Today we welcome Sue Boggio.
Book ‘Em: Tell us about you and your life outside of writing.
Sue Boggio: I’ve been married to my wonderful fella for 31 years now. We have one grown amazing daughter and a fabulous granddaughter. I retired from the University of New Mexico as an RN after 31 years and now am a happy fulltime writer. We live in Albuquerque with our two Maine Coon cats. I love to read, take nature walks in our beautiful Land of Enchantment, swim, and eat great food—especially New Mexico cuisine.
Book ‘Em: Which books have you written? What are they about and why did you choose to write them? Do your books have a message? Are they fiction or nonfiction?
Sue Boggio: I have co-authored three novels with my childhood best friend, Mare Pearl, published by UNM Press: Sunlight and Shadow, A Growing Season, and Long Night Moon. They comprise a trilogy that is set in contemporary rural New Mexico revolving around two extended multi-cultural families that farm chile and have a goat dairy. We chose to write these books because they are our love letters to New Mexico, incorporating and honoring the people, the land, and the food. We put our characters through plenty of difficulties: a missing person, family conflict, a major drought that threatens their way of life, and a kidnapping. We employ elements of mystery but they are not category mysteries. They are character-driven literary fiction.
After our long careers in mental health, our books are all ultimately a healing journey. Though it is the human condition to be wounded in relationships, we believe it is only through relationship that we heal and truly evolve. Our connectedness through blood-related families and/or the families we find and form along the way provides our personal growth and potential redemption.
We focus, too, on the boundaries we as humans impose between class, race, religion—all the ways we divide ourselves from each other. These novels look at the both the rewards and costs of crossing those boundaries for love.
Book ‘Em: Do you have a work in progress?
Sue Boggio: I have a work in progress, but Mare is not able to join me on this one as she is caring for her elderly parents that have moved in with her and her husband. It’s much harder without her to brainstorm with! Twice the work and half the fun, but I need to write to feel right in the world.
My WIP, a novel, is a real challenge. I’m looking at the ripple effect of PTSD during the Vietnam War and also the Iraqi/Afghanistan wars.
Book ‘Em: What was the most difficult section/piece you ever wrote? What made it difficult?
Sue Boggio: The one I’m working on now, about one hundred pages into a first draft, is difficult due to the amount of research involved. Though I lived through the Vietnam War as a child and teenager, I am now reading tons of books, articles, etc. to be able to do the story justice. The two interconnecting timelines provide additional challenges.
As a writer, my right brain—the creative side—is my strength. So writing difficult emotional scenes with complex characters is much easier (and more fun) for me than the left brain’s arena of research, logistics, and “just the facts, ma’am” components. That very necessary part of fiction writing at times feels tedious and too much like homework, when I just want to fly free and write!
Book ‘Em: What sort of research do you do for your work?
Sue Boggio: For our trilogy, we did a lot of research about chile farming in the traditional way which involves irrigating the fields from water diverted from the Rio Grande. Our other research for those books included everything from raising goats, the pervasive drought, to the Jewish Holocaust, Treblinka death camp, and 1940s Brooklyn, and even close consultation with the FBI about child kidnapping.
Book ‘Em: Which books and authors do you read for pleasure? Is there an author that inspires you?
Sue Boggio: Oh gosh, so many! Barbara Kingsolver, Alice Hoffman, Michael Chabon, Richard Russo, Jo-Ann Mapson, Sarah Bird, Kate Atkinson, Maeve Binchy, Tana French, Jhumpa Lahiri, John Green, Anne Tyler, Susie Steiner, Ian McEwan, Denise Chavez, Douglas Adams, T. Greenwood, Kent Haruf, Colson Whitehead—and many, many more! A very diverse group and I’m discovering more writers to love all the time.
Book ‘Em: Was there a person who encouraged you to write?
Sue Boggio: I started writing as soon as I could hold a pencil. Mare and I began writing stories together when we were ten years old in West Des Moines, Iowa, where we grew up. My mom was a school librarian, so books were a staple in our house. Several teachers were highly encouraging along the way, especially our creative writing teacher in high school, Mrs. Mary Swenson, who lived to see us published and loves our work.
Book ‘Em: What would you say are your strengths as an author?
Sue Boggio: Character development. Mare and I approach character development from a psychodynamic approach, meaning, constructing our characters using their childhood traumas’ influence on their personalities, motives, and choices.
Book ‘Em: How often do you write, and do you write using a strict routine?
Sue Boggio: I write Monday through Friday from about 9am to 4pm, with an hour lunch break. When Mare and I were still working fulltime demanding jobs, I worked days, she worked the night shift, and we had different days off. Somehow we managed to produce our three published award-winning novels and several more that are with our agent. We believe in showing up and doing the work without whining or excuses. We commit to a project and see it through. I have the same work ethic with my solo writing.
Book ‘Em: Five years from now, where do you see yourself as a writer?
Sue Boggio: I only know one thing for sure: I will be writing as long as I am physically and mentally able. With parents doing great at 89 and 93, I’m hoping for another thirty years or more practicing my craft, my passion.
Book ‘Em: If you could offer one piece of advice to a novice writer, what would it be?
Sue Boggio: Learn all you can about the craft and business of writing. Since I went to nursing school instead of getting my MFA, that means I have self-educated via craft of writing books, articles in writer’s magazines, attending writer’s conferences, entering respected writing contests for the feedback, and reading excellent fiction writers.
And, the most important thing a novice writer or any writer can do is persist. We had countless rejections before our success. Eat rejections for breakfast! Keep going! Prove them wrong! You can do it! Mare and I never could take no for an answer (just ask our parents and teachers) and it has served us well in our writing careers.
Book ‘Em: What would you consider the best compliment a reader could give your book?
Sue Boggio: That they couldn’t put the book down, that we robbed them of precious sleep, and that they still think about our characters as if they were real people they knew, long after finishing the book.
Book ‘Em: Provide an excerpt of your writing that you would like to share with our members.
Sue Boggio: From the beginning of our second book in the trilogy “A Growing Season.” Santiago is eighteen, about to graduate from high school and leave home for college. He was adopted at age ten into the Silva family after being abused and neglected by his father. His life now seems perfect, but issues from his past haunt him and threaten his promising future.
Santiago ran through the cottonwood trees on the well-worn path. He had awakened drenched in sweat from his nightmare, and he was still sweating as he made his way through the chill of the early May morning.
The sun had not yet emerged from the shield of the Manzano Mountains in the east, so the light was gun metal gray. Whether it was because of his sweat or the last of night’s precious moisture evaporating around him, the air almost seemed damp. Rain almost felt possible. It had been so long, he couldn’t even remember what rain smelled like.
He tried to focus on the branches overhead clutching new leaves like awards they had won or on the sound of his running shoes thudding against the packed soil of the path. Something real, instead of the dark images from the nightmare crouching in the recesses of his consciousness, waiting to pounce if he let his guard down.
Sometimes when he had the dream, he tried to remember it so he could understand why his heart beat so hard and fast. All he knew was, it felt like helplessness and panic and death and no matter how many nights went by with only innocuous dreams, it would come back. It always came back.
Something on the path ahead was wrong. He knew these acres of land as well as his own bedroom and something wasn’t right. A tree was down.
It wasn’t one of the largest of the stately cottonwoods on their land, but it was at least thirty or forty feet tall. Or had been. Now it was collapsed across the path. He walked around to the base of the trunk and saw it had simply pulled away from the earth. He knelt and placed his hand into the coolness of the gaping wound of it, breathing in the scent. Soil clung to the splintered wood that reached like tiny broken bones from the tree trunk.
A tree this big should have massive roots. He imagined them like thick snakes reaching deep into the soil to nourish it and keep it upright. Nothing like that here. Was it the drought that had killed it? Or hordes of tiny insects, invisible assassins? Maybe a disease had eaten away at it from the inside, even as it had looked perfect and healthy. Its leaves were still perfect. Green, heart shaped, and hopeful.
Doomed, though. Nothing could save them now.
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