Formative events that made me a writer:
1. At school, my writing was often chosen by the English teacher to display at the end of term. So I always felt that I might want to write a novel. When I was about seventeen years old, I told my father this. His reaction was that I would find it far too difficult: you needed to do a tremendous amount of research to write a book. The inference was that I wasn’t clever or able enough, and although I remember thinking: ‘But I like researching’, I was certainly delayed by his response.
I’m sure he didn’t mean to be negative. My sister and I agree that he had huge respect for writers and said this because he couldn’t imagine anyone in his family achieving the dizzy heights of publishing a novel. Nonetheless I vowed that one day I would do it.
Perhaps it was his reaction that made me all the more determined.
2. In my teens, I adored my English teacher. She was perhaps the only teacher at my grammar school who earned my respect. She oozed enthusiasm for Dickens, Austen and the Brontes – and therefore so did I (to this day, Bleak House is one of my favourite Dickens novels). She loved Thomas Hardy (oh, the Mayor of Casterbridge!), and she read us Pooh Bear stories at the end of term. Just for this, she was my hero.
She would sit on a spare desk at the front of the class, fold her skirt under her demurely, and let us listen and rest. I still adore Pooh. What a woman! I know she would be proud of me now.
3. Many books have had a lasting impression on me, and it’s tempting to talk about the most recent one. But I think the one that affected me most when I first read it was Isabel Allende’s House of the Spirits, published in 1982. I was stunned. It’s beautifully written, and through the skill of her writing the story has a magical, mystical feel.
I haven’t read it recently, although I promise myself all the time that I must, but I know her writing would inspire me again. It’s one of those stories that has deep, dark secrets which gradually reveal themselves through the characters and their reactions to events. The story details the life of the Trueba family, spanning four generations, following the post-colonial social and political upheavals of Chile (unnamed in the book). Allende deals with some very complex and dangerous subjects while bringing to life the fictional family.
It’s an extraordinary book, and even more so for being a debut!
Susanna is fascinated by human relationships. She can be found people-watching wherever she goes, finding material for her writing. Despite the writer’s life, she has an adventurous streak and has swum with whale sharks in Australia, fallen down a crevasse in the French Alps and walked through the sewers of Brighton – not in that order.
Her passions include animals — particularly her dogs — walking in the countryside and tennis, which clears her brain of pretty much everything.
Susanna’s debut novel, Dare to Remember, a psychological thriller, was published in February 2017; her second, The Truth Waits, was launched on 1 November 2018. She aims to keep writing, and never to get old