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Words with a Wordsmith: Susanne Dunlap
By Rebecca D’Harlingue
December 23, 2022

Susanne Dunlap writes award-winning historical novels for adults and teens with strong women protagonists.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

This is such a hard question to answer! Possibly THIRTEEN MOONS by Charles Frazier. It followed his breakout, award-winning COLD MOUNTAIN and the critics didn’t like it. I thought it was brilliant, and will read anything by him. But I have many, many other authors I read. Most are historical fiction, occasionally historical romance, and often literary fiction.

Have you ever experienced Imposter Syndrome? How do you work through that?

Oh, all the time. I’m very aware that a reader must invest a chunk of time to read or listen to a book, and sometimes think, who am I to take that time away from them? Why do they care? But then I try to refocus on the point of the book, the meat, and dig into the craft it takes me to write it. Getting lost in my own work is usually what pulls me out of imposter syndrome.

How long do you read until you bail on a book you don’t like?

If I don’t like the first paragraph, I don’t buy or borrow a book. If I do, I will try to give it a few chapters at least before I decide there’s no point in finishing, either because I’ve figured out how it will end, or the characters don’t engage me enough to really care what happens to them. Occasionally I’ll stop reading a book that is just too disturbing, but that’s rare.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

The best money I ever spent as a writer was becoming certified by Author Accelerator to be a book coach for both fiction and nonfiction. Not only is that now my “day job,” but it taught me an immense amount about the mechanics of story, things I apply to my own writing all the time.

Do you have another artistic outlet in addition to your writing? Do you sew? Paint? Draw? Knit? Dance? Garden?

I was a very serious pianist at one time in my life. I could really play—recitals, concertos with orchestra, etc. When I didn’t have time to keep up the muscles required (which involves devoting at least 3 hours a day to practice), I grew frustrated and stopped playing altogether for about ten years. I finally decided it didn’t matter that I couldn’t do everything I once could, and went back to it, slowly, forgiving myself. And now I do play the piano for my own enjoyment.

Susanne is the author of twelve historical novels for adults and teens. Her YA historical mystery, THE PARIS AFFAIR, won first place in the CIBA awards, and THE MUSICIAN’S DAUGHTER was a Bank Street Books Children’s Book of the Year and a Junior Library Guild Selection. Susanne lives in Maine with her little dog, Betty.




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Rebecca D’Harlingue
Written by Rebecca D’Harlingue

Award-winning author Rebecca D’Harlingue writes about seventeenth-century women forging a different path. Her debut novel, The Lines Between Us, won an Independent Press Award and a CIBA Chaucer Award. Her second novel, The Map Colorist, won a Literary Titan Award and a Firebird Book Award.

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