Meet YA Author Susan Rocan, author of Withershins

Welcome back to day 2 of my YA Author Blog Takeover fest!  I hope you enjoyed yesterday’s post.  If you missed it, you can click here and read all about Kim Richardson, author of the Soul Guardian series.

Today, we have the lovely and talented Susan Rocan.   Give it up for Susan!  *applause*  *whistle*

To the questions, “What draws you to read and write YA? How did you get to where you are now?” here is my answer:

I began writing for children, and eventually YA, when my daughter’s 3rd grade teacher told me my daughter had mentioned I was a writer. She asked if I’d written anything for kids. I had to admit, up to that point, I hadn’t. She was disappointed and said if I ever did write any children’s stories she’d love to have me talk to the kids about creative writing. That got me thinking, what were kids reading? I went through my daughter’s library and found Goosebumps books. After reading a couple, I thought, I could do that, so I came up with some short ghost stories.

Later, when my writer’s group and I were brainstorming for chapbook ideas, I came up with the idea for ‘Withershins’. Originally, my character was older, but my writer’s group suggested that the way I had written her, she sounded much younger. I shifted her age down a few years and made it YA. In between research and writing ‘Withershins’, I read other YA books, especially those of local Canadian writers. I loved them all and got a good feel for the genre.

My writer’s group said that ‘Withershins’ was the best thing I’d ever written and pushed me to send it off to be published. After polishing it the best that I could, with the help of the group, I began to research publishers. I began locally, because the content was focused on the area where I live. One of the first places I inquired about was Great Plains Publications. They were not doing fiction, at that time. I went on to Turnstone Press. Although they were not doing YA, Carmen Diaz, who was the editor at the time, said she loved my story and sent it to her friend, a Children’s Lit professor at the University of Manitoba. Carmen then met with me and discussed some of the problems the professor had found with the book. Number one, it was too long. Number two, if I were to split it in two, the character’s situation had to come to a satisfactory conclusion at the end of the first book and a compelling reason to return in the second.

I took the manuscript home and tried to bring the page count down to 250 pages. It was impossible to pare it down that much. I would have had too many scenes to remove, so I made the decision to cut the book in half. The next problem was trying to decide when my character should return and figure out the why and the how. Once I was satisfied that it would work as a stand-alone, I started sending it to other publishers. I researched them on-line and sent the manuscript to places I thought would be a good fit, but only Canadian publishers. It kept being returned. If there was a comment attached, it was generally, “It’s too long”, or “It’s not what we’re looking for at this time.” The only publisher that was interested relied on government funding and that was only received if the author was Métis.

Ten years later, I was about to give up when I saw in the newsletter put out by the Manitoba Writers’ Guild that Great Plains Publications was looking for YA stories. The company always specialized in historical non-fiction and was looking for YA fiction with an historical theme. Perfect! I submitted ‘Withershins’ and it was accepted! I worked with their editor to get it ready for publication. It was a fairly painless process.

Withershins’ was published in 2008. Shortly after, I submitted the manuscript for the second half of the story, entitled ‘Spirit Quest’. Once it was accepted, I began working with Anita Daher, an author I admired for her YA and children’s stories. I was delighted and worried that it wouldn’t measure up to the standards she was used to. She liked my story, but was concerned that I did not have a compelling reason for my character to return to the past, which had been so challenging for her in the first book. It took several months of agony, and a lot of back and forth emails between Anita and me, trying to figure out what to do. In desperation, I turned to my writer’s group and asked the question, what would compel Michelle to return? One brilliant mind said, “a death.” Those two simple words got the wheels turning, and the rest is history.

The morals of this story are: Never give up on your dream and never underestimate the power of a writer’s group/critique partner/beta reader. Their help can be invaluable in helping you prepare a manuscript for publication.

WithershinsFrom Goodreads:   Most people have heard of Withershins- the ritual where one runs around a church three times at midnight. Some claim you will be transported to the Netherworld. What happens to Michelle is quite different. She finds herself trapped in the past, forced to survive without modern conveniences. A native shaman tells her she is the chosen one, but Michelle has no idea why. As she struggles with life in a primitive time, she learns more than just how to survive. Despite facing illness, death, and bigotry, she learns patience and even falls in love, as much as she tries to avoid it.

Spirit Quest

In this sequel to Withershins, Michelle returns to the past to save her friends. Michelle is happy to be home after her time-travel adventure. Then, while delving into a family secret, she discovers the terrible fate that befell her friends in the distant past. Desperate save them, she returns to 1846 to try to change history. There she struggles with hardships and racism, and learns more about her First Nations heritage.


Thank you so much, Susan, for taking the time to talk to my readers.  What an awesome post and an incredible story of perseverance.  I guess it just goes to show you, if you have patience and belief in your writing, you will be published.

Everyone, please feel free to leave your comments and questions below.  Susan will be popping in to answer whatever questions you may have for her so don’t be shy.

Also, you can find Susan at the following links:
and on Twitter

20 thoughts on “Meet YA Author Susan Rocan, author of Withershins

  1. Great Plains usually uses a local company called Relish Design Studios Ltd. I believe the publisher sends them elements of my stories and Relish Design runs with it. Once the cover is finished, Great Plains sends me a copy of it and I either approve it or not. It was a fairly painless process. After all, who wouldn’t love such gorgeous artwork?

    They also design web pages as well as book covers. If you are interested in checking them out, their website: 🙂


  2. Great Plains usually uses a local company called Relish Design Studios, Ltd. They have a remarkably talented group of people working for them. I would never have imagined such wonderful covers as they designed. I think they were given some of the key elements of my stories by the publisher and these covers are what they came up with.

    The process was fairly painless for me. Basically, I was sent the design with the option to approve or not. Who wouldn’t approve of such gorgeous artwork? They also develop web pages for a variety of companies. If you’d like to check them out, their webpage can be found at: 🙂


  3. What an inspiring story. It’s stories like these that convince me to keep on writing, keep on trying. Congratulations on finding a home for Withershins and all the ensuing success! 🙂


  4. I applaud your perseverance! Your story has an interesting premise! Writing groups are so great at helping us find what our true conflicts should be b/c they aren’t so close to our stories as we are:-)


  5. Interesting to read the journey there. The fragility of events coming together always fascinates me. For instance, if you hadn’t seen the newsletter saying that Great Plains Publications were now looking for YA stories, would that piece of information have passed you by completely? Or would you have found out at a later date when they perhaps were already working with several authors and didn’t want to take on more? Who knows!

    The books sound great though, I might get them for my 13 year old daughter, they sound like the type of thing she would like; she tends to choose adventures and mysteries rather than the more girly books I used to love – she wasn’t the slightest bit interested in Judy Blume books much to my disappointment!


    1. I don’t know if you believe in fate or anything like that, but this was a story to me of ‘everything happens for a reason.’ It is so cool.

      You know, I didn’t like Judy Blume or Nancy Drew books when I was younger. I liked Hardy Boys, Old Yeller, White Fang, books like that when I was little. I would have probably eaten up Withershins and Spirit Quest if they were around when I was in my (pre)teens. They are still on my TBR list. Don’t you just love those covers?

      Susan, who did the covers? Who came up with the ideas for them? How did that whole process work?


      1. Thanks, Jenny! I love the covers, too! (see below for more info on them)
        For me, finding my publisher was a lucky happenstance – after 10 years of searching!
        If you, or anyone else decides to pick up my books on line, they can contact me and I will send them an autographed bookmark. 🙂

        Great Plains usually uses a local company called Relish Design Studios Ltd. I believe the publisher sends them elements of my stories and Relish Design runs with it. Once the cover is finished, Great Plains sends me a copy of it and I either approve it or not. It was a fairly painless process. After all, who wouldn’t love such gorgeous artwork?

        They also design web pages as well as book covers. If you are interested in checking them out, their website: 🙂


      2. Jenny, I’m actually not sure if I believe in fate and ‘everything happens for a reason’, sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t – if I’m honest, I probably believe it when it suits what’s happening and not when it doesn’t, but hey ho!

        I loved Judy Blume myself and was waiting all through my daughter’s younger years until she was old enough, and finally when I decided she was, I bought her a couple. In fairness to her, she did try to read them for me, but they just didn’t do it for her!


    2. Thank you for the insightful comment, Vanessa. Yes, it did seem to happen ‘at the right time’. If you get them for your daughter, I hope she likes them. Let me know what she thinks and I will send her a signed bookmark. 🙂


  6. Thank you for sharing your story, Susan. I love reading this sort of thing, because when it’s happening it feels like a nightmare, but once it’s over you can’t imagine any outcome except the one that happened. I’m glad your story found a home, and you seem extremely determined! My favourite type of person!


Please join in

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.