If you (like me) have wondered a) how the heck Susan Mallery writes so many good books in a year, or b) what you’re going to do now that she’s (possibly) written the last Fool’s Gold book, then take heart, loyal reader! I was recently lucky enough to have a phone interview with the friendly and very prolific author, and she gave me the lowdown on lots of our questions.
The author backstory: Mallery sold her first book right out of college and, despite having an accounting degree—and job!—she decided to give the writing thing a chance, with a little encouragement from her recruiter. “I remember having a conversation with him,” she says. “I asked him for advice, and he encouraged me to go for it. He told me he’d written fiction for years but never had the courage to pursue getting published. My husband at the time wasn’t thrilled, but I just truly felt I’d found the place I was meant to be.”
It took her four years to match the salary she would have had in her accounting job, but she never once looked back—and it seems to have worked out pretty well for her, right? (And for us!)
She started out in category romance which, in her opinion, really taught her how to write tight and quickly—it does help that she types really fast; well over 100 wpm, especially when she’s in her writing zone—and also gave her a great deal of freedom to explore different subgenres, contemporary world-building, and romantic arcs. “It was just a really fun time and had a kind of anything goes feel to it, which, as a writer, allowed me to stretch my imagination and discover what I was particularly good at and what I enjoyed the most.”
For a while, she was writing a couple of category romances and a couple of mass market titles a year, but she left category behind a decade ago and started a schedule of four mass market and one trade title a year.
This year, however, she is moving into the hardcover market, and she expects her schedule moving forward will be two mass market, one trade and one hardcover title—basically the same amount of words per year, just in a different configuration of books.
If you haven’t heard, Mallery wrapped up the Fool’s Gold series this year (though, when asked if she’ll ever go back, she says “I learned a long time ago to never say never!”). She’ll be launching a new series, Happily Inc, which will have the same kind of feel as FG, with an amusing town “history” which was actually created in the 1950s to reinvent the town and create a wedding destination industry.
This week is Mallery’s hardcover debut, Daughters of the Bride, a light women’s fiction title that’s a perfect expanded storyline for Mallery’s hallmark blend of humor, romantic high notes, and realistic yet touching family conflict. Bride Maggie has been widowed for over twenty years, but now that she’s planning a wedding with the man of her dreams, she wants all three of her daughters to find the same happiness she has. Rachel is divorced, but may still be in love with her ex. Sienna has two broken engagements behind her, so when her current boyfriend proposes in a very public way, she’s too embarrassed to say no—and can’t figure out why her new fiancé looks so good on paper, but feels so wrong in reality. Finally, Courtney has been fighting her family’s low expectations for as long as she can remember, and now that she’s actually making a success of her life, she can’t bring herself to tell them—until the most successful man she’s ever met forces her to see herself through his eyes. The book is both highly entertaining and emotionally satisfying.
The writing process for Daughters of the Bride was very atypical for the author, since she usually has to spend a lot of time building ideas and books up—“I don’t know where the plot gods live, but it’s usually not at my house. However this one came to me nearly fully formed. A woman’s getting married and her three adult daughters don’t have dates for the wedding. It wound up being a real joy to write, and a lot of the research was based on planning a wedding. How fun is that?”
Twenty-plus years after her first sale, Mallery has over 140 books under her belt, and she thinks there are two main reasons for her speed and consistency (other than her crazy typing skills).
“First of all, I feel like I don’t get burned out because I’m writing distinctly different books in a year. One title a year deals with more wrenching topics, one has a more intricate plot but is lighter content, and then the mass market titles are basically straight romance. So each new book is a mini-vacation from the last one I wrote, if that makes sense.”
“Secondly, I’m a hyper-plotter,” she notes. She won’t be at the RWA national conference this year, but definitely recommends the workshop she occasionally does with super-pantser Susan Elizabeth Phillips, where they—in her amused words—“spend half the workshop rolling our eyes at each other.” You can see clips from this workshop on Mallery's YouTube channel
“Honestly, while I write one book at a time, I’m always thinking about the plot and characters for up to three books ahead, and when I have ideas, I write them all down and keep them in a folder. Twice a year, I meet with my plotting group and I pull out all my character ideas and pre-plotting thoughts, and we flesh everything out together. I use a typical genre novel framework—hook, three main turning points, black moment, resolution—and I block out chapters and scenes on poster board. I usually write the first two chapters in the hero and heroine’s point of view, which helps me dive into their voices, and then I write a really long synopsis—which helps me work out any issues in the plot. So when I sit down to start the book, I have the main skeleton, and I’m pretty much ready to write straight through.”
So there you have it: a quick Life & Times of Susan Mallery, plus a fascinating peek into her writing practice. I hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as I did hearing about it.
Happy reading! xo
(By the way, a very quick but exciting side note. Have you heard that Publisher’s Marketplace/Publisher’s Lunch created a BuzzBooks Romance version for the first time this year? Wonderful to have this great literary resource turn its spotlight on our favorite genre, with tons of great romance recommendations plus some pre-publication excerpts. You can read more about it and find links to download it for free through various platforms at .)