Hi, everyone! Do you have a teenager or young adult at home who gobbles up books then scavenges for more? If so, you don’t want to miss this! Today, I have an author who might be able to satisfy their cravings. Susanne Lambdin is the author of The Dead Heart Novel Series. Take a look!
Hi, Susanne! Welcome and thanks for taking the time to talk with me about your life and work.
S: My pleasure!
I’m ready to talk to you about zombies! But since you’re a native Kansan, I wanted to ask about that first. Where did you grow up?
S: I am from Wichita, Kansas.
Tell me a little bit about your background. Did you go to college?
S: I attended the University of Oklahoma and graduated with a BA in Professional Writing. At the time I went to OU, you had to go through the Journalism school since they didn’t offer professional writing in the English department. A brief stint in Wichita as a bailiff in criminal court and I moved to Los Angeles when I heard Star Trek: The Next Generation was going to be a new show on TV. I lived in LA for eight years and actually wrote an episode for ST:TNG. I eventually returned to Wichita and started writing fiction. Living in a big city with 15 million people at the time was far too hectic and my family is here, so returning was a big plus. I prefer a smaller city and the people here are friendlier!
Okay, I have so many questions! I’m not sure which one to ask first. Let me start with you were a bailiff. Any memorable stories you’d be willing to share?
S: I worked for Judge Monte Deer for two years; however, one particular trial was nasty. A father had molested his daughter and niece. His wife decided to change her story and support her husband instead of the two girls. A court officer came running up to me and said, “Susanne, some of the women have the wife cornered in the bathroom. You need to get in there and break it up.” So, I boldly walked into the Ladies Bathroom. Well, there were about a dozen angry women inside. Each woman held a knife. They had the wife cornered. They turned to look at me, I saw the knives and I ran out of the bathroom. I approached the court guards and told them, “You go in there. The women have knives.” The next thing I knew, the police in support of the court guards arrived in mass and hauled the women out of the bathroom. They lined them against the wall and disarmed them. No one was hurt and I’m glad to say the father was found guilty and sent to prison.
I would have bolted too! That’s a lot of mama bears.
Next question… Did you ever meet anyone from Star Trek?
S: Ah, the stories of Star Trek are my favorite to tell at conventions. I met everyone. But it’s those special encounters that remain the best. The first actor I encountered was William Shatner. I worked for the president of Paramount Pictures for one month and met lots of actors, but on this particular day, I was headed to lunch and had my eyes to the ground. I noticed a pair of tennis shoes, grey sweat pants, and something that made me wonder who walks around flying loose in the breeze. And then I saw the captain. The Saga of Shatner continued for about a week. I went to see Jerry Goldsmith, my favorite composer scoring Star Trek V. The orchestra was playing before an enormous screen while Jerry directed. I’m seated on a couch in the center of the sound room, listening attentively, when the door opens and I hear people enter. I glance out the corner of my eyes and I see Shatner and two young women. He just looks at me. I asked, “Would you like me to move?” He nodded. I moved into another chair and Shatner and the ladies sat on the couch. Back to listening and watching Goldsmith, happy in my little world, the door opens and more people enter. Shatner looks at me. Says not a word. I again ask, “Would you like me to move?” He nods. Well, this happened about three more times and I keep moving and there is seating for at least fifty people. But I’m very annoyed. The last time he looks at me and nods for me to move, I jump up and yell, “I’m not here for you, I’m here for Jerry Goldsmith.” I storm out and return to the president’s office, and well, there is an altercation with Secretary No. 1 and I’m suddenly fired.
S: It’s okay. I was still in a good mood. Until that night. I go to a horse show in the valley and who rides out on a white horse, swinging his cowboy hat? It’s William Shatner. And a lot of the original Star Trek cast are on horseback. I didn’t know Shatner was going to be there. Well, about this same time poor Bill is getting a divorce, he’s had a fight with his assistant, a female who apparently broke her hip falling off a ladder to get her belongings which were placed on the roof of a trailer, so there is a lot of drama going on at movie lot. Everyone is talking about our beloved captain. I’m standing between sound stages with a girlfriend Jane who LOVES Shatner. I mean, she’s green with envy I keep running into him and I went off about him. Mainly, I was upset I couldn’t stay to watch Goldberg, but I have other things to say, mainly that he’s a jerk. But all the while Jane is saying, “You’re so lucky. I’d do anything to meet him.” At that moment, I hear a manly chuckle. I look around tall Jane and there he is, Bill Shatner, he’s heard every damn thing I said and he’s got this smug grin on his face. I tell Jane, “Well if you want to meet him, he’s standing right behind you.” Jane turned, saw Shatner grinning and she sobbed and ran off. He just laughed and laughed. I had no idea he’d been standing there. What are the odds? But she got her wish.
What a story!! But she wanted to meet him and ran when she got the chance. I’m shaking my head!
What episode did you write?
S: Season 4, Eps. 78 Family. My contribution is the part about Wesley Crusher meeting his father Jack on the holodeck when he turned 18. My script is called “The Wish” which you can check out on my table at conventions.
How did you come to write that particular story?
S: There is a great story about this. My writing partner was Bryan Stewart on this project. He was the mailroom boy and had sadly just lost his father. He came by my desk one day and said, “You know, I never got to tell my father good-bye.” Thus, this part of Star Trek history was born based on a true life experience of a young man who knew exactly what it felt like not to be able to say good-bye to his father. However, in our script, Wesley and Jack were able have long conversations on the holodeck. In “Family”, it’s a taped recording and that’s because it cost Star Trek a lot more money to use the entirety of our script. But I think it would have been well worth it considering in the future they’d be able to do more on a holodeck than have a taped message. Still, I think it’s a wonderful episode and when Star Trek fans hear I wrote part of it, they get all giddy.
Is there a way for Trekkie fans to find what you wrote?
All you have to do is type in Star Trek “Family” or my name and you’ll go to quite a few sites that talk about this script. I normally talk about writing for Star Trek at cons. There was a lot of drama that went on and I have great stories about those days. In short, I’ll just say it was very tough for women to be taken seriously as sci-fi writers in those days. I had to prove myself to a lot of people in high places and eventually it became more annoying than challenging. I love writing and I want to write what I want to write without all the power plays and power lunches and drama that goes along with the game of success.
Though I’ve never been in that position, I can totally understand your feelings. Speaking of writing what you want to write, that leads me to my next question. You obviously knew you wanted to write in college, but when did you first know you wanted to write?
S: At the age of 8, my older brother was writing a novel. I decided I wanted to write a novel and ended up writing, by hand, a 250-page fantasy novel.
What? Okay, my jaw in unhinged… hold on. Seriously?
I already read at a college level at this age, having worked my way through the classics like Charles Dickens and Jane Austin, moving into Harold Robbins seedy novels and read C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein. In fact, I read everything I could get my hands on and soon read every book in my elementary school. I read about five books a week and have always written stories since I was a kid. I knew one day I wanted to be a published author. I always knew it was what I was meant to do.
Tell me you still have that book. What’s the title?
S: The Lion of Arcadia. I think I was inspired by the Narnia series. But it’s a high fantasy and it has a very inappropriate sex scene. I’m afraid at the age of 8 I’d started reading all the novels behind the classics on the book shelf at my parent’s home. I’d discovered Harold Pinter and read The Pirate….um, that is not a book for a child. I didn’t tell anyone, but my older brother who was at the time writing a novel called Vindicar’s Oath, about an evil witch king, read it and I got into trouble. LOL! I have not read my book since, but my handwriting at a young age was very nice. It’s declined as I get older and I can’t read what I write by hand. My dad took a look at my signature recently and said, “Is that how you sign your name?” Well, yeah, dad. That’s how I do it.
Lol! Okay, that’s a wild story but it sounds like you have a really cool big brother.
Let’s talk about your books. What was your first published title?
S: My first novel is Morbid Hearts, the first book in Dead Hearts Novels, a five book series.
What’s it about?
S: The series is about teenage zombie patrol teams led by Cadence Sinclair, a senior in high school from Kansas who ends up leading the survivors. The virus mutates and there are far more than zombies to worry about. I liked the idea of the youth today placed in an adult situation where they either rise to the occasion or die and rise as zombies.
Did you have any idea when you started your series that there would be a renewal of the zombie age? Were you planning strategically or did it just happen?
S: Oh, I started my series during the first season of The Walking Dead. Now, I haven’t read the graphic novels, but I’ve looked through them. I’m a fan of the TV show and don’t want spoilers. But I also knew that no mere mortal would compete with Kirkwood, so I didn’t want to try. Instead, I came up with a mutating virus that allowed me to do far more than have slow moving virus zombies. Those are my favorite, by the way. But I’d finally taken a friend’s advice. I was told to write what was popular and stop writing sexy swashbucklers. Yeah, I stop writing erotic and high adventure to write about zombies. Oddly enough, Michael Pillar, the producer of ST:TNG when I was writing for the show, told me in a meeting that “Sometimes writers just reach into the air where all the story ideas are just floating around in space and snatch one down. Sometimes you snatch down the same idea.” I find that when I’m about to start a project, I’ll see a book or movie about it. Or when I decided to write something else, I’ll find what I was going to write about suddenly becomes a movie. I really believe Pillar now, but I didn’t at the time. All those ideas are just floating around out there and it’s a scramble to grab the idea before someone else does. But I guess I lucked out. I think Dead Hearts has struck a chord with young readers. I’m about to meet the majors of Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs at Galaxyfest. I’m hoping they get hooked as I write about every tourist attraction you can think about in the area. Dead Hearts would make an awesome TV series or a movie. Colorado is the place to go if you want to survive a zombie apocalypse. It has so much to offer and I think my love of the Rockies shows in the novels.
So you lived in Colorado for a bit and then came back to Kansas, right?
S: That’s right. My amazing brother died and that is why I moved back to Kansas. Morbid Hearts is dedicated to him. He died of a heart disease ironically enough. His name was Sterling and he’s a character in my series but a big black soldier and not the nerdy white guy he was. Bless his soul. I wrote to impress him really. He was my idol. Makes me cry to think about him as he died at 38 and that was more than 20 years ago. This photo is of my brother, sister, dad, and me.
That’s so sad. I’m sorry for your loss. I know our loved ones live on no matter what but it’s a gift to be able to bring them into our stories. It sounds like he was the best big brother a girl could ask for.
S: That he was.
Susanne, being an Indie Author, I always like to ask about publishing. Did you traditionally publish or self-publish?
S: I self-published Morbid Hearts and Forsaken Hearts. At that time, I was picked up by a small publishing house who released Vengeful Hearts. Defiant Hearts, the fourth book in the series, is due out in the next weeks. I publish through Wyverns Peak Publishing. I’m very lucky.
It sounds like you have a good relationship with your publisher. So it’s been worth it for you to go the traditional route?
S: Well, I self-published Morbid Hearts and Forsaken Hearts. I was picked up by Wyverns Peak Publishing who released book 3 Vengeful Hearts and then re-edited the first two books. They did a great job. They’ve done a miraculous job with the fourth book Defiant Hearts. You try to take a story that’s a bit like The Walking Dead, toss in the Hunger Games, Red Dawn and a dash of Clash of the Titans. As a writer, I take lots of genres and use them at the same time to create my world. But for an editor to keep it all straight, now that’s the beauty of having a team like Wyverns Peak Publishing. You’re only as good a writer as your editor. Period. Self-publish and hope you get a publisher. If you don’t get a publisher, just publish yourself. Don’t go through the traditional route per se and suffer the humiliation of rejection. Sure, it builds character and makes you try harder, but you can also hire an editor, a good one mind you, and publish yourself. That’s the way to do it these days. I was very fortunate and I hope this relationship with Wyverns Peak Publishing and the McGannon Family continues. I have 8 more novels ready for them to edit and publish. But I will tell you this – be patient, stay positive – it will happen when it happens. And never lose faith. If you are meant to be a writer, it will happen. You will actually finish a novel, get it edited and get it published one way or another. If it was easy, everyone would do it. Too many people give up before they get to the finish line. Don’t do that. Endeavor to persevere. That’s my motto.
Excellent advice! Quality is key no matter what route a writer goes.
What exactly would you call your preferred genre?
S: I write for mature young adults. My series started out as horror and sci-fi, but I added a new genre with each novel. Overall, Dead Hearts combines horror, sci-fi, supernatural, mythology, romance, timetravel and action-adventure. I am able to juggle many genres at the same time and this allows me to write whatever I need to in order to make the series exciting and different. Different is the key word. Plus, it’s more interesting for me.
Different is absolutely key! The fact you were able to accomplish ‘different’ in a zombie series is a testament to your uniqueness as a writer. Kudos!
What are you currently working on?
S: Several things, actually. Defiant Hearts, book 4 in the Dead Hearts series, will be out this month. I have 8 more novels in the line up to be published. Blood Lines and Night Breed are spinoff series. Blood Lines is about vampires and time-travel, and Night Breed is about shifters (werewolves, etc.). Since my virus mutates, I can write about anything I want. I’ve also written a high fantasy about a strong woman with a magic sword Taliesin: The Rise of Magic. This is a trilogy and it’s very exciting and gritty; very different from Dead Hearts.
Congrats! You’re a lady who knows exactly what she’s doing and how to get it done!
You write about some scary stuff? Tell me about something scary that’s happened to you?
S: I was in the NYC Blackout in 1976, I believe it was. All of the electricity went out. In a major blackout, the Big Apple is a terrifying place. My family was at dinner and we thought it was part of the show, but the waiter announced, “Get a taxi, get to your hotels, get to safety.” My dad went out and flagged down a taxi that had its lights off. The driver had a gun and pointed it at my dad. Time Square was in a riot. People broke into stores and it was pure chaos. We had to climb 13 floors using lit newspapers as torches. All through the night you heard guns and violence. I was 14 when it happened. Oddly enough, the musical Old Calcutta was on stage next door when the lights went off. The actors are nude for the finale. They couldn’t find their clothes and arrived at our hotel using newspapers or coats from the audience and that was rather amusing.
All of your answers keep making me want to ask more questions, lol. Any other stories?
S: I was in Athens when there was a terrorist strike against a cruise ship in the early 80s. A poor man in a wheelchair was thrown off the cruise ship, not the one I was on with my family, but when we arrived in port and went to the airport, there were soldiers everywhere. The Greek Army had tanks on the airfield and let me tell you, it was very scary and I was glad to get home.
Jeez. It’s almost like you were given all of the experiences to fuel your writing. Okay. I know you met a gazillion celebrities so I’m going to need you to name drop.
S: Yeah, I do try to avoid name dropping. It’s sound so snooty and I obviously do not like people who act self-important. LOL!
S: Okay, you talked me into it. In Hollywood, I have offended or insulted the following actors, one way or another: William Shatner, Patrick Stewart, Clint Eastwood, Jay Leno, Michael Douglas, Danny DeVito, Justine Bateman and Arsenio Hall. All have great stories behind the encounters, but it wasn’t my fault. LOL. I was also fired from my job working for the president of Paramount Pictures for being caught kissing Richard Dreyfuss in the kitchen, who happens to be a Civil War expert along with his brother Robert: Richard is a very sexy man (Hooper, you idiot. You got the girl fired!) And I have stories about Charlton Heston, Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd, Mickie Rooney, the Fonz – Henry Winkler, Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Timothy Dalton, Dolph Lundgren, Jean Claude Van Dam, and well, you get the picture. I met a lot of people and went out of my way to be noticed. I’m sure there are many more tawdry tales of Hollywood, some I can never share, but then, I just might!
So that was why you got fired that day. Ha! Okay, I thought for a minute that Shatner had something to do with it. Thank you for name dropping! What a wild ride. *sigh*
What would you say has been your biggest challenge in your journey?
S: Being knocked down by folks who either say your writing is crap or steal your ideas. The years I worked at Paramount Pictures turned me into the person I now am. I was pushed around and it took a like of fighting to finally be able to pitch story ideas to the producers at ST:TNG and to get my episode sold and a screen credit. The WGA helped in that regard. Young screenwriters must copyright everything with the WGA; period. But I met many celebrities and learned how to stand on my own two feet and have faith in my writing abilities. Endeavor to persevere is my motto. And now I have a screen credit, I was in Starlog Magazine and I go to comic cons around the Midwest and talk about Star Trek and writing. I have a lot to talk about. But honestly, it took a while for me to figure out I didn’t want to write movies or live in Los Angeles. What I really wanted and what I now have is writing novels fulltime, an adoring fan base, and the ability to travel to comic cons and speak on panels and hang with the big boys from LA who used to snub their nose at me. I might not be a well-known author, but I’m on my way.
Yes, you are! I believe you and support you. You’re a wonderful example to youth, to women, and to writers in general! I applaud your heart, Susanne.
Who’s your favorite author?
S: This is always the hardest question of all. A favorite author is like asking me to say what is the one food I like best because I’ll have to eat it for the rest of my life. Frank Yerby, an African-American author who wrote medieval books in the 1960s, like the Odor of Sanctity about the Crusades, really inspired me. But I have to say Anne Rice and her Lestat novels, in particular, Interview With a Vampire, really changed my life. I like to think I am able to create interesting plots and characters and write with her same clarity. Anne Rice made vampires and monsters cool to write about, and she made them hot and sexy. Of course, I’m leaving out so many authors I love. I actually have a long list of my favorite authors and favorite novels that inspired me to be the writer that I am. You have to read to write. There’s no other way around it. I do not read as much as I used to, as I write about six novels a year. But I still read to remind myself I can write. That may sound silly, but when you have writer’s block, grab your favorite novel and read it, and then return and try to write again. It helps.
I can truthfully say I understand this. I certainly don’t have your track record under my belt, but since I’ve published I’ve had to force myself to find time to read. I’m always glad I did, though. Writing and marketing are all-consuming if you allow them to be, but we’d be doing ourselves a disservice to stop reading.
Okay, there are some fun random questions I’ve been asking some of my interviewees. You’re my next victim. *evil grin*
S: Fire away!
Chocolate or vanilla?
S: Chocolate in my mouth, but vanilla for candles.
Ha! Love it!
Coffee or tea?
S: Iced tea, always, but I drink a pot of coffee in the morning when I am writing.
Dessert before or after a meal?
S: I sometimes only have dessert for a meal to last the entire day.
I just can’t find fault with a decision like that.
S: Ice cream is imperative for survival.
I completely agree with you. I think we’re dessert soulmates!
S: But then, I sometimes have salad and cheese after my meal like they do in Europe.
Nothing wrong with that. You’re getting your veggies in!
What if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life… what would it be?
S: If I had to pick one food to eat for the rest of my life with no substitute, it’s going to be sushi; I’m a huge fan of octopus, I’d catch it in the sea with my teeth and eat a tentacle on the go if that was possible. Octopus and sea weed for me. But um, I would really crave a bowl of chocolate ice cream and Iced-tea afterward.
Hmmm. I think our soulmate status is definitely limited to dessert. *grin-mace* But interviewing you has been a blast. Best wishes to you and your journey. Glad I got the chance to interview you now. Had I waited, I might’ve had to have my people (me, myself, and I) contact your people and all that jazz. Phew! I dodged that bullet.
Way to connect with Susanne:
Facebook: Morbid Hearts