An Interview With Susan Z. Ritz, “A Dream to Die For”, She Writes Press, with Lindas Book Obsession, for Suzy Approved Book Tours
1. What was your motivation in becoming a writer?
I have always been a writer. In fact, I can’t remember NOT writing. I have several bookshelves filled with journals that date back to high school. I was quite shy then, and I found writing was the best way to express my voice. I kept writing while I studied and worked overseas for several years, honing my skills and preserving my impressions. As a stay-at-home mom of three, freelancing for local papers and newsletters kept me sharp and also earned me a bit of money. Writing, whether fiction, journalism or essays, has continued to be my way of figuring out my own life and making sense of the world around me.
- What motivated or inspired you to write this book?
Believe it or not, this book started with a simple writing prompt in class at my local library. The prompt was “You open a door and find something unexpected.” I picked up my pen and began to scribble. Which door? My therapist’s door. What do I see? My therapist lying in a pool of blood, a bloodied quartz crystal at his side, the box with the wedding ring he took from me lying open on the floor, empty. Clearly, I had it in for my therapist! That was the seed that eventually grew into A Dream to Die For. So, it started as a kind of revenge novel, but as I wrote it became a really fun mystery to write, so I kept on going and it helped me to stop being mad at the therapist!
- Did you have to do research for your book? How did you do it?
Even though A Dream to Die For is fiction, I did have to do quite a lot of research, mainly on the technical aspects of virtual reality, which plays a big part in the book. I am a complete novice when it comes to technology, so I needed a lot of help. I connected with a young man from my hometown who was working at a virtual reality start-up and over many emails he explained the technical details behind creating digital images that seem to come to life with the help of a set of goggles like Oculus Rift. I also went to several Meet Ups to try out virtual reality myself. I was the only woman and only person over 40 at the meetings, which made me realize that digital technology is still a “boy’s only” field.
I used the internet to learn about holograms and various other augmented reality devices, as well as ways scientists are actually beginning to see images of people’s dreams when they are sleeping. Kind of creepy!
- What do you hope your readers will take away from your book?
Mostly fun! I consider “A Dream to Die For” to be a beach book that tickles the imagination. I hope my readers finish the book surprised by the plot, in love with the characters and ready for my next one, which I have to get going on!
- What is a typical day of your life?
Because I don’t have a “day job” anymore, my days are pretty random. I have to find ways to give myself some structure. When I don’t, I find myself lounging around or raiding the fridge. So every morning at 7:15, I join three of my neighbors to walk our dogs a few miles in the beautiful park near our homes. Then I sneak in a few minutes for meditation. I get to my writing office (I can’t work at home, too distracting) from 11:00 to 3:00 three or four days a week. Some evenings I go to movies, the local theater, or events for the many nonprofit groups I support. Otherwise, you’ll find me at home on the couch in front of some TV murder mystery snuggled up between my husband Ethan and my Wheaten terrier, Reilly. Sleep by 11 pm after an hour of reading in bed, maybe the best part of the whole day!
- What are your hobbies or things you do in downtime?
I love to exercise. Pilates, swimming in summer, cross-country skiing in winter, biking whenever I can. I am also an avid gardener, so I do a lot of maintenance like weeding my flower beds and trying to keep the bishop’s weed at bay. Reading, of course, is a big part of my life, but I don’t read very fast, so I’m no power reader like all you Instagram bloggers. Wish I knew your secrets for getting through so many books.
- What can you tell us of any new writing projects you might have?
I have two things on the back burner. First, a prequel to A Dream to Die For set in Indonesia, where I lived over 40 years ago. It will have some of the mystical elements in A Dream to Die Forand will feature my favorite characters, Celeste and Gloria.
I also have a partially completed memoir of the six years I lived in Dachau, Germany in the 1980s. I wrote it as my thesis for my MFA in creative nonfiction twenty years ago but never seemed to find the right tone of voice for it. Writing fiction has really helped me with that, so I plan to finish it someday. In the meantime, I’m working on a few chapters that can be stand-alone essays and sending them out to various publications. Wish me luck!
- What are your favorite genres of books to read?
I mostly read literary fiction, but I also enjoy memoir and essay collections. Before I began writing A Dream to Die For, I hardly ever read mysteries, but I’m now a fan of Louise Penny’s Three Pines series, Laurie King’s Mary Russell series, and Jaqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series. Whatever the genre, I primarily read women authors because I find emotional truths I can relate to in their books.
- What advice can you give someone who wants to be a writer?
Find a great writing group! Or create one yourself. I have been in a writing group for over 25 years, though the group changes membership now and then. I learned everything I know about fiction by reading and critiquing my fellow writers. Plus, we have a good time together!
My other advice is to find a place and a time to write that suits you best. I don’t write every day, but I wish I did. Your creative subconscious learns to kick in when you do the same thing habitually. It really does! Don’t beat yourself up for not writing but do set weekly goals. My writing group meets bi-weekly, so I always have a deadline to meet and an audience to share with, and that motivates me more than anything else. Writing is hard work, sometimes fun, sometimes not, but it only happens when you put yourself in front of a page on a regular basis.
- If your book were adapted to the screen, who would you envision as the main characters?
This is such a fun question to ponder! Laura Dern would definitely be my heroine, Celeste Fortune. Gloria Cross her, kooky sidekick, would be Awkwafina, one of the stars of Crazy Rich Asians. Of course, my heartthrob George Clooney would be the love interest, Jake Kelly. There would also be supporting roles for John Lithgow and Glenn Close together again after their roles in The World According to Garp. You have to read my book to see which characters they will play!
- How would you like your readers to connect with you?
Readers can find me on social media sites, including Instagram and Facebook @susanzritz. I love getting comments. I would also urge them to check out my web site www.susanzritz.com, where they’ll find excerpts of the book, my blog posts, and a listing of events. They can also sign up for my newsletter there and leave comments on the Contact page.
I would love to hear from any of you about how you liked A Dream to Die For. You can also let me know if you would like me to connect with your book club, your local independent bookstore or your favorite library.
Thanks, Linda. I enjoyed talking with you. Thanks, too, for connecting readers with books. What could be more important than that?