Q&A with, NYT best Selling Author, Suzy Spencer!


Writers’ League of Texas recently interviewed Suzy Spencer, NYT best selling author, about her upcoming appearance on the premiere episode of “Deadly Sins,” a new series on the Investigation Discovery (ID) channel. “Deadly Sins” airs Saturday, March 3 at 8 PM Central, Suzy be discussing her New York Times best-selling true crime book “Wasted.”  Be sure to tune in!  Until then, here is the Q&A:

Writers’ League of Texas : Can you discuss the inspiration behind your New York Times best selling true crime book ‘Wasted?’

 Suzy Spencer : “Wasted” was actually the brain child of Deborah Hamilton Lynne, who is now the executive editor of Austin Man magazine. Deb came to me one day and said there’s this really trashy murder out there and YOU have to write it. I looked into the story, and it looked interesting — “A rich lesbian, her beautiful young girlfriend, and the killer who came between them.” At least that’s the way the original book described it. I contacted the prosecutor on the case. He agreed to meet with me. We talked. I sent a letter to an editor I’d met at a writers conference. The letter was just a chit-chatty how are you doing and, oh, by the way, I’m researching this book and gave her a one sentence synopsis. Unknown to me, she sent the letter to her boss, and six months later, he asked for a book proposal and three weeks later offered me a contract.

WLT : Can you discuss the promotion process for ‘Wasted,’ and any advice you may have for our Scribe readers?

SS : My advice is never, never, never, never stop promoting and don’t expect anyone to promote but you. When “Wasted” first came out in 1998, my editor was stunned at the amount of PR I got and that’s because I stayed on the phone, fax and snail mail constantly (back in the days of fax and snail mail). In every city and town I signed, I bombarded every newspaper, radio station, and TV station with faxes and press kits. I also sent out thousands of postcards promoting my signings. That meant that I usually got newspaper and radio coverage in the days leading up to the signings, I got good crowds at the signings, and I got good follow-up coverage on the local TV news.

When the Austin American-Statesman ran a review of the book stating that it had been banned in Nacogdoches, Texas, I started faxing every gay and lesbian publication I could find from coast-to-coast, which resulted in coast-to-coast PR. After that died down, I continued pitching “Wasted” until Q San Francisco magazine ran an excerpt from it. (Q followed that with an excerpt from my second book, “Wages of Sin.”)

WLT : How did your appearance on ‘Deadly Sins’ on the Investigation Discovery Channel come to being?

SS : As the years passed and people told me to stop promoting “Wasted,” I continued to. When the book went out of print, I begged my publishing house to put it back in print. When it wouldn’t, I found an angle to “force” it back into print — an update on the case. When my editor told me that literary agent and TV producer Sharlene Martin was looking for true crime cases to profile on a new Investigation Discovery show, I wrote up a pitch, sent it to Sharlene, and followed up. I friended Sharlene on Facebook and continued to follow-up. Now, more than 13 years after the book came out, it’s getting its first national TV exposure, thanks to Sharlene — a half hour on the premiere episode of ID’s “Deadly Sins,” a co-production with Dick Clark.

WLT : What will you be discussing on the premiere episode?

SS : I haven’t seen the show to know what’s in and what’s out. But while taping the interview, the producers had me tell the story of the crime. I believe they’re going to entwine that narrative with reenactments and commentary from others.

WLT : What project are you currently working on?  Is ‘Wasted’ an influence?  What is inspiring your writing lately?

SS : Right now I’m working on a screenplay and going through the final publication phases for my next book, “Secret Sex Lives: A Year on the Fringes of American Sexuality.” It’s a total departure for me in that “Secret Sex Lives” — at the request of my editor — has been changed from a journalistic investigation into American’s sex lives into a memoir of a journalist’s investigation into Americans’ sex lives. That may sound like a slight alteration, but it forced a complete reversal in my way of thinking, working, and writing.

“Wasted” was an influence on “Secret Sex Lives” in that, like seemingly all of my true crime books, “Wasted” involved a great deal of sex.

What’s inspiring my writing today is going back to my Baylor University roots. Baylor influenced “Secret Sex Lives” — you’ll have to read the book to find out how — and Baylor is influencing my screenplay. (Yes, I’m purposely keeping the screenplay topic under wraps.)

WLT : What have you learned from the great success of ‘Wasted’?

SS : Writing and publishing are a lot harder and more complicated than we think when standing in a bookstore, looking at the covers, and dreaming that one day we’ll be on the shelves, too.

Writers League of Texas thanks Suzy Spencer for taking the time to share her insight.  We look forward to viewing ‘Deadly Sins’, and continuing to watch Suzy’s success!

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