Wearing the Spider is Susan Schaab’s first foray into the literary world, and a damn fine job she has done. The one label I hate to be tagged with is ‘critic’, a critic is someone that writes for ritzy magazines and hates life. I class myself as a reviewer, people read books because they are fun to read, not because some anonymous person talks about character development, writing style, the use of metaphors, and all of the other rubbish that these ‘critics’ ramble on aimlessly about.

I read a book, and I don’t care if it’s rough around the edges, I read them for the story.

That said, I will blow it all and talk like a critic! This is very well written, it really surprised me that this was a first time author. It puts to shame many authors that have made it to the NYT bestseller list.

I had an opportunity to chat with Susan.

Can you tell us a little about yourself Susan?

In my prior careers, I’ve always written – software, contracts, legal briefs… But now, I’m writing fiction and I plan to continue as long as I’m able. I’m a New York attorney who practiced technology and intellectual property law for more than eight years in New York, Texas and California. Before law school, I was a software systems designer and consultant.

As I remarked in my review Wearing the Spider is the 4th book I have read recently authored by people in the legal field. Are you all closet writers?

Interesting question. I would guess a great many attorneys are. Actually, several years ago I attended a seminar for lawyers who wanted to write fiction. One of the teachers asked attendees to raise their hand if they had a fiction manuscript in any state of completion. It was amazing to see what appeared to be a 90% affirmative response. So, I guess many lawyers are closet writers. Professional writing is a necessary skill for any attorney and I guess many lawyers are eager to try writing something other than legal documents.

I really liked the characters, and you did a splendid job of developing them, they seem almost real. I am presuming that like most authors bits and pieces are taken from real people. How much Susan is in Evie?

Thank you for your kind words. I suppose there is some of “Susan” in Evie although the story is completely fictitious. I like to think that I’m as dedicated, dutiful and hard-working as she is, and I do try to be moral and honest in everything I do. Like Evie, I have struggled with career issues and relationships. I did use my opinions about experiences I’ve had and my own impressions of men, encountered personally and professionally, to craft certain characters and their qualities.

It is very important, in my opinion, for characters to be realistic, vivid and consistent. They should generally act in accordance with who they are. I think the reader should expect to be engaged in the plight of one or more characters and actually feel for them. I like character-driven novels that reveal the characters through dialogue and action. I try to avoid descriptions of characters, and instead let the reader become acquainted with them through the evolution of the plot. However, I believe it is a mistake for a character to act solely in accordance with what a particular plot element demands; the characters must be authentic and believable. Sometimes, if the characters are sufficiently developed, they themselves will suggest the direction the plot should advance.

I thought using the character Joe Barton as the conduit for explaining the legal aspects in plain English was nothing short of masterful, was this accidental or engineered?

Wow. Thanks for the compliment. It was not really engineered, but grew out of the natural conversations I imagined between Evie and Joe, as their relationship deepened and as each new detail was discovered or experienced. While I was aware of the need to explain the legal aspects of the plot, I wanted to avoid as much legal jargon as possible and I wanted the story to be accessible by non-lawyers. But, I did want to give the reader a realistic taste of corporate legal practice and law firm life. Everyone who reads the book will have his or her own opinion as to whether or not I succeeded.

Wearing the Spider is an interesting title, how did you come up with it?

I’ve heard a variety of reactions to the title. I’m often asked about its origin. I got the idea for it while hiking on an island in the Caribbean, but I think the reader would prefer to discover its symbolistic meaning from the story itself; it is explained in an anecdote told by one of the characters.

Where did the idea behind the book come from? And how long did it take to bring to fruition?

The idea originated from simple, unadulterated paranoia. Like many young associates in private practice, I sometimes felt vulnerable within the law firm structure. Partners not only review the performance of associates, but often have control over their interactions with clients and the specific handling of client matters. One day, I had the thought: “What if one of them decided to frame me for something?” This thought sprung from my active imagination. It was not based on any of my actual experiences.

The hijacking and misuse of an associate’s identity seemed the perfect platform on which to explore that idea. And technology, the perfect tool. Even though identity theft is a commonly-reported topic these days, I had not heard anything about its occurrence in a professional workplace, so I decided the story would be sufficiently unique.

Then, to truly spice things up, I wanted the hijacked identity to be that of a woman by a man who had gender issues and harassment tendencies. Because of the way the characters evolved in my mind, they seemed to tell me how they would react to each event as it unfolded, and the story seemed to unfurl like a flag. But, it was not an easy process. The first draft was replaced by numerous revisions and re-writes over a six-year period, during which time I worked with a professional editor from whom I learned so much about the writing craft. The finished product has been receiving favourable reviews, for which I am truly grateful.

In 2006 there were 290,000 new titles published in the US alone. There is a lot of stiff competition for shelf space in book stores. What has been your game plan for sales? Internet, personal appearances, etc?

SS: It is indeed a difficult process, especially for a debut author with no prior publishing history and no name recognition. While seeking traditional media attention for the novel, I’ve invested a great deal of time and energy in Internet promotion. I have a website, www.susanschaab.com and the book has a website: www.wearingthespider.com, and there are book trailer videos, podcasts, advertisements and reviews at various places on the web. I understand the power of independent reviews and continue to seek them. I have a mini book tour scheduled for the fall and hope to add more book signings and events in the weeks ahead, and launch my blog. My goal is to try and present the book to the thriller audience and introduce myself. Readers will decide for themselves whether or not they want to purchase my book, but many copies have already been added to library shelves around the country and independent bookstores have placed orders. The book is selling on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online sites as well. I am very grateful for the reception so far.

I have yet to meet an author that stops at one book! So what is next for Susan Schaab?

I’m working on a courtroom thriller, Hearsay, and I have two more plots for thriller novels resonating in the back of my mind. I’ve written one mystery short story, Foretold, which has not yet been published, and I want to work toward a short story collection. I’d like to challenge myself, at some point, to write a screenplay or stage play, but we’ll see how things evolve.

Thanks again Susan.

Thank you, Simon. I really appreciate the opportunity to speak to you and your readers.

Simon Barrett

http://zzsimonb.blogspot.com

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