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Suzy Spencer is the author of four books — Wasted, a New York Times best-seller and Violet Crown Award finalist; Wages of Sin, recently re-released as a 10th anniversary edition; Breaking Point, a Book of the Month Club, Doubleday Book Club, Literary Guild, and Mystery Guild selection; and The Fortune Hunter, which was called “riveting” and “blockbuster” by the Globe.
Suzy has freelanced for ABC News, People magazine, the New York Post, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, Los Angeles magazine, the Texas Observer, the Austin American-Statesman, and the Austin Chronicle and has appeared on Good Morning America, ABC World News, Primetime, Dateline NBC, and numerous shows on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and Court TV, as well as on Oxygen and the E! Channel.
She holds a Master’s of Professional Writing and a Master’s of Business Administration, both from the University of Southern California, and a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Baylor University. One of her passions is coaching fiction writers. Currently, Suzy is under contract with Berkley Books for her first memoir —a book about her journalistic research into the world of alternative sex.
Q. Are you a native Texan or did you get here as soon as you could?
A. Native Texan
Q. How did you end up writing nonfiction?
A. Though I’d been writing nonfiction for decades (was a journalism major in college), I never planned to write nonfiction books. I planned to write novels, but one fall day, I fell into writing nonfiction books. That’s when a friend came to me and said, “There’s this really trashy murder out there and you should write about it.” She told me about the crime. It truly was trashy, so I said, “Why? Why don’t you do it?” She was a writer, too. But she insisted I had do it, and since my career as a novelist was going nowhere, I checked into the crime, phoned the prosecutor on the case, and did an interview with him. Then I wrote a letter to an editor I knew in New York, chit-chatting with her about life, and closed with, oh, by the way, I’m researching this really trashy murder and gave her a one sentence synopsis.
Months later, another friend of mine came to me and said so-and-so agent is looking for true crime book proposals. I whipped out a proposal and sent it to the agent. He hated the proposal, but loved the crime, and asked me to rewrite the proposal. I didn’t like the way he wanted me to rewrite it – like a National Enquirer story. I felt I was better than the Enquirer.
Unknown to me, my New York editor friend had forwarded my letter to her boss. Six months after I’d sent the letter, he phoned and wanted to know if I had a book proposal on the case. I just so happened to have one – the rejected proposal. I sent it to him, and three weeks later, I had a book contract. That contract became my first true crime book, Wasted, which also spent a “whopping” one week on the New York Times best-seller list.
By the way, the original cover for Wasted stated, “A rich lesbian, her beautiful young girlfriend, and the killer who came between them.” Yep, very National Enquirer-ish, but, hey, I no longer think I’m too good for the Enquirer.
And just for the record, ten years after Wasted was first published, it was updated and reissued with a less trashy cover.
Q. What book marketing activities made you a bestselling author?
A. Luck and hard work. When the publisher gave up on the book, I was still out there begging for publicity. I was phoning, faxing, and sending letters to newspapers, magazines, radio stations, and TV stations. I was setting up book signings and sending hundreds – if not thousands – of postcards to potential shoppers. This was all pre-internet and social media. I would handle things completely differently now. But one thing hasn’t changed – luck and hard work by the author.
Q. Tell us about your latest release. Is it set in Texas?
A. My current book, Wages of Sin, is a reissue of my second book, which was originally published in 2000. Like Wasted, it’s set in Austin, Texas. But my fifth book – and I don’t have a publication date for that yet – will be a memoir about my research into Americans’ sex practices. It is set all over the U.S.
Q. Where can we pay you a virtual visit?
A. www.suzyspencer.com and www.suzyspencer.com/blog. My blog has the most updated information.