Interview: Sue Langford
This week we sat down with prolific author, Sue Langford. Join us as we talk about why she calls her books Empowerment Romance, how she manages to put out quality material so quickly, where she gets her ideas from, and how she plans book signings.
Sue: My name is Sue Langford. I am working on my 29th novel. Been writing all my life, but didn’t publish my first book until I was 35. I’m a huge country music fan, so a lot of my older stuff is all based in Nashville. Since my first visit to Savannah 5 years ago, I have based all the books in the south. A lot of my stuff has female leads that are their own heroes, so I adapted and called my books EMPOWERMENT ROMANCE.
CJ: That’s a lot of books! How do you define an empowerment romance?
Sue: I define it as strong female lead characters who find their strength during the story. The friend every woman needs and wants. I used to call them Realistic Romance, since the way I write is more like you’re watching it all happen beside you. I also noticed in a lot of romance that the women are inferior or submissive in a way. I wasn’t a big fan of that. This way, the readers feel empowered and strengthened when they read it. Sort of gives women extra confidence.
CJ: That sounds like some marvelous stories. Are all of your books romances?
Sue: They are in a way. My newest series (The Revenge Series) is a romance with a little mystery thrown in. If there’s not a ton of story, you can’t get yourself addicted to the characters. One reader said that she was going through a book hangover after reading the series I’m working on now. Other books she’d read didn’t really match up to mine. It must be something good since I’ve got a ton of positive feedback.
CJ: How have you published your books?
Sue: I started out with one very tiny publisher who didn’t impress me with their skills on my first book. Beyond that, they’ve all been self-published. When people read my Mist Series, it stunned them at what I’d done. Some of my books even landed me a book signing at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. Self-publishing is fantastic for me, though I dream of that big contract and becoming a big name author with a big publisher one day. Never, ever hurts to dream big.
CJ: A lot of authors I speak to have said that self-publishing works the best for them. It gives them control over something that they gave birth to. How do you maintain reader interest between books? I assume, with how many you’ve written, that there isn’t much time between stories.
Sue: I can talk about them all I want, but it is the amazing readers that speak up that drive me. I have excerpts that I release, giveaways, and I always have sales. My theory is, when they ask about book 4 of the series, throw out a teaser. I have a newsletter that goes out monthly to update my followers etc, but the best part is telling them all how the ideas come and answer questions. I rarely take more than a few months to write. When I finish a series like I’m doing now, I take a brief break and tell everyone about the books and what’s coming. Sometimes I even ask for the input of what they’d like to hear next. My newest series came to fruition after a movie I watched. I share as much as I can whenever I can. That’s really the only way to do it.
CJ: That sounds like a lot of work, reaching out to your fans like that. Do you ever feel a little overwhelmed with having to write and keep the fans updated?
Sue: Most days I am free as a bird. I do my best writing at night. I try to get everyone involved as best I can during the day, and leave teasers overnight for people to see first thing in the morning. It’s enough to get people talking and asking questions so I can keep the conversation going. I also help out on a few pages and always have author events to talk to fans at too. After 29 books, I have a ton to share and tell people about, especially when it comes to the locale of my books. I’m practically a tour guide. I even made up a list of places to see that are featured in the books for when people come to Savannah Georgia for a visit.
CJ: That sounds like a lot of fun. I know you’ve done a signing at the Country Music Hall of Fame. Have done signings anywhere else?
Sue: This year, since we got stuck with COVID, it has drastically changed the schedule, but I’ve done a few signings in Savannah, Gettysburg, Nashville, Knoxville, Cleveland, Toledo, and Perrysburg. All of them are coming up next year now. Knoxville in April, Nashville in June, Cleveland in July, and a bunch of other ones I haven’t confirmed yet. If all goes well, my single signing this year will be in my old hometown of London, Ontario this September. I try for signings where I know they love the books. It helps when I love the locations too!!
CJ: A lot of self-published authors would love to do a signing but have no clue how to go about it. Can you fill us in on how you did that?
Sue: The first one I did was in Savannah, Georgia. Honestly, I googled book signings in Savannah. Why not be in my favorite city! There are a few groups on Facebook that have listings for events. One I’m hoping to attend in 2022 is the Lowcountry Romance Signing. It’s in my second favorite city of Charleston this upcoming year, I believe. If you search on Google, you can find just about anything. If you search signings on Facebook, a ton pop up. I started out with a half table at the beginning and now I need an assistant to help! It’s taking a chance on your dream. Getting to tell everyone about your passion. It’s the best part of being an author short of all the kudos from readers.
CJ: So basically you just find signings for a group of writers? Like a convention?
Sue: Yes. I asked a few writer friends what info they had and somehow we all helped each other to find amazing signings to attend. I also became a member of a romance writer guild in the USA who tends to share upcoming signings with all the authors signed up. It’s well worth it.
CJ: That will be some helpful information for our readers. After all this time and all these books, at what point do you consider yourself a successful writer?
Sue: I always said that writing my books was to make me feel good. When I got feedback from readers on Amazon or on other book sites, it felt good. To me, being a success means that you are happy. It means that whatever tiny goal you had; you surpassed it. Whether it’s as I was in high school with the dream of just publishing a book, to when Amazon came out, I wanted to see my name in the author list. Everyone has their own answer to success. With me now, it’s when I have celebs message me and tell me they’re proud of me. It’s amazing to hear it from anyone, but someone you idolize is pretty dang special. I still don’t call myself a success, but always will be a writer in training since the training never ends.
CJ: That’s awesome! And definitely something I strive for as an author. I mean, who wouldn’t want celebs popping by just to say you’re amazing!
Sue: If nothing else, it’s humbling. They started out with a dream, just like I did. They found their success with awards or things like that. With authors, it’s getting noticed at your local Starbucks or having people ask you to sign their books randomly. It’s happened in Savannah tons of times, but when they ask me what’s next, I always say they have to follow me to find out or I tell them a little about the series. I even got in contact with a musician I love to listen to while I write who now is demanding book 4 of the series since she’s addicted. It’s a great feeling, and even funnier when they say who the characters remind them of.
CJ: Wow. I just can’t even imagine what that must feel like. Okay, so I have to know. All these books, which is your favorite?
Sue: To be honest with you, I have a few. Shooting Stars and Fireflies was my favorite standalone. There was a big understory to it, and I wrote it with tears and heart. My favorite series will always be my Revenge Series that I’m working on now. There’s just something about it that has me so hooked I never want to say goodbye to the characters. They just get themselves in the craziest predicaments.
CJ: Same question about your characters. Who’s your favorite?
Sue: As a dear friend said to me, “You write like Jamie and Piper are your favorite couple”. It’s kinda true. Piper is feisty and determined and stubborn as a mule. Jamie’s the same, but over-protective and has a bit of a control issue. Still, the fire between them will always stick with me.
CJ: With a lot of stories, and I think more so with romances, there are emotional scenes. How do you get through writing those scenes and what do you do to rebalance yourself?
Sue: I honestly have to turn off whatever background noises I have going to keep me on the storyline. In book 4 of the Revenge Series, there’s an intense moment. One that’s almost heart-breaking. I turned on the saddest music I could find, put it on quietly and wrote it out like it was happening in front of my eyes. To be honest with you, I was in tears writing it. When it’s a scene like that, it takes something to snap me out of that emotion. The characters all support each other, so it’s good on that end. They hug etc to get each other through it and it feels like I’m getting one too. Even one of my best girlfriends and editor sometimes cheers me up after. If I know it’s coming, I’ll write it then turn the laptop off for the night and watch a comedy special on Netflix like Iliza Shlesinger Unveiled to get me out of the funk. She is hilarious and the best distraction.
CJ: It’s hard to write those scenes. I’ve tried to write around them but then my characters yell at me for days until I finally write it so it’s good to have a coherent plan on how to rebalance after something like that. When you start a new story, is it the characters or the plot that comes to you first?
Sue: Oddly enough, for the last series it was a story idea. Someone I know has a daughter who was being bullied. It is the bane of my existence. I went through it. I’m sure in a way we all did. It stuck with me that nobody was doing what I thought would be a good story. Everyone who’s dated had an idiot guy around that they didn’t like. I adapted it to the story. I never plot out what to do. The characters have minds of their own and I just run with it. This last series was oddly an idea from my dad. He said, “Go watch A Star Is Born”. I watched it and came up with the idea of the series. Gaga gets bullied for her nose. Turned down for record deal after record deal. In mine, she refuses to go on a diet to impress a label. They either want her for her music and her voice or she doesn’t want them. That’s why it’s always a strong character. Only a strong character can take that on.
CJ: That was a rough movie to watch. We are running out of time for tonight, but I would like to know what your writing kryptonite is.
Sue: I don’t really have one. The only thing that causes me to not be able to write is when I’m sick. I write every day, even if it’s a page or a paragraph. The only thing that ever drags me down or stops me is when I have to brainstorm ideas for what kind of book to write next after a long series. I guarantee that the Revenge Series will have me in a book hangover for a while. Whenever I need a push, I honestly flip on the Fifty Shades movies or listen to Grey. They never, ever fail me.
CJ: Well thank you so much for sitting with me tonight, Sue. I enjoyed our time together!
Sue: If you ever want to do this again, just let me know!!
You can find Sue via these avenues: