Susan Wile’s Journey from a Lazy Reader to an Eco-Adventure Author

Conversation with Susan Wile

Our interview with Susan Wile, conducted exclusively for Reader’s House magazine, sheds light on her multifaceted career and the profound connection she shares with literature and the natural world. From her eclectic professional background to her deep-rooted passion for animals and the environment, Susan’s life has been a tapestry woven with diverse experiences, all of which have enriched her perspective as a writer.

With her debut novel, Extinction Warrior, Susan Wile embarks on a literary journey that mirrors her own odyssey—a narrative driven by her love for the natural world and a profound sense of responsibility toward its preservation. Through her words, she invites readers into a realm where empathy meets action, where the beauty of prose intertwines with the urgency of environmental activism.

During our conversation, Susan shares insights into her literary influences, from the chilling narratives of Frank Norris to the wisdom imparted by Anne Lamott. She delves into her childhood, revealing a reluctance towards reading that eventually blossomed into a lifelong love affair with words. From scribbling marks on paper as a toddler to crafting passages that evoke both joy and sorrow, Susan’s journey as a writer is as remarkable as it is inspiring.

Throughout the interview, Susan candidly discusses the challenges of writing, emphasizing the meticulous craftsmanship required to move readers with precision and beauty. Her words echo the sentiment that writing is not merely a vocation but a profound act of vulnerability and courage—a sentiment echoed by her ninth-grade English teacher, whose encouragement sparked a flame that continues to burn brightly within her.

As readers delve into Susan Wile’s world, they will encounter not only a talented storyteller but also a kindred spirit—one who navigates the complexities of existence with compassion, curiosity, and an unwavering commitment to leaving the world a better place than she found it. Join us as we embark on a journey through the pages of Susan’s life and work—a journey that promises to inspire, enlighten, and ignite the imagination.

Susan Wile has been a waitress, bartender, scallop shucker, office manager, producer of tv commercials, postproduction accountant and entrepreneur and discovered her passion for the written word while she was a producer. She has edited and written web copy, corporate video scripts, advertising copy, sell sheets, marketing reports, and drafted internal communications for a division of Cargill. She has always loved animals and has a deep kinship with the natural world. Susan loves to travel, garden, hike, bike, and draw. She is married and lives with the sweetest rescue dog, 3 cats, 4 ducks, and thousands of honeybees in New York’s Hudson Valley. Extinction Warrior is her first novel. 

Have you heard of any favorite book that is relatively unknown?

McTeague by Frank Norris, a chilling tale of greed and murder published in 1899.

What is it that moves you the most?

The precision of evocative prose so unusually exact, explicit and beautiful I must dogear the page to read it again and again. There are times I weep with joy or sorrow because of what is so luminously conveyed.

Which books and authors have had a significant impact on your career?

Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones helped me realize I was a writer and author Anne LaMott put me on the path to completing Extinction Warrior. In Bird by Bird she says, one shitty page a day gets a novel written.

What type of reader were you as a child? 

I always preferred to play outside rather than sit and read.  I didn’t learn to read English until I was eight years old because my father was a diplomat and we lived abroad when I was young. Thus, I found reading arduous and was a lazy reader.

What book or books are you embarrassed to admit you haven’t read yet?

I’m embarrassed I never  read much Shakespeare, though I vaguely recall reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet at some point in high school, but that’s it!

When did I start to write?

I was two or three years old, scratching marks on paper with a pencil, which felt exactly like writing to me. My scribbles looked like the repetitive marks of a Cy Twombly pencil drawing, but that was my writing.

Why write?

Writing is an outlet for my imagination, along with some of my drawings.

Who encouraged you?

My nineth grade English teacher, Prudence Churchill had our class keep journals, which she would periodically read. I’d written about going for a walk just after a rain and enjoyed how rhododendron leaves glistened in the sunshine. She liked that.

Did you take writing classes?

I took one creative writing class at New York University as a postgraduate student. I also take webinars.

Do you find writing easy?

Not at all. One must learn the craft. Writing a passage to move the reader in the way one desires is possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Whoever said, “Writing is easy – you just open a vein and bleed.” Is absolutely right!

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