When Susannah Glenn faced the triple turmoil of an empty nest, job redundancy and a new relationship, she chose an unexpected way to cope – she decided to finally pursue her dreams of becoming a published novelist.
“My earliest memories were of reading and writing and dreaming of becoming a full-time writer. Instead, I became a journalist and editor (the pay was better), thinking ‘one day’ I’ll turn my attention to fiction,” Susannah told us. “Well, that ‘one day’ had come! I rolled up my sleeves and learnt everything I could about how and where to start. Fortunately, one of the amazing resources I discovered was the Australian Writers’ Centre.”
Susannah’s debut novel Between Husbands and Wives is due out in 2024 as part of a two-book deal with Pantera Press.
A fork in the road
Susannah was 48 when her life hit a cross-roads. “Within the space of a few months, I was made redundant from a job I loved, my kids left home to begin university in the city and … I fell in love after many years of single parenting,” Susannah says.
“Being made redundant was terrifying. I felt I was free-falling from a cliff into a dark abyss below. Fortunately, my now-husband has a low tolerance for self-pitying behaviour! He helped me see the redundancy as a life-changing gift. What had I, he asked me, always wanted to do? I didn’t have to think long to give him my answer. Write novels and become a published author.”
With that positive mindset, Susannah launched herself into her writing passion. While she was working on her manuscript, she also began working on her author platform, completing the Your Author Website course at the Australian Writers' Centre.
“I realised from stalking so many other authors I admired that building an author platform was a really important part of getting serious and professional about becoming a writer. As I got closer to finishing my manuscript and began to think about sending it out to publishers, I wanted to make sure I could be found online. A website is an author’s anchor. It’s something we can control and own. Social media is important too, but we don’t own the information that we post, nor can we control it. Algorithms make us all potential ghosts on social media, whereas a website is something solid and real and permanently discoverable. Potential publishers will use it to find out more about you. Then, after you’re published, readers are going to want to be able to find you to connect with you as well.
“The AWC’s Your Author Website course was extremely comprehensive and covered off on every aspect of building an author website. There is a lot of information out there about how to build a good website, but an author website is a little more niche. There are ways of organising and presenting your information that make it easier for people to find out more about you, connect with you, follow you, subscribe to your blog or newsletter and buy your books.”
A debut novel
Susannah’s debut novel, Between Husbands and Wives, is a classic tale of the dark, twisty domestic noir genre. It tells the story of Jennifer, a young mother who persuades her husband, Jon, to pack up their lives in Sydney and make a tree-change to Far North Queensland to escape the trauma of a devastating car accident. But their escape to a new life doesn’t quite bring Jennifer the absolution she’s seeking. Instead, her new world collides with the past, forcing her to confront the deeper and much more disturbing truth that propelled her to escape in the first place.
While the publication of her novel is a dream come true, Susannah admits there were times she didn’t think it would happen, but her positive mindset helped her through.
“While I desperately hoped I would one day become a published author, I also had a lot of fear to overcome. Some days I’d sit in Adelaide City Library writing on my laptop and I’d look up and see the towering walls of shelves and shelves of books all around me and I’d ask myself does the world really need more books? And the answer, of course, is yes! Then I’d worry about how something I wrote could ever compare with some of those truly amazing books sitting on those shelves, and the answer to that is you can’t compare! You just have to learn to manage those fears. Then roll your sleeves up and get back to writing. Because if writing is all you really want to do, then just keep going. Don’t give up. And don’t compare yourself to other writers. Just do your thing and trust yourself and your imagination. We all have something to say and a unique way of saying it.”
Susannah is now hard at work on her second novel, also to be published by Pantera Press, and now writes full-time.
“It took me almost three years to complete Between Husbands and Wives. I only have a year to write my second novel, however the big difference this time round is I’ve learnt so much. I realise now, looking back, that my first novel took three years because I was actually doing two things while I was writing it – yes, I was writing a novel, but I was also learning how to write a novel. I made a lot of mess!”
For her second novel, Susannah completed FOCUS ON… Handling Multiple Points of View as she was keen to try something new.
“The POV seminar really helped shift my story-telling to a different perspective and understand the technical skills required to juggle between multiple perspectives. In many ways, having multiple points of view significantly broadens your creative scope as an author because the world of the story is instantly broader. Some authors in my genre, Liane Moriarty included, do a brilliant job of telling a story from numerous character perspectives. I’m still not 100 per cent certain I’ll use this for my second novel, but the AWC course gave me fresh confidence to play with possibility.”
She also dove into FOCUS ON… Developing Characters to help her develop her craft.
“Oh I loved this seminar! I love all Pamela Freeman’s advice. She is such a master of storytelling. This seminar was a terrific reminder of the importance of creating characters that have the meat to carry an entire novel. Whether deeply flawed or annoyingly perfect, this seminar really brought home the importance of creating complex, compelling characters that are relatable in a way that will ignite and hold the reader’s empathy and interest for the full length of the novel.”
With her dream of publication in her grasp, Susannah couldn’t be happier with the path she has followed to get to this point, including the support of Pantera Press, her mentor Dr Ginger Moran, and the AWC.
“AWC courses are professional, relevant and on point. If you are serious about becoming a writer you need to invest in yourself. The courses offered by AWC are an investment that will pay dividends.”
Courses completed at AWC: