Susan Elizabeth Phillips: A Lifetime of Humor and Heart Captured on Page

Isn’t it wonderful when someone you have idolized for years turns out to be just as amazing in real life as you always imagined? That is exactly what happened when I finally got to meet and visit with Susan. I have loved her books and watched her from afar for years before I finally got the nerve to actually ask her for an interview. Man, am I glad I did!  She was so gracious and fun! This is one humorous author whose personality really does encapsulate everything she writes. Warm and approachable, full of life and enthusiasm, Susan is everything one dreams of in a hero, a friend, and most especially a beloved author!

InD: First of all, we need to know about you as a child. Where were you born and raised?
I was raised in central Ohio. My mother was a schoolteacher and my father was a salesman. As a child, I had a really good imagination. We didn’t have much money, but we would go camping every summer, traveling to Michigan or New York, and every Sunday afternoon, my parents would load us in the car and go for a drive. We spent a lot of time in the car, without any devices and nothing to do.
I think that was my training ground for being a storyteller. I would weave stories because I was bored. I did not want to see another soybean field, so I would  go into my imagination. I was a good kid, but not one of the super popular girls. I was your average good girl.
InD: When you were young, did you read a lot?
: My whole family were readers. Every Saturday, we would go to the library. Usually my father would take us and we would all come out with a big stack of books. I loved to read from the time I was seven when I read Chandler' s “Boxcar Children”. That was the book that opened up everything to me.
InD: You imagined all of the stories as a child, but did you ever write them down?
No, I was too busy imagining my future life as a famous movie star.
InD: Really? From the time you were young, all the way through high school?
All the way through college. I still want to be a movie star. What happened? [both laughing] I actually have a degree in theater—acting and directing—and, no, I never had a class in creative writing. I think that was fortunate because a theater background is so precious for a writer, especially acting and directing. The ability to set a scene as a performer, to go into the character's head, has proved to be an invaluable background for a writer, as opposed to writing classes where you are hit with a bunch of rules about what you can and can't do. When I started writing, I didn't know there were rules and that was hugely liberating.
InD: Why did you want to be a movie star?
: I loved the whole fantasy of it. I love acting. I did a lot of that in high school and through college. I just really, really enjoyed it. Now I could never do it, because I probably couldn't memorize the script, but at that point I could.
InD: How did you see yourself? In a romantic comedy? A deep, dark drama?
All of it. I could do all of it. My father said, "You can go to any college you want, as long as it’s a state college and within a 2 1/2 hour radius of where we live, and you can major in anything you want, as long as you come out with a teaching certificate." At that time, that was smart because women didn't have a lot of career paths.
So I came out with a degree where I could teach speech, drama, and English. By the time I graduated from college, it was evident to me that to be a really great actress, or have a chance at success, you had to be either extremely beautiful or extremely talented. I was cute. I was talented. But I was not extremely either of those things, so I never pursued a professional career. Instead, I taught school for a couple of years, then got married and had children who were young when I started to write.
InD: But you worked all the way through school and college to be a movie star or actress, yet you didn’t try it after you graduated?
No. I thought that the odds were too great. I performed for two summers at Cape Cod and occasionally agents would visit, but they were never interested in me. I don't remember it being a huge disappointment, it was just kind of reality.

Read the entire fun and informative interview in the Dec/Jan 2021-22 issue of InD'Tale magazine.

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