Thursday, 21 February 2019

Title: CWD Member Interview – Susan J Bruce

Each Thursday we will be interviewing one of the members of Christian Writers Downunder – to find out a little bit more about them and their writing/editing goals.
Today's interview: Susan J Bruce (aka Sue Jeffrey)

Susan J Bruce with her greatest supporter - her husband Marc.

Question 1: Tells us three things about who you are and where you come from. 
I'll start with where I come from. I was born in Scotland but emigrated with my family to Australia a long, long, time ago. We arrived in Brisbane but spent some years moving up and down the Queensland coast with my dad's work, before settling in Brisbane. 
As a kid I had three loves: books, art and animals. Mum and I used to tempt stray kittens with food then catch, tame and re-home them. I was chuffed to complete my first solo kitten-catch when I was eight years old. Mum and Dad didn't believe me when I told them at six o'clock one morning that I'd caught a little silver-tabby tomcat. 'Go back to bed, dear,' was Mum's response. So I did. When I woke up again an hour later, Dad couldn't work out why there was a feral kitten in the kitchen. 
I didn't realise it at the time but I guess it was inevitable that I would study veterinary science. The thing most people don't know is that I nearly studied journalism. I often wonder what my life would have been like if I'd made that call? I think I would have enjoyed the challenge - and I might not have let my love of fiction slide like it did through my years of study and learning my science-based profession. 
But veterinary science suited me well. I moved to South Australia for my first job and discovered (after initial ultra-high levels of  stress) that I had a flair for the work. I enjoyed the interaction with the people and animals and later worked part-time in clinical roles even while I explored other fields such as church-based pastoral work and teaching part time at TAFE.  I think I'm one of those people who thrive on diversity 😁. 
The story of how I began writing is for another day but my love of words and a desire to learn the craft of storytelling led me to complete a Master of Arts in Creative Writing at Tabor in Adelaide and to complete a young adult (YA) novel as part of that process. It was a sometimes difficult, but always awesome, process and I have to give a shout out to the Tabor Humanities staff and all my fellow students. I learned so much and also that I have so much more to learn. When I finished that degree and needed some time to replenish my creative juices, my husband bought me a set of good acrylic paints. It took me more than six months to begin using them and to my surprise I discovered I could paint - you guessed it - animals 😃.
I'm still seeking publication for that YA novel (it won the unpublished manuscript section of the 2018 Caleb Prize) and have been involved in other projects along the way but a few months ago the veterinary clinic where I was working, closed. Some health issues have made it hard to find the right kind of work. That's not so great financially but my three great loves - books, art and animals remain - and now I can spend more time on all of them. 
Hey, I guess those are my three things. Funny how often we are closest to our true selves as children.

Question 2: Tell us about your writing (or editing/illustrating etc).  What do you write and why?
My desire is to write, mainly for the general market (both YA and adult), in a way that encourages and inspires the reader. I want to uplift people, bringing hope where there is no hope and laughter where there are tears. I can't do that on my own but I believe that God can, through me. As authors we have the privilege of going with readers into their most secret places. Places where the troubles of the world are pushed away and where adventures can teach us how to slay our own kinds of dragons. 
I have found it hard to define the genre of my writing but animals tend to photo-bomb my pages. My writing group once challenged me to write a story that didn't contain animals and when I read it to them they laughed because I'd failed miserably. That is probably why they asked me to be the editor for our group's short story anthology, If They Could Talk: Bible stories told by the animals (Morning Star Publishing) which was an awesome project to work on.

If They Could Talk: Bible stories told by the animals

I've tended to be a genre butterfly (you can read about that here) and enjoy writing all kinds of stories but in the last couple of months I've realised that most of my ideas for longer works involve mystery and suspense. I love beautiful prose but a good story is also important to me, preferably stories of overcoming, suspense and intrigue. My WIP is a time slip romantic thriller and I have an idea for an amateur-sleuth mystery which I think will be a lot of fun to write - so stay tuned.

Question 3: Who has read your work? Who would you like to read it?
If They Could Talk is marketed to Christians who want to see God's word from a fresh perspective. But as I've said above, I really want to write for the general/mainstream market. Maybe it's that genre-butterfly tendency but I'd like to reach both adult and young adult readers who like suspense and mystery, flavoured with romance and hope. 

Question 4: Tell us something about your process. What challenges do you face? What helps you the most?
Procrastination is my nemesis. I also have a chronic illness that makes me sore and fatigued most days so I'm not as productive as I'd like to be. I'm working on ways to combat this, like establishing a better routine and really appreciating the good things I have, like my awesome husband, who supports my crazy desire to be an author. It's easy to get depressed when life throws rotten onions your way but I'm learning the value of switching my thinking. Hey, I get to write and paint 😃. What an awesome privilege it is to be a co-creator with God.

Question 5: What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and why? 
There are so many - I can't think! As a newish writer Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird encouraged me and showed me how to persevere. More recently, Story Genius, by Lisa Cron helped me refine my ability to craft story. 

Story Genius by Lisa Cron

It's not a craft book but late last year I had the privilege of attending a Margie Lawson writing immersion on the Gold Coast. Margie is an international writing coach and her focus is on crafting awesome prose. If you can get to one of her immersions you will be inspired and empowered.

Question 6: If you were to give a shout-out to a CWD author, writer, editor or illustrator – who would they be?
That would be my friend and mentor, Rosanne Hawke. When I was in Rosanne's classes at Tabor I'd get this glow-in-God feeling as if there was nowhere I'd rather be than in that place, at that time. Rosanne always went the extra mile for all of her students. In the years since graduation Rosanne has remained a good friend and has encouraged me repeatedly not to give up.

Question 7: What are your writing goals for 2019? How will you achieve them?
To begin with I'd like to find a home for my YA novel and get my website up and working. I'd like to finish my WIP, at least in second draft form, by the middle of the year and indie publish a short story collection. I also want to begin work on the amateur-sleuth mystery that's brewing but I have another YA novel that's been buzzing around in my back-brain so we'll see which one wins.
How will I achieve this? Bird. By. Bird.

Question 8: How does your faith impact and shape your writing?
One of my favourite quotes on this topic comes from philosopher Jacques Maritain. 'If you want to make a Christian work, then be a Christian and simply try and make a beautiful work, into which your heart will pass; do not try to "make Christian".' 
This is what I strive to do as I write to encourage, not just Christians, but ordinary people, made in God's image, who don't yet know him.

Reference: J Maritain, Art and Scholasticism - Chapter VIII. Downloaded from on 02/01/19

Susan J. Bruce, aka Sue Jeffrey, spent her childhood reading, drawing, and collecting stray animals. Now she’s grown up she does the same kinds of things. Sue has worked for many years as a veterinarian, writes stories filled with themes of overcoming, adventure and belonging, and loves to paint animals. Sue won the ‘Short’ section of the inaugural Stories of Life writing competition and recently won the 'Unpublished Manuscript' section of the 2018 Caleb prize. Sue is the editor of 'If They Could Talk: Bible Stories Told By the Animals' (Morning Star Publishing)and her stories and poems have appeared in multiple anthologies. Her e-book,'Ruthless The Killer: A Short Story'is available on You can check out Sue’s animal art on Facebook.


  1. 'Funny how often we are closest to our true selves as children.' I love the truth in this line. It took me a long time to realise how true. Perhaps we have to explore the what and how of our adult world before we can relax into the real 'who' of who we are. As for the 'when', better late than never, I say. How wonderful that you were able to develop such a close relationship with Rosanne Hawke. I, too, was especially inspired by Rosanne, James Cooper, and Jo Wurst at Tabor even though I studied online. I miss not being close enough to interact with them in person. Suspense and Mystery, huh? My kinda girl. Thanks Sue for sharing your who and why with us. How special.

  2. Nice to learn a bit about you, Sue. Love the cover of 'If they Could Talk'. I couldn't help but smile when you mentioned the different books begging to be written at the moment. I understand that one. It's like all these characters knocking on the door of your mind, saying, 'Tell my story.' All the best into 2019 and beyond with your works in progress.

  3. Thanks, Deirdre :). Yes those characters are pesky indeed. Hope you have a great year of writing :)

  4. A lovely interview, Susan. Like Mazzy, I resonated very much with your comment, 'Funny how often we are closest to our true selves as children.' And what a joy to find that place again and relax into all the things God created us to do and be! I also really appreciated the quote from Jacques Maritain, so thank you for sharing.

  5. Lovely to hear more about your beautiful self dear Sue. Enjoyed your interview. Those are 3 lovely passions to pursue. I loved animals and books as a child and wanted to become a writer but I too took the science line instead of the arts which perhaps was a mistake. I did want to be a vet myself but realised that I'd be looking after big animals as well as small and didn't feel I could cope with cows for instance. :) Loved the quote at the end. And praying for healing and wholeness for you - I know what a tough battle chronic illness brings. Thanks for stepping into the admin role Sue. May God continue to do wonderful things through you and your creativity and your walk with Him.

  6. Hi Sue, thanks for such a great interview. Our main childhood passions surely do remain in adulthood. Your vet experiences always sound fascinating, yet high stress, and I can understand why you might be over lugging heavy, sedated dogs around :) Bird by bird is always the way, as Anne Lamott tells us, and I'll look forward to hearing more about those projects.

  7. Hi Sue, enjoyed reading your interview and love the synergy between your love for animals, vetninary work, painting and writing. I felt some kinship with starting with medicine before moving on to the arts, theology and writing as well as recently reviving my love for painting.

    Your paintings of aninmals are fantastic and I look fowrward to your future publications. Thanks for sharing.