JESSE Q SUTANTO
What inspires you to write? Where do you get your ideas?
Usually my ideas come to me in the form of “What if” questions involving the unlikeliest situations. For example, I knew before writing Dial A For Aunties that I wanted to write about a bunch of meddlesome Chinese aunties. When you think of meddlesome aunties, you immediately think: Matchmaking, which is awesome in itself. But I wanted to come up with an unlikely situation, and what’s more unlikely than a bunch of meddlesome aunties + dead body? And thus was Dial A For Aunties born!
Tell us about your book.
Dial A For Aunties: When a wedding photographer accidentally kills her blind date, she turns to her meddlesome aunties for help. Unfortunately, getting rid of a dead body is a lot harder than they think, especially when it turns up at a billionaire’s wedding that they’re catering to.
The Obsession: A boy who doesn’t respect boundaries start stalking a girl, only to find out she might just be the more dangerous of the two of them.
Can you pitch your current project? (for unpublished books)
I am currently working on an adult suspense. Gone Girl meets You. Not sure how much I can reveal, so I won’t give away more than that, lol!
Tell us about your writing journey and how you got where you are today.
My writing journey took me ten years, four agents, and eight manuscripts written before one of them (number 5) sold. I’ve been on submission more times than I can remember, and I know all too well the sting of rejection. It’s been a long, awful, soul sucking process, but I wouldn’t change a single thing because it’s taught me so much.
What advice do you have for writers?
I have so many! Connect with other writers, first and foremost. Find your community. They’re your pillars of strength. Celebrate each other’s successes, no matter how small. You’re going to go through so many disappointments, it really pays to focus on the positive things as they are few and far in between. Agents are vital if you want to go down the traditional publishing route, but they’re also human, and just because an agent has a good reputation does not mean they’re the right agent for you. My second agent treated me really badly, but I stuck with her for over a year because I thought hey, she’s an agent!! How lucky am I to even have an agent?? Now I look back on that year that I wasted with her, unable to write anything new because my self-confidence was in tatters, and I realize I should have respected myself more and left her sooner. Treat yourself and your work with respect. Lastly, always be willing to try out new methods of writing, especially if your current method isn’t working well. I used to be a pantser, which is a legit way of writing, but it was making me unhappy. So I started experimenting with different methods, most of which did not work for me. But ultimately, I found a way that worked for me. No single method is going to work for every writer, so be patient and be open-minded. Don’t get stuck thinking: “Oh, that won’t work for me.” How would you know unless you try?
What advice do you have for aspiring writers? What advice do you have for aspiring writers from marginalized/underrepresented backgrounds?
Those from marginalized/underrepresented backgrounds REALLY should reach out to others who are also from marginalized backgrounds. The support that I have received from my fellow writers of color has been incredible. And I’ve learned so, so much from them. There are a ton of resources for us out there, so don’t be afraid to use them!
How do you weave your culture(s) into your book(s)? How do(es) your culture(s) influence your writing?
Most of my characters are from the same background as me and/or my family. My plots and settings and dialogues are also influenced by my culture. I feel like by now it’s almost impossible for me to separate my books from my culture, which is great.
What is your writing process like?
It used to be fast and chaotic, but over the years I have learned enough to write fast AND organized, which massively cuts down on my editing time. It takes me about 6 weeks to write a relatively clean draft and a further two weeks to edit it to the point where I feel comfortable sending to my agent.
What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading my AMM subs and I am blown away by the sheer amount of talent, especially from POC authors!!
What is your writing style in a few words?
Uhh. Funny and deadly!
What’s your favorite part of the writing process? Your least favorite part?Why?
My favorite part of the writing process is the first 15K words, when everything is still shiny and the concept is still exciting. My least favorite part is everything else after that, because that’s when the plot mutates and grows tentacles and you’re stuck with the saggy middle.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
How do you deal with critiques of your work?
I have an amazing group of critique partners now whose critiques I respect and trust 100%, so whenever they give me feedback, I just go and do the changes. If the critique is a really major one, I might need a day or so to ponder how to make the changes, but over the years I have learned to take critique in stride.