Recently I read a book that moved me so deeply, I just had to contact the author and share her with you. The book is called Out of Breath, and the author is Susan Salluce. I read this book partly while riding a train, and I had to stop in the middle because I had tears rolling down my face and people were looking at me. It’s that good. You’ll find my review of the book on Amazon and Goodreads. So, without further ado, may I present Susan Salluce, unplugged:
Susan, thanks so much for joining me here! Your story revolves around a couple who lost a child in a tragic accident, the troubles they go through, and the therapy they do. How much did you rely on your own experience as a grief counselor in writing this book?
You are so welcome, Fred. My background as a therapist with a specialty in Thanatology (death, dying, and bereavement), certainly helped with the clinical aspects of Out of Breath: the “how-to’s” and dialogue in the therapy sessions, complications of grief, nuances of children’s bereavement. However, Seth and Alyssa’s story is fictional, as are the other characters. I was still a practicing therapist when I envisioned the story, and then quit my job to pursue writing full-time.
You portray a grief counselor in the book, Katherine, who has a deep, dark secret of her own. How do therapists and grief counselors manage the difficulty separating their personal tragedies from those of their clients?
I’m sure that every therapist handles it differently, but personally, I didn’t handle it very well, which is why I suffered from burn-out, or what is termed Compassion Fatigue. I allowed Katherine to experience Compassion Fatigue, as she balances the complexities of her mother’s dwindling health, her “secret”, her mother’s cancer, and these emotional, intertwined cases in her practice. Of the therapists whom I know do a better job with separating work and home, I think the key is balance, spirituality, laughter, and working in an environment that isn’t overly taxing.
How did you choose Santa Cruz as the setting for Out of Breath?
I grew up in Santa Cruz, and also live there part-time. I love the coast, particularly this area. It’s a very eclectic area, and I wanted to give homage to places that are special to me.
Themes of addiction permeate the book. What is the state of the nation right now in terms of addictions, in your opinion? Do you see any difference to one generation ago, when we were teenagers?
I’ll answer both this and the next question together. Those are big questions, and complex answers. Outside of the wider variety of even more dangerous drugs that weren’t even available than when we were children, I believe that are kids are in danger of being addicted to so many things: overstimulation, instant gratification, media. To paraphrase Anne Lamott, who is one of my favorite authors, what she mourns are the days that “we” spent in childhood lying on our backs, watching the clouds change shape. I believe that most of this generation’s children were raised inside, with constant stimulation. Over time, this shifts to stimulation via the computer, texting, etc. Psychologists tell us that this changes our brain chemistry (our dopamine levels) in the same way that drugs do. While I value and depend on technology, I fear that our nation has produced a generation of addicts who cannot be satiated. Picking up a book, gazing at the clouds, spending time in nature: these are the remedies, but I fear that they may be too under-stimulating for most.
Your book is available as an electronic book. How did you decide to publish it independently? What was your experience like?
Like most Indie authors, I had my try at traditional publishing, but found that the market wasn’t biting. At an awards ceremony where Out of Breath won an award in the category for Mainstream/Literary Novel as judged by Harper Collins, the keynote speaker said that agents and publishers had one thing to fear: the independent author’s ability to self-publish via e-book. Winning that award, and hearing that endorsement gave me the courage to self publish. It was terrifying, thrilling, exhausting, and exhilarating. I went with BookBaby.com, who were terrific! My book has been available for a year, and as of this summer, I’ve had 13,000 sales!
I have also printed some copies of Out of Breath, and sold them in bookstores in both El Dorado and Santa Cruz counties. I also went on a small book tour. I am currently re-printing Out of Breath and copies will be available for the first time on Amazon by mid-November.
What projects are you working on now?
I’m writing a contemporary fiction book titled No Ordinary Girl, due out in late 2013/early 2014. Pulling from my experience of living in Japan, it chronicles a twenty-something “boomerang” generation girl in California, who, after college finds herself broken-hearted, jobless, and living with her parents. As a missionary kid, she struggles with the sense of identity: where is home? Where do I fit in? That is, until she attends a writing class, finds her true talent, and a writing teacher who is not only over-interested in her writing (something that we later learn is for his personal gain), but also deeply interested in her as a young woman. Whether you are 23 or 53, No Ordinary Girl is “your story” as your recall the pains of growing up, growing away, and growing into yourself.
I also maintain a blog at www.sipnsharewithsusan.com, where I ruminate about parenting teens, the writing world, and also have lovely interviews with established and up and coming writers.
Find Susan Salluce on the internet here:
Author photo by Bob Thomas