- Published: 09 July 2013 09 July 2013
I met Susan Reinhardt in the process of interviewing her and before it was over we had ventured into about every topic imaginable. Her energy and humor are contagious. One look at her website and the discovery of all of her upside down women on jacket covers and I knew I was in the company of a woman who would let it fly. Susan writes smartly and with humor about topics that scholars (like me) take up with great seriousness. Instead of writing a book about “The Madwoman in the Attic” and harkening back to Charlotte Bronte, Susan writes a book about the girl next door, the Cracked Southern Belle, who maybe, just maybe, has a few things in common with the reader. She’s failed at one or two things (such as marriage); she’s disappointed her mother (who hasn’t?); she’s trying to make a rebound, but getting out of bed can be so very hard to do.
Susan’s bestselling book of humor, Not Tonight Honey, Wait ‘Til I’m a Size 6, is now in its seventh printing. Her book, Don't Sleep with a Bubba, was A Book of the Year winner, and Dishing with the Kitchen Virgin is her best-selling collection of hilarious culinary disasters with a dash of PG-13 humor and a smidgeon of sex. All were published by Kensington in New York City.
Susan spent ten years working on Chimes From a Cracked Southern Belle. Let me tell you: if you take a bite out of this book, you’re not going to be able to stop. A bite is like a petit four. You’re going to want the whole cake. The novel was the focus of our conversation.
Elaine: You've done four, very successful non-fiction books and a serial novel with several other Western North Carolina writers. What was the spark for Chimes?
Susan: I come from a wonderful but kooky line of fabulous storytellers and close family. The mother in the novel, the one who always throws out a Proverb with her own moral attached, is loosely based on my own beloved mom who likes to pretend, in her mind, we’re still virgins. The premise of the novel actually happened in my town many years ago. A young woman married to a preacher was mowed down by him in his church van, then stabbed with Phillip’s screwdrivers, but she survived and went on to live a great life. The book is upbeat and doesn’t focus on the near-murder, but more on the loveable and outrageous characters who get her life back on track.
Elaine: You now have at least two book jackets with women on their heads down and bottoms up. Talk about that a bit.
Susan: That’s funny. I just realized that. The first jacket was done by my publisher in New York a few years ago. That shot was of a woman with a firm ass in “Granny Panties.” My cover for Chimes from a Cracked Southern Belle is actually of me, disguised to a degree. I thought the cover looked like a real bell, the way the dress sort of balloons out. I also had the photographer photo-shop some cellulite off my right leg. I held a contest with various possible covers, and my readers and friends chose the upside shot.
Elaine: You’ve said one thing you couldn’t do without is girlfriends. In CFACSB, does Dee survive through her girlfriends?
Susan: I, personally, couldn't survive without my girlfriends, the laughter, compassion and understanding they
bring. But Dee, the main character, is just trying to move forward after the near-murder, and is finding
friendships in the unlikeliest places, such as through the women in the nursing home where she works, and even
the in the company of her out-of-control mother and way-kooky Aunt Weepie. It is the love of
these women, and a special someone from her past, who lead her to the joy she knew she'd one day discover.
Elaine: Most writers have schedules. When do you write, given that you have a full-time job as a journalist and have two children and your husband lives in another city?
Susan: I get going around 11 p.m. and write until about 2 a.m. After taking my daughter to high school, I usually go back to bed for a couple hours, then get up and do my “day job.” I’m a vampire in that my blood flows better after midnight.
Elaine: Your writing has been so well received. What books have most inspired your writing and your style?
Susan: I first fell completely in love with Anne Tyler. My favorites are Ladder of Years and The Accidental Tourist. I also decided to write humor after reading A Confederacy of Dunces, which won the Pulitzer after the author’s suicide. To date, that’s my favorite book. But I read just about anything: Memoirs, literary fiction, chick lit, non-fiction, classics. Being well-rounded by what I read, I think, helps a writer.
Elaine: How did the Sarah Palin imitation evolve?
Susan: The day she was all over the news for being the vice presidential candidate I happened to be in Dillard’s. The women at the Lancome counter all pointed and whispered. They asked me if I was Sarah Palin. I’m asked that all the time when I wear my hair up and put on glasses like hers. I then decided to learn to impersonate her voice and style, a skill I’ve had since childhood, learning to mimic others. It’s one of those strange talents I have, like still riding at unicycle way into middle age.
Elaine: You say you only do yoga in full lipstick. Are beauty tips and products featured a lot in your writings? Why
do most Southern women fret over such things?
Susan: My mother always had tons of lipsticks. Back then, you couldn’t return them if the color didn’t suit you. My lips are so pale, that I don’t feel alive and happy unless I slap on some lipstick. I have an addiction, but luckily, I have a CVS discount card and get the buy-one-get-one-free deals when I need my fix. It’s like “lip crack,” not that I do crack, mind you. I have a lot of “Southern” friends who don’t wear lipstick. They decorate themselves in tattoos instead. Asheville is the funky Tattoo City of America. I’m not ready to go that route, even though on some it’s rather attractive. I bought some fake tattoos with my book cover on them and plan to give them out with lots of other fun book “swag” like funeral home fans and fridge magnets.
Elaine: What was your biggest moment as a writer, that moment you thought: "Maybe I have arrived?"
Susan: I’m still waiting…
Susan Reinhardt is the author of the hilarious and quirky novel Chimes from a Cracked Southern Belle, along with Not Tonight Honey, Wait 'Til I'm a Size 6, Don't Sleep with a Bubba, and Dishing with the Kitchen Virgin.