A New York Times Bestselling Author from the Midwest, Susan has  recently returned to writing under her own name after a few years writing under the pen name CC Gibbs for her billionaire erotica series (featuring Dominic Knight and Rafe Contini). Johnson favors “larger than life” characters. Her heroes, the real focus of her stories, are invariably rich. The heroines put up a good fight and manage to cure the hero of a little of his arrogance by the story’s end.

Why did you start writing?

What I hope to do is not just entertain, but also inform, seduce, perhaps even astonish and disturb, all with a painter’s eye for atmospheric reality and lyrical detail. Within this reality I strive to make my characters come alive–so you can hear them breathe. Long ago, as they say, in another time, when fast food hadn’t reached our area and the only shopping was what the feed mill offered, I was reading a book that annoyed me .  My husband was lying beside me in bed, watching TV.  Turning to him, I sort of petulantly said, “How the hell did this book get published?”

“If you think you’re so smart,” he replied, with one eye still on the TV,  “why don’t you write a book?”

So I did. And very badly.  I’ve since learned how to do, he said, she said, and a great variety of other adverb heavy, sometimes lengthy explanations of why my characters are saying what they’re saying, along with finally coming to an understanding of what things like POV means. (Point of View for you non-writers).  Although, I still don’t fully comprehend why it matters if you switch POV, and I cavalierly disregard it as much as possible. So while my technical skills have hopefully improved, what hasn’t changed is my great joy in writing.  There’s as much pleasure today in listening to my characters talk while I type as fast as I can, as there was the first time I put dialogue to paper–in long-hand,  then, in my leather bound sketch-book.

How did you first get published?

I first wrote a contemporary very loosely based on some charming passion I’d experienced. Then I purchased a copy of WRITERS MARKET, read the introduction on query letters, etc, (I was a complete novice) selected three publishers and mailed out the first three chapters. The publishers all asked to see the complete manuscript, but none bought it. Well, I thought,- no one wants that story.

I decided to write another-this one a historical based on my great-grandmother’s unhappy love affair that I’d just learned of.   Being a romantic at heart, I decided to give my great-grandmother a fictional happy ending to her life instead of the suffering she endured. But this time, I had no intention of writing an entire book that perhaps no one wanted. So I wrote the first three chapters and an outline and mailed it out to just one publisher this time. WRITERS MARKET suggested an author select a publisher most likely to publish your style of book and at the time Playboy Press was one of the biggest romance publishers. They published a great range of romances, including the hot and steamy stuff I wrote.

I received a letter from Nancy Coffey asking to see the rest of the manuscript.  I took three weeks sick leave from the University of Minnesota where I worked as an Art Curator and wrote a rough draft.  Once I was back at work, it took me another couple of months to clean up the manuscript and then I sent it to Playboy Press.  They bought it, SEIZED BY LOVE was published about six months later, and I’ve been very happily writing ever since.

Where do the ideas come from?

I have a pretty good sized library at home (over 10,000 books) and I’ve been an avid reader for years.  Also, there’s so much history that interests me, I consider what kind of hero would fit into that milieu and then find a woman who will make his life interesting in a variety of ways. These days I find a lot of inspiration online through Google and Pinterest.

Where did you grow up?

I was raised in a small town in northern Minnesota where the road literally ended just four miles past our house.  At that point the highway ran into the lake and across the water lay Canada.  So I know what boonies means.  Now in my adult life, I’m living in another kind of boondocks in central Minnesota, this time in a forest of hardwoods surrounded by corn fields.  Inspired by this propensity to find myself in sparsely populated areas, I’ve been forced to rely on my imagination for amusement.  And making up stories that I can people with gloriously handsome  men and clever, beautiful women who say and do whatever comes to my mind is as close to heaven as any creative artist would wish.

Are you from a Finnish background?

Yes, I am.  Both my grandparents were from Finland.  My paternal grandparents were from an area near Vasa and my maternal grandparents were from Viipuri. My grandparents didn’t speak English, so I understand it or at least did-fairly well. My sister spoke Finnish as a child, but I never learned.  Now, I’m sorry I didn’t.

Have you written under any other names?

Hot Streak by Jill Barkin and my new billionaire series as CC Gibbs. Many of my older titles have also been re-released with new titles outside of North America as written by CC Gibbs as well.

How long does it take to write a book?

It depends on the book and on how much research I have to do before I begin writing. But generally, it takes me about six months to finish a story. The novellas, of course, take less time.  Rafe’s story kept getting longer and longer-which is often the case.  I never have a hard a fast plan when I begin writing, so my characters tend to take me where they want to go and I just follow.


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