by Mary Jo
Authors love hanging out with each other, interacting with readers, and writing about delicious bits of research. (Especially historical writers on the research!)
But sometimes an author becomes too busy to include regular blogging in her life. Such is the case for Susanna Kearsley, who is bowing out with mutual regrets all around. To say farewell, we're sharing some memories of her and her books. The picture above is a record-setting five Wenches together in Real Life at last summer's RWA conference in New York. From left to right: Anne Gracie, Mary Jo Putney, Andrea Penrose, Susanna Kearsley, and Patricia Rice. (Joanna Bourne arrived later: SIX of us!)
I came to Susanna's books, first — I think it might have been Nicola who mentioned one in a WWR post. I forget which book it was, but I ended up glomming the lot in quite a short time. I then saw her at a signing at RWA — I think it might have been in Washington DC — and I remember being surprised, because up to that point I thought she was from the UK. But no, that was clearly a Canadian accent. I suspect I gushed a bit, but the line of people waiting behind me saved Susanna from a fan-girl rave. <g>
Then I went to Romantic Times in Las Vegas in 2016, and I bumped into Susanna and we ended up spending quite a bit of time together, including a whole afternoon in the bar talking books and movies and generally setting the world to rights. Here's a photo of Susanna with MelJean Brook, Nalini Singh and me.
Back up to another RWA conference in 2014, and Mary Jo and I were there when Susanna won the RITA for The Firebird. And then there was last year in New York, where a number of us were on a panel that Susanna chaired. That's the last time we met in person —and if you're thinking that the only time we've met is at conferences, you'd be right. But conferences are just the tip of the iceberg, and beneath that lies email and FB and Twitter, where authors chat and share and laugh, and friendships deepen. It's been wonderful having Susanna as a wench, and we'll miss her dreadfully.
I first met Susanna at the RWA conference where she won her RITA. After the ceremony, Anne suggested we fight our way through the crowd to congratulate her, so we did. I don't recall who we importuned to take a picture of the three of us, but it turned out well, didn't it?
The first book of Susanna's I read was The Shadowy Horses. Scotland! Archeologists! The mystery of a vanished Roman legion! Ghosts!!!! Romance! Of course I loved it. I immediately recommended the book to my sister, a serious archeology buff. She read the book and promptly bought all of Susanna's other books. <G> Susanna's stories are always lyrical, powerful, romantic, and deeply researched. We'll miss her, but if she needs more time to write her lovely books, we can only applaud!
One of the benefits of being a wench is that we can get together in person occasionally and really come to know each other's little quirks or idiosyncrasies. I've read Susanna's books for years, talked to her at conferences, and worked with her online through the blog.
But it was our visit to RWA in NYC that showed me the real Susanna behind the always-polite Canadian. Real Author Susanna joined us at breakfast one sunny morning, bubbling over about her new acquisition–an ancient manual typewriter, newly named Nevil. Without a case, if I recollect correctly, because the poor baby had been rejected by others for being caseless. She had to buy ribbons and everything for it and she was absolutely in alt, planning the many ways she might use it (commonly called excuses for buying).
Even me, the technophobe, would never ever consider going back to one of those Whack-a-Key machines, but Susanna was like a kid in a candy store as she recited the wonders of the off-beat little shop she'd found selling these ancient monstrosities. (Here's she wrote about it, so you can see what I mean, almost as good as in person. She really is a heroine from a different time!
In common with a lot of readers, I’m sure, I first discovered Susanna’s books when I picked up a copy of Mariana in my local library. From my childhood reading years onwards, I’ve been fascinated by historical fiction and timeslip novels so when I found Susanna’s books I felt a sense of recognition, a feeling of “these are the books I’ve been looking for!” They are an escape into another world and one that is so beautifully and atmospherically created that it feels completely real to me. They are all on my keeper shelves; I think The Rose Garden is still my favourite but it’s difficult to choose! I still have my original battered copy of Mariana as well.
It’s been such a pleasure to get to know Susanna in person, at writing conferences, and as a fellow Word Wench. Her blog posts are like her writing; thoughtful, insightful and full of inspiration. She has brought a unique dimension to the Word Wenches and we will miss her but look forward to welcoming Susanna back as a guest to chat about the books that are yet to come.
As an avid reader, I’m always thrilled to discover a new author whose storytelling just pulls me into that magical world of the imagination. So I remember distinctly finding The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley at my local library and falling in love. Of course I tracked down her others—and then waited impatiently for each new one to appear. (My complaint was that she didn’t write nearly fast enough!)
I was really thrilled when Susanna accepted our invitation to join the Wenches. I’d never met her in person, but just had a sense through her writing that she would be a really cool friend. The Wenches have our private e-mail loop where we talk every day . . .everything from writing, musing, and blog stuff to Life and just sharing little things that make us laugh. We celebrate achievements and commiserate on the tough moments together. It’s hard to describe to describe the bond of friendship we all have with each other, even though we rarely get together in person.
As you can probably tell from her books and blogs, Susanna is kind, sensitive, supportive and possesses a wonderful sense of humor, no matter that ups and downs of Life. So while we will all miss her being a Wench, she will always be a dear friend. (I was really thrilled that last summer I actually got to meet her in real life at a conference! I’m looking forward to many more late nights hanging out together, gabbing and drinking wine!)
From Susan King to Susanna:
More than four years ago, I was already a fan of Susanna Kearsley's books, rich stories that I could sink into and forget what's going on around me. The Winter Sea is one of my absolute favorites for its subtle characters and dialogue, gorgeous prose, and deep Scottish research. I had great respect for her as a writer before she joined Word Wenches.
Once we all got to know her behind the scenes as our Canadian Wench, we had some things in common, from loving Scotland to life as moms who have had to juggle three kids and a writing career. She's a kind, thoughtful, talented lady and I'm sad to see her go, though we all understand how busy life gets. So with thanks and a virtual hug (which is all we can share these days anyway!), I'll say bonne chance et à bientôt (rather than au revoir) to Susanna. Come back and visit us soon!
I last saw Susanna in person — there’s a snap around somewhere to prove I really was there — at a conference in New York City.
I was supposed to share a room with her. But then I got in to Penn Station in what we’d call the middle of the night in the hills of Virginia. Hours and hours late because train schedules are a subgenre of Fantasy. My daughter met me and we walked to the hotel in Times Square. Everybody apparently walks everywhere in NYC. Such a healthy lifestyle, except for getting mugged.
So the daughter and I are there in the hotel hallway outside Susanna’s room in the small dark hours, me knocking and getting no answer, and knocking again. I’m reluctant to barge in on somebody who might be startled by a couple extra people walking into her room.
“This is the way people get shot,” says I, judging likelihoods by the standard armament of rural Virginia and not properly taking into account that Susanna is Canadian.
Unbeknownst to me, Susanna was not in the hotel room at all but out doing some entertainment thing. Might of been a Broadway Show. I understand there’s lots of that stuff going on in New York City.
In any case, I left a note on the door and retreated to spend the night on Mary Jo and Pat’s couch and met up with Susanna over coffee and breakfast the next morning.
If Susanna ever writes a minor character into one of her books — a plump, somewhat-befuddled woman with a not inconsiderable case of paranoia — that’s . . . ummm . . . . me.
It’s true that writing is a solitary craft, but it’s a craft that isn’t truly born of solitude. Most writers need the company of friends, to be a sounding-board for all our wild ideas, reassure us when self-doubt creeps in, and buoy us through the middle of our books when all the crazy currents try to drag us down. We need friends to share our struggles with the scenes that won’t come out right, and to celebrate the times we hit our deadlines.
And for nearly four years now, I’ve had that here—not only from my fellow Wenches, who have brightened my life in more ways than I could ever tell them—but from everyone who’s part of our community here, taking time from your own busy lives to share your thoughts and comments in our almost-daily conversation.
Spending these years as a Word Wench has been such a privilege. If I could, I’d go on doing it, but balancing demands in other segments of my life now means it’s time for me to step aside and make room for a new Wench (you’ll love her, believe me—we’ve been friends for over a decade).
I’m so grateful for all that you’ve given me. Thank you for these wonderful years, shared in the company of friends.
Mary Jo again. We Wenches have all spoken our piece. Would you like to say some parting words to her? Not that she's going far! Her books are everywhere, so enjoy!