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“Slim Target” Book Synopsis
In this multi-layered tale of international surveillance, one of America’s favorite financial television journalists has an inexplicable string of bad luck. Biz Andrews feels certain someone is stalking her, but can’t imagine the reason. As she searches her romantic and family history for clues, Biz must re-evaluate her career and even her basic philosophies. Her emotional journey forces her to contemplate life’s eternal question: How much control does she truly have over her ultimate destiny? Involved in a web of complex intrigue, no one realizes Biz is in danger until it’s too late. She is unable to discover the truth until a series of unfortunate events leaves her alone, vulnerable and powerless. Who will save her when she finds herself in mortal peril?
How did your book come to life?
My book was a marathon to write and a thrilling experience. It took shape through editing and revisions after obtaining feedback from editors. I have to thank my editors for their tireless revisions and feedback. The experience made me more satisfied with myself. Writing a book is a long project that requires a vast amount of patience.
Who is your favorite character in your book and why?
I couldn’t choose one more than another. I tend to identify and empathize more with my principal characters, and even the villains have redeeming qualities. The villains in my novels aren’t usually leading players, with exceptions.
How did you name your characters?
Names in my manuscript changed between concept and completion. I always write with an image of my character in mind. My characters are amalgams and not one particular individual.
Are the characters in your books based on people you know?
I have many names in my mind that I can use for each and every character as if they historically had several middle names, and I can pick and choose any one at will.
Why do you think your readers are going to enjoy your book?
I hope my books are going to entertain, help readers escape their daily lives, and maybe think about what might happen in certain circumstances. If emotions are experienced in an imaginary non-confrontational way, it’s more pleasurable to learn, as it isn’t actually happening. It isn’t uncomfortable, as we haven’t been singled out. We’re prepared for unexpected experiences. Entertainment is a useful educational tool: it can prepare one for unexpected eventualities and isn’t a complete waste of time. Being entertained can be an enjoyable learning experience anywhere at any age.
Are your characters’ experiences taken from someone you know or events in your own life?
I can say I have firsthand experience with the settings in my novels and have been there, although some have developed and are far from reality. But the experiences of the characters are true to life and well-researched over decades.
How long did it take you to write your book?
The rough drafts are short, and then I make them longer and longer with each revision. So, while it might take less than a month to write the skeleton of the first draft, subsequent revisions and editing have taken several years.
Who designed the cover?
Lebbad Design of Flemington, N. J. did the cover. My graphic designer, Jim Lebbad, has created covers for bestselling novelists for decades with New York publishing companies. He introduced me to editors here in New Jersey who presently work and have worked with New York publishing companies.
Did you learn anything from writing your book that was unexpected?
The writing of the books was more intellectually rewarding than expected. I guess that’s what keeps novelists going. I thought it was all the money and awards they got, but it’s the work itself that keeps writers creating.
How do you start writing a new book? Do the characters or story come first?
First, a solid idea propels me through the many pages it takes to make the manuscript. Then I weave through it themes and life lessons continuously recorded in my notes and diaries. The characters I’m going to use are crucial to carrying out the story, just as actors carry movies. My stories tend to pivot around a few central characters. The first draft is usually written like a marathon.
Do you like to write series? Or single titles only?
So far, I’ve written single titles, but I use my self-created organization called the Diamondbacks again and again to represent organized crime.
Can you describe your main character in 3 words?
Biz is elegant, intelligent and courageous.
Can you describe your heroine/hero in one sentence?
I like my leading characters to be well-educated, traveled and sophisticated.
Biz Andrews is a successful financial journalist who travels the world at a moment’s notice and hopes to have it all but isn’t content with her current romantic prospect until she meets a new man just as a string of bad luck befalls her, and leads them in an entirely new and unexpected direction.
Without giving away details, can you describe one interesting scene in your book in less than two sentences?
My leading character travels around Europe when her guide in England happens to see her in a café in Rome, sits near her, and then disappears again before she has time for a long conversation with him. Why did he bother to re-introduce himself like that to her?
In two sentences or less can you tell readers something unique about your book?
Meet a beautiful adventurous financial journalist as she travels through Europe and experiences a string of bad luck. Haunted by the idea she is being followed, who will save her when she becomes involved in a web of complex intrigue?
List three adjectives that describe your book as a whole.
Entertaining action thriller
Where can a reader purchase your book?
Wherever fine books are sold, and online.
What other books are most similar to yours?
I have my own style that is a combination of Rosamunde Pilcher, Anita Shreve, Danielle Steel, many others and my favorite male thriller writers, but different from all of them.
Who inspires you?
Rosamunde Pilcher is a writer I’ve enjoyed reading. She has a large repertoire of writing that I admire. I like to examine her books to see why they have been bestsellers for decades.
Danielle Steel is an amazing example of a commercially successful writer. My writing isn’t much like hers, but I admire the volume of her writing.
I also admire Dan Brown’s writing, John Grisham, David Baldacci and Nicholas Sparks, all bestselling authors with strong stories and likeable characters and smooth writing. I race through them or clickety-click on my Kindle.
Where do you find your ideas? Does something trigger them? Do you carry around a notebook in case inspiration strikes?
By its nature, inspiration is capricious. It’s fun to catch the bubbles of inspiration when they happen. When I write a novel I have a larger outline and many smaller outlines within that. I can’t cross every bridge until I come to it so some of it is just spontaneous and then later revised. Many of my inspirations are added during revisions to make a shinier finish or polish.
How do you research your books?
As a general rule I travel and write about what I’ve seen and experienced. For details, there’s always the internet, and I do check details. For example, I’d been to the Paris Opera House, but had to check the shows that are currently being shown. I try to work around the temporary to make my writing more timeless. That is my goal in each place, not to laden the text with numbers that can change with the prevailing winds of economics but with entertaining ideas that will endure.
Have you written your entire life? Have you always considered yourself a writer?
Absolutely. I’d always hoped to write books, and would most like to be remembered as a fiction writer in my professional life.
Why do you write? Is it something you’ve always done or always wanted to do?
Writing relaxes me and it’s also exhilarating, just as physical exercise can be. Also, like exercise it can be tiring when done to excess. Sometimes just nailing what I’ve been worrying about makes problems subside. I realized that writing a long story would give me more freedom to create a lengthy plot-line and luxuriate in the creation of complex characters that are essential to the story. I also enjoy writing blog posts, and have to check on details for that and add references at every turn.
What is your writing process?
Hours go by before I notice time has passed, rather like sleeping in that way, or talking with a good friend. I have a good time writing. Since I blog and publish on the same day, I have to be wide awake, so often exercising my body comes first. Occasionally, I might write from first awakening in the morning, especially if the weather’s inclement, but usually I’ll exercise at some point once or twice every day. After I’ve been sitting all day, I need to do more exercises again in the late afternoon. Otherwise, I’m writing at any and all times of the day, usually starting in the morning. Sometimes, early in the morning, I’ll take notes of my ideas and go back to them when I’m more awake, and get back to writing after exercising. Have I thoroughly confused you about my schedule yet? Flexibility is another advantage of the writing life. Few writers sit and write all day every day of their lives and take two week holidays on clockwork.
If you could visit a place for research, where would it be?
If I wanted to go somewhere, I’d go. I don’t like to travel that often and am truly a landlubber. Staying on earth is enough of a challenge for me. But some years, we travel more than others, and I’ve traveled to excess in the past.
Where do you want to go with your writing career?
Writing more novels, publishing them, and editing the ones I’m working one. I work on several at one time.
What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.
I’ve also published Finer Spirits, a novel that deals with the social after-effects of the Prohibition era in New Jersey, and have written several rough manuscript drafts and am revising and editing. Each one in the pipeline has a strong theme I’ve researched and wanted to explore further in the form of action-packed adventure and heroism.
What are your thoughts on self-publishing versus traditional publishing?
During my days at university, decades ago, I always heard that being accepted by New York literary agents wouldn’t happen for Canadians in general. Then I moved to New Jersey, self-publishing happened and gave me the certainty of publishing my writing. I didn’t need a literary agent who would accept only one in two thousand manuscripts or whatever is the current ratio. I can judge good writing and what I like to read for myself, and publish what is worthy of publishing.
If you were told your stories were unbelievable and not written very well, would you continue to write? What would your response be?
Lots of books have mistakes. A book can always be improved and is never perfect. I certainly do try to write the perfect book. That has always been my goal, but what is true perfection in any form? Perfection is usually elusive, even to Olympic stars who need to reduce speeds hundredths of seconds to win medals. Reality tends to be messy. It’s an ideal that published authors can’t afford to wait to have in a book. Being effective and getting a book out is the most important goal a book writer can have “Done is better than perfect,” as the saying goes.
Would you ever consider converting one of you stories/published books into a screenplay?
Yes, of course, I’d love to have my books converted for movies. I do think my action-packed books are particularly well-suited to being converted to the big screen. A great novel is a unique work of art. Not all of them necessarily convert to any other medium without losing substance in the transition.
Who or what inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve always hoped to publish novels to entertain and didn’t have a constant mentor. Blogging became my passion several years ago. I still write a post when I feel strongly about a world event and want to add my two cents to cyberspace. I’d been wanting to write a novel since college, and had been writing short stories for years, but they were kept in my files. I wrote stories on my computers, but as my computers crashed and were replaced, I lost many of them. Ever since I can remember, and all the time I was blogging, I secretly wanted to write fiction. After several years of blogging I decided this was it, I had to sit and write a novel, so I planned an outline, and the result is “Slim Target.” My first working title for it was “When Love is Enough,” because my mother’s favorite phrase was “love is enough.” My editor thought “Slim Target” would sell better, so that’s the title. My second novel “Finer Spirits” had a compelling idea that had to do with alcohol poisoning and formed itself easily in my mind.
While writing, how many times do you go back and rewrite a plot?
Countless times. With the advent of my Word program, it’s impossible to say. I do several full rewrites which are easy since I’ve found that typing is extremely speedy. Between rewrites I read and make smaller changes. Then the manuscript goes through a conceptual editor who reads and makes eight pages or so of suggestions, and my other editor goes through it line by line with amendments and questions. Then it’s proofread, and I’m excellent at spelling, if I do say so myself.
Which do you prefer to write – full length novels or short stories?
Now that I’ve written novels, I most enjoy writing full length novels. But I also appreciate the immediate gratification of publishing blog posts that I know others are reading. I have stats for that. Having that outlet was useful to give me the stamina to keep grinding through the revisions required for a full length novel. I really am rather jealous of writers who write novels off the tops of their heads perfectly and publish them without going through harsh editing. I don’t write novels without editing everything so can’t imagine others writing books worth reading unless they’re edited either. I’ve always heard that to write well you have to speak well. Fortunately, I can turn to Word and make numerous corrections.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I draw inspiration from some of my favorite novelists and write with a third person limited point of view.
What are your strengths as a writer?
Maybe that it’s so natural, it’s like breathing. I’m involved in the lives of my characters and think through the plot and imagine how the characters would react to the situations in which they find themselves. Being able to take different points of view is a skill that takes time and I spend a lot of time ensuring that my novels are thoroughly researched.
Where did you grow up? How did your hometown (or other places you have lived) inspire your writing?
I grew up in the center of Ottawa, a mile from the Parliament Buildings in Canada’s capital city. My parents took me and my siblings with them on weekends and summer holidays to our family beach on McGregor Lake, north of the city. We used to meet our extended family there and on holidays in the wintertime. Traveling inspires me, and so does watching movies.
Do you like to travel? If so, what is your favorite city?
I enjoy traveling, although my mathematician husband travels far more than I could keep up with after my children began to go to school. Besides, I don’t think I have as many genes for being susceptible to novelty as he does.
I actually lived in London, England and it’s definitely high on my list, and so is Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, New York and San Francisco. I’ve decided that I like living where I can drive easily and most have enjoyed living in the suburbs and on our farm in “rural New Jersey” (an oxymoron, I’ll admit.) I’m living between New York and Philadelphia, around an hour to both, and travel to them often. And California is high on my list of favorite states.
How many books in a month do you read?
I read a lot of non-fiction books and a lot on the internet. My husband reads novels faster than I do, usually at a pace of a hundred pages an hour; I like to savor books and slow down if I’m really enjoying a good book. I speed read in direct relation to my enjoyment and don’t skip anything if I love it. I’m glad to have read many of the classics in my university years. Now when I read a novel, I read it once and skim it the second time to inspect the structure. If I don’t like a book, I sometimes won’t finish it. A book has to earn the interest of the reader.
What are you currently reading?
“Quiet” by Susan Cain and “Flash Boys” by Michael Lewis. It’s easy for me to read several at once. I have a good memory for characters and haven’t any trouble resuming a story where I left off. Soon, I’m going to start “Sycamore Row” by John Grisham and Anita Shreve’s new book. I just finished an honest easy-to-read nonfiction by a physician that I recommend: “A Short Guide to a Long Life” by David Agus.
What is the best book you’ve read?
My own. Seriously, I’m looking for it if it’s not the book I’m actually reading. Books from my childhood that I loved stick in my memory. It would embarrass me to say the titles, too revealing!
What is your favorite genre?
I like romance, but not generally romantic and erotic fiction. Thrillers I most enjoy, but it has to have romance and show research was done so I will learn something.
State 5 random facts about yourself.
1. My children, now in their twenties, constantly fascinate me in a good way and remind me they need privacy. I have to give them a lot of it, and haven’t ever consciously tried to be intrusive. Hope they love me a fraction of how much I love them.
2. My genes have been sequenced with 23andme. I wish the company could be authorized by the F.D.A. to dispense medical information once again and love the way they linked to medical journals and organized information. Learned a lot about myself and recommend it.
3. New Jersey should have vegetarian restaurants closer to me. It’s the home of the greasy spoon, but I still find eating out a highlight of my life and New Jersey has thousands of casual dining spots.
4. Being effective is a high priority to me. If something needs to be done, I try to find a way to do it and not let any obstacles stand in my way.
5. I don’t have as much need for frightening forms of novelty as others in the family. Sitting and reading is often enough to scratch the itch.
6. I make exercise a priority every day and enjoy dance-like exercises, swimming, and walking the Lawrence-Hopewell Trail, a twenty-mile trail near Princeton, and have completed three full marathons.
If you had to choose, which writer would you like to have mentor you?
Rosamunde Pilcher. I do keep reading Danielle Steel’s blog, where she writes a lot about her life and how she writes.
What books or authors have most influenced your life?
Anita Shreve has wonderful books and I’ve read all of them. She is/was a journalist and author with a sharp eye for detail and her books are to be savored and enjoyed like fine wine. Rosamunde Pilcher is also an engaging writer. I adore her writing. I wish I could see how Danielle Steel lives. When I was in middle school, I also recall enjoying Mary Stewart and Agatha Christie.
In all the books you’ve read, who is your favorite character and why?
In a book I read as a child called “Tanglewood Secrets” by Patricia St. John, a likeable boy in the story was called Philip, and he enjoyed walking in the British countryside.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
I listen to the radio, mostly to NPR and classical music, while driving. I like to exercise and swim and take long walks. Every day I exercise at my health clubs, and occasionally travel to shows of one kind or another in the city.
If you could ask the genie in the bottle to grant you one wish, what would it be?
I would like to see an end to cancer, global obesity and the common cold. I wish it were easier for people to incorporate healthy habits into their lives and wish there was a pill without adverse effects that would help people lose weight.
Have you ever sat and just watched the people go by?
I have at cafes in Europe, or here in coffee shops. When traveling, I prefer to actively sightsee and enjoy spectacular views. Biz, my career girl in “Slim Target,” enjoys watching parents taking children to school through the window of a hotel café in Rome. I hope you enjoy reading my novels.
S.J. Seymour was born in Ottawa, Canada. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in English literature from Carleton University. After earning her degree, she attended classes at the University of Oxford. She traveled Europe extensively, and worked at the University of Oxford founding a library. She raised two children with her husband, a Princeton University mathematician and earned a New Jersey real estate license. She is the author of “Slim Target” and “Finer Spirits,” and now lives in the Princeton area of New Jersey.