Wilson, Susan 1951-

views updated

Wilson, Susan 1951-

PERSONAL:

Born October 18, 1951, in Providence, RI; daughter of William (an accountant) and Dorothy (a nurse) Wilson; married S. David (a high school English teacher), July 27, 1974; children: two daughters. Ethnicity: "Yankee." Education: Middlesex Community College, A.S., 1971; Eastern Connecticut State College, B.A., 1973. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Episcopalian. Hobbies and other interests: Music, horseback riding.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Oak Bluffs, MA. Agent—Andrea Cirillo, Jane Rotrosen Agency, 318 E. 51st St., New York, NY 10022. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Connecticut Bank and Trust Company, Hartford, portfolio accounting cashier, 1974-79; substitute teacher in Waterbury, CT, 1979; Kelly Temporary Services, Waterbury, temporary worker, 1979-80; Uniroyal Chemical Co., Crop Protection Division, Middlebury, CT, secretary, 1980-86; secretary to principal of middle school in Middlebury, 1986-88; Martha's Vineyard Hospital, medical records clerk, 1988-89; Martha's Vineyard Hospital Foundation, project coordinator, development, 1989-91, assistant director of development, 1991-94, director of development, 1994-95; Polly Hill Arboretum, West Tisbury, MA, development coordinator, 1998-2004; Martha's Vineyard Museum, development coordinator, 2004—; Last Word Word Processing Service, proprietor, 1988—. Member of Island Community Chorus Choir and Vineyard Haven.

MEMBER:

Scottish Society of Martha's Vineyard (board member, 2007—).

WRITINGS:

Beauty (novel), Crown (New York, NY), 1996.

Hawke's Cove (novel), Pocket Books (New York, NY), 2000.

The Fortune Teller's Daughter (novel), Atria Books (New York, NY), 2000.

Summer Harbor (novel), Atria Books (New York, NY), 2000.

Cameo Lake (novel), Wheeler (Rockland, MA), 2001.

Author of "The Last Word," a semi-monthly column on writing in Martha's Vineyard Times. Contributor to periodicals, including Equine Journal and Practical Horseman.

SIDELIGHTS:

Susan Wilson is the author of Beauty, a novel in which a painter falls in love with a disfigured writer. The painter, Alix Miller, has traveled to the White Mountain region of New Hampshire to produce a family portrait for the Cromptons. At the Crompton mansion, Miller makes the acquaintance of Leland Crompton, a pseudonymous mystery writer suffering from acromegaly, which has affected his face and extremities. Miller finds herself drawn to Crompton despite his grotesque appearance. She eventually leaves her boyfriend, a shallow photographer, and pledges herself to Crompton.

Wilson told CA: "‘Beauty and the Beast’ has always been my favorite fable. The theme of looking beyond the physical to see the inner spirit is one that has engaged the imagination for centuries. Although my Beauty doesn't necessarily fulfill the standard assumptions of a fairy tale, I think it does reflect the way real lives are lived. Sometimes happy endings aren't exactly what we expect."

Kipp Erante Chang, writing in Entertainment Weekly, summarized the novel as "rather lovable," and a People reviewer noted that it "sails along." A Publishers Weekly contributor deemed Leland Compton "an appealing character" and, though describing the novel as "lightweight but strained," also noted that "Wilson spins her tale with some skill."

Wilson's second novel, Hawke's Cove, concerns a young wife's involvement with a runaway fighter pilot during World War II. The heroine, Vangie Worth, is tending her grandmother's farm and mourning the absence of her husband, who is serving overseas. When the runaway pilot suddenly appears, Vangie is jarred from complacency and forced to examine her own sense of morality and faithfulness. Booklist reviewer Kristin Kloberdanz described Hawke's Cove as "engaging," and Library Journal contributor Kim Uden Rutter observed that the novel's "lessons about choices and never-forgotten love are haunting." Another reviewer, writing in Publishers Weekly, appraised Hawke's Cove as "amiable," concluding: "Wilson's tale proves her an empathetic storyteller whose plainspoken Yankee characters have strong appeal."

Wilson's fourth novel, The Fortune Teller's Daughter, offers another look at a familiar theme: the need of the heroine to root herself in quiet, secure surroundings versus the need of her love interest to heed the call of the city and pursue his dreams. The heroine is the fortune teller's daughter, Sabine, who seems to have inherited mysterious supernatural powers of a different sort from those of her mother. Her love interest is Danford Smith, an emerging filmmaker who intends to limit his stay in Moose River Junction to the time required to bury his grandmother and arrange care for his mentally challenged uncle. There is more than romance afoot here, however. There are secrets and mysteries in the backgrounds of both characters, and the town itself seems to have ghostly secrets in its past. Reviewers predicted that fans of Wilson's earlier novels would find much to appreciate in The Fortune Teller's Daughter, though not all critics were equally enchanted. A Kirkus Reviews contributor found the novel "morbid and rather depressing," but a Publishers Weekly reviewer reported: "There are many … threads explored and the result is a beguiling bit of storytelling." Booklist contributor Patty Engelmann saw a "haunting and moving story about one's search for roots and discovery of what is truly important in life." Library Journal reviewer Kristin Ramsdell called The Fortune Teller's Daughter a "well-written, multilayered contemporary romance."

Wilson commented: "Writing has always been a closely held secret, something very few people knew I practiced. With publication, my writing life was opened to comment and query—and good-humored digs—as if I'd been holding out on people. My private goal became public domain. Still, I wouldn't change anything. When people say they cried when they read my book, I know that what I have been given in reaching my private goal is a million times more valuable than the privacy I lost."

Wilson later added: "The other day the mother of a teenage daughter approached me to ‘look at’ her daughter's writings. Mom is an unabashed fan of said daughter. I flinched a little, not completely sure what Mom wants from me except to add to the fan base. However, said daughter is, by some accounts, quite a good writer. More than that, she is a passionate writer. Passion is what motivates writers: passion for the word, for language, for telling a story. As a writer, no, as a human being with this crazy need to tell stories, I too was a starry-eyed teen trying to figure out how the scenes inside my head could be put to paper.

"The best instruction I had in this journey was reading the works of John Gardner, author of October Light, Grendel, Nickel Mountain, and, most especially, The Art of the Novel. Another John, this one John Irving, opened my eyes to the power of foreshadowing in a way that no other writer had done. I truly believe that the only way to learn how to write is to read. Read what pleases, and what doesn't. How else to learn not to overuse adverbs!

"Every book I've written involves a different writing process; some take less effort than others. I start with an idea, a couple of characters, and then construct a loose outline—very loose. The sort of novel writing I do is about discovery, unbounded by the strictures of plot. Yes, I want to get from point A to point B, but there's no global positioning satellite to define the route. Having said that, routine is nonetheless critical to me. I have to make sure the same slice of time is set aside for five consecutive days, and always to have an hour's reading with two cups of coffee before I start. I can't say that's how it works for everyone, but it works for me. Writing is a lot like gymnastics. I need to warm up before the muscles (in this case, the brain) get with the program.

"Writers need to find a forum for their work. Writers also need to be flexible. All writing is writing—which may sound a bit twee, but the fact is, a novelist writing press releases is still a writer, is still honing words. Having a column on writing in my local paper has done two things for my writing: I get instant gratification because people tell me what they think right away, and it's a different sort of writing: only a little of it is ‘made up.’ Sort of like dancing versus dressage, both require an innate sense of rhythm, but a different set of muscles. Plus: I get a thousand uninterrupted words to say anything I want.

"In the end I will take a look at the girl's writing. Maybe I'll become a fan, too."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, January 1, 2000, Kristin Kloberdanz, review of Hawke's Cove, p. 881; July, 2002, Patty Engelmann, review of The Fortune Teller's Daughter, p. 1831.

Entertainment Weekly, June 21, 1996, Kipp Erante Chang, review of Beauty.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2002, review of The Fortune Teller's Daughter, p. 699.

Library Journal, May 15, 1996; January, 2000, Kim Uden Rutter, review of Hawke's Cove, p. 164; August, 2002, Kristin Ramsdell, review of The Fortune Teller's Daughter, p. 73.

New York Times Book Review, July 21, 1996, Robin McKinley, review of Beauty, p. 13.

People, September 2, 1996, Clare McHugh, review of Beauty.

Publishers Weekly, April 22, 1996, review of Beauty, p. 60; December 20, 1999, review of Hawke's Cove, p. 53; July 1, 2002, review of The Fortune Teller's Daughter, p. 55.

School Library Journal, November, 1996, Molly Connally, review of Beauty, pp. 140-41.

About this article

Wilson, Susan 1951-

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article