Good People, Cool Things
Good People, Cool Things

Episode 57 · 1 year ago

57: Ghost Hunting, Shakespeare, and Writing Engaging Stories with Susan McCauley

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Very few people have written stories about ghost hunters, sent a poem to a NASA astronaut, AND performed scenes with Jeff Goldblum. In fact, I’d argue no one has done all three of those things — except for today’s guest, Susan McCauley.

Susan is a writer and producer of paranormal, fantasy, and horror films and fiction for adults, young adults, and middle grade audiences and readers. She also studied acting at Playhouse West with Robert Carnegie and Jeff Goldblum in Los Angeles.

But most important of all, she has a great knack for storytelling. We’re diving into how that skill can help anyone, whether you’re a writer or not. Plus, a foray into Shakespeare, Susan’s newest book, Ghost Hunters: Pirates’ Curse - A Ghost Hunting Adventure, and some of her spookiest encounters.

Good people cool things as a podcast feature in conversations with entrepreneurs, writers, musicians and other creatives. Get inspired by their stories to do your own cool thing, and here's your host, Joey held. Welcome to good people, cool things. Today's guest is Susan mcaulay, a writer and producer of paranormal, fantasy and horror films and fiction for adults, young adults and middle grade audiences and readers. Susan, when she was eight years old, sent a poem to a NASA astronaut and her love of writing just continued to take off from there. She's also explored acting. She studied with Robert Carnegie and Jeff Goldbloom at playhouse West. She's written films, plays, a ton of novellas and short stories, and her most recent novel, ghost hunters pirates curse, a ghost hunting adventure, came out earlier this month. Spooky yet fun middle grade novel aimed for kids eight to twelve, but really anyone eight and above is going to enjoy this. It's set in New Orleans, it's got all kinds of charm and culture involved in it and it's about a twelve year old. With my middle name Alex, who can speak to ghosts. Ghosts are pretty commonplace in New Orleans and so there's lots of fun adventure going on in there and going on in here. In this conversation with Susan, were chatting all things right, and we're chat and acting. Were chatting flying to outer space. We haven't actually done it, but there's some outer space involved in this as well, plus some creepy experiences that Susan has had in her life. There's lots of good stuff, so be sure to stick around for all of it. If you like to support good people cool things, you can do so by head and over to the shop good people cool thingscom shop. Pick up some hats, shirts, hoodies, a Mug you you can have some coffee, so when you're getting all spooked out reading stuff that's scary, you got something warm to comfort you. Always very helpful and of course you can always reach out to me, Joey, at good people cool Thingscom if you have a guest for the show want to hear more about something. We just want to tell me a Corny joke, because you know we always end the show with a Corny joke and I would love to hear yours so I can give you a shout at as I share it on a future episode. But enough about that. Let's hop into the conversation with Susan. I say this every episode and I still believe it, that it's kind of a cliched question of give us your elevator pitch, but I like to put a twist on it by also having you tell us the elevator we're on while you're giving this pitch. Okay, how far back do you want me to go? That's the that's up to you. How long is the elevator at? Okay, that's true. Well, I'll be quick. I was born and I was born in Texas, on the Gulf coast, and in a way I like to think, you know, maybe that experience kind of I don't I'll caused inspiration. I grew up across the street from NASA, so I went to school as of the astronauts kids and then till we were you know, we were surrounded by space and boats and just I was a great neighborhood and my parents were really supportive and I went to I went to a little private school when I was younger and then middle school and high school, I went to a public school, but I had a really strong supportive foundation. But I think I remember I loved writing since I was eight and one of our friends was Charlie bolden. He was, you know, became the director of NASA later under Obama, and Charlie was going up into space for the first time when I was a kid, and so I wrote a poem for him about space and he took it up on the shuttle with him. So that was so cool and so inspiring and I said that's why I think kind of, you know, the space in the water and everything around me kind of led to my inspiration when I was when I was younger, and then I went to university Houston Undergrad and then I went to California. I worked on powder the movie when I was a teenager and I was getting ready to graduate from college and I met Jeff Goldbloom when we were on this set and it kind of like things just fell into place. I did a small role in...

...the classroom scene and then Jeff and I I was also in turning and so jeff and I were like in the back of this we're sitting on the back of a truck in the middle of this field and they were shooting. I got aerial shot. I think powder was running down. Sean Patrick Flannery was running down the field and they had this aerial shot. So Jeff and I were sitting there and he had to script he was reading and so it goes, read this with me. So we started reading the script back and forth and then I got called away to haul ice or some nice intern job and and apparently Jeff said to some but one of my friends she's really good. And so from there he asked me, invited me to study acting with him and Bob Carnegie at playhouse West in California, in Los Angeles. And then my parents came to visit the set like a week or two later and Jeff talked to them and you know my they'd been on the fence about acting and writing and all that. They were like, Oh, you need to do something stable, especially my mother. She's like be an accountant. I took one accounting class and I left crying. I called her and I said I cannot do that, mom, I'm sorry, I will be miserable. So Jeff talked to my parents on the set and he told them he thought, you know, I had ability and I should come and study, and that really kind of swayed the needle for me because having him, when he didn't need to say that, come to them and talk to them. After that I had there. They were always supported, but after that I really had their full support about moving to California and pursuing acting. And that was initially what I was pursuing, was acting. So I studied a playhouse West for a couple of years and, you know, I loved it. But I'm tall, I'm tall and blond, but I'm not, you know, a Bikini Babe, and that is very much what, unfortunately, you know when you're a teen or in your s that it really is, or at least at the time, was, what Hollywood was looking for, and so it was really frustrating going to castings with that, you know, pushing up against me. And so I was like, I'd always loved writing, and I was like, you know what, I wrote a short film and we made the short film and I was like, I really love writing. I need to focus more on writing, because then I don't have to worry about, you know, what image I fit for a casting director or not. And so I am applied to USC and I got into their master's professional writing program so I focused on screenwriting and playwriting there, but I also did fiction as well when I was at USC and so that was fantastic. And I stayed in La a little while longer and I taught some college English and I did a few commercials and and I was like just for some reason a bug bit me in the butt and I was like I need to go to London. And I had never I had never even visited London at that point. So I had never even been there. I just something said Tous, you got to go to London. I'm like, okay, that it London. So my mom surprised me with the trip and so we went to London with some family and I absolutely fell in love with it and I'm like I've got to figure out a way to go there, and so I was looking for jobs and when I was looking for jobs, I saw that the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Rada and King's college had a Master's program and text and performance that I thought, oh, how cool is that? And so I applied and I got in and I was, you know, ecstatic and I moved over there for that program and it was one of the I was one of the best years in my life. I mean the masters in England are usually one year instead of like here, two or three. I wish it would have been two or three there because it was such a fantastic experience. You know, we did acting and writing and directing, but you really got to focus on your area of expertise. So my thesis was playwriting, and so that was just a fantastic year. I met, you know, fabulous actors. I got to meet Alan Ritman, which was really nice, and Ben Kingsley, his son was at Rodda when I was there and so I met those guys. But I also met these fabulous upandcoming actors and a lot of them are doing great things and it was just a supportive, amazing place to train. And then I didn't want to leave London when that year was over, so I stayed and I taught for a little while and then finally it was like, okay, I'm working so hard to make a living because it's...

...so expensive there, because I couldn't I couldn't pursue acting or writings. I didn't have a visa for that. I had a teaching these. So it was working like sixty hours a week and not having any time to write, and it was like, okay, it's time to go back and, you know, and and focus on what I really wanted to do. So I came back to the US, ended up meeting my husband, got married, we moved to the DC area for a few years, totally had a weird, wacky change in life and like didn't write for a couple of years at all. We both worked for the government for a few years and then we came back to Houston with our newborn son. My husband works for Exxon and I like I have to write. It was driving me crazy. I hadn't written in a few years. So for the past ten years I've been refocused on writing, and so fiction and screenwriting both. What kind of elevator? We're going to the top of the Empire State Building. Wonderful, wonderful. People are getting on at every floor. Oh my God, someone accidentally pushed eight buttons. Yes, just the top one. Yes, always, always, a common always a common concern getting on an elevator. Absolutely, people hit in the wrong thing. Well, there's a lot to dive into, and there I guess I can start. When you said London, I was thinking. I don't know if you saw this. This was back in two thousand and eighteen, I think. London by the Tower Bridge put up a life like a huge replica of Jeff Goldboom Fum, Jurassic Park. Guys. F I did not. I did not know that. And it's so funny. I lived on tower bridge rows. I lived in the Old Tower Bridge Hotel. So when David Blaine did his stunt like hanging in that box without eating or drinking for weeks, whatever it was, I could see him out my window, just making eye contacting him. It was rictional advice. Oh, it's crazy. People were obnoxious. They would drive by at like zero in the morning and honk their horns and I lived above a pub and so people would come out the pub drunk and s screaming it to poor David Blaine. It was but I mean he knew what he was doing. So I mean, I guess you know whatever, but it was a new sign up for that. Yeah, yes, you're getting into yes, and I saw him get out. When they brought him out, I mean they had an ambulance there and they basically he couldn't walk. I mean they like put him in the ambulance and took off to the hospital. But it was pretty it was pretty wild. I mean had magicians from all over the world coming there and press. It was like a big camp, camp out city. Well, fantastic stuff all around. We do want to get into the writing. But as an actor I have to ask because I say as an actor, like I'm an actor. I've dabbled in occasional like improv classes, but I do think obviously a lot of acting takes elements of Improv absolutely doing it. So do you have a favorite Improv game? Well, I studied Meisner for two and a half years, and I mean the the core of mice. Do you know much about Meisner? I do not know, but there it's. The foundation of it are repetition. So you look at what's right in front of you and you make a simple observation and the person without you just repeats it back. So you're focused in those improvisations not on the words you're saying but on the emotion and on what you're seeing, what you're getting right in front of you. So then the emotion floats on the words and you're not thinking, as an actor about the text. So they would be like the text is for the writer to write. You're focused on what's going on inside of you and outside of you and what you're experiencing. So it's a back and forth give and take, just based on what's in front of you, whether it's an emotional observation about the person state of being or something that they are, they're wearing or something about them. So it's just a very simple back and forth, back and forth with and it builds then with emotional intent beneath it. And so I really like that because because it was simple and it took the brain out of acting, and I think you know I mean by saying the brain. Obviously we have to use our brains for our emotions, but but it took the thought out of it and it helped distill the feelings in the emotions. So you're working more emotionally and more truthfully. Yeah, I think, having done Improv classes, I think that's a very...

...common barrier of just you, you know, you're trying to think of something funny or but fits with the scene. But, like you're saying, like when you just lose yourself in in it and are really giving it all emotionally and being truthful like that's when you have the best scenes. It's not when it's like I'm trying to get that clever line in there now. Absolutely it's like and for us and the Misner, it's like, no, that's for the writer. You know, focus on on the on the emotions, on the feelings. So it was like they would describe it as the emotions were like the ocean and the waves. The actor was the ocean in the waves and the the text was the boat. So and then when we when we would get to actually scenes, we would remove all the punctuation and capitalization and you would just memorize your lines. There was one is is one exercise. So you'd memorize all your lines and take out the other persons. So basically you have this chunk of lines that you don't know in the other persons supposed to speak or not, and then you would do the scene together and you'd know the words so well you wouldn't have to think about it. But it was just emotion and you would respond to them when, when it felt appropriate, and it was amazing how you would pretty much hit where you were supposed to say the line. So that was terrifying but really interesting exercise. Yeah, that sounds super intense, but yeah, it was. So it was, but it was good, magical and you said that you've done over the past decator. So you're writing for both film and plays and Novellas and short stories and all that good stuff. Do you have a different writing process based on what you're writing for? Is it still kind of the same overall way that you work? screenwriting definitely have to get in a different mindset from fiction. I still use I love Christopher Vogler's writers journey. It's based on Joseph Campbell's myth structure. So I use kind of that structure for fiction and scripts because it really it works. It's like universal storytelling and what works and it also looks at, you know, different arc character archetypes, which I which I also look at when I'm writing. But for screenwriting it's so visual. What can you see here and what can you see in here? Light, motion, sound and, you know, fiction you can get to the characters head so I'm definitely I write at a much quicker pace, I think, with fiction, which is great for I think for young adults and kids especially, but even as an adult I can't get through a novel where they go on and on and on for pages of description. I find myself scanning. I'm like, okay, where's the lot pick up again. So for me, as a reader and a writer, I do like to be visual, but I also like the pace to move so the person feels like they're they're living it. So that sense it's the same. But I definitely need to get in a different mindset when I'm writing screenplays over fiction, for sure. I just had a flashback to high school and reading the Odyssey and oh my gosh, yes, yeah, just yes, you did. I'd lose track of who was talking because they' introduce the person about to say something and then given eight page description of what was happening. Absolutely, and the other challenge, I think for high school, this is the teacher part of me, is when they try to teach Shakespeare in the English classroom and want you to sit there and read it, and it's like no, people, this is meant to be performed. That's how it makes sense when you you know, either get the I think ideally let the kids see the play or the film and then let them read it in different parts as a class is then they'll understand what they're you know what they're reading. But Oh, I agree, I agree wholeheartedly. I always enjoyed the men with their this again, this is just reading it, but it was a visual thing within the book they had the men with their heads that were below their shoulders and I don't know why this. Yes, name, but it's it was just such a funny, such a goofy little photo of like this guy's head is just on his chest. Look at his faces on his chest. I thought you were going to say men and dresses or something. At first I did a part of...

...a play I wrote was performed at the Tower of London and it was so funny because that we were doing in conjunction with some Shakespeare pieces and the guys were actually in some of the scenes. The men were playing women like they did during that time. So I remember seeing these guys trying to put corsets and dresses on and it was a hysterical well, now I have to ask is this is something I saw in London, but I believe it's a American originally, but the Reduced Shakespeare Company. Yes, I haven't seen it. I need to see it. I've heard it's hysterical. It was very entertaining. I remember our family went to London and I've been back since, but I think I must have been like fourteen or fifteen when this was going on, certainly in like the age of like everything is lame and I don't know, yeah, I don't want to do anything, but I also like I get it. I'm in a foreign country, so I was like, okay, I guess I'll go to this thing and I just like I thought it was hysterical and I bought the the DVD. who were three other people, not the people at the show. Oh Wow, that's awesome, I thought. Even the DVD is still very funny. I'll throw it on every once in a while and I'm like, I know what's coming and I'm still laughing, so that's awesome. Yeah, yeah, we're so. We were supposed to go to England this past December but of course, thank you covid we did not. So we're going to try again this coming December. Hopefully we'll be able to go safely and if we do, then hopefully we're going to see some shows, which would be awesome. Looking forward to your reviews. Oh, yes, I can't wait. And you you kind of touched on this a little bit with we're going to we're going to jump back to to writing. How you wrote a poem when you were eight. You said yes. First of all, do you still remember the poem? I don't remember the poem. When we recently moved and I found like a whole bunch of my poems from when I was a child. So they are in there in a trunk and they're marked. So I told my son you will have my early poems. I need to really dig it out and like type them all up so I have them all together, and I haven't done that, but I did find a lot of them nice. That's the first step. I feel like I have lost so much writing to the either. Yes, yes, I mean, you know, none of it would be obvious, none of it would be publishable, but it's interesting. It's interesting seeing that the process and the journey. Oh absolutely. One of my friends out of the blue just texted me a couple weeks ago saying he had found his old I don't know. We were like second graders and had to do like a little coloring book or sausage. The short story, and it was about how us, like the group that he had texted, we were all basketball players and we I think we went in the sewer something to like fight these monsters off so that we could save the Chicago Bulls. Oh, that's awesome for them, or a whole ordeal. But it was phenomenal and I had a I hadn't heard from him and probably like ten years. Oh, wow, like this is amazing, like that's awesome, love it, love it. Did he sent you pictures of it, I hope, or scan of it or something? Yes, yes, awesome, which was just yeah, just the drawing also is phenomenal because you know, we're all fantastic artists. And second grade. Yeah, actually I think I peeked an artistry and second grade I drew a Mona and everyone raved over it and I was like maybe I'm good at drawing. And then now, yeah, my pet, my peek, my peak, was about then as well. If I'm tracing maybe it's passable. But yes, same me drawing. It's no, I cannot draw to save my life. I would love to, but not, I can't. So you have your poem. Yeah, and it sounds like that was kind of inspired more by your experiences growing up near Nassen and just kind of being in that environment. But do you remember the first thing where an early thing you read where you're like wait a minute, like I love that, I want to write stuff like that. I remember well it was. It's funny. My Dad was dyslexic and he was terrified that I was going to be...

...dyslexic and I just this is the one that's remember the most strongly. I was in fifth grade. We read where the red fern grows, which I found incredible, little incredible, but incredibly sad as well, and we had an essay test and I remember that we were all doing the tests and I was still writing because she said, you know, answer in detail, and so I wasn't finished. It was time for recess and I said can I please stay and work on my test story recess, and I wrote the entire recess and then I turned my test in and when I got it back I had, you know, I had a good grade, but she wrote not that much detail with an exclamation mark, and so, you know, I for me that was a turning point that, wow, I really like writing. I realized it. And then for my dad, he said when he saw that, he was no longer worried that I would have dyslei sea. So for both of us that that that moment made an impact. And then in sixth grade and on, I mean I started taking, I think, you know, more advanced English classes and things like that. But but I mean eight was the like magic number when I started writing poems. I made my first short film when I was eight, which was hysterical with my cousins. It was about this drunk man in an alley way and he was my cousin, was dressed up in my grandfather's clothes and it was just, you know, it was a goofy kids thing. But but all that started at eight, but it was around eleven when when it clicked that I really love writing. So getting started early and I love that. A drunk man in an alley is it's your deput fellow. But well, my my grandparents, like they lived in this amazing it's they spike, my aunt still lives there in this amazing old farmhouse that the farmer had built. It's over a hundred years old now. But of course the city they live outside of Detroit, so the did. He grew up around them. So next to them wasn't is an alley now in a gas station, you know. So there was a little bit of crime in the area. So I was probably, I'm guessing, was pulling from that that and I saw my first prostitute is a kid with my parents in Detroit, and I was like, you know, oh my gosh, what is this to all that stuff, I'm sure fed into that. Where I was going with that lovely love? Yeah, I mean you pull from your life experiences. So that that absolutely absolutely. And your most recent book, ghost hunters. Yes, pirate tiers curse, the second in the ghost hunters series. It is a ghost hunting adventure. Is this one, and bones in the wall the first one. So tell us about this series. Did you want it to be a series right aware? Did you write one and you're like, Oh, I've got enough for a second now? I knew this one. I knew this one was going to be a series for sure. My editor and I were talking and she were originally like five books. Do Five books, and you know, it's picking up, it's getting good reviews, people are really liking it. Reaching readers is a is a is a big challenge. So we're going to do four books for now and then I'm going to do another series. But if ghost hunters continues picking up steam, then I will probably go back and do more in the middle grade. I do have an idea for a young adult spinoff to following the kids as teenagers, but I I definitely knew I wanted to do it as as a series. For sure. Nice. Yeah, I think a spinoff. I immediately jumped to rug rats jumped to my mind. Right. I feel like those episodes are kind of divisive, of like regrets. Is Teenagers. But I always, always liked it. I liked when they absolutely yeah, get us some new new experience. Let mean, yeah, I'm between and this is a upper middle grade, middle grade. I've had some I found one. I was one teacher who read the first ghost hunters book two or seven year old because it it was too advanced for the reading level, but apparently the kid really loved it. Fourth, fifth, sixth seventh graders, they seem to love it. You know, it's not too scary. It's a little scary, but you know their kids. I want him to have fun. To me it's like, to me, the books are like writing the haunted mansion ride at Disney. It's kind of spooky...

...but it's also a lot of fun at the same time. Nice, Nice, and is that is that kind of your motivation of it? Of like because, for my reference, I think the scariest stuff I would enjoy growing up was like goosebumps. Yes, and then I really didn't get into are you afraid of the dark? But I don't know if it was necessarily because I was scared of it. I think I just watched one and was like whatever, but yeah, what one of my teachers, I think it wasn't I can't remember his third or fourth grade, read one of those are you afraid of the dark stories and it's scared the out of me for four years. But definitely I didn't read. I mean I didn't read. I don't know if I might be too old. Have Read Arl Stein when I was a kid. I don't even know when those books started coming out, but I didn't read R Elstein. A lot of people like in my ghosts onner series to Arl Stein. I don't know if you're familiar with Jonathan Stroud at all. He's a British author and he writes a ghost series with these young their young teens going after ghosts. To me it's more like that. Rl Stein is obviously brilliant and but he's very, very plot focused. I definitely focus on plot, but I I try to have the character's growth development, character arcs just as important as the plot. So to me that's how I see it's different from Arlstein. Yeah, I think. I think that's a cool distinction too. And I've I feel like I've read Jonathan Straw before. Is he wrote a series called Barto Mais which I first discovered when I was living in London, and then he wrote a lockwood and Co which is his ghost series, and he just came out with a new series. I can't remember the name of it. I think it's set in the West, like wild west type thing. Well, I guess I have I have some stuff to add to my reading list. Then absolutely, it's fun. It's fun and that's why I I love writing the middle grades, because it's fun and you know, once you get into why a you know have to but you know definitely a romance starts entering the picture and it's like my my one young adult novel, the Devil's Treet, has some romance. It's light romance, romance tryer. I do think that's a an important distinction, because I'm thinking of it now, like I read a lot of the goosebumps books and definitely read read a lot of the chooser on ending ones, where, yes, I did too, like I love the book marks throughout it because, like, I want to come back to this, but I can't read two pages at once and I can, like I can remember plots for sure, but I like could not tell you, I don't think, any of the characters. Now I think there was maybe a clown in a department store. That might have been the one what like right cloud. But I think that's a good distinction of having character development in the importance of it too, because, yes, those books are very entertaining and enjoyable to read, but when you have an attachment to the characters, like you're so much more invested. You are absolutely are, and I mean to me it was important to try to balance both the plot and the characters in and rl st mean he's a machine. I don't even know how many books's written. It's crazy. But I did the master class because R al sign has one of the master classes and he is when he talks about it, he is it's all about plot and that's his focus. And I took one Neil Gaiman's master class, and he's all about character, so totally opposite end of the spectrum. So it's really interest. I took them back to back and I was like, okay, wow, I'm kind of in the middle of these two. Yeah, I feel like I've signed up on on like waiting list for probably a dozen different master classes. What I've never actually fully explored one officially on master class. I've done like similar types, but I do think it is like you really do get such a varied opinion, I think based on who you're you're seeing, but it's just so interesting to see like inside their head. Basically, absolutely. I think that's the crazy thing about I mean any artist is everybody works so differently and everybody fight, I mean everybody has to find out what...

...works for them and ultimately, you know it comes out, whether it's a book or a film or a performance, and you know people are either going to love it or they're not going to love it. The media is either going to attach to it and run with it or they're not. But you I for me, it's like you've got to put do, make it the best you can do, the best you can do and put it out there and you know it's terrifying. I mean you know that as a performer. If people don't like it, it hurts, but if they love it feels really good. And then you then you're like, okay, I got to make it just as good, if not better, the next time. Yeah, the work, the work is never truly done. It does not, absolutely not. And then, I mean I've got this situation. I mean I there was a I had a novella come out in October and that one is totally adult. I don't want I actually tell pell parents I do not want your child to read this, and some people still bought it for their teenagers and I'm like, okay, but it's the novella is just dark and twisted and it's it's adult horror and that's as dark as I want to go. I started writing it. I really wanted it to be why, but ultimately I was trying to be truthful to the story and to be truthful to the story, I couldn't. I mean I cut four pages because my editor was like this is two months but and my copy editor, the cop way, had a copy editor quit and it to get different copy editor because I guess he had had some incident when he was younger that it triggered and he just couldn't read it and I was just like, Oh Geez, I'm sorry, wow, but I was like, you know, I had to be truthful to the story. I mean lightened up bits of it and you know, horror, horror fans are loving it, but it's only for certain, you know, certain audience is and definitely a Dune adult. And Yeah, that one was. That one was hard for me to write. Emotionally it was hard for me to write, but the that's why I you know, again, the middle grade is it's fun. It's so much fun. Can you share the four pages that we're cut? Are those just going to be mysterious for forever? Probably be mysterious. I don't even know. I mean I must I have sure I have it in a former draft. It was just to sheet. We talked about it. I was like, you know, she was like you had to go there because it's the point of view, is the characters. It's a so it's a sixteen century serial killer. He was real. He's known as the demon tailor. His crimes in reality were so horrific that they burned all documentation with his name on it, and so we don't have much information about who the man was, just about his crimes, and so I thought, well, that's interesting. So that's why that the idea just stuck with me. And so it's told from one of his victim's point of view, a victim who escapes. So I mean she like survived the horrors and so what he was doing and she got through it. But, you know, I mean it was horrific. It was. It was horrific. And so as I was writing it, the stuff that got caught, my editor was like, no, you had to go there to really again be in the character's head, but that doesn't mean the reader needs to read it all. I was like, you're right, you're right. Yeah, this is why everyone, everyone listening. That's a writer. Editors are wonderful. They are, they're wonderful. And like Middle Grade. Some people say, okay, well, if you write this adult stuff, but then you write a lot mostly. I mean my for me, the guts of my fiction work is, you know, Middle Grade and young adult, that that's the bulk of it. And they're somebody asked me, you know, how, how do you know it's right from middle grade and Isaac. Well, if I'm not sure, I asked my editor. Absolutely, I mean she's worked with Middle Grade and why I for twenty years and so I'll be like it, is this all right or is this off? And she'll she'll tell me. For both of us it seemed like growing up we had no problem picking up a book, diving into it, exploring, getting lost in the story. But for a lot of kids reading is not something that they're actively doing. They're, you know, maybe maybe being a sign something in school, like maybe they'll check out a book once in a while, but they're not as voracious as as you were, I were. So how do you get kids interested in reading? I well, it's funny because when I was very young I had books everywhere, but and I read easy...

...books. I didn't throw myself into fiction till I was probably around eleven or twelve and it took finding something that just really interested me, which in my case was fantasy, C S Lewis and Madeline all angle. So I say, and I do this when I teach writing, I I tell my students you got to write about something to interest you, and I would tell I tell parents and kids you got to find something that you're interested in in read about that. So I mean a kid that's a reluctant reader. If they like science and nonfiction, that's my son. Let them read science non fiction. They only read novels in school, that's okay. As long as they're reading whatever it is, magazines, popular mechanics, whatever they're interested in. Let them read that and then it'll grow. And if they're not a super strong reader like my son it he was, you know, he was kind of a reluctant reader. First second grade. Well, then captain underpants, right, he discovered captain underpants and even though it drove us crazy with the potty humor, he we bought every single book and he sat and he read every single book. So for him that was a turning point. We found something he liked and even though we had, you know, the potty humor going on for a while, I was like, the kid is reading. I'm going to buy him every single book because they were out. The library can't keep them in. So I bought them all the books and he sat there and you read them all. And now that he's matured and grown, he's like, you know, the first ones are really good, but then they kind of just get the same. After that I was like, I know, but you read them at the time. That's what you love, and he agreed. So it's interesting watching him grow. But that's that's my thing. Is If you need to get a graphic novel and so the kids don't feel like they're reading as much because they got a lot of pictures, that's fine. They're still if they're reading those words, it's going to build it's going to build their ability. And if it's potty humor for boys, so be it, you know. But if the kid loves sports, Find Sports Book. If somebody likes horses, you know, do horses martial arts, find stories about martial arts. That I think is the best thing to do. And if they're struggling, get them a little bit easier reading level so they feel confident. You know, yes, I was able to read that, Mom Dad, awesome. Let's find, you know, let's find another one and then, when they feel really, really confident, try to see if they'll guide you to a higher reading level and read with them. I mean for a long time we read, read to my son and then as we were bridging the gap between US reading to Him and him reading, I would start off reading him a chapter and then I'd say, okay, you can finish the chapter yourself. And so we would give him the book and, you know, say good night and he'd end up reading, you know, two chapters. So those are some things I think really help. But but the core of it is get a kid to read what they're interested in. That'll make it easier. Yeah, I think that last tip was actually how I got into Harry Potter back in the day. My friend would had like heard about it and was like, oh well, let's read a read a chapter together, and then we finished and I was like I want to keep reading that. Give me that book. Yes, yes, my son that was like the first big series he read. It was a year and a half ago. He he read the entire series in a summer. That is very impressive and I was just I was like wow, well, he last summer rea didn't Ras Summery hardly read anything, but the summer before it was just like he took off on this reading tear and was great. But yes, Harry Potter, I have to put this out there too. It's another great middle grade series too for people who like Harry Potter. You know rl Stein it's Suzanne Collins who wrote the hunger games. She wrote a middle grade series which is fantastic but it's not very well known. You know. It didn't take off like the hunger games. It's called Gregor the overlander and that was another one my son loved. So that was fun. Gregor the overlander. But I do have to say this about Ghost unners. The first book they're still getting the second book. So sometimes, you know, writing is really hard and sometimes you're having a down day and one of my son's friends, who was a really reluctant reader, had ghost hunners and both...

...my son and his mother call. His mom called me and apparently this boy's Daniel was taking ghost hunters and sitting out during recess to read it and he took it to lunch and was reading it at lunch and he was reading it in the back of the car going to soccer practice and it was the first book he didn't want to put down. And that gets me through the tough days. So knowing there was one kid he couldn't put my book down, that was awesome. That is that is so awesome and I think segues very nicely into a question. I like to ask because it's minimal work on my end because you're providing the question, but it's a question that you wish you were asked more frequently. And I like to Urs of what's your ultimate goal as a writer? It's probably in part with a lot of writers hope for. I mean obviously I would I would love to be everybody wants to be a best seller. will not everybody, but a lot of people want to be a best seller. I'd love to. I want to reach a lot of readers. So in that case I want to be a best sellers. I want to reach a lot of readers. I want to be able to make my my living full time from writing. You know, I'd like that to be tempered with some, you know, critical praise. I got one good curciss review on Ghost saunchers which was amazing, but so kind of balance between, you know, great numbers sales but also some critical approval to yeah, this, this book is good. But also, because of my screenwriting background, I would love to see some of my books stories turned into, you know, a show or a movie. I Love Adaptation. So one of the things I would really really love to do be able to option one of my films or one of my books and be one of the screenwriters to adapt it, even if I share the screenwriting with somebody else. I would love to do that because I think adaptation is so fun and I've done it before for the stage and I did one of my short stories I dupped into a short film that we made. So I would love to do that. Lovely. Well, we're sending all the positive vibes a way. I think you are are setting yourself up nicely for that and you're almost off the hook here. But we always like to wrap up with a top three and yes, very excited to hear yours of your top three creepiest experiences that you've had. Yes, okay, let me think of okay, there are three. I'm trying to think which one I should start with. Okay, this one I'll start. I'll do chronological order. How about that? We were we were doing that short film. It was like the first short film I did. I was like one thousand nine hundred and twenty, and we were scouting log cations in Montgomery Texas, and the guy who I was scouting with had been out there before and so he's like, Oh, you got to see this cool graveyard. Well, of course the sun is setting right, it's getting dark. So we go to this graveyard. You couldn't even tell it was a graveyard. It was a an abandoned, forgotten graveyard with grass growing everywhere and by the time we got back in the trees the sun had set, it was pitch dark and there's this cracked mausoleum thing and I'm just like, oh my gosh. He flicks on a light and we're going up and we see movement inside the crypt through the crack and I'm like what and the Hell is that? And so he course walks closer and this crow comes screeching out at us. It flies over our head. Of course I screamed and that was just I had had enough of the creepy old graveyard at that point. But it was really cool and also kind of sad that it you know, these people's family had been buried there and they'd forgotten about it. But having a crow lurch out of a out of a crypt at night in your face is a bit startling and creepy and terrifying just a little bit. Yeah, yeah, the next one I was at a friend's in London, outside of London. Her name's Julia and are she had two teenagers at the time and I was staying there and they had all the kids had gone to school, she had gone to work and I was getting ready to go out, as in the bathroom, putting on some makeup, and the door behind me...

...was cracked open and I felt like somebody was standing behind me, and so I looked at glanced up in the mirror and nobody was there, and I'm like, okay, it's my imagination. So I went back to what I was doing and right over my shoulder I heard hello, hello, and I was like I turned her out and nobody was there and I was like hello, you're freaking me out. I can't do this right now, and I basically ran out of the house and then later I texted her and I was like are you home yet? Are you home yet? So finally, when she was home, I went back home and then we had to go pick up her son's girlfriend from the train station. So we're all riding in the car and I'm like Julia, she's like yes, I was like hey, if you ever experienced anything unusual in your house, and she like I remembers looking at her and her lips get really tight because what do you mean? Very properly and I was like just anything supernatural. She goes, Oh, you mean the ghost. Yeah, he'll come around sometimes and say hello, hello, and I had not told her what he said and I just goosebumps all over my arms and apparently her kids would not be alone in the kitchen or in the bathroom for the next month after they burnt. But she told me he was harmless and he came around a lot. She thought he was just very sad and lost. But I did feel him with around me in the house after that. But that was the one and only time I've heard anything say anything to me the hello, hello, and that was really creepy. The last one actually happened not too long ago and it was in New Orleans. We had gone to see my family on their farm in Florida, as my husband's family for Thanksgiving. Hey, we you know, we wanted to be careful with covid and all that, but we didn't want to drive the entire way back and so we stayed in New Orleans in the Roosevelt Hotel for a night and so while we were sleeping, I kind of woke up in the middle of night I felt pressure on my legs and I thought, Oh, my husband, you know, he's coming back to the bed from the bathroom and he was like, you know, couldn't find a daddy, you know, padding Bedfort to find a spot. But it was like really pushing hard pressure, and so I sat up and I looked and he was sleeping next to me, not touching me at all, and I like okay. So I sat it and looked further over and my son was sound asleep in the other bed and I thought, okay, maybe my feet are tangled in the blankets or something, and so I just let it go and I didn't think about it anymore and I went back to sleep. Okay. Well, the next morning we ordered vigner's in the room so we didn't have to, you know, be around people in the restaurant, and so we're eating vignyer's, my husbands, son and I were all sitting there and there's one chair that was not being used but had two pillows in it. Well, all of a sudden one pillow went flying off the chair and the other pillow picked up and flew off the chair in front of all three of us, and I was like Oh, hello, take a seat. Would you like a big Ya? and that was just really crazy and freaky because I've never seen anything lift up and fly off a chair before and all three of us saw it. Goodness. So that was kind of that was kind of crazy and creepy. So those are really my I mean I've had a few other little ghostly experiences, but those are my three. Those are my three kind of creepy ghostie experiences. A smorgest sport. I top three suctacular moments there. Yes, my top three. Now, yes, I've been. Yeah, so you've done great working like all around. Yes, yes, and ghost ghost hunters is set in New Orleans. Yeah, so, yes, bend. Yes, magical stuff and if people will, you can't. I don't think you can provide them begn. Yes, but if they want to learn more about you, they want to check out ghost hunters or any of your other work, where can I find you? My website would be great. It's SB macaulaycom. Wonderful. Susan, thank you so much for having on this flew by. I thought you had lots of great tips. I loved hearing all your stories and Tell Jeff Hid for you. I'm sorry if...

...my I will, and I'm sorry if my elevator was too long, averthough I was a wonderful ride. And now we're at the top of the Empire State Building, so it's it's a gorgeous view, awesome all around, good stuff, all right. Thank you so much for having and, as always, we got to end with a Corny joke. I found a nice ghost goot my gunamed one. Where do baby ghosts go during the day? Oh boy, I have no idea. To the day scare center. Oh my gosh, good after it today. People. Thank you, good people. Cool things is produced in Austin, Texas. If you dug this episode, go ahead and hit that subscribe button, whether you're on apple podcast, spotify, stitcher, pod chase or any other podcast APP. I want to keep delivering great content to you. You want to keep hearing it, tap that subscribe button. We'll see you next time.

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