Susanna here. First off, it needs to be said there will never be anyone to fill Jo Beverley’s shoes. She just isn’t replaceable. Although I only met her in person a couple of times, they were times that I’ll remember (and I’ll always pronounce “duke” properly because of her).
While I’m honored and thrilled to be joining the Wenchery, I’m not attempting to fill the place left by Jo’s passing, but rather to take the seat next to hers, leaving hers here at the table in case she has need of it.
So. How to begin?
There were many of you who DID manage to guess my identity, based on the quiz that Anne posted a few weeks ago, but it occurs to me that there are likely just as many of you who have No Idea Who I Am, so I thought it might be a good thing to go through the answers to the questions on that quiz, and let you learn a little bit about me:
1) Although I have both British and Irish ancestry and harbor a longtime love of all things Australasian, I am sadly none of these. I’m plain old North American. Canadian, to be exact—born and raised by the shores of the Great Lakes in Ontario. Being Canadian gives me a uniquely outsider’s perspective on both British and American society and history, as well as the useful bilingualism that lets me know French fries and chips are the same thing.
2) I do indeed write books that can only be described as a marketer’s nightmare, usually with twin-stranded storylines that interweave contemporary romantic suspense with historical mystery, adventure, and even more romance. They end with a kiss, as my father would say, so whatever kind of hodgepodge the book itself may be, it will always end happily.
3) I have to confess that, thanks to the choices given for this question in the quiz, I now find myself intrigued by the possibilities of links between cats and politicians, but the true answer is that I’m fascinated by the links between the past and present. I come from a family of amateur genealogists, so my own ancestors and their lives were always very real to me, tangibly connecting me to those events in history they had lived through. I had five ancestors on the Mayflower, one on the edge of the battlefield at Waterloo, one who captained an East Indiaman on a trade voyage to China, and one who, as King John’s illegitimate half-brother, was probably hanging around at the time the Magna Carta was signed, so “history”, for me, has always been about the people who took part in it, and how what we are now was shaped by those who came before us.
4) I’m all of the above, for this one. The RITA was won in 2014 by my novel The Firebird, and the Wenches have always been generous supporters of my stories, and before being welcomed into the actual Wenchdom I was an incredibly proud Honorary Word Wench—an honor conferred on me after this lovely interview by Nicola.
5) This one I’ll scoot over because I don’t like to boast, but yes, I’m all of the above.
6) Anyone who’s met me will be able to guess from my roundish physique that I’m NOT a mad-keen jogger. But I am married—to a man I’ve known since we were both in high school, though we didn’t figure out we should be married until we were in our thirties. And we have two sons, both teenagers, both wonderful—one just entering high school and one getting ready to leave it.
7) Research is my rabbit hole, and most days I’m happily deep in it, following stray names and facts to the bottom to see where they’ll lead me. I’m especially finicky about keeping to facts—if I have an old letter in which someone says they were standing on a specific street corner at a specific time on a specific date, then that’s where they’ll be in my story, even if I have to bend the plot around them. Some of my most rewarding plot twists, I’ve learned, come from bending my fiction so it fits the facts. I’m also, thanks to all that time spent in my rabbit hole, a great person to have on your team when playing Trivial Pursuit.
8) I play the field when it comes to conferences, and always try to attend the RT Booklovers Convention and RWA National Conference each year, as well as the Surrey International Writers Conference, where I teach and learn in equal measure. When I can, I’ll squeeze in any extra opportunities available to meet with and learn from my colleagues and readers.
9) Like most readers, I suspect, I have eclectic tastes. Randomly choosing one book from each of a handful of “keeper” shelves here in my writing room gave me the stack in this picture, which gives you an idea of my favorites, old and new. Not surprisingly, many of them are romantic, mixed with either history or with mystery—sometimes both.
10) As with number 5, I’ll just say yes, the answer’s all of the above. The Catherine Cookson Fiction Prize, in 1993, was the defining one that opened all the doors for me, and will always be special since one of the judges (there were only three) was the amazing Evelyn Anthony, a writer whose books had transported me so often it seemed unimaginable that she had not only read MY book but had selected it to win. The day I met her, when she shook my hand in person, was a day I won’t forget.
So there you are—that’s me. So very happy to be here. So very honored. I shall try to be a worthy Wench!
In the meantime, since we’re getting introduced to one another, please feel free to ask me anything at all. What would you like to know about me?