Mason Cooley said, “Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are.”
A Center Stage Moment shines a spotlight on writers who give us great places to visit with characters we love and want to call friends.
Today, I have the pleasure of introducing to you S.E. Summa!
I live just south of Nashville with my husband and a menagerie of spoiled pets. After my daughter left the nest, I rediscovered my love for writing. Growing up in Nashville, I always felt the city’s unique culture and landmarks would be the perfect setting for monsters to play. I graduated magna cum laude with a BBA from Belmont University.
I’m a PRO member of the Romance Writers of America (RWA), and I serve as the Volunteer and Membership Coordinator for my local chapter, the Music City Romance Writers (MCRW).
Inspired by my fantastic experience at UtopYA Con 2015 (now UtopiaCon), I started The Debut Collective, an online community of authors committed to publishing by June 2016. The Debut Collective is a supportive tribe of authors (both published and aspiring), editors, formatters, and cover designers working together to foster a new generation of stories and authors.
Without further ado, here is S.E.’s interview…
I love reading the bios of authors. Many of them did not start out as writers. Sometimes people stumble upon the craft. Did you always want to be a writer? Yes and no. When I was younger, I dreamed of writing books and as a tween/teen I teased my mother non-stop for watching the TV show Murder, She Wrote—while secretly wishing I could grow up to be an author. (Though, why ANYONE would be friends with Jessica Fletcher was beyond me. People dropped like flies around that lady!) [LOL! I watched the show with my mother.]
Then life happened and I put my dream aside. I raised a daughter and graduated with a sensible accounting degree. I would often go a year or more without even reading for entertainment.
It wasn’t until the sudden loss of someone very precious to me that I was knocked out of my comfort zone. While grieving, I could think of only one thing that made me feel a sliver of happiness… books. On a whim, I went to the 2013 Southern Festival of Books thinking just maybe I’d start a book blog or maybe I wouldn’t— but at least I was leaving the house for a change and that in itself was huge.
While listening to Myra McEntire share how she became an author, I felt a spark. For three days in a row, I drove downtown alone and by the time the festival ended, I felt alive again with a burning need to write. The next month I won my first NaNoWriMo and have been writing and educating myself on the publishing industry ever since.
Why did you choose to write dark fantasy and horror stories? My first thought is, “Spooky is what comes out.” I’ve always been drawn to darker stories: ghosts, haunted houses, curses, witches, and any type of monster really.
As a child, I could often be found at the library with books stacked to my chin. My mother usually scanning the titles while making “the face.” You know the one, all parental units have it perfected. Followed by something like, “Shanna, can’t you get one book without ghosts, witches, or monsters? What about horses? You like horses.” I never did go back to the shelves for a book on horses. So, it’s only natural I’m compelled to write dark fantasy and horror stories.
Or I could just go with a quote from Stephen King to explain, “People want to know why I do this, why I write such gross stuff. I like to tell them I have the heart of a small boy… and I keep it in a jar on my desk.” Ha ha! [Along with his brain…. Maybe?]
What is the strangest subject or topic you’ve ever written? Hmm… Everything I’ve ever written has an element of strangeness to it: sin eaters, Spellcasters, curseweavers, undead ballerinas, ghosts/specters, possession, and then I have a growing list of beasties of my own creation. [I can’t wait to read those. The created ones are always the most interesting!]
My web search history is a peculiar and a macabre collection of strange.
What are you currently working on?
My upcoming release Much Of Madness (Spring 2016) is in the hands of my talented editor, Kathy Lapeyre. So I’m drafting the sequel More Of Sin and revising a serial, The Betwixt Files: Jack. I plan to release both in 2016.
I also recently finished editing notes for four short stories that will be released in the upcoming Debut Collective anthology series in June 2016. (Two stories tied to Much Of Madness & one tied to The Betwixt Files.)
Here’s a sneak peek at the cover blurb for Much Of Madness [This is not the cover art. It’s merely a backdrop for the blurb.]:
Much Of Madness is a modern Gothic horror story about loyalty, sacrifice, and discovering the courage to love no matter the odds.
What motivated the plot of your latest book? First, came my tormented Sin Eater, Finn. I could picture him perfectly with skin and hair faded pale white by the supernatural sins for which he had atoned. Next came his feisty Spellcaster best friend, Seraphina, who helps Finn hold on to his humanity and run their apothecary for supernaturals in downtown Nashville. The curses, creatures, and mayhem grew from there. [Love it!]
What was the hardest story for you to write? Much Of Madness was my first and most difficult so far. I wrote it as a “pantser” with no real idea of where it was going. But I loved the characters enough to deconstruct it and rework it over and over, until I had transformed it into a story I was ready to share.
What process do you use to plan your novels? I am a self-professed Plotter McPlottypants. While enduring the countless revisions for Much Of Madness, I took a plotting by color workshop by Author Cherry Adair and was forever changed. I’ve morphed some of Cherry’s ideas into my own method and switched from post-its to an Excel spreadsheet. I know the who, where, and plot point of every chapter before I ever sit down to write. The characters, however, have full freedom to react to the plot in whatever way is natural for them, so there’s always an element of unknown as I begin each chapter. [Ah, a RECOVERING pantser…]
Who has been your favorite character to write and why? I have a soft spot for my little ghost, Rolf. Rolf is a “dog boy” with hypertrichosis (AKA werewolf syndrome) murdered long ago while traveling through Nashville with a carnival. Seraphina befriends and brings the lonely, rambunctious ghost home while she tries to help him crossover into the Veil. Rolf’s shenanigans wreak havoc in the apothecary, but he proves his bravery. [Sounds like an interesting character.]
Do any of your characters reflect facets of your personality? There are small fragments of my personality in most of my characters, but they all branch off into their own unique identities.
Have you ever experienced writer’s block? If so, how did you overcome it? I have and for me it comes purely from fear. Once I work through my fears and get out of my own head, the words come back.
If you were to choose another genre to write in, what would it be? I have a science fiction/fantasy story fully plotted that both thrills and scares the heebie-jeebies out of me. I will write it eventually, but I’m not quite ready yet. [You can do it!]
Which authors inspire you? Such a tough question! Currently, anyone brave enough to keep publishing over and over. The more precise answer is Stephen King, JK Rowling, Laini Taylor, Edgar Allen Poe, Libba Bray, and Victoria Schwab are all favorites.
What novel would you read multiple times? There are too many wonderful stories I’ve yet to experience. I very rarely reread. But if I were going to reread any series, it would be Harry Potter. I think it would be interesting to revisit that world from the perspective of a writer. [I’m about to be a FIRST time reader of Harry Potter!]
If you could meet anyone in the world, alive or deceased, who would it be and why? Mahatma Gandhi. I’ve admired him since I was a small child. I watched the Gandhi movie when I was eight and fully believe that experience helped form my beliefs about people, animals, and politics.
What is your favorite quote? [She has TWO!]
“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”
“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
—Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back
What is your favorite animal, real or imaginary? All of them. But I have a particular fascination with octopuses. (I was shocked to recently learn the plural is NOT octopi!) Their intelligence, beauty, and adaptability are fascinating. I could watch videos of octopuses on YouTube all day.
What is your favorite color? Black. I go through phases of liking bright colors, but my forever favorite is the always elegant (and sometimes spooky!) black.
You can catch up with S.E., a full-time writer and part-time accountant, online at…
Thank you S.E. for participating in my Author Spotlight! It was a pleasure having you and good luck with your book.
Join me next week as I feature Rebekah Raymond!
Happy New Year!!