Chasing her dream
Despite changes in the literary industry, Estacada's Susan Lute pushes onward
Every child enters school with a dream - police officer, professional athlete, designer or business executive.
For Estacada's Susan Lute, she wanted to become a writer.
While Lute, 57, wrote throughout high school, a life of responsibilities put her dream on hold.
At 17, she got married after attending high school in Redmond and before moving on to attend Linn-Benton Community College and George Fox University.
After graduating with a bachelor's degree in human resources management, Lute wasn't sure what was next.
So in 1985, she got a job working as a nurse during the graveyard shift at Providence in Milwaukie, and 12 years later she felt a need inside to pursue her dream of being a writer.
While maintaining a part-time job as a nurse at a gynecologist's office, Lute began writing seriously for the first time.
Six years later, in 2003, her first book ('Oops … We're Married?) was published.
Though it was her first published book, sales went better than expected, and to this day the book has sold more than 117,000 copies.
But for Lute, she picked the worst possible moment to enter the industry - the game was changing before her eyes with the introduction of e-readers everywhere.
'When I started writing, the idea of being an author was like Stephen King, where you could write your stories for a year or two and then you'd have a print book and everyone would love you,' she said. 'But the world has turned on its ear with e-publishing, so markets are shrinking and publishers are having to scramble because they don't know what to do either.'
As Lute put it, the question became how badly she wanted to be an author. The idea of writing a book and sending it to a publisher who would do most of the work was long gone, so each book she wrote would require a great deal more work.
As the daughter of a U.S. Marine, however, she was ready for anything.
While she was unaware at the time of what her next project would be, Lute forged onward. Her writing schedule involves waking up at 4:15 a.m. on days she isn't nursing and sitting down at her desk by 6 a.m. After four or five hours straight of writing, she spends some time with her husband before he heads off to work for a swing shift. Once he's out of the house, Lute either returns to her desk to write or works on networking.
'I do stuff now that I never would have thought of doing,' she joked. 'I even have Twitter now.'
After her first book came out, Lute's next major project was a book titled 'Jane's Long March Home,' which centers on the story of a female Marine.
'I wanted to write about a Marine who has no family and lost his best friend in a terrorist attack,' Lute said. 'But over time as I wrote the story, 'he' became a female.'
The book is the story of Jane, who works at the Madrid embassy and befriends a street urchin. Jane fails to realize the urchin is being used by terrorists to attack the embassy, and she ultimately is injured during the attack.
All of this takes place just before the story begins, as the book tells how Jane reacts to everything that happens, ultimately leading her to move back to the United States, where she gets married and starts a family.
'The Marine Corps is like a family, and all of my stories center around finding family,' she said. 'It's a quest for me. Life is a quest. And I want to be better when I'm done than I was when I was born. The space in between is filled with finding family and finding how to do things better.
'My stories come out of that, but ultimately I don't know where they come from,' she said.
After finishing 'Jane's Long March Home,' Lute had fallen so in love with the characters that she took it one step further and wrote the prequel, titled 'A Girl Named Jane.'
This story takes place 10 years before the other book and tells of how Jane ended up where she did.
After finishing the prequel, Lute wrote one more contemporary romance novel, this one titled 'The London Affair,' which came out in June.
'I think everyone has books of their heart, and for me, 'The London Affair' and 'Jane's Long March Home' are both books of my heart,' she said.
While she has spent the past few years writing romance, Lute is taking a new direction in her career. The book she's working on is classified as a post-apocalyptic, paranormal fantasy book, or in simpler terms: a dragon book.
This new project has taken her a total of eight months.
'I started dragon books because I got frustrated and decided I was going to take my favorite female character (a thief), a good strong alpha hero (a mercenary) and my favorite scene (a bar scene) and write the three of them into all sorts of genres,' she said. 'I was really bent on finding my voice, and I decided to try this new genre.'
The most fascinating thing about talking to Lute, however, is her sincere attachment to her characters. When she talks about people like Jane, it's as if she's a real person.
As for whether she's ever included herself in one of her stories, she claims the dragon story will be the first.
'Most authors put some part of themselves in every story because that's what they know,' she said. 'What I know is that you wake up every day with challenges and you need to step up to the plate and make it work. So that's in all of my stories.'
One of those challenges has been publishing her books, but like all of the challenges in her life, she made it work. Since Harlequin published Lute's first book, she's been left to independently publish the next three books. But with new e-readers emerging on the tech market, independently published books are easily obtained. The problem is just spreading the word.
Through all of this, one thing is for sure: Lute isn't giving up anytime soon. After 19 years in Estacada, 39 years of marriage and a lifetime of writing, Lute has finally found where she's supposed to be, and she couldn't be happier about it.
For anyone interested in checking out any of Lute's work, her books can be found at Amazon.com and at Barnes and Noble.