Suzanne Hudson is my spirit animal. I met her last year through a mutual friend, at her oasis on Waterhole Branch. I was an instant fan. As soon as I returned to Nashville, I got my hands on a copy of her novel IN THE DARK OF THE MOON and was blown away. It’s damn good. Before I’d even finished the first fifty or sixty pages I reached out to her through FB messenger – I had to. Her characters were so much like some of the real “characters” in my past, and her writing is the kind that makes you laugh out loud, cringe and cry all on the same page. Not sure what her reaction would be—hoping that she wouldn’t think I was a creeper—I copied a certain phrase from her novel in my message and asked if she knew my ex. Her response was hilarious, and we had more than a couple of laughs.
She is so down to earth, has a wicked sense of humor and razor-sharp wit. She is also the author of another novel, IN A TEMPLE OF TREES, two short story collections – OPPOSABLE THUMBS and ALL THE WAY TO MEMPHIS, and has stories in at least a dozen anthologies.
Her first award winner (forty years ago) was a story that took first place in Penthouse Magazine’s international short story contest – Toni Morrison and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. were two of the judges. Yes, you read that correctly.
I almost did a cartwheel when she said she would be a part of my Fan-Girl Friday blog. She asked what it entailed, and I gave her a quick description (talk about anything you want) and said, “Oh, send some pictures of yourself for me to use.”
Suzanne’s response, “Darn, I wish I would’ve saved those nudes from college…”
Suzanne: My husband is fond of saying that you’re not really a writer—a real writer—unless you can’t not write. And he can’t. Not do it, every day. It’s amazing, someone with the discipline to get up in the wee hours—a habit he cultivated and coordinated with his day job at a hospital—and sit for several hours, researching and tapping away. And as a retiree, he still gets up before the sun and goes to town on the ol’ laptop. I don’t get it. I’m perfectly fine with not writing—at least for periods of time (sometimes years). But ultimately, well, it just kinda comes over me, like a fever—I gotta have more cow bell—and I can’t not write.
So I guess I’m a real writer, technically. It takes all kinds, I reckon.
I’m fond of saying that you really, really, truly, don’t want to piss off a writer. You just don’t. If you do, you’re absolutely going to see yourself drawn, quartered, and splayed like road kill all over the page. I warn people all the time—it’s all fair game, especially if you go and make me pissy. Especially since it takes a whole ginormous mountain of aggravation to make this even-tempered somebody angry. And yet . . . some people are just plain stupid. Some people just need killin’ (figuratively, of course). And so for me, writing is sublimely therapeutic. And not for the faint of heart.
My mother, although a huge fan of my words, occasionally, over the years, made her longings known for my writing to take a turn: “I wish Suzanne would write something that could be printed in the Ladies’ Home Journal.” Translation: “sweet—not dark and violent and disturbing.” And I did write one (count ‘em, folks) sentimental little story with her in mind. It was called “Novena,” about a mother-daughter caretaker situation, loosely based on the elders in our family, and I tied it up in a really pretty bow, and everyone sang “Kumbaya” in angelic harmony and all was right with the world, happily ever after, amen. But I’m not too taken with sentimentality. It very often comes off as dishonest and self-serving, a congratulatory pat on one’s own back, a “look how good and decent and downright wonderful I am” moment. Not always, but often, since there are plenty of not so good writers out there who go that sappy route. All the time.
The authors I admire are the fearless, Flannery O’Connor ones, the ones who are not only willing to draw and quarter those who are foolish enough to anger them, but to draw and quarter themselves, through characters. That takes real guts, the honesty of it, the willingness to say, “Well, I think I’ll put the knife in, just so, slit my thorax in a jagged cut down the middle, and let the disemboweling ensue.” Literally, guts.
And it’s very obvious when it’s dishonest or downright phony, i.e., sentimental and self-absorbed. There are a gazillion examples out there in blog world, but I’ll refrain from naming names. Instead, let’s take this Mandy Haynes, a real writer. She manages to combine both the uplifting and the everyday with a skin’t-kneed tomboy’s willingness to bust her ass, show the warts, tell the truth. She even once offered to “throat-punch a bitch” for me, which I truly appreciated, but I suggested that my handling it via fiction would keep us all out of jail. Mandy Haynes. Balls to the wall. It’s damn refreshing. And like a good man, it’s hard to find.
I warn people not to pick up my work if they are squeamish or up-tight or prim little c#%ts. Go and buy some true romance, flip through a lifestyle mag, or watch the Hallmark channel, if you need it sterile and sweet. I’ll just go over here and purge my demons the only way I know how, in a way that sets me free, but trust me, it won’t be pretty. Still, they’re my demons, after all, and this writing thing, if you’re really honest with it, is way, way, cheaper than psychotherapy. And I do have some issues to work though, people.
Twice this year, I’ve submitted and been told that my writing was too angry, and it’s because of the aforementioned issues. The first time, it was for a university anthology. I revised, resubmitted, and was accepted. The second time it was for Mandy Haynes’ blog, And She’s Off. This is my revision, this right here. There’s still obvious anger, of course, as I haven’t worked through it all, via my writing; that’s a work in progress. But I did change the focus of this piece, from the piece of crap human who done me wrong, to the writing process itself. Mission accomplished, Mandy?
Revision is sooooo important!
* fyi – yes, I did offer to throat punch a bitch for Suzanne – without even knowing who it was that I was going after – and I would have done it. You would have to, if you’d read the circumstances leading up to it. Or maybe not, maybe I’m just quick to get riled up. And yes, I did ask Suzanne if she wanted to change the piece for this blog after the first piece had a couple of days to sit and lose steam – but I would have posted the original piece if she’d said no. My balls aren’t that big… ;).
See what’s she’s up to at Waterhole Branch Productions via FaceBook.