Today’s #RealLifeWonderWoman is the critically-acclaimed author of 20 novels. Her engaging stories feature memorable characters facing unique and complex circumstances, often against a backdrop of historical significance.
Susan Meissner was born and raised in San Diego, California, but spent some of her adult life living in Minnesota as well as in England and Germany, before returning home to southern California.
Prior to her writing career, she was a managing editor of a weekly newspaper in southwestern Minnesota–in my hometown of Mountain Lake. While I hadn’t met her in person, I had been reading her newspaper columns and novels for years before reaching out to her for advice as I began writing my first book.
In addition to writing, Susan is also a wife, mother and grandmother who enjoys family time, reading, trying out new recipes, traveling, petting dogs, sipping good wine or snobby coffee, long walks in pretty places.
Please join me in welcoming this week’s #RealLifeWonderWoman, Susan Meissner.
KR: Tell me about what brings you joy and fulfillment–your work, your passions, your dreams.
SM: That’s a great question with three different answers. In my work as a novelist I find great satisfaction in having finished a book that I feel good about. Writing never gets easier, strangely enough; it might even get harder as I demand more of myself with each new book. But writing “The End” is always a highly satisfying moment. I am most passionate about the next generation and how they are being brought up in this crazy world of ours. I get a little uptight when I see kids not being raised in loving or affirming or safe environments. I can’t do everything to change that but I can do a few things and one is volunteering with a local organization that helps at-risk youth develop or re-develop a love for reading and writing. It’s not always easy finding a connection with students who have felt too long that no one cares what they have to say or what they think, but when I do have times of great connection with them, those are amazing moments. I don’t know that I spend a lot of time dreaming about what I want for my future, but I would like to see my books do well enough that I can do more traveling and not just as a tourist, but as a writer with something to offer. Right now I am in the hamster-wheel of industry, always writing or researching or promoting such that I still have a full-time job with this gig. Maybe someday I can do more than just produce books. I’d like to also produce more happiness in the lives of others.
KR: We all have inner superpowers. What are some of yours?
SM: I shudder to speak of any giftings I may have; I’d much rather someone else brag on what I am good at. But I can say I’ve been told by people and personality tests that I’m a good listener, a good teacher, and a good friend. I am also fairly good at sense of direction and planning parties and making spaghetti sauce.
KR: Can you tell us about an influential woman in your life and how she inspired you?
SM: There have been many; choosing one is difficult. But I think my maternal grandmother deserves mentioning here. She and my Papa were every kid’s dream of a grandparent. They were kind and funny and sweet and their home was always open to my sisters and me. My grandmother taught me to swim and bake and sew, but more importantly she taught me to be courageous, to own my strengths as well as my weaknesses, to be kind to people, available, eager to enjoy the simple joys of life – there are so many – and to not lose sight of what really matters. And that every now and then, that it’s good to go to Disneyland and let loose.
KR: If you could have one super-human power, what would it be?
SM: Instantaneous travel. Like Jeannie in I Dream of Jeannie. You blink, nod your head, and bam!, you are in a faraway place with no connecting flight woes or TSA lines or jet lag to mess with you.
KR: Wonder Woman is brave. Can you share a time in your life where you had to be brave?
SM: There was a time not too long ago when my daughter and I were ocean-kayaking in La Jolla (a lovely cove here in San Diego) with a group. We all noticed below us a huge school of leopard sharks and an equally big group of guitar fish – dozens upon dozens of them, swimming in maybe eight feet of water. Maybe less. “Leopard sharks are considered harmless,” our guide told us, as were the stingray-like guitar fish if you don’t mess with them. So he just paddled nonchalantly over the teeming sealife below and bid us follow. There was a wimpy part of me that heard cello music and the word Shark! Shark! Shark! and which wanted to say the heck to the guide and hightail it back to shore. If I had said, “Let’s get out of here!” I don’t think my adult daughter would have minded. She told me later she was scared, too. But I didn’t say that. We didn’t do that. “Look how beautiful they are,” I said instead, wanting to be brave – for her and for me. My heart was pounding but I knew I would remember this moment always. Some kayakers look for these schools of leopard sharks and never see them. All that is to say, it is easy to be scared. It happens without you even trying. Being brave is hard; it’s a choice to admit you’re scared and then do the thing anyway that you’re afraid to do. Being brave doesn’t mean you cease being scared. It means you are, but you do the thing anyway.
KR: Knowing what you know at this stage of your life, what words of wisdom would you give to your 20-year-old self?
SM: You don’t know everything. You never will know everything, but you sure don’t know everything now. Stay teachable. Listen more and talk less. The things that truly matter aren’t things; they’re people, so be gentle and helpful whenever you can, because the world is beautiful some days and excruciatingly hard on others. It is always a good idea to be kind.
Susan has written more than a dozen novels. I’ve read several and especially enjoyed Stars Over Sunset Boulevard, a story about two young women in Hollywood’s golden era. Her latest book, As Bright as Heaven, is the compelling story of a mother and her daughters who find themselves in a harsh world not of their making, which will either crush their resolve to survive or purify it. You can learn about all of Susan’s books HERE.