I grew up in a quaint lower-middle-class-blue-collar neighborhood of three-bedroom homes on parallel tree-lined streets. The kids in the neighborhood would play in our backyard most the time, cowboys and Indians, Croquet, baseball, Mother-may-I, Red-light and after dark we'd play kick-the-can.
My parents were hard-working and dedicated to our family. My parents got married just as the United States was entering WWII. When my dad returned from his time in the Army, he worked as a mechanic for an oil-delivery company and stayed there his whole career.
My mother wore a corset, dresses, and heels every day until the sixties. She had supper on the table every night at 5:00, when my dad walked through the back door.
On Saturday nights Mom would make a big batch of popcorn and that was our supper. We would dance in the living room while watching Lawrence Welk on TV. The popcorn on Saturday nights, I learned much later, was a tradition passed down from my mother’s grandparents.Do you remember the first novel you read as a child and how it impacted your outlook on books and literature?
I took creative writing in high school. The teacher would have us just sit at our desk and observe every sound, sensation, and thought as we sat there quietly and write about it. I think that is when I learned that it is the little things, the description and observation of the little things, that can help make a good story enjoyable to read.
My stories when I was 16 were dramatic and dark. My writing is now more lighthearted and sometimes humorous. The books are a open, honest, and full of very real observations.When are you most inspired to write? What are some things you do to motivate yourself when you're stuck in a rut?
I get asked this a lot. When are you inspired? What do you do when you get stuck? I have to say, I don’t know. I really don’t.
I write in journal form, so I was inspired to write especially when I had something to tell. Imagine you have 10 friends waiting to hear from you. They are expecting to hear from you about your life and what is happening. They love you and really want to know. So when you have something to tell, you write to them.
That is how it is for me. My books started out as my blog, and I would tell my friends and family what was happening with us and share with them my joys and frustrations. That is how my blog started, I was just writing to friends and family but it was public. Pretty soon the blog grew a following. I still write that way, I still imagine I am writing to friends and family.
When I have something to tell, a funny or sad thing in my life, I get on the computer and write on Susanstraley.com. Recently I wrote about my first “not-a-date-date” since I became a widow. I heard from a reader that his ribs hurt he laughed so hard. That makes me feel great, when my writing and my story touch someone.What is the most challenging thing about writing a memoir?
The most challenging thing about writing a memoir is cutting things out. Hey, it’s my life! I think that all the experiences and the lessons are important. All the memories of my time with George are precious. So for me, cutting and cutting and cutting, it was difficult. I probably went through the first book six times working to cut it down, removing pictures. There are over 1,200 pictures in the first book helping to tell our story. And I was doing this editing on the first book within months after George had passed. So cutting any part of our time together was attached to emotions.
This summer I had to create an audio-script from the book. All those pictures were probably not needed after all. While creating the audio-script I ended up describing some of the pictures because they added humor and fun to the story. But most of the pictures, I discovered, weren’t really needed.
I probably will come out with a newer-revised edition someday. When I am ready to go through it 5 more times and cut more.What was your favorite part, and your least favorite part, of the publishing journey?
My favorite part of the publishing journey is the feedback from fans, the wonderful reviews. That feed-back of how the books have helped them or entertained them is what drives me to keep doing more.
My least favorite part of the publishing journey is that no matter how much I learn there is still so much more to learn. No matter how much I do, there is still so much more to do. You don’t just publish and go on your merry way. Publishing involves constant promotion so that people can find your books. If you aren’t promoting your books, no matter how good they are, they fade from view. I imagine my books hiding in some obscure dark corner on some deep shelf behind other stuff at some gigantic, mile-long Amazon warehouse… well at least a virtual warehouse.How did you come up with the idea for your book, "The Journey Continues Alzheimer's Trippin' with George"?
I wanted the story, about a serious subject like Alzheimer’s, to not drag the reader down, but to lift them up and make them smile. I am thrilled when I get reviews from strangers that say:
“I couldn’t put it down.” “I laughed and I felt sad in the space of two minutes.” “It was strangely uplifting.” “Inspirational” “I love, love, loved it!”
I had read books about Alzheimer’s that were recommended to me and some were dry and I couldn’t get through them. I was care-giving at the time and they were depressing.
One of the books recommended to many of us really frustrated me because the book would tell me in the early stages you will see these symptoms, and in the middle stages you will see these symptoms. But George wasn’t typical. I hear that from a lot of caregivers. Each person with dementia is different.
I wanted to entertain people at the same time I was educating them. I wanted to let them know as family members and friends of someone with dementia that feelings of doubt, fear, frustration, anger, and sorrow are not so unusual and it is OK to feel that way. I wanted to let them know that life and love does not end with the diagnosis. We continued to enjoy many moments.
What inspired me to write THE JOURNEY CONTINUES was the urging by fans of the first book. They kept telling me they were anxious to read more.Do you think book covers play an important role? Who designs your covers?
Book covers play a huge roll. I pick up a book by looking at covers and reading the title. If it isn’t a genre I like to read that genre shouts out from the cover I won’t even pick it up. It is amazing to me how the cover art can tell us so much about a book. Whether it is a romance or historical or a thriller, right away we know it by seeing the cover.
The talented person that created covers for both my books is Landofawes. I found her on Fiverr.comWhat challenges did you face while sharing your real life experiences in "Alzheimer's Trippin' with George"?
I am glad you asked about the challenges I faced. I actually wrote about this as I went through it in my journal… and the journal became the book.
I didn’t want to degrade George, the person I married was smart enough to join Mensa, neat, meticulous, methodical. These were traits that helped him throughout his career as a Mechanical Engineer and business owner. So to start talking publicly about the dementia symptoms that were the opposite of all he had been, that was scary. What if he somehow was cured and read that I had told the world about his urinary incontinence? What if those that loved George hate me for exposing him?
I have always had trouble keeping secrets. I guess being wide open about our experience was just in my nature.What is one question you get asked a lot? What is one question you wish people would ask more and what is your answer for it?
The one question I get asked most is, “When is the next book coming out?” If the next book is my ongoing life after George, then there needs to be some kind of end, doesn’t there? I am far from done with my journey. We will see what happens.
The one question I wish they ask is, “How can I help you promote your books?” Because it is so much fun when they: share pictures and reviews with their friends. It helps when they: suggest the book to their book club; post a picture and comment on their social media, like Facebook and Twitter; or write a review on Amazon, Goodreads, Bookbub and on their own blogs. Thank you very much!What is one thing you wish you knew about being a writer when you were just starting out?
Books come in different sizes. Decide the size and set up your word document to that size. Get your book professionally edited. Set your launch way later than you expect you will be ready. There is always so much more to do before launch. Ok, so all that is more than one thing.How would you describe your journey of 40 years with George?
My journey of 40 years with George was … a roller coaster ride. George started his own business in the manufacturing sector of the economy shortly before we got married. It was tied to the manufacturing economy so we had ups and we had downs and we had hard slow climbs.
I would also describe our time together as a pillow of support. George believed in me and supported me in many different endeavors. It was his love that built me up and made me stronger.Every art form is open to various interpretations and reviews. How do you handle any negative reviews that come your way?
I have one negative review on Amazon. I tend to try to think how I can make the book better so that that one person would be pleased. I want everyone to be entertained or pleased with my writing. But maybe someone is not reading it to be entertained, this one person was reading it to be educated, so they skipped all the parts about our life and our trip and just read the parts about dementia. Maybe, someday I will write a book with just the dementia parts just for people like them.How active are you on social media? And how do you think it affects the way you write?
I am on Facebook and Twitter every day. I have accounts on other social media but I never spend time on them. I think time is the biggest factor. By spending time on Facebook and supporting strangers that are care-giving on Twitter, I am taking away from the time when I could be writing.How many plot ideas are just waiting to be written? Can you tell us about one?
I do think that getting to a diagnosis of a disease is really difficult in this medical system. I am not a research reporter, but I bet I could interview a lot of people who could give me horror stories of trying to get to a diagnosis for their illness.
I remember getting a diagnosis for George but it didn’t feel final. Without a nice meeting with the doctor that directed us to the next steps and what we should expect, those diagnoses didn’t seem real. It left us still searching for answers instead of moving onto the next stage of acceptance and adjustment.How has been your experience working with AllAuthor?
I have been very pleased with my experience with AllAuthors. Including this thoughtful interview! Thank you.
I am enjoying making gifs of my book reviews and posting them in places. It's been fun!
Susan Straley was born with an urge to wander. At three years old, after a frantic search, her parents and neighbors found her three blocks from home happily playing in a mud puddle. So it seemed natural to Susan, when her husband received the dementia diagnosis, to want to run away. Susan does an amazing job of sharing one couple's journey/adventure across the country while struggling with a new reality in the book, Alzheimer's Trippin' with George. She aims to enlighten while entertaining through her writing.