Today I'm sharing an Interview with Susan M. Baganz! Have you read any of her novels? She's talking about her latest, Feta & Freeways, plus there's a glimpse of her upcoming release, Root Beer & Roadblocks.
Blessings to you!
About the Book
"He’d never noticed her…till now. Nikolos Acton is the lead singer of a Christian Band, Specific Gravity, struggling to make it in the industry after an unplanned break, touring the country with their manager, Tia.
Tia Bartel loved Niko for the longest time, but it wasn’t until she stepped in to save his life that he finally realizes what has been there all along. Is it too late for him? Could a relationship between them work after years of ignoring her? How would he ever convince her he’s worthy of her trust?
As they journey on the freeway of life and love, they encounter struggles as they are forced to rely on their faith, and friends, to make it through."
Add to shelf: Goodreads
From 1st Chapter: July 2012
Sirens wailed, competing with Nikolos Acton’s voice and guitar as they combined with the band’s groove pounding through the speakers. Usually nothing invigorated him more than the synergy of the mix of instruments and vocals. But today, as the audience joined in with the singing, what might have been a holy moment was marred by the dissonant sounds outside the tent. They played until the applause of the crowd drowned out the final chord.
“Thank you for coming. Our album is for sale at the back table.” With a wave, Niko turned to his buddies.
Emergency lights pulsed off the cars parked nearby but the sirens no longer rang in the air. “Wonder what happened?” Johnny scrunched his eyes as he often did when he concentrated.
Niko ruffled a towel over his damp curls and shrugged. “Let’s get packed up. I’m sure Tia will fill us in after we’re done signing merchandise and taking photos.” He tossed the sweaty cloth into the bin. Tia’d collect them later. Outdoor summer concerts tended to be hot.
Marc frowned. “Whatever it is, happened backstage.” He stepped closer to Niko. “Any blondes catch your eye?”
“Not interested.” Niko rolled his eyes at his bass player
“Yeah, right.” Sam winked as he packed his guitar and slid his sunglasses back on. It had been an inside joke that flaxen-haired ladies seemed to love Niko and sought him out after every concert. In spite of their Christian faith and venues, some of the women crossed lines, which surprised him. Not only in the provocative clothing they wore, but even with their suggestive remarks and innuendos. It definitely made touring a challenge in the struggle to stay pure.
Niko shook his head at his bandmates. A festival worker in an orange vest motioned for him.
“Be back in a sec, guys.” He headed over.
“We need you out here. There’s been trouble.”
I had found out that a band I liked in the late 90’s had been recording again. Burlap to Cashmere had dropped off the scene. They were amazing in concert and their album was solid. Now, after several years, they were back and I wondered why so I did some research. They had burnt out and before they could make their comeback, Johnny, who sings backup and plays electric guitar, had been in a serious car accident/road rage/hit and run which left him in a coma. They didn’t know if he’d ever play again. But he has come back from that. Not unscathed but still… So, I took the lead singer, Steven, and based Niko on him and his cousin Johnny stayed Johnny. I gave them a little bit of a different backstory and journey. The band knows about the books.
Wow, that is awesome! Your hero, Nikolos Acton, is a Christian singer. What kind of research did you have to do to create an authentic occupation for him?
I used to front a contemporary rock band for a few years as the lead singer, so I understood some of that stuff. I also produce our worship services at our church so I have unique training in the behind-the-scenes of music performance. Burlap to Cashmere were also part of a video “Frag” which dramatized and followed them as they toured with just three guys in a van. That gave me some insight into the challenges of that kind of journey my characters would take.
Isn't it amazing when you can use personal experience for a novel?
I adore the title! Is there a special story behind it?
I wrote Pesto & Potholes as a metaphor for the journey we take to healing from emotional pain and my love interest was Italian. Our family loves pesto. It was only ever meant to be one book. Then someone challenged me to write Salsa & Speed Bumps so I took a secondary character from Pesto and gave her a story, and a problem to overcome as well as a spicy Hispanic love interest. With this book, I felt I had to continue and since Nikolos was Greek (so are the real-life guys who inspired the story) and they take a journey, driving around the country doing concerts: Feta & Freeways was born. The next book which is Johnny’s story is called Root Beer & Roadblocks. After that is Bratwurst & Bridges, Donuts & Detours and I just finished writing Truffles & Traffic.
What is it about romance that you decided to write in that genre?
I love romance and I don’t shy away from the sexual temptations that ensue when boy meets girl and really likes her—and vice versa. I wanted to write honest tales of romance and love from a Christian perspective, but leave it messy as it is in real life. I would hope my daughter (or better yet, my sons!) see what it means to follow Christ and how that translates into relationships with the opposite sex. My heroes are not perfect but they do strive to be like Christ. I want my boys to grow up to be men like that and my daughter to seek a guy like that for herself someday. A mom I know used Pesto & Potholes to teach her 15 year-old-daughter about purity and healthy boundaries in dating. I thought that was so cool!
That is! Sounds like a beautiful legacy you're developing for your family. What are three elements that are always present in your writing?
Three elements. Wow. 1) Faith. I tried to write a story without a faith line, and I couldn’t do it. I had to rewrite the entire thing. 2) Honest real-life challenges. 3) Without stating it specifically, often mental health issues are reflected in the stories: Post-traumatic stress, depression, complicated grief, addictions. I have a graduate degree in Counseling Psychology and I think that comes to play in my stories. Most of us are broken in some way or another.
Amen! That's why we're in need of the Savior.
I have a few fast questions for you:
- Music or silence: Depends on my mood, I’ve written to both, but can only revise or edit in silence. (I'm the same way!)
- Coffee or tea: Chai latte (Oh, yum!)
- Soda or lemonade: Wild Cherry Pepsi (You can't go wrong with adding cherry to soda.)
From the back cover:
"When God strips away all your hopes and dreams could you trust Him to give you something better?
Johnny Marshall’s cancer is back . . . and so is the girl who broke his heart seven years ago. As Johnny struggles to find the will to live and fights his second round with the disease, he finds hope comes in small packages with an energetic little boy named David.
Years ago, Katie abandoned the one man she ever loved, having bought into her parents’ narrow views of finding a man worthy of her. In all those years, no one ever compared to Johnny. Now as a single mom of a young boy, she wonders if their reunion is right on time or is it too late for a future together?"
From the 1st chapter:
Johnny jogged to his car and grabbed his Bible. Fatigue weighed him down as he locked the sedan, the book tucked under his arm. Heading back towards the church, a movement caught his attention. A little boy from his Sunday school classroom escaped his mother’s grasp and bolted his way, blind to a car backing out of its spot.
“David, stop!” Johnny bolted and managed to get behind the moving vehicle to shove the child out of the way, as the rear bumper struck his own leg, knocking him to the ground.
The car’s wheels stopped just short of running him over. Thank you, Lord, for big tank cars with huge trunks. The child cried and a woman, helped him to his feet. “It’s okay, David, you’ve only scraped your palms. This nice man saved you. How many times must I tell you not to run in parking lots? You are too small for cars to see you.” She hugged the little boy tight.
Johnny dragged his legs out from under the car and struggled to his feet, bracing himself against the trunk to catch his breath. The elderly woman, who had been behind the wheel, toddled around to him. “Are you okay? I’m sorry. I didn’t see him. You moved so fast.”
Johnny nodded. “No one would have seen him. It was an accident.” He patted her on the shoulder before he limped across the parking lot. Pain seared through his hip and leg with every step he took. Reaching the curb, he sank down to the cement, thankful it was clear of snow.
His cousin Niko ran out of the church and knelt by his side. “Johnny, what happened?”
“He rescued my son from getting run over by a car backing out. He took the hit.” A woman wearing a stocking cap and winter coat had come up behind Niko with the weepy boy in her arms rubbing his eyes.
Johnny shrugged. “What she said.”
“You okay? Do we need to call an ambulance?” Niko’s gaze bore into him. The greater unspoken question loomed.
Teeth gritted in pain, Johnny returned his cousin’s stare. “I want to sit through worship. You’re on stage in a few minutes. Help me inside. I have an appointment with my doctor tomorrow. It can wait until then.” He motioned for Niko to help him rise and he did. The older woman came up to him and handed him a piece of paper.
“Here is my name, phone, and insurance information. Do you want to call the police and file a report? I wouldn’t blame you if you did.” Her arthritic wrinkled hands were clenched tightly together as if in petition for mercy.
“I doubt that’s necessary. Thank you, May.” He took the paper and shoved it in his shirt pocket. David’s mom passed him his Bible, which he’d dropped. The leather was brushed clean.
“Are you sure you’re okay? I’m a nurse. I could take a look.” Her face instantly turned three shades of red as she realized her inspection would involve him taking off his jeans.
Johnny smiled and leaned forward. “In my younger days that would have been an offer too good to pass up, but I visit my doctor tomorrow. It’ll wait.”
Thank you so much for joining us today!
It’s been an honor to be here. Thank you!
About the Author
Susan speaks, teaches, and encourages others to follow God in being all He has created them to be. With her seminary degree in counseling psychology, a background in the field of mental health, and years serving in church ministry, she understands the complexities and pain of life as well as its craziness. She serves behind-the-scenes in various capacities at her church as well as serving on the board of her local American Christian Fiction Writer’s (ACFW) chapter. Her favorite pastimes are lazy…snuggling with her dog while reading a good book, or sitting with a friend chatting over a cup of spiced chai latte.
You can learn more by following her Blog, her Twitter feed, or her Facebook fan page.