Author: Susan Breen

Susan Breen is the author of The Fiction Class and the Maggie Dove mystery series. Her short stories have been published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

What Joan Didion Was To Me

Some writers you read because you like their plots or their dialogue. Others because you connect with their spirit. This was what Joan Didion was to me. When I was a young woman, of course, I was awed by her writing. Later, when I adopted my oldest son, I loved reading what she wrote about her adopted daughter, Quintana Roo. She had an entry in a children’s book about adoption and we used to read that every night. Her daughter died in 2005 and two years later my son died. Then she became for me a touchstone. I looked to her for grace and wisdom and honesty. Always honesty. When Joan Didion died in December, I mourned her as I would a friend. A writer can’t ask for more than that. Joan Didion wrote so many wise things, but here are a couple of my favorites: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”― Joan Didion, The White Album: Essays “I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 […]

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That Time I Threw a Book At the Wall

I don’t generally throw books against the wall, but when I read Tana French’s book the first time, I was so aggravated by the ending that I tossed it. The story was engrossing. The characters richly detailed. The book won an Edgar when it was published, in 2007. But the ending drove me crazy because it left something important unresolved. I actually thought I’d got a misprinted book that had lost the last twenty pages.

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Fantasy New Year’s Eve

I’ve always dreamed of celebrating New Year’s Eve in Vienna, listening to the Philharmonic playing Strauss waltzes. Possibly waltzing around myself. Of course, between the pandemic and the difficulty of getting tickets, that’s not looking so good for this year, but a person can dream. (You can, however, listen to the program on WQXR.) I asked my fellow Miss Demeanors what their fantasy New Year’s would look like, and this is what they said. Tracee: I’m not a big New Year’s Eve party person but I did spend a magical New Year’s Eve in St Moritz and would repeat it! Plenty of snow on the ground and everyone gathered around the lake to watch fireworks. Very lovely and fun and peaceful all at the same time! Alexia: I fantasize about going to bed early and waking up January 1 to find that 2022 is less of a 💩 show than 2020 and 2021. Connie: Susan, your fantasy came true for my cousin’s father-in-law, a cardiologist. After his wife of many years died, he met a fascinating woman, the widow of a diplomat, who’d spent most of her life traveling the world. The first Christmas they were married, they spent NYE […]

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Visiting A Christmas Carol

I’ve lived in New York all my life, but up until about a week ago, I had no idea that the original version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was in New York City, in the Morgan Library, which is a brief walk from Grand Central.

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3 Lessons from the NY Pitch Conference

I’ve been a workshop leader at the NY Pitch Conference for more than a decade. That means that four times a year (except during pandemics) I lead a group of writers in polishing pitches and then presenting them to editors and agents. It’s a thrilling job. I meet people from all over the world and hear their stories. It’s also a hair-raising job because I have to take a group of people who don’t know each other and guide them through an intense process of joy (when they get requests) and despair (when they don’t). What I always find moving is how close the members of my group become. They support each other, hug each other when things go wrong, buy each other (and me) drinks. See picture below. Although writing is a solitary occupation, the community of writers is a very generous one. Over the course of the four days, I go over a number of obvious things that pitches should include. Conflict. Protagonists. Cliff hangers, and so on. But I was thinking that there are some things that can really affect a pitch that most people don’t think about. Make it interesting. A lot of times, people are […]

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I did it!

This past November I’ve been on a journey to write 50,000 words in one month, and on Sunday, I hit my goal. Got a certificate and this cute little badge. I was very proud of myself because I had some monumental distractions to overcome. First of all, I have a new little granddaughter who is absorbing my brain. Then, we went on a family vacation to Cape Cod. Then there were various hair-raising visits to the doctor, all of which went well, but occupied a certain amount of mental space. Then there was Crime Bake and Thanksgiving. Oh, and on Nov. 7, my third Maggie Dove mystery, Maggie Dove and the Lost Brides, was published. So the fact that I wrote any words is remarkable. Not all 50,000 of the words I wrote are fabulous. I suspect that by the time I’m done, I’ll wind up using about 10,000 of them. But even the words I cut will have helped me to get to where I needed to go. I know what the book is about now! I know who the main characters are and what’s worrying them. I’ve got a pretty good idea of how they talk. Best of […]

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What does it mean to be a Miss Demeanor?

Finding a good illustration for a post about friendship is not easy, but, as always, the trees led the way. What better way to show what the Miss Demeanors mean to me than to show this picture of three strong and beautiful trees. (In a perfect world there would be seven trees in the picture, but oh well.) The Miss Demeanors have now been a formal group for about five years. Our membership has shifted around, but most of us are connected through our fabulous agent, Paula Munier. It’s been an eventful few years, filled with publishing contracts and awards and disastrous news and discouragement and oh, a pandemic. Through it all we’ve dragged each other along. When I was recently in the hospital, my fellow Miss Demeanors sent me a plant that is actually the size of a tree. Several of us were at the recent Crime Bake conference (and missed those who weren’t there) and we later went out to dinner and I was thinking about what a pleasure it has been to be a Miss Demeanor these past few years, and how much I enjoy everyone’s company. So my question of the week is, what does it […]

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Maggie Dove and the Lost Brides

 

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