This week on The Joys of Binge Reading. Internationally published Kiwi author, Fiona Sussman. And The Doctor’s Wife, a psychological thriller of a close friendship shattered by illness and unexpected death. Nothing in Stan Andino’s unremarkable life could prepare him for the day he discovered his wife in the living room naked except for a black apron, bleaching out of stain in the carpet that only she can see.
Hi there. I’m your host Jenny Wheeler and on Binge Reading today Fiona talks about writing a story where a group of close friends discover the unexpected about themselves and one another after one of them is diagnosed with severe brain cancer.
For Fiona, who was a doctor before becoming a full-time author, it’s her first foray into bringing her experience as a medical practitioner to her fiction.
This week’s Giveaway – win a paperback
And as our Giveaway this week, we’ve got a paperback copy of The Doctor’s Wife, which is a finalist in New Zealand’s Ngaio Marsh Mystery Awards to be decided later this month.
Enter the draw to win a copy of The Doctor’s Wife here
Links to books mentioned in the episode
Ngaio Marsh Mystery Awards: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ngaio_Marsh_Awards
Ngaio Marsh; https://www.ngaiomarsh.org/ngaio-marsh
Agatha Christie: https://www.agathachristie.com/
Dorothy Sayers: https://www.sayers.org.uk/
Marjorie Allingham: https://www.margeryallinghamcrime.com/biography/
Nadine Gordimer: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nadine_Gordimer
Athol Fugard: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athol_Fugard
Alan Paton: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Paton
Geraldine Brooks: https://geraldinebrooks.com/
Kate Greenville: https://kategrenville.com.au/
Elizabeth Strout: https://www.elizabethstrout.com/
Helen Garner: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_Garner
Graeme Macrae Burnet, This Bloody Project, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graeme_Macrae_Burnet
Malla Nunn, A Beautiful Place to Die, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malla_Nunn
Fiona Kidman, This Mortal Boy, https://fionakidman.com/
And remember if you enjoy the show, leave us a review so others will find us too. Word of mouth is still the best way for friends to discover the show and great books they will love to read.
Introducing Kiwi author Fiona Sussman
You’ll find Fiona at:
(Fiona has suspended her social media for the time being to focus on her writing)
Jenny Wheeler: But now here’s Fiona. Hello there, Fiona, and welcome to the show. It’s so good to have you with us.
Fiona Sussman: Hi, Jenny. It’s a real treat to be on the Joys of Binge Reading. Thank you so much for inviting me.
Jenny Wheeler: Now, it is an international show, but you’re just across a few streets from me. it’s wonderful to be able to talk to a local resident today for a change. We’re talking about The Doctor’s Wife, which is your fourth novel. Often crime novels – and this is categorized as a crime novel, although it’s really, as you’ve said, a domestic thriller – it doesn’t start with a death or a murder or a crime exactly.
It starts with simmering tension between normal middle class couple and then quickly followed by a husband coming home and finding his wife doing something very unusual.
She is naked except for a black apron. She’s madly scrubbing at the carpet at an invisible stain that nobody but her can see.
And this is a very dramatic way to introduce the fact that this woman is suffering from a serious illness. Tell us about the opening.
A tense dinner quickly escalates
Fiona Sussman: Yes, Jenny. I guess I was very mindful of the fact that this was a domestic thriller I was writing, so I wanted to escalate the tension fairly early on. The book does open in a regular setting for friends out to dinner that I think many readers will be able to identify with.
There are just hints of possibly all not being quite right. Stan has noticed a few changes in his wife of late, but his friend Austin in private reassures him that in fact, these are probably just likely due to his wife going through menopause. And so the readers fears are possibly allayed at that point.
And then we see Stan arriving home the following day, to this frightening, somewhat terrifying scene, his wife completely naked, acting in this rather bizarre way, scrubbing, bleaching the lounge carpet.
And his whole world tips on its axis, really. What I was really wanting to convey was the terror of finding someone you think, you know really well doing something inexplicable that you don’t really have a reason, reason for why they’re doing it.
And, this, in many ways, ushers in a theme that runs throughout the book of characters behaving in ways that you don’t expect them to. And Carmen’s cancer is, yes, I guess is what you would normally find would be the body in the opening scene. This is a frightening scene, but in a different way.
Jenny Wheeler: Yes, and she is diagnosed quite soon after that with brain cancer. You’ve said that it was partly inspired by a fascination that you have with how changes in the brain can affect identity.
And certainly this diagnosis – I know that not all diagnosis of brain cancer will result in this kind of series of events – but it certainly does set the tone for a lot of the action that happens afterwards.
Tell us a bit about that fascination with brain and identity.
Examining personal fears in writing
Fiona Sussman: Jenny, I think, reflecting back, often one looks as to what the genesis of a story is, because obviously one’s subconscious works in the background and I think that this novel grew out of a fear or sort of preoccupation I have with losing my own mind. I do have quite a bad memory.
I think I’ve over the time found myself taking that story to its completion. I’ve always been aware of how the brain houses the very essence of who we are and that, physically a person’s body may undergo quite significant change.
Someone might have a limb amputated or they may have their gallbladder removed or be burnt in a fire.
And yes, that would impact on and traumatize them, but the very essence, their personality would largely remain unchanged.
Whereas the converse is that someone may look identical for all intents and purposes, but some sort of disease process within the brain is actually altering who they are. And so that’s a fascination I have had over the years.
Jenny Wheeler: That’s great. I read somewhere that you consider this to be in a sense, your first crime novel, but you won an award with your second book. The Last Time We Spoke in the Ngaio Marsh Mystery Awards in New Zealand, which are coming up again in another six weeks as we speak.
The Doctor’s Wife is a shortlisted for the awards again this year, but you won that a couple of years ago. And I just wondered how you see in your mind the difference between a mystery and a crime novel.
The Last Time We Spoke – an award winner
Fiona Sussman: Yes. I think, initially when my earlier book, The Last Time We Spoke, won the Ngaio Marsh, I was delighted, but actually baffled.
I thought, oh, gosh, no, I’ve written a social justice novel. I hadn’t conceived of it as a crime novel. That really was more a measure of my limited understanding of what fell under the banner of crime fiction.
And tas a result of that award, I got invited to go over to Bloody Scotland, which is this incredible crime writing festival held in Stirling.
And it was there that I discovered the amazing breadth of writing that does fall under the genre. You’ve got your cozy murder mysteries and your police procedurals and your psychological thrillers all the way to your more literary crime.
I realized at that point that my book, The Last Time We Spoke fell into the more literary crime aspect of crime fiction, where it was using crime as a prism to really explore issues in society.
I came home so buoyed by the warmth which had been embraced there that I set myself the challenge of writing for myself what I considered a more traditional crime novel.
And so The Doctor’s Wife is… Yes, it’s that domestic thriller. It’s a whodunit. And we have Detective Ramesh Bandara and Hilary Stark who come on board to solve the mystery.
And from that point of view, they both fall under the banner of crime fiction, but are quite different in the approach I had to go about in writing them.
Writing a ‘whodunit’ required change of process
Jenny Wheeler: Yes, and you also have commented that you approached them when you were writing them in quite different ways. Could you expand a little on what that difference was?
Fiona Sussman: Yes. With The Doctor’s Wife being a whodunit, so normally I’m not a planner. I tend to sit down and I something will move me viscerally, and that’s often the emotional impetus for a novel. Then I write into it with a rough sense of where the novel’s going.
But with The Doctor’s Wife, a whodunit, I had to have a very clear sense of who the villain was, and so I had to begin at the end and almost dismantle the story backwards, a bit like reverse engineering to make sure all the clues added up.
There was still flexibility. I found that as my characters filled their skin, they sometimes wanted to take the story in slightly different directions, but I had to be far more structured because this was going to be a whodunit.
Jenny Wheeler: Austin is one of that group of four friends that we’re talking about. He’s a family GP, and at the beginning, he reassures Stan that there’s nothing wrong with his wife. You yourself worked as a GP and this, I gather, is the first book you’ve really allowed that background to infiltrate in any way.
Tell us a bit about that and about the switch from. GP to writing.
Writing about medicine as a former doctor
Fiona Sussman: Yes Jenny, probably first and foremost, I should say, I am a doctor and I am a doctor’s wife, and this is not at all about my life.
But yes, it’s quite interesting because I’ve raised medical issues in my short story writing before, but never in a novel. When I sat down to write The Doctor’s Wife, I had a quiet chuckle to myself because I realized that there was going to be this medical backdrop.
And I thought, oh, at long last, Fiona, you’re tying together these two disparate professions. But for me, what was really satisfying about writing this book was that I could navigate the territory. It was familiar territory.
The jargon and the terminology were familiar, but I think more than it drawing on any specifics of my past work as a GP, it was rather tapping into an understanding of human nature that practicing medicine afforded me.
When people are unwell, they’re often at their most raw and honest. And for me, it was always a huge privilege. I was very humbled to journey alongside people at such a time.
You really are privy to human nature at its most raw. I hope that as I was creating these characters, I was importing that understanding from my medical background, more than anything else.
I did still need to go on and do some research. I had to speak to various specialists, but as I say, it was quite refreshing to be writing something and be able to navigate the territory with ease.
Jenny Wheeler: Do you miss anything about medicine yourself at all?
Medicine gave way to creative urge
Fiona Sussman: Oh, very much. It was a very hard decision when I made the decision to step away from it for a while. I really have come full circle.
In a nutshell, I grew up in a publisher’s home and really fell in love with the written word at a very early age and was all set to do something with words.
I don’t know if I knew I would become a writer, but I had certainly written my first play for Brownies at the age of seven, but then my final year of school, I was all ready to go on and do a Bachelor of Arts.
My father was diagnosed with stomach cancer and we had such a superb GP looking after us. He was just a remarkable human being. And so after I completed my Bachelor of Arts, I thought actually I want to go on and pursue a career in medicine, which I loved really from the day I began studying it.
I am quite a perfectionist and for me it was a vocation really. I had to give it my all. And when we moved to New Zealand and I had a young family… I had completed my medical studies here in New Zealand, but when a young family came along, I felt quite conflicted because I wanted to give my all to being a mom as well as my career.
And at the same time, I had been missing a creative outlet for so long. I’d been reading medical journals, science papers…
And so when my family were young, I decided to take a year out and write a book. And one year became two, and that became 20.
But I have certainly missed medicine very much along the way. I have appeased some of that by helping my husband establish a charitable surgical service, but I haven’t really practiced clinically now for almost 20 years.
Poised, mysterious character with key role
Jenny Wheeler: It’s interesting just getting back to The Doctor’s Wife. I did notice one thing. There are these four key characters really, apart from the police who also have quite a role in it, but two married couples, Austin and Tibbie and Stan and Carmen. Now, Tibbie is a key character as well.
Every chapter in the book is prefaced by a name and that chapter is mainly just devoted to telling the story in, from the point of view of that character, including the two police officers.
But after I’d finished it, I suddenly realized. Tibbie, who is a key character. I don’t think she’s got any scene herself, does she?
I went back and looked and I couldn’t find one. And then I asked myself, I wondered why you left her silent rather than giving her a voice.
Fiona Sussman: It’s very interesting question, Jenny. Firstly, she actually does have, there is one chapter devoted to her when she arranges the dinner party for Carmen and Stan to come and the young boys are the waiters. And she’s trying to recreate this monthly dinner out when Carmen can’t go out to a restaurant because she’s so unwell.
So there is, but you’re quite right. Compared to all the other characters, she only gets that small chance to give us an insight into the workings of how she views the world.
She is a very poised, contained character. And in fact, we discover over time that she also has held on to some secrets.
There are some people one meets that one can never quite… there’s always a little element of mystery around them and one can never quite know what’s going on in her head.
I wanted people to have a sense of who she was. And we do also realize who she is from how she behaves. Through her interactions with others. But we only do have that sight glimpse into her head in that one chapter.
So yes, you’re quite right.
Ngaio Mystery Awards finalist for second time
Jenny Wheeler: And yes, that is true. There are people who can remain a mystery, even if you get to know them really quite well, they don’t reveal much of themselves. So yeah, that’s very good point.
As we’ve mentioned, The Doctor’s Wife has been shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Awards this year. These have become really well respected, the mystery awards in New Zealand.
You’ve already won it once before. Tell us a bit about Ngaio Marsh for people who have never really heard the name before.
Fiona Sussman: Dame Ngaio Marsh was one of what we call the queen of crime writing. One of the four woman who were amazing crime writers during the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. We’re talking about Agatha Christie Dorothy Sayers, and Marjorie Ellingham. Along with Ngaio Marsh. She was one of those wrote in that era.
And I think she wrote in excess of 30 detective novels. She grew up in Christchurch. And so hence the writing award is named after her.
The awards began were the idea of a former lawyer and journalist Craig Sisterson, who currently lives in the UK, and he is a great fan of crime fiction He noticed we had no awards in New Zealand to recognize great crime writing, unlike all around the rest of the world where it’s a genre that is respected and nurtured.
So Craig really took it upon himself in 2010 to launch these awards and he has done just an incredible amount of work in championing New Zealand crime writing.
I think crime writers were often considered the poorer cousin of literary fiction, and he has just done so much to bring New Zealand crime writing to the attention of the rest of the world.
And so the Ngaio Marsh Crime Awards was his baby. It is judged internationally and it has just grown, I believe, from strength to strength.
A social justice novel about home invasion
Jenny Wheeler: The Last Time We Spoke, which was the one that won the award in, was it 2017… you saw it as a social justice novel at the time, but it was based on the idea of a home invasion and it’s long term consequences for everyone involved. And I wondered about the inspiration behind that book.
Did it relate to current affairs in New Zealand at the time? Or how did you get excited about that idea?
Fiona Sussman: Yes. There were a spate of quite brutal home invasions here in the nineties that caught my attention. They were covered relentlessly in the media. Something that stood out was the youth of the perpetrators, some in their early teens. And they’d be covered relentlessly in the media and then often the story would suddenly be dropped – abruptly – to make way for the next sensational bit of news.
And I remember at the time not being able to move on so quickly from each of these stories. I realized that they had left their impact and very early on I had a lot of questions. Like how could someone who’d possibly been a victim of such a crime, maybe lost someone in the crime, how would they go on to navigate a meaningful life there afterwards.
But also, what had happened in a youngster’s life to see them set on a path to murder at the age of 13 or 14,
And very early on, I had these two voices in my head, one of a middle aged farmer’s wife and one of a young gang prospecting teen. The book opens with a very brutal home invasion that sees their worlds collide.
And then we follow in the aftermath. The trajectory of each of their lives until they once again coincide with some surprising consequences.
A decision made in love haunts their lives
Jenny Wheeler: Your very first novel, which was published internationally as Another Woman’s Daughter, was perhaps that traditional autobiographical novel that people often say is a debut novel, where you’re taking very much your own experience thus far in life. Tell us a bit about that book, and I gather it took you quite a few years to finish it.
Fiona Sussman: Yes, actually Jenny it came out in the UK as Shifting Colours, and then it was subsequently sold to the US, They wanted to give it a different title so then it became Another Woman’s Daughter.
Firstly it was the novel I guess closest to my heart because it was the novel I learned the craft. I honed my craft writing it.
It was also my first opportunity to shout out from the rooftops my abhorrence for the apartheid system under which I had grown up.
And so from that point of view, I guess it was autobiographical, but the story itself was not. It really tells the tale of a little black girl, Miriam, who captures the heart of a white couple when her mother is working as a maid for them in the suburbs of Johannesburg.
And after the first township uprisings, this couple decides to leave South Africa and they are childless. They ask if they can take Miriam with them. them. And the decision Miriam’s mother makes is one she makes out of love. She realizes that her daughter would have more opportunity away from the appalling regime.
But in fact, it’s a decision that will come to haunt all the characters. And on one level, it’s the story of an enduring love between a mother and a daughter.
But on another level, it’s an exploration of identity and what comprises our identity and certainly extracting someone from their culture and their country, how that impacts upon someone.
It was a story very dear to my heart. It did take a long time. It was the story I started working on when I stepped out of medicine. And 10 years later, I would finally get the call that I had a publisher in London who wanted to publish it. In between, lots happened.
Multiple rejections before success
The book had many reincarnations. I wrote a lot of short stories as I learned the craft. I went back to university to do a master’s of creative writing. The book had multiple rejection slips along the way. I often hear, people talk about authors being an ‘overnight success’ and often that the overnight success actually means 10 years hard labour.
Jenny Wheeler: Do you think that being bicultural in the sense that you are an immigrant New Zealander gives you a special eye for your fiction? I have a little private idea that writers generally often work as outsiders in their community.
That they’re a little bit on the edge looking in and that maybe is magnified when you have grown up somewhere else and then emigrate. Do you feel that you notice details that other locally based authors might miss?
Fiona Sussman: Possibly, Jenny. I think that inevitably, you bring into your writing one’s world experiences. Having to translocate to a different country might make you more aware of things that I guess some people might be familiar with and have that almost complacency about, because they’re familiar with it.
They are different and new to somebody coming in. I’ve been here 33 years. My children are Kiwi. And yet, as you can hear by my accent, people sometimes say to me, ‘Oh, where did you arrive?’ And I’ll say ‘arrive from where?’
And then I realized that, to a point, I am always slightly an outsider and I think sometimes when you are navigating that periphery, maybe you do have you are able to look in at things with a perspective, that possibly if you’re right in the middle of it in the fray, you don’t necessarily see.
But I don’t know. I think that I suppose all I would say is that when I grew up in South Africa, there was such confronting challenges and discussions and history in the making that I guess those big and often frightening questions were often very present for me.
Possibly I imported that into my writing, but I wouldn’t necessarily say I have a different, I have a certainly not a better perspective than a Kiwi. It’s just a different one.
A key turning point in Fiona’s career
Jenny Wheeler: Yes. Has there been a key turning point in your creative career, a meeting of a mentor or something that took you to the next level or gave you hope when you felt like you wanted to give up.
Fiona Sussman: Yes, the one the most obvious one which a lot of writers aspire to and without a doubt does make a difference is the day I became a published author.
That was for me that seal of approval that we are all seeking, that endorsement because the nature of our work is lonely and flowers are few and far between.
That’s where I was beset with self-doubt. As soon as I had that seal of approval, I think I automatically almost became a better writer, just by virtue of having the confidence to experiment and to take risks.
But I think I do recall in my Master’s course, my mentor saying to me,’ you are a writer Fiona when you take yourself seriously as one.’
And I realized that even though we all aspire to being published and you know obviously for many people that is the goal because you want an audience for your work.
It’s just really understanding that if you’re taking your work seriously, and you enjoy the process, then you are a writer.
For me, that was quite a liberating thing for someone to say, and certainly ease some of that desire and stress to just get my book name in print.
Jenny Wheeler: Yes. And I suppose your first novel being an internationally located one and living in New Zealand, you inevitably really had to seek an international publisher, didn’t you? Which is harder from the side of the world. How did that fall into place? Did your dad’s past experience help to create a pathway for you there?
A story that ‘deserved to see the light of day’
Fiona Sussman: No, not at all, really, Jenny, because he had passed away when I was 17. That was 20 or 30 odd years before. And I did approach New Zealand publishers as well. It was an interesting time. It was a time when you submitted in paper, so you would send off manuscripts.
There was this unspoken rule that you only ever approached one publisher at a time. I didn’t really know even, there were agents, some publishers took unsolicited manuscripts, but it was really trial and error and determination that I just wanted it to happen. I sent out to numerous, to agents, to publishers.
I did have a strong belief in the story. I believed that it was a story that should see the light of day. And I think that it was just, yeah, some chance. I certainly racked up a lot of rejection slips along the way. What was lovely is that Allison and Busby, who took the book on, were based in London and half of the book is set in the UK.
And so there was this resonance. But then the book did, as I say, go to the States and was then under the title of Another Woman’s Daughter. And it was just luck, really luck and persistence. I was doggedly jpursuing it and sending it out all the time.
Jenny Wheeler: Fantastic. Look, we’re starting to come to the time, end of our time together. We always like to ask our authors about their own reading taste because this is Binge Reading. We’ve got a lot of passionate readers who are looking for their next great read. Tell us what you like to read for your own leisure and pleasure, and if there’s something you want to recommend.
Fiona Sussman: Yes. I have a little chuckle because my daughter used to say to me, ‘oh, mom, please write something happy’ because I often tend to write quite deep and challenging books, and I guess that’s what I enjoy reading as well. I enjoy social justice novels. I enjoy morally complex issues being discussed.
My very first literary heroes were really those brave authors, Nadine Gordimer, Athol Fugard, and Alan Paton, who were using their peons to try and bring about change in South Africa.
That has continued. I love works of Geraldine Brooks and Kate Greenville. The two authors, I think, who just drill down so superbly into human nature are Elizabeth Stroud and Helen Gardner.
What Fiona Sussman is reading now
They just say things with such simplicity, but they really resonate with me. I read Horse recently, which I absolutely loved by Geraldine Brooks.
I love books like The Secret River by Kate Granville. And I do read crime novels. I don’t tend to read series. For me it’s more one offs and often it is works that tell me something about the society in which the crime has been committed.
I remember Graeme Macrae Burnet’s book, This Bloody Project set in a crofting community in the 1800s. Malla Nunn’s book, A Beautiful Place to Die, which is set in South Africa, just pre apartheid.
Yes, quite an eclectic mix, but Fiona Kidman as well, This Mortal Boy, I just love that. So quite eclectic, but it does need to be something gritty I can get my teeth into and cause me to ponder about humanity.
Jenny Wheeler: That’s fabulous. Looking back down the tunnel of time, is there, if there was one thing you’d like to change about the way your creative career has unfolded, what would it be?
Fiona Sussman: Gosh I think that to be honest. each step of the way has been invaluable looking back. It may not have necessarily been the way I would have, chosen for it to evolve.
Probably the one thing I would have done differently is when I took a year out to write a book, I wouldn’t have told as many people because, within a couple of weeks you’d bump into someone and they’d say, ‘oh, when is your novel coming out?’
And, I’d have to say actually I’m on chapter two of the first draft. It’s not very good. I think continually of hearing myself articulate that I didn’t have anything yet made it a harder journey. I just felt like I was a failure in fact, and I would been better quietly beavering on my own.
I wouldn’t have had that pressure, which I did feel initially, but overall, it’s been an amazing journey. I feel incredibly privileged to be able to write. I’m always surprised when someone writes to me, I think, ‘oh gosh, someone’s read my book.’ Beause when I’m sitting in my study, it just feels like me and my stories,
The Doctor’s Wife may be headed for screens
Jenny Wheeler: Yes, I can quite identify, you’d be feeling like you were articulating failure all the time and almost. ‘I’m a fake.’ They think I’ve got a novel coming out next week.
Fiona Sussman: And I think in those early years, at that point, I’d stepped out of medicine. You define yourself by your work. I wasn’t practicing medicine and yet I wasn’t an author and people would say, what are you? I couldn’t say I was a writer because they would ask what have you published?
And I had nothing published. And so I think with hindsight, if someone said, look, ‘it will happen with time, just enjoy the journey.’ With most of life, we want to look back with retrospect and say, oh, if only I’d known, I wouldn’t have been quite as stressed about it.
Jenny Wheeler: It’s funny because even the most successful authors have their ups and downs in their career as well. You can be looking like an amazing success in one period. And then suddenly things just go off the boil a little bit. iI is like that tall he way through. Authors will always give you the feedback that it’s a very turbulent sort of career to try and negotiate.
Fiona Sussman: Absolutely. So right.
Jenny Wheeler: What’s next for you, for Fiona as author, what have you got on your laptop over the next 12 months that you’re addressing?
Fiona Sussman: There’s quite a lot of a lot been happening with The Doctors Wife. I’ve been doing a lot of talks, going to festivals. In fact, I’m off to Sydney next week to the Bad, it’s called the Bad Sydney Crime Writing Festival which is lovely. But I am writing – which is a first for me – I’m writing a second instalment of The Doctor’s Wife – now going to be a series.
Detective Ramesh Bandara and Hilary Stock are going to solve another crime. This really grew out of we’ve had a bit of film interest in The Doctor’s Wife, which is very exciting and may well all come to naught, but there is an interest in that thread continuing.
I am halfway through. It’s another novel set in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and I’m having a lot of fun with it. So, keeping me hard at it.
The Doctor’s Wife sequel is coming
Jenny Wheeler: That’s great, because there was a very slow burn romance developing between those two, and you sense this really unfinished business at the end of the book.
Fiona Sussman: Yes, I think they’re going to have to certainly – that relationship will be explored a little bit further, but who knows how it will turn out.
Jenny Wheeler: I just spoke, in fact, we just posted this week, Andrea Penrose, who does Regency Era Mysteries, and she’s just recently published Book Seven in her Wrexford and Sloane series. She’s had a couple who they hated each other in the first book, and then they very gradually started to respect one another, and things developed a little bit more seriously by about book four. The reviewers all comment on the slow burning romance.
You might be still doing that in Book Five!
Fiona Sussman: Who knows?
Jenny Wheeler: So, the final question we always ask. Do you enjoy interacting with your readers and where can they find you online?
Fiona Sussman: Oh, I very much so Jenny and it I guess goes back to that thing; that I’m always delighted when I receive an email or a message from someone who’s been reading one of my books. And it makes the writing journey which is often so solitary, worthwhile. I do have a website. www.fionasussman. co.nz, which I update and I have news there and a contact page.
Just very recently, and that’s really as of the past two or three months, I have come off social media for a break.
And it was again, it was a hard decision to do. I did find that it was becoming very distracting, and that it was taking me away from what I really want to do a lot of.
Whilst it was great to be in that almost direct contact with readers it was, at times it also doesn’t feel to me that authentic. It feels like a quite self serving, It’s a very curated way of presenting one’s life, and so at this point I’ve just taken a wee break from it and it almost felt like coming off coffee.
I suddenly felt like, gosh, I felt as though I really wanted to go straight back on it. But in fact, it’s been very useful and I make an effort, as I say, with my website.
Where to find Fiona Sussman on line
Websites can often just languish, but I update it very regularly and I do respond, very promptly to people’s messages.
And then when I’m at talks out in the public, whenever I give talks I’m delighted to talk to and engage with readers in person.
Jenny Wheeler: That’s fantastic. I think a lot of writers, social media has just become so diversified that actually you can’t do everything. You just can’t do everything.
Fiona Sussman: yes,
Jenny Wheeler: It also means that each channel has become that much less. absolutely necessary to have becausethey’re spread over such a wide range now anyways.
Fiona Sussman: Exactly. And if they’re fascinated, you can head down all these rabbit warrens of fascinating information out there for writers, but in fact, what one can end up doing is doing a huge amount of reading about writing and events that are happening and actually, doing less and less writing, which is the thing I love the most.
It was just a decision. I have just suspended my accounts. I haven’t deleted them yet, but for me, it’s worked well.
I can also put my head down and really get back stuck into my work.
Jenny Wheeler: Wonderful. All the very best with the Ngaio Marsh Awards. I think the dinner is late November, isn’t it?
Fiona Sussman: That’s right.
Jenny Wheeler: We’ll be watching with interest to see how you go. All the best.
Fiona Sussman: Thank You. It’s been such a pleasure. Thank you so much for your time and your interest.
Jenny Wheeler: Wonderful Fiona.
Fiona Sussman: Thank you.
If you enjoyed Fiona you might also appreciate another Kiwi thriller…
Next week on Binge Reading
TESSA AFSHAR and “seriously good” inspirational fiction
Next Week on Binge Reading:
Tessa’s latest book. The Peasant King takes us back to sixth century BC Babylon and demonstrates what Publishers’ Weekly calls her “Amazing talent for packing action and intrigue into the biblical setting for modern readers.”
That’s next week on The Joys Of Binge Reading. And remember if you enjoy the show, do leave us a review, so others will find us too.
That’s it for today. See you next time and happy reading.