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Read all about the adventures of the Tsao Family during the summer of 2012

Monday, February 13, 2006

 

Chatting with Suzanne Hansen

After I wrote and posted my review of Suzanne Hansen's book You'll Never Nanny in This Town Again: The True Adventures of a Hollywood Nanny, I realized that I had unanswered questions. Instead of making up the answers in my head and being satisfied with that, I decided to take my questions straight to the top and interview Ms. Hansen. Suzanne (yes, we are on a first name basis now; we're truly BFF) was nice enough to spend time she otherwise would have spent staying current on world events to provide me with some answers.

So without further ado, I bring you Q & A with author Suzanne Hansen!

Mary: Suzanne, you decided after high school to put college on hold and head out to Los Angeles to be a nanny. Have you ever regretted that decision?

Suzanne: I am glad I didn’t begin college straight out of high school because I was pretty unclear where my "career path" was headed. Taking the time to work as a nanny in Hollywood helped clarify for me that I wanted to go into nursing. I loved helping families welcome new babies into their life.

Mary: You were just a baby yourself (19!) when you were thrown to the lions, so to speak. What advice do you have for other young girls who are--or wish to be--in nanny positions such as the ones you were in?

Suzanne:
1. Be clear what your job description is.
2. Get a contract. Get a contract. Get a contract.

Mary: Good advice. Writers could benefit from it, too. I thought your book was well written and honest without being unbelievable. Why did you decide to tell your story?

Suzanne: After I became a mom I struggled with my lame attempt to be a perfect mom. Well, I wasn’t actually aspiring to be perfect, just extremely adequate. (I have long held the belief that the only "perfect women" are the ones described on Dateline. This is always after some unfortunate tragedy, involving the prime suspect being a family member that has been an upstanding member of the church choir. Therefore, I have never really aspired to have a picture perfect life, because I did not want to end up on Unsolved Mysteries.)

But, I did still try really hard to get motherhood "right". So, when I saw celebrity moms sharing about how they were just like the rest of us, I felt even worse about not measuring up. I thought other mothers might feel the same.

Sharing my story was my attempt to let other mothers know that the reason the rich and famous appear so put together during interviews is that they have an army of support personnel.

Mary: Well put. Writing a book is an amazing accomplishment. How long did it take you?

Suzanne: This has been a 4 year process that began with a not so great idea, to self publish.

Mary: Why did you initially decide to self publish?

Suzanne: I made the mistake of taking the advice of a published author. Looking back, my first clue [that it was a bad idea] should have been that he had not self published his own book. I have vowed not to take any further advice from well-meaning people about something they have not ever actually done.

Mary: Thanks for the advice. We can believe you because you actually did do it! After you self published, what steps did you take to get your book noticed by the major publishing houses?

Suzanne: I used a service that queries out to agents.

Mary: Congratulations on your deal with Crown! Did you have to make many changes to your book as a result of that partnership?

Suzanne: I had a wonderful editor at Crown. She and I worked together to hopefully make the book even better. The biggest change was probably that I added more experiences from other nannies.

Mary: I know you are a mom as well as a writer. Do you have any advice for other moms who aspire to be writers?

Suzanne: Oh my, that is a whole book in itself. The first thing I would like to debunk is the notion that "working from home" is a viable option for a mother with very young children. Whoever (or is it whomever, I wish spell check had more answers for me) set up the plan to work, finish a complete task, or even a sentence on the phone, while meeting the needs of a baby, has probably never actually had any children.

My advice would be to speak to as many published authors as possible about the time commitment involved. Also, the writing of the book is just the beginning; there also is the laborious task of editing. In my case, my editor, bless her heart, went through line by line by line by line, and it felt like about 3000 changes, including everything from adding more description, to a 15 minute conversation about where the comma or semi colon should go, to whether we should use the word beige or cream to describe a coffee pot. Then you have the publicity machine you need to fire up in order to sell the books. Not to be discouraging, but it is a wonderful, exhausting, thrilling, and frustrating process, just like motherhood.

Mary: Thank you for being the champion of regular mothers everywhere as well as an inspiration to moms who are crazy enough to want to be writers, which is an aspiration--much like motherhood--that has a kind of biological clock, a mind all its own. What's next for author Suzanne Hansen?

Suzanne:
I would love to do a column for moms on the challenges of finding the time to:

Take care of ourselves
Have romantic outings with our husband
Work out regularly
Eat nutritiously
Read to our children
Stay current on world events
Wear clothing that we love and feel good in
Volunteer at the kid’s school
Have an evening out with girlfriends
Take a Yoga class
Keep the house semi-clean
Etc. etc.

I have always gotten a kick out of headlines in the women’s magazines that recommend the items I mentioned above. Instead of making me feel better, it has often made me feel worse, because I am only accomplishing half of them, or in the case of today about one fourth.

Mary: Suzanne, everybody who reads this interview will know exactly what you're talking about. And since a fair number of my readers are moms who write, is there anything else you would like to tell them about your book or your career as a writer?

Suzanne: Just that I need my own "in house" editor. I want to get this off to you, but I want to make changes. It would be nice if it was grammatically correct, informative, and well, perfect. (There I go again, maybe I will end up on Dateline after all.) But my kids will be off the bus in 15 minutes and if I don’t send it off now, it could be three weeks before I get it done. So here it is, I know your mom readers will understand.

Mary: We certainly do understand. In fact, sometimes that's all we understand. Suzanne, thank you for spending the time to let us get to know you better.

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