WRITERLY MUSINGS : questions and answers from The Avid Reader
What made you want to become a writer?
I have always been a storyteller. I started telling stories on the stage as an actress and began to understand how one channels characters and their stories. How you bring information down and into and through you. What boundaries are needed and what walls need to be blasted away. This is where I started my storytelling work and that led me to the new play development world where I was asked to help writers bring their characters to life. Actors know what makes a story tick. They can tell you if the character is true and if what they want and need is clear, and how writers make them real… the way they speak, the worlds they reflect.
‘If it’s not on the page it’s not on the stage’… is a phrase that I grew up with in the theatre. From here it was a short jump to writing plays myself and then teaching others about the way in which stories are told in plays. And, as that skill grew I began to long for a more heightened experience. I wanted to be free to use language in its more descriptive form, use its poetry and rhythm to help create landscape and the worlds of my characters, and so now I am writing and teaching mostly fiction. It’s been a journey. The stories that are mine to tell, have always been mine to tell, are coming through me strong and clear and no other choice but put them in the world.
What inspired you to write OH GOOD NOW THIS?
It’s been cooking for some time and marks my return to fiction. I had been a playwright and memoirist previously, but I wanted to bring together the fictional story of a woman surviving the crash-and-burn period of her life and how she comes to the next stage of survival and visioning her next steps. I believe the tools needed to make this return to living means one has to dip into more than one dimension – make peace with ghosts, appeal to better angels, set up a communication network with the Divine(!)—and fiction allows me to bring together all these elements, combine them with the foibles of silly living, and tell Vivi’s story.
You know I think we all have a favorite author. Who is your favorite author and why?
My very favorite authors are Colette and Willa Cather. I got introduced to them early and have even made pilgrimages to their home towns and the places that they brought to life so vividly. From here, I added Louise Erdrich to the list. I love the worlds they bring to life, the kindness of their points of view and their fierce understanding of the human condition that they each embrace from their own unique worlds. All three women speak with elegant simplicity and fierce compassion for the worlds that they know, the people that they see and introduced me to the way stories flow from the universal through the personal and back to the universal.
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in OH GOOD NOW THIS?
They are all folks looking to reinvent themselves so they can shed the identities that limited who they were and who they could become. Everyone is reinventing themselves. Some succeed—like Vivi and Charles; some are silly and sad—like Carol/Anandamaia and Mark/Cheyenne; some waited to too long to enjoy their new identities—like Amanda; and some couldn’t make it—like Jake and even Vikram. Yes, that’s the key to many of the characters. How do we make it tomorrow and embrace life enough to transform?
Can you tell us a little bit about your next books or what you have planned for the future?
I’m busy finishing up my next book about life during the Trump era and what can be healed and what story needs to be held, unfinished.
And since I am a Tarot counselor and teacher I am enjoying working with folks on Tarot for Writers, Tarot for How You Tick, Voicing: Writing What you Have to Say and on several editorial projects. More info on my blog at www.susanmersonauthor.net or www.susanmerson.com
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I loved the freedom of letting the natural world speak. Yes, resting in nature is what sets Vivi up for success. I don’t think I really believed that be true until I wrote this book.