Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Author Interview: Suzan Stirling, Author of The Silence of Mercy Bleu

Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes Suzan Stirling, author of The Silence of Mercy Bleu!

Welcome to Jersey Girl Book Reviews Suzan! Before we get to the interview, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself.

Hi Kathleen. So great to chat with you today. I'm a big fan of your blog and want to thank you for your interest in my new novel, The Silence of Mercy Bleu. In addition to being a writer, I'm also a wife and mom to three amazing kids, two biological and one little boy, now age ten, adopted from Ethiopia. I'm also a passionate advocate for people living with HIV and AIDS.

How long have you been a writer?

I'd have to say that I've been a writer my whole life. Although I did other things and pursued much easier careers, writing was the one "thing" I kept coming back to - the "thing" I never tired of. There's a saying that goes, "Believe in that dream that keeps coming back, it is your destiny." I believe that.

Do you have a "day job," or is being an author your career?

I'm very fortunate to be able to write full-time. That's been my dream for years and three years ago, I made the choice to leave a career that was no longer fulfilling to pursue my dream of writing. It's a choice I've never regretted. I'm really thankful, though, for the many day jobs I've held over the years, everything from a t-shirt painter at the harbor in Oceanside, California to a hair salon owner in Kentucky, as those experiences have helped mold me into the person and writer that I am today. 

What inspired you to become a writer? Describe your journey as a writer.

Honestly, everything inspires me to write. I can't get through a day without something releasing that desire within me to commit words and story onto the page. Life - real person and the journey that we're all on together, that's where my inspiration comes from.

Please give a brief description/storyline about The Silence of Mercy Bleu.

In a nutshell, The Silence of Mercy Bleu is a story about a young woman hiding the secret of AIDS and the havoc that wrecks her life and relationships ... it's also a love story.

What was the inspiration for this story?

Having lived more than half of my life with HIV I always knew that my first novel would be about a young woman with AIDS. It's a difficult subject; a challenging subject with so many nooks and crevices to explore. 

How did it feel to have your first book published?

So thankful. This is a difficult time for a newcomer to break in. The stories have to not only be compelling, but unique to garner attention. Having Mercy Bleu gain so much attention early on (This story was a semi-finalist in the William Faulkner Novel in Progress Competition before its completion) and then to be acquired by my publisher, Knight Romance, that likens the whole experience to that of winning the lottery. I'm still smiling.

Do you write books for a specific genre?

I enjoy writing stories about ordinary people who come up against some extraordinary challenge they must somehow overcome. My stories often have some sort of spiritual/miraculous undertone. I also love a larger than life love story. If I had to choose a genre I'd say Contemporary with a dash of inspiration tossed in.

What genres are your favorite(s)? What are some of your favorite books that you have read and why?

This could turn into a very long list! I read everything I can get my hands on. Some favorite authors and books are: Anything by Mitch Albom, Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants, Driving With Dead People ... I also like non-fiction books that inspire.

Do you have a special "spot/area" where you like to do your writing?

I write anywhere and everywhere, but I especially like to write in the early hours of the morning before the sun and family wake up.

How do you come up with the ideas that become the storyline for your books?

Ideas are constantly barraging me, which sometimes makes it difficult for me to work on just one story at a time, so I work on multiple ideas until one takes me over. Most often the idea for a story comes from something I feel passionate about.

When you write, do you adhere to a strict work schedule, or do you work whenever the inspiration strikes?

I adhere to a schedule, definitely. A minimum of 1,000 words a day will turn into a novel, eventually.

What aspects of storytelling do you like the best, and what aspects do you struggle with the most?

I enjoy the whole process, from blank page to typing "the end" which also happens to be the things I struggle most with! The process of writing is and always will be a challenge. I love that. It keeps me from getting bored.

What are your favorite things to do when you are not writing?

I love to dance, travel, work with my hands, cook (and I know this one's weird) clean house. I like to iron.

What is/was the best piece of writing advice that you have received?

The three P's - Patience / Practice / Persistence.

What is the most gratifying thing you feel or get as a writer?

When my readers connect with my story, that's an amazing feeling.

How do you usually communicate with your readers/fans?

I enjoy interacting with book groups and online social media is a great way to connect with my readers.

Is there anything in your book based on real life experiences or is it purely all from your imagination?

Writing about real life isn't nearly as much fun for me as fiction. So often, the story takes on a life of its own and when I have to ask myself, "Where in the world did that come from?" That's when I know I'm really writing.

What authors have been your inspiration of influenced you to become a writer?

I was blessed to be a student of Lee Pennington's the last couple of years he taught. This Professor of English was also a Pulitzer nominated poet and the best teacher I'll ever have. He was a huge inspiration and his belief in me and my writing really set my dreams in motion.

What is your definition of success as a writer?

Well, this goes for anything really - loving what you do and doing it to the best of your ability - that to me is success. Getting published is the icing on the cake.

Are you currently writing a new book? If yes, would you care to share a bit with us?

I have my next three novels outlined and in the works. Let's just say that this next novel has surprised even me and I cannot wait to share it!

Thank you Suzan for allowing me the opportunity to interview you on Jersey Girl Book Reviews, and for taking the time to share some things about you and your writing career with us!

About The Author:

Suzan Stirling is an author and longtime advocate for HIV/AIDS patients and families. Stirling's stories have appeared worldwide and in such publications as POZ magazine, Today's Family, Adoption Today, Betty Confidential and Writing Raw. Her first novel released in March 2012, The Silence of Mercy Bleu, was a semi-finalist in the William Faulkner Novel-in-Progress competition.

A native of Idaho, by the age of nineteen, she has lived in five states, eleven cities, and attended thirteen different schools. It was during this sometimes challenging yet always adventurous upbringing that Stirling developed a love for writing that followed her into adulthood.

In 1996, after a serious bout with illness, Stirling's life took a dramatic turn when she and her two children were diagnosed with HIV, an illness that led her to become a strong advocate for others. Although today Stirling is a picture of health, much like her early struggle with adversity, Stirling's stories often revolve around ordinary people who must overcome tremendous odds.

In Suzan's spare time she enjoys travel and adventure out on the open road. She resides in Kentucky where she lives with her husband, their three children and a fat cat. She is currently at work on her next novel.


BUY THE BOOK: The Silence of Mercy Bleu

Book Description: The Silence of Mercy Bleu

What if you had one chance to change your life? Would you have the courage to jump? 

When Mercy, a runaway with a troubled past returns to the quiet town of Madison, she's determined to make a better life, only how can she? Madison is a place where everybody knows everybody, a town where people still remember the awful tragedy that wrecked Mercy and her family. A young woman harboring a deep secret, Mercy never expected them to come to her aid, and she never expected to fall in love. Just when Mercy thinks she's finally outrun her past, fate catches up with her, and now she must face her worst fear or risk losing everything and everyone she loves all over again.

Book Excerpt: The Silence of Mercy Blue

I kept thinking, She knows why I’m here. I looked down, the weight of shame too much for me to carry. I was a preacher’s daughter. I knew what those protestors were thinking. I knew every thought that was going through their heads––could almost hear their scorn, like a gavel slamming down, even though not so much as one of them had opened their mouths. They didn’t have to say it out loud; I knew what they were thinking because I was thinking the same things too.

Angels––I know they’re real. I’m not talking about the unearthly creatures you see in Biblical paintings with flowing gowns and outstretched wings. I’m talking about real life angels, the ones that just happen to show up when you need them the most, the ones that you don’t even know that’s what they were until long after they’re gone. Be it a small kindness or a full on rescue, you know they’re angels because of what they do… They save you.

For once, this wasn’t just about me. I owed it to my father; I owed it to the baby inside of me. Damon thought he knew everything, but he didn’t know about the spare set of keys I’d tucked safely away and he didn’t know about Granddaddy’s farm on Willow Hill. He’d never find me there.

My daddy’s a preacher. I say that like it should explain everything, but I know it doesn’t. It’s just that sometimes I think he cares more about keeping up appearances than he does about me. I know I’m a disappointment to him; the way I dress, the way I just am. He’s so worried about clothes I wear and what music I’m playing, he’s overlooked the obvious for some time now–what’s buried underneath the punk t-shirt and combat boots–just me.

Gwen is losing weight. She won’t eat and she won’t talk to me anymore. There are more hospital stays and tests, but still, they have no answers. There is another doctor, a specialist that Mama has found all the way in Ohio. It’s a two-hour trip, but she makes the appointment anyway. Mama is hopeful and I hear her tell Daddy that she knows this doctor will help. He is the best, she says. But we never make it there.

I was with Gwen when her heart first started beating, and I was with her the moment it stopped. My sister–there was nobody like her and there never will be again. She was five years old the day she died; all she really wanted was to be six–only she never got the chance. I’ll die the same way my sister Gwen did, the same way as Mama. It was stamped into my DNA and I couldn’t change any of it. I’d be lucky if I lived to see the ripe age of twenty-five. AIDS––she was the awkward wallflower in my dance of life and she was crashing the party.

My life wasn’t perfect, nor would it ever be, but right now was a good day. And a good day, I was beginning to realize, wasn’t always one full of sunshine and ease. Sometimes, a beautiful day lay waiting, in disguise. A beautiful day could last a lifetime or just a heartbeat. It was for me to decide. It was for me to choose. I had a choice and now all I had to do was make it.

The Silence of Mercy Bleu Book Trailer


  1. Your story sounds amazing, Suzan. I, too, love stories (especially true stories) about ordinary people overcoming extraordinary odds triumphantly.
    I will definately get your book! I'm looking forward to reading it.
    All the best to you in your (clearly) upward moveing writing career.

    1. Hi Linda! Thank you for stopping by and commenting on Suzan's guest post. This is a wonderful book, I hope you get the chance to read it. :)