tepperSusan Tepper is the author of Deer & Other Stories and the poetry chapbook Blue Edge. Her work has appeared in Salt Hill, American Letters & Commentary, Green Mountains Review, Crannog, Poetry Salzburg, New Millennium Writings, Snake Nation Press and many other journals. Later this year Cervena Barva Press will release a book of her poems.

Q (Meg Pokrass) What story or book do you feel closest to?

World Without End by Francine du Plessix Gray had a profound influence on me. I wasn’t writing at all when I read that book, but I sensed myself in both female characters, though more so in the quieter, less flamboyant woman. It was a “triangle” story involving three long-term close friends, a man and two women. I read it ages and ages ago, but remember it centered around a trip they took on the Trans-Siberian Railroad through Russia. That book was a life changer for me, in that opened some window that wasn’t there before. I think it let in some sort of light.

Do you have a mentor?

For poetry I do, the poet Simon Perchik. His influence on my poetry has been extraordinary. First of all, he’s one of the nicest, smartest, least pretentious people I’ve ever known. His sense of humor is legendary. Simon just turned 86 and he’s still going strong. I consider him to be the greatest lyric poet writing in the English language today. And Simon has another book due out this year! I think it’s his 17th book.

How do you stay creative? What are your tricks to get “unstuck?”

I don’t get stuck. I didn’t start writing until rather late, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I’ve had a lot of different careers, and some were very hard jobs. When I sit down to write, it’s total nirvana. I discovered quite recently that writing for me is another form of travel, and I just love to travel.

What are your favorite websites?

Fictionaut is a wonderful site, I can’t get over the amount of terrific writing being presented. I’m not involved with the other networking sites. I should be, I know, but its a time thing and I’d rather spend it writing fiction and poetry. Most of the journal reading I do is hardcopy. I like holding the actual book, looking at the cover. It’s a very sensuous thing, holding a book.

What is new? What is next?

My collection Deer & Other Stories is my newest, it came out in the fall of 2009. Later this year I have a poetry book coming out. I also have three unpublished novels. The most recent one was completed last year. I’m hoping by some strike of luck that I’ll find a publisher for it. I may publish the first two novels small press, but that’s still up in the air. As for what’s next, I’m working on new stories all the time, and poems. And I’ve started a novel of linked stories, a first for me. Fun!

Do you write a lot when traveling? How does traveling influence your writing?

Actually I never write while I’m traveling. I’m insanely happy when I travel, and want to take in every aspect. But travel always has an enormous impact on me, and consequently affects what comes out afterward in the form of writing. I’m a sponge. When I come back from a trip, some details/aspects/place/characters often appear in the writing. And often I’m not aware of that until much later, perhaps it will hit me during revision, or even after the piece has been published. Then I’m like: Wow! So that’s what this piece was all about. I love not knowing what I’m going to encounter on a trip so I never do any travel “research.” I just show up there. It’s the same with my writing. No research, no outlines, no prior thinking. I just show up. I believe it was Woody Allen who coined that funny phrase about success, that just showing up is most of what success is all about. Well something like that– he said it better!

Tell us about your novels.

Oh, boy. My novels. I love my novels. Is it bad to say that? I don’t mean it in a bragging way. I love them like you love your offspring. I don’t have kids but I have 3 novels to love. I think it’s OK meant in this context. My first novel has never been published though it was shortlisted in a contest sponsored by Zoetrope nearly ten years ago. That brought some attention to that novel. It’s written in three points of view: a twelve year old boy, his sixteen year old sister, and their mom. The father split the family. He was a Vietnam vet, and had kind of a crack up and left them. He never appears in the novel, only in their minds and memories like a persistent shadow. The story takes place in a small community at the Jersey shore. I’m very fond of that novel. The second novel is written in close third-person, one pov. It is set in Philadelphia, and the narrator is a young woman who has recently lost her twin brother in a tragic manner. It’s all about that twin thing, which can be very mysterious. Of course things beside that occur in the story, and the ending is quite dramatic. (at least I think so!). My third novel, completed last winter, is a quirky “road novel” and also told third person, single point of view. The narrator is a Gulf War Veteran on the cusp of turning 50. He has been on disability since that war ended. He hooks up with four unlikely characters and the five of them travel by car to Colorado during winter. I had a blast writing this novel, and wrote it very differently than the others, in the sense that I would open “randomly” to sections, and just start reworking that particular part, just playing with it. Nothing was cast in stone and could be reworked any way it felt like going. I did the entire book that way, until spring. I may have kept working it, but the weather got nice and I wanted to be outside more. So it was done. But it was wild and fun to work like that! Totally without “the net.”

The Fictionaut Five is our ongoing series of interviews with Fictionaut authors. Every Wednesday, Meg Pokrass asks a writer five (or more) questions. Meg is an editor at Smokelong Quarterly, and her stories and poems have been published widely. She blogs at

  1. Gloria Mindock

    I enjoyed this interview. It was very informative.
    This is a great thing being done on Fictionaut.

    Meg did a wonderful job of interviewing you Susan.


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