Susan Keene Author

Reading gives you wings to fly everywhere and anywhere

Me and My writing

Posted on Sep 3, 2022 by   3 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

I went to Alton Senior High School in Alton, Illinois. We had a class of 542. Twelve months ago, Jim Rugh and Joanne McCalfe began putting together an alumni newsletter. I am honored to be spotlighted and I thought I would share it with you. I hope it will answer some of the author questions I recieve.

– Susan Rench Keene

Three months before our high school graduation my father, Eugene Rench, dropped a bomb shell. He didn’t believe in sending girls to college.

My original plan included living at home and attending Southern Illinois University, in Edwardsville. After my father’s announcement, I made a mad scramble to find financial help. I applied for no less than thirty scholarships.

The Wedding Cake Murder
An Arizona Summers Mystery book 1

Just in time for registration, a letter came informing me I had won the Joseph C. Pedon Award. It came with full tuition to Deaconess Hospital School of X-ray Technology in St. Louis and included a monthly stipend, and full room and board.

The prospect of being an X-ray technician did not excite me. My dream had always been to be another E.B. White or Harper Lee. I set my literary dream aside and went to school to learn a profession I had no interest in.

After graduation and passing my boards, I worked for five years as a staff technician at a hospital in St. Louis. I was offered a job at St. Louis County Hospital where I taught X-ray and Radium Physics, Anatomy and Medical Terminology, and tutored graduates who had a problem passing their boards. Only two students were younger than me.

Life changed when I met Ron Keene of Staunton, Illinois. We were married in 1968 and we had two lovely daughters, Molly and Diane. Molly died of breast cancer five years ago. She was District Manager of Dollar Tree Stores in St. Louis. She had three children.

Diane is thriving and is in management with Enterprise Leasing in Tulsa. She handles all of the accounts payable in South America and Europe. She is married with two children.

My last job in X-ray was at a major trauma

 center wh

ere I worked on the trauma team. Our team took care of all of the trauma cases in St. Louis and most of St. Louis County. I learned every way a person could get maimed or killed.

I reached the point where I wanted to wrap both my girls in bubble wrap and never let them leave the house. The lesson I learned from the experience was: it is possible to know and see too much. Anyone who has served in a conflict knows what I mean.

I began to bring my paranoia home and I knew I had to get out of the job and the

profession. Ron and I had a serious conversation. We mutually decided I should take a year off and write a book. I never worked as an X-ray technician again. I wrote a book, Tattered Wings, but no one was interested in putting it into print. With my tail between my legs, I set out to find a job.

Some friends wanted to open a pool hall and saloon. They hired me to open it and manage it until they could get a permanent manager. You would be surprised at how many people shoot pool and how many pool tournaments are around.

I met a man from Sears Contract Sales and was offered a job as a Sales Manager and I again ended up teaching; this time, sales technique and how to overcome objection. I stayed with Sears until I accumulated a pension. All the while I sold freelance articles to newspapers and periodicals. Back then along with small amounts of money, I got paid with postage stamps and contributor’s copies. In 1992, my marriage ended after twenty-five years.

Ron was a wonderful father and a horrible husband for me. I’m the first to admit people act differently with different partners. In our case, neither of us remarried.

We were a social couple, and I didn’t want to spend the next ten years explaining what went wrong with my marriage. I asked Sears for a transfer, and they offered me Idaho or Southwest Missouri.

I took the transfer to Southwest Missouri and bought seven acres in the country outside Ozark, Missouri. Eventually I wanted a bigger farm. A friend and I pooled our money and bought 100 acres neither of us could afford alone.

Always one to try anything. I opened a pickle factory with a friend. It was a huge success. We had a thriving enterprise until my friend died of breast cancer five years later. I sold the entire operation to the Amish. Some friends and I started a CSA at the new farm. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term: in a CSA people pledge support to a farm operation and share the risks and benefits of food production.

I worked at it until I had another heart-to-heart talk, this one with myself about how my life went forward every day but somehow my dream of being a published author got lost in the shuffle of raising kids and making a living.

I dusted off my first book, Tattered Wings, and published it. In 2018 Tattered Wings came out as an audiobook on Audible. You can download this from Audible for free. (Just ask me for a free code. There are a limited number so first come, first served.)

We built a small studio out behind the barn.  I write full time. I have written two series, The Arizona Summers Mysteries and the Kate Nash Mysteries. The Kate Nash Mysteries series includes Finding Lizzy Smith, Who’s Roxy Watkins? and The Untimely Death of Ivy Tucker. The Arizona Summers Mysteries includes The Wedding Cake Murder; Bonfires, Barbeques and Bodies; High Steaks Murder; and Mothers, Miracles and Mistletoe. These are considered Cozy Mysteries and I wrote them so they stand alone, You can read them in any order.

Now and then I write a stand-alone book such as Tattered Wings and The Twisted Mind of Cletus Compton. The second is dark and gritty, not my usual light-hearted cozy mystery fair.

Right now, I am writing two books at the same time, volume four of Kate Nash and the fifth volume of Arizona Summers. It isn’t as difficult as it sounds. I read what I wrote the day before and start from there. One day I work on one book and the next day I write on the other one.

It had been on my mind for a long time to write a series of children’s books based on my real-life dog Diggitty and things that actually happen here on the farm. My first children’s book was The Adventures of Diggitty the Dog. I wrote Diggitty on a legal pad in forty-five minutes in the dark with only a nightlight to guide my words (I was in a zone. I don’t think I could do it again). I have written two more Diggitty Dog books and a more serious book: We Are Not So Different After All, which teaches kids that while they may look, walk, or dress differently than classmates, all people are alike in more ways than they are different. I want kids to realize that the ways they differ from their friends is what makes them who they are.

I sometimes find myself hurrying to finish a book because I am about to miss a publishing date. I think much faster than I can type so I have a habit of leaving out letters and words. My sister, Sandra Rench Fox, who was a professional editor for the literary magazine, The Forum, at The University of Texas at Houston, was my number one editor. She fixed everything before I sent it to the editor at the publishing company.

I’m President of the O

zarks Area Mystery Writers, known as Sleuths, Ink. All of my books have made the best seller list, on Amazon.

Three or four times a year I teach a class on How to Write a Cozy Mystery. I love doing it.

The University of Missouri came to our local garden club with the news they were remapping the Trail of Tears from beginning to end. During their project, they determined t

he Trail ran through my farm. It set me on a path to study the history of the farm and trace it and the area back to before the Native American Removal. My house sits on what was once the Old Wire Road (known back then as the Wire Road). It followed an old Native American route, the Great Osage trail across the Ozarks and became a road along 

a telegraph line from St. Louis to Fort Smith, Arkansas.

The house sits on the original path of that road. Years ago, someone bulldozed a house down between my house and the road and I find household items, horseshoes and buttons from military uniforms. I bought a metal detector and when the weather is right for it, I run it all over the farm.
I want to eventually treasure hunt the entire 100 acres. My three grandchildren, eight dogs, six cats, six sheep, a ram, forty head of cattle, five horses, four donkeys and a seven-acre orchard with about 240 trees, kept me busy.

I’ve had a setback this year. I hurt my back and spent from October of last year until January of this year in bed. I was up less than a month when someone moved a step I have for my dog to climb up on the bed. I tripped over it and destroyed my elbow. Surgery was extensive and I have new metal parts.

My goal from now on is to stay on my feet. I had to give up working on the farm.

3 Responses to "Me and My writing"

Comment by Karen LePere
September 3, 2022 5:53 am

Thanks for sharing your story. Especially
Liked the part about the Trail of Tears.

Comment by Shirley McCann
September 5, 2022 3:37 pm

This is great that your school did this for you. Now your classmates know how important you are.

Comment by Bonnie (Kantner) Schmitt
February 25, 2023 5:23 pm

I have to ask. Do you remember Donna? She’s 90. I loved you so much as a child. You came with news of expecting your first child. You taught me wit and laughter to our house of 5. I’m your cousin. (Bonnie) so proud after reading this. Yes, stay on your feet. Know all of us remember you. God bless.

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