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Category: Archive

Page Turner: Suzanne Strempek Shea

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

What is your latest book about?
There are two: “Shelf Life” is a memoir about my first year clerking at a 32-year-old family-owned bookstore, Edwards Books, in Springfield, Mass. Inspired by a job offer I had during a visit to Doolin, “Becoming Finola” is a fable-novel set in Ireland, about a woman who takes a summer job in a shop and in a way becomes the woman who worked there before her. Right now I’m writing a novel about a dog in need of a home. It was inspired by my canine friend Elvis, who was adopted through www.petfinder.com

What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions?
I write from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., when “The Young and the Restless” comes on TV. I have my lunch with them and when they leave I go back to the computer until four or five. It’s nice that I have a cute little desk with lovely view, but I was a reporter in busy newsrooms for 15 year,s so I can write next to a guy running a jackhammer. That skill comes in handy when I’m traveling. It also means that I can have music playing in the background, and this week it’s the Saw Doctors, Padraig Stevens, Elliott Murphy, Emily Maguire, The Barker Band and Willie Nile.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Sit down every day and do the work. Two words, two lines, two paragraphs. Make progress. You might not save it the next day, but the act is progress, is writing. This waiting for the muse stuff is just an excuse. If you really want to write – or do anything – you will find the time in your busy life.

Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure.
“Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life ” by Anne Lamott; “Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha” by Roddy Doyle; “The Bend for Home” by Dermot Healy.”

What book are you currently reading?
Three, actually: “Silver Bells” by Luanne Rice, “A Little Love Story” by Roland Merullo, and “Saturday” by Ian McEwan.

Is there a book you wish you had written?
I love scores of books and I can be as envious as the next person, but I’ve never had that wish. I’m thrilled to have written what I have.

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Name a book that you were pleasantly surprised by.
“Ted Williams: The Biography of An American Hero” by Leigh Montville. I’m not a baseball fan, but read this because I’m a Leigh Montville fan, and I truly could not tear myself away.

If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be?
I figure the live ones I can at least try to get to eventually, so I’ll answer with a phenomenal but dead one I’ve admired since high school: Ralph Waldo Emerson.

What book changed your life?
“Then She Found Me” by Elinor Lipman. I read this sweet and funny book, then wanted to meet the author, who doesn’t live far from me and who ended up offering to look at one of my first short stories, which, at 60 pages, was turning into something definitely longer. She ended up championing it to both an agent and an editor and it became my first novel, “Selling the Lite of Heaven.” Truly, she is an example of someone coming out of the blue to change a life. And I wouldn’t have met her had I not read her book.

What is your favorite spot in Ireland?
The cliffs behind my father-in-law’s house in Cahiratrant on the Dingle Peninsula. And, though they’re far from scenic, I’d also have to say the arrivals halls at Shannon or Dublin airports, for the electricity of knowing I’m about to start an adventure in one of my favorite places on earth.

You’re Irish if . . . You’re from Ireland.

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