until I do.”
“Figured I should show you the difference so that next time I kiss you, you’ll know I mean it.”
TQ: What's next?
Susan: My next novel, The Probability of Fate, comes out next fall. It’s set In Malarkey, North Carolina, a hole-in-the-wall town nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, where residents rely on the magical chocolates at The Chocolate Cottage to get a glimpse of their futures. But life hasn’t turned out as planned for proprietor Penelope Dalton. Instead of living happily ever after, she’s raising her terminally ill daughter on her own, trying to pack a lifetime of experiences into Ella’s final six months. But when her ex comes back to town and Ella starts to play matchmaker, Penelope will learn that some fates are worth waiting for.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
The Secret Ingredient of Wishes
Thomas Dunne Books, September 6, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages
26-year-old Rachel Monroe has spent her whole life trying to keep a very unusual secret: she can make wishes come true. And sometimes the consequences are disastrous. So when Rachel accidentally grants an outlandish wish for the first time in years, she decides it’s time to leave her hometown—and her past—behind for good.
Rachel isn’t on the road long before she runs out of gas in a town that’s not on her map: Nowhere, North Carolina—also known as the town of “Lost and Found.” In Nowhere, Rachel is taken in by a spit-fire old woman, Catch, who possesses a strange gift of her own: she can bind secrets by baking them into pies. Rachel also meets Catch’s neighbor, Ashe, a Southern gentleman with a complicated past, who makes her want to believe in happily-ever-after for the first time in her life.
As she settles into the small town, Rachel hopes her own secrets will stay hidden, but wishes start piling up everywhere Rachel goes. When the consequences threaten to ruin everything she’s begun to build in Nowhere, Rachel must come to terms with who she is and what she can do, or risk losing the people she’s starting to love—and her chance at happiness—all over again.
Susan Bishop Crispell earned a BFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Born and raised in the mountains of Tennessee, she now lives twenty minutes from the beach in North Carolina with her husband and their literary-named cat. She is the author of THE SECRET INGREDIENT OF WISHES. As you might expect, she is very fond of pie. And she is always on the lookout for hints of magic in the real world.