I had such a fun time discussing my novel, Sandcastles, with a wonderful group of readers. Below is a transcript of that discussion. (I’ve left out contributor names for privacy reasons as this was discussed in a closed group on Facebook)

If you have any discussion questions of your own, please feel free to comment below, and I’ll be thrilled to answer them!

Q. DM: Suzie, getting a head start on the discussion and posting a few questions for someone who couldn’t be here for the event – here goes with your first question! Although I personally don’t see Sandcastles as change in genre, is this an evolution of your writing style? And will you on occasion write novels with the same focus as say Inner Secrets?

Suzie Carr: I believe writers should continuously grow, so yes, I am always looking for ways to stretch myself as a writer. I dove into some deep issues in Sandcastles, and truthfully, this book has been my most favorite to write to date. I love adding a touch of romance to my books, so you’ll probably always see this element in my writing. Does that mean I won’t write another book solely true to the romance genre? Of course not. If a story calls on me to write it as pure romance, then I will pursue it with the same level of passion.

SD: I still consider it a romance since it has that in it…. I do think it’s a departure for you as far as your tone and a feel of maturing patience emerging. …it’s so easy and comfortable. …I LOVE Tangerine Twist, but Sandcastles is a different Suzie Carr as I told you personally before…xoxooxox

Suzie Carr: xoxoxo

SD:  You know how I’m drawn to the paranormal so this was an extra treat

PP: I do agree with this. This book was more evolved. It is now my favorite.

DM: One of my favorites too!

Q. LI: How do you select the inspiration setting for your cover photos on your books, do you travel to a remote specific location you have in mind or work with a photographer?

Suzie Carr: I look for images that speak to the theme of the novel. For this one, I knew I didn’t want an actual sandcastle on it as that was more of a symbolic analogy. I research with the help of some great people and we search high and low for the perfect picture. When it comes up on the screen, I know instantly. I’ve used photographers in cases when I couldn’t find a suitable photograph to purchase.

Q. LI: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Suzie Carr: Traveling the world, experiencing God knows what…. but it’ll be something exciting and life changing… in search for stories. I want to meet new people from all over the world and be inspired by their lives and share glimpses of those lives with my readers.

Q. LI: If you casted characters for Sandcastles from Hollywood for a movie who would they be and why?

Suzie Carr:
Willow: Kaley Cuoco

Lia: Evangeline Lilly

Dean: Adhir Kalyan

Yvonne: Kathy Bates

Q. LI: Do you have any unique writing habits when writing your novels? Ex. Writing in the shower

Suzie Carr: I meditate prior to any writing session.

LI: Amazing answers thank you for answering my questions Suzie Carr. I learn more about the wonderful person you are and the trials and tribulations you’ve had that you share with your readers. You’re strong willed and seem to have turned around negative experiences into positive outcomes. Thank you for your constant inspiration we all seek and for making those around you more positive!

Q. DM: Do Sunshine and BumbleBee supervise your writing, pushing you to continue even when you don’t or can’t continue?

Suzie Carr: Sunshine makes a mandatory morning meeting every day. I must show up and plop myself on the couch, only the one with the foot and ankle massager. He must lay across my lap, and then I must work on social media postings with the laptop resting not on him, but on the arm of the couch. Bumblebee is my security. She barks at leaves that try to fly by my window or raindrops that attempt entry. They drive me….

Q. DM: So, what you’re trying to say is that both play a VERY important role!

Suzie Carr: Uber important role

DM: And they know it too. LOL.

Q. AD: Suzie, you might be really busy for instance I heard you said in an interview that you use 2 hours a day for social media. How do you balance all of this? Do you have a tight schedule?

Suzie Carr:  Great question. I’ve learned how to balance it all over the years. I have a goal board in my house. On it I list my top 3 priorities in life. Anything that doesn’t fit within those 3 doesn’t get my attention. I am super careful with how I use my time. I rarely watch tv. That is a big time waster. I’d be fine if I didn’t own a tv in fact. For me, my priorities are family/friends, health, and personal development (books and work are in this category). I am fortunate to work in an environment that allows me to be on social media all day. That is my saving grace. I rise at 2:30 am and keep going until 4:30 pm, at which time I shut off all technology and relax. In between those productive hours, I work hard. I waste little time. The balance comes in knowing after 4:30 its me-time.

Q. JD: Suzie, you’ve done a number of these q&a sessions before, knowing how much you research your books, I was wondering what was the one question you had prepared for, but hadn’t been asked?

Suzie Carr:  For this novel it would have to be “This story seems extremely personal, like you’ve experienced some of it for yourself. Have you?” And I will attempt to answer this… yes. I experienced what Dean experienced. I went through the entire health scare a year and a half ago. I had the surgery he had and the concerns he had. It changed my life dramatically. I am more alive now than I’ve ever been. I am healthier now than I’ve ever been. I attribute that massive curve in my life to this wonderful change in my way of living. I guard my health with everything I possibly can because it is my armor and temple. Health is a true gift and one I will never apologize for honoring or trying to educate others on.

Q. JD: OMG !!! I had no idea, how on earth did you manage to share such a personal experience?

Suzie Carr:  All turned out positive in the end. Some incredible lessons and realizations resulted from it, and I’m all about sharing anything positive.

JD: I’m in shock

AD:  Same here! I’m really impressed by your courage Suzie!

Suzie Carr: Thanks

Q. JD: When we first meet Lia, she’s running at 100 mph rushing and tearing about, does a character need a life changing moment like her friend experiences to make her change?

Suzie Carr:  Some of us do. I know I’ve experienced that type of eye-opener many times over in my life. When life knocks you over the head with a shocking realization like a threat to our personal health or to the health of someone for whom we care deeply, the result is generally dramatic – at least in my personal experience. When life altering things like this happen to us, we tend to push aside those things that are not a priority and focus in on those things that are, like time well-spent with a friend or loved one or simple joys like cooking a delicious meal together or going for a peaceful walk. For me, I’ve always come to the place in my heart that reminds me simplicity is best. Prioritize what’s important.

PL: I also share this opinion, it’s about the simple pleasures of life as we know the true joy of living and the happiness!:)

Suzie Carr: Simplicity is key PL.  I admire your focus on it.

Q. JD: What would be the one question you would like to ask your readers about this book ?

Suzie Carr: Two questions: What was the biggest takeaway from this book? And what character made the biggest impact and why?

JD: For me, live your dreams and willow, for having the confidence to be true to herself and free

Suzie Carr:  nice JD

PP: I loved the analogy of the sandcastles and the ever present theme of living life to the fullest. While Willow is my favorite character I think Dean made the biggest impact. He really changed Lia’s way of thinking and made her better in the end. Without him she never would have found Willow again and kept her for that matter.

Suzie Carr: you got it right on PP! Most of the reviews I’ve read are saying the same thing… Dean is the favorite.

PP: I think I like Willow so much because she’s so sweet and strong in herself.

AD: It would be to stop being so afraid of things I don’t know and Dean I love his personality I want a best friend like him!! Lol

JD: A little something a little different now…… We’re getting the chance to ask Suzie lots about her wonderful book, her beliefs and get writing process. Now it’s YOUR turn !!! So, over to you!! I nominate PP!!!

1) How did you find out about Suzie and her books?

2) What character from her books are you most like?

3) sangria or mohito ?

4) hugs or kisses?

5) paperback or kindle?

PP: (1) I found Suzie Carr’s book Tangerine Twist on Kindle which is how I found out about her. Once I read Tangerine Twist, I got all her other books and I love her writing. (2) I don’t feel I am like any of her characters but my favorite character so far would actually be Willow. (3) I prefer any kind of Apple beer. I’m not a wine person at all. Lol. (4) Hugs for my friends, kisses for my fiancée Lol. (5) Kindle all the way for me. I don’t have enough room for all the books I read if they were paperback.

AD: (1) found out about Suzie’s books in this group (2) I don’t mean to flatter myself but I would say Lia (3) Mojito but alcohol free for me (it’s always what I order a soft Mojito ) (4) I’m a hugger, it warms up my heart (5) kindle of course! But I’m a computer geek so it helps.  And Suzie the only thing I miss about paperback is the possibility to have a dedication on it but I was so happy with the gain of space I had when I decided I only wanted ebooks.

Q. JD: When you’ve written 9 successful books before how do you keep your ideas fresh and stop your characters merging into one another?

AD:  Great question! I’ve been impressed by the fact that every book is different from the other!

JD: Aren’t they AD? What would your top three be?

AD: Sandcastles would be the first now, then the fiche room and then inner secrets (not easy to choose though) but yeah Sandcastles is definitely on the 1st place.

Suzie Carr: How I keep it fresh is by tossing myself into new experiences. For instance with Sandcastles it was the whole holistic part. For my upcoming, The Dance, it’s the world of bees. And the next one after that is all about scuba diving. These are all brand new experiences for me, so these stories are brimming with newness. No story line is alike, and thus the characters are unique too. These characters teach me about life, allowing me to see this new world through their eyes.

AD:  Scuba diving reminds me of someone! lol

Suzie Carr: I took up scuba diving specifically so I can research a novel that embraces that world.

JD: She’s a real action women isn’t she AD? I think everyone here knows my top three probably everyone could post them

AD: Yes she is!!! And great idea everyone should post it would be fun!

PP: My two favorites are sandcastles and Tangerine Twist. Suzie Carr really is an amazing author.

Suzie Carr: I love Becca James…. I sometimes really miss my characters… and she’s one of them. I’d love to live a day in her life. hehehehe

PP: That’s always what sequels and series are for

Suzie Carr: She’s in the sequel of The Journey Somewhere. I think I fell in love with her a whole lot more in that novel!

PP: Me too! I love that sequel. I knew it wasn’t over for them. I did like how the first one didn’t end in a nice neat ending. Did you always plan to write a sequel to it? Sorry I know we are talking about sandcastles but I’m curious.

Suzie Carr: I always knew I needed to finish their story. yup! It took me a few years to understand where I wanted their story to go…

JD: That’s ok PP!! Today isn’t just about sandcastles it’s also about letting you chat with Suzie and learn more about her work and beliefs too.

PP: I think that’s awesome. They were meant to be so they had to find their way back to each other.

Q. AD: Were you ever skeptical about the alternative medicine or have you always been a believer and why?

Suzie Carr: I’ve never been skeptical. Always a believer. I became a believer in the power of our minds when I was a teenager suffering from scoliosis (curvature of the spine) I was told that my spine would never straighten. Well, I decided I didn’t like that answer. So, I started to visualize my spine straightening. Every morning and night I would see my spine lengthening and straightening. Well, six months later, after getting an x-ray to monitor my spine, the doctors were perplexed. My spine had straightened without any intervention but my faith.

JD: Mind over matter

Suzie Carr: Our minds are so powerful, especially when backed by faith in whatever/whoever your higher power is.

PP: Wow that’s amazing!

PL: A real inner strength Suzie! fabulous

Q. JD: Dean is such a warm, generous and giving character, for me, it was such a moment when he received is news and the way he handles it as a “no biggy” to start with was an odd moment which changed the dynamic in his relationship with Lia, where she goes into total control and takeover mode, is that like anyone we know?

Suzie Carr: I think this was true to Lia’s character. She is a no nonsense person who wants to guide situations to amenable results. I also think she feared losing Dean. He is so monumental in her life, and she’s depended on him, maybe too much, and now can’t imagine life without him. She is in total panic mode, and I think a part of her is confused as to why Dean’s not in panic mode too when she’s always known him to be someone who would typically dive into such a mode. Speaking from personal reflection, I believe Dean’s reaction is right on point with how a person might react to such news. We gain such strength in the face of a threat, so much so we surprise ourselves. I believe this is a survival mechanism.

Q. KD: How do you come up with the names for your characters?

Suzie Carr:  The names come to me early in the planning process, at least for the main characters. They come organically and stick. That being said, I typically have a tough time naming secondary characters. I tend to rename these characters several times over in the course of writing the story. In fact, Lia’s sister, Anna, was first called Patti, then Lilly, then Cathy, and finally Anna. ha

Q. JD: That’s an interesting answer Suzie, do you think the name changing reflects your understanding of the character as it develops and comparing them to people you know or have heard about?

Suzie Carr: Mostly the name changing is the result of knowing someone in my life with that same name. Oddly, this never happens with my main characters, always with secondary.

Q. PL: I want to tell you again that I love the title, the cover of your book and of course this beautiful story! What inspired you to write this story? This comes from your personal experiences or pure imagination? How long have you been writing this book?

Suzie Carr: It took me a year to write this book. I researched it deeply. The idea came to me about 5 years ago when my dear friend died from liver cancer. I’ll never forget the look in his eye the day we met for the last time. His eyes were filled with regret, and also with an urgency to communicate that as long as I’m alive, I can have fun exploring life instead of just existing in it. That last look we shared was the first seedling to Sandcastles, planted many years ago and never forgotten.

PL: Thank you for your answer Suzie! It’s hard to lose a loved one, it is never forgotten and it is a tribute to him makes you in writing this book!!!

Suzie Carr: He once asked me right before he died to never forget him. He begged me not to remove his number from my contact list or unfriend his account on FB. His wife did remove his FB account (and I fully support her doing that!) but I’ve never removed his number from my contacts (even though I know it’s no longer him at the other end of that number). He used to joke around that he wanted to never be forgotten. ha So, I decided, well, how better to do this than place his spirit in a book?

PP: That’s so touching. I bet this book means a lot to you because of him.

JD: Yes, similar thing happened to me when I lost someone a while ago. Although someone deleted her Facebook account, I’ve never taken her off my phone or skype and I live the way on a windows phone, it occasionally flashes her picture up, so I can pause to remember her. This must be the same for you with this book? Perhaps we should have a yearly event for the people we should remember from our lives, called sandcastles?

Suzie Carr: This book is extra special because of him, yes PP

Suzie Carr: ohhh that’s an awesome thought JD

Q. EK: Firstly I must say that I loved your book and the story it told, I found the character Willow especially intriguing. How do you work to build your characters? Because it really feels like they are “real” and that they have a life of their own.

Suzie Carr: Thanks for the compliments on Sandcastles.  With my main characters, I always start out writing journal entries through their eyes. I place myself in their hands, and I type journal entries as if them. I imagine their day and I begin writing about experiences, incorporating all of my senses into the process. Before long, their characters grows into someone real in my heart, someone unforgettable, someone with a burning story to tell  I do this long before I write any scenes. I do this for the sole purpose of ‘giving birth’ to these characters without censorship, judgment or preconceived ideas.

PP: That’s amazing!

Q. JD: What is it about spiritualism, tarot reading, mediumship that lends itself to opening us up to change and new things?

Suzie Carr: I say energy. Where energy is powerful, it surges and spreads, finding its way into the deepest recesses of our minds. It opens up the dark shades, letting in a light that makes it impossible to hide back in the darkness. It’s mystical and magical in nature, and plays on our innate desires to understand the complexity of the universe. Our minds are stretched with possibility, and I believe we enjoy that feeling, which opens us up to change and exploration

Suzie Carr: I feel like Yvonne came through on that answer  hehehehehe

JD: Omg -Yvonne, my wife’s spiritual circle was led by a lady who sadly passed away at Christmas, which has meant she has had to take over the group. Everything about that character made her cry her eyes out, they’re special people, the earth angels x

Q. KM: How much do you personally input to have you covers made? Or do you do them yourself?

Suzie Carr: I design them myself, as I’m a professional graphic designer

Q. JD: How much research do you do for your books?

Suzie Carr: With each book, my research level has grown significantly. Here’s why… I love learning. I want to experience new things, and so I embrace this part of being a novelist. Currently, I am deep into research mode for my next novel, The Dance. The lead character is a beekeeper. So, I contacted one of the country’s leading experts on honeybees and she was kind enough to put me in contact with another expert who write Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive. This book has educated me. I also am going to experience bee time by shadowing a local beekeeper who manages over 40 hives. I am so excited.

JD: Yes, bee keeping is amazing, I’ve made friends with someone who does this in Plymouth, so much to it and also learning and understanding in what bees do for the environment

Suzie Carr: We can learn a lot about ourselves, our environment, communication, and basic interactions via honeybees.

Q. JD: Having written Sandcastles and experienced what you have, do you think the characters you write about come into your life for a reason and to teach you things that you need to know at that moment?

Suzie Carr: Always. Every time I write a book, my life mirrors the major experiences. It’s crazy to me. Something parallel always emerges whether it be a conversation I have with someone, a gut feeling, a close call, a stream of consciousness… That’s why when I storyboard my novels, I am flexible and leave it open enough for changes to come through. Changes in story always come through and surprise me. Either experiences or my characters change the course originally planned. I find this fascinating. It’s like the characters push me out of the driver’s seat and take over the drive. I just hang out beside them and let them take me on a ride…

Q. AD: Suzie, did you intend to pass along a message in Sandcastles? If yes which one(s) and do you think it (they) were heard?

Suzie Carr: Life is short. Live it. Go do that thing you always wanted to do today because tomorrow is not guaranteed. Forgive others. Smile often. Have fun. And live without regrets.

JD: Perfect message for modern life x

AD: I love this answer! It is totally what I got out of it. Honestly since I read your book I think about it a lot and it helped me to open myself to new perspectives (frenglish? :s)

Suzie Carr: yay! This makes me happy! I learned so much from these characters… yup they become my teachers… and I am thrilled their lessons have passed through

Q. JD: As well as being a love interest for Lia, what other things did willow to bring to Lia and the story?

Suzie Carr: Willow helped Lia come out of her comfort zone by helping her to see that fears are only perpetuated by a lack of understanding. Once you dig deeper and seek truths in things you don’t understand, you grow and open yourself up to pathways capable of bringing new levels of happiness and purpose.

Q. JD: Has the research you had to do for this book into alternative beliefs, treatments and lifestyles had an influence on your own life?

Suzie Carr: Indeed. They actually were the result of personal curiosity. I am health-focused, and wanted to learn how to best keep my health in check. I delved into acupuncture (by the way I always misspell this word!), holistic approaches to proactive health, changing my nutrition entirely, meditating, and yoga.

Q. LL: What or who inspired you to be a writer?

Suzie Carr: I’ve been inspired since childhood. My mother used to take me to the library every Saturday morning. I was allowed to check out 3 books each week. I just remember thinking that when I grew up, I wanted to make books  My first attempt at writing a novel didn’t happen until I graduated college, however. It all began with a short story series I wrote for a company’s newsletter. I wrote a story about an aunt and her niece creating crafts every Saturday morning. It quickly grew a fan base, and I wrote it for several years until I left the company. Soon after that, I began work on The Fiche Room.

Q. DM: oooh, here’s a good one. Can’t wait to hear this answer! You introduced us to the paranormal, have you had an interest in the subject? Or have you, like some of us had an experience with some type(s) of the paranormal?

Suzie Carr: I’m highly interested in the paranormal because I have experienced it firsthand many times. I believe we are all wired to experience psychic ability, but some are more able to tune into it than others. I love the idea that we are part of a dynamic universe that interacts on an amazing level. Life is a dance of energy, and I’m so excited to have caught a few glimpses in this for myself.

JD: Okies ladies, we’ve been so lucky to have had Suzie for such a long time today and it’s literally flown by. Unfortunately though we have to let this busy bee fly away (that makes sense if you read one of the threads) and get on with writing her next book. Don’t forget, you can carry on posting questions on this thread, even though Suzie will be offline, she’ll be checking back to answer them all !!!! If you’ve enjoyed this event, why not ask the club to feature one of your other favourite authors? Don’t forget to join in with some of the other postings too!!!

AD Loved it so glad I could do it live.

JD:  Thank you so much Suzie for your time and sharing so much with us. It’s been so lovely to spend time with you and learn a little more of what makes you special as always.

Suzie Carr: Thanks so much for moderating this event today JD! I had a blast. Everyone had such great questions. I loved delving back into this book. Please feel free to post any additional questions. I’m more than thrilled to answer them.