By Alexandra Brothers, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter / September 15, 2023 Edition
Author Susie Taylor has made a home in Newfoundland where she can pursue her passion for writing.
Taylor, 48, was born in England but grew up in Ontario. In 2002, she and her partner, Colleen Soulliere, moved to Newfoundland and the couple have been living in the province ever since. What was supposed to be “a little adventure” to Newfoundland, turned into a lifelong stay. Apart from the practicality of staying in one place as recent university graduates, the province’s charm also compelled Taylor and Soulliere to make a home here.
“The landscape is just incredibly beautiful,” said Taylor. “I had always wanted to live by the ocean and then once I had the opportunity to do that, I couldn’t really imagine leaving.”
She and Soulliere decided to move to Harbour Grace once Soulliere finished her master’s degree at Memorial. “We had a little bit of money set aside and we kind of fell in love with the town and a house,” said Taylor. The couple have been living there for 15 years now.
Taylor started off as a visual artist, studying Fine Arts at the University of Guelph. When she first moved to Newfoundland, Taylor said, she planned to pursue a career in fine arts. However, this was a challenge. “The realities of home ownership made just buying the supplies to make art really difficult,” she said.
In need of a new, more affordable creative outlet, Taylor turned to writing.
“I’ve always been a reader,” she said, and since she already owned a computer, there was nothing in her way. “It turns out that I’ve just been far more successful as a writer than I was as a visual artist.”
Her success as a writer came fairly quickly. She was awarded the Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union (NLCU) Fresh Fish award for emerging writers in 2015 for her first manuscript called Dispelling the Myths. This manuscript was eventually published in 2019 as a novel entitled even weirder than before.
“The first thing I actually wrote was my first novel,” said Taylor.
This story is grounded in some of Taylor’s primary interests as a writer.
“I’m interested in women’s lives, and I’m interested in queer lives,” she said.
The novel was based loosely on Taylor’s teenage diaries. It chronicles “what it was like growing up in Ontario and sort of figuring out that you’re gay in the 90s —it’s a queer coming-of-age tale,” she said.
Taylor draws her inspiration from everything around her — from neighbourhood occurrences to newspaper stories to old memories. Her main source of inspiration though, is the people who surround her and the authors whose books she has read.
“There are many writers that have influenced me,” she said. “Newfoundland (has) an incredible community (of writers).”
Taylor has had the chance to interact directly with many of the local authors who inspire her, including Sharon Bala, Eva Crocker, Carmella Gray-Cosgrove, Diane Carely, and Lisa Moore. These writers have been “major supports,” she said.
Perseverance and passion are key to success as a writer, said Taylor.
“It’s hard to make money as a writer and there’s a lot more rejections than there are acceptances, so you really have to just keep persevering.” She said. On top of that, a passion for the art of writing is a must, she said. “You have to really love writing, if you want to be a writer. You can’t think ‘Oh, I really want to have a book,’ you have to love the actual process of writing.”
For those who are passionate enough about writing, the payoff can be immense, psychologically, if not always financially. Taylor likens it to running. “There is this sudden moment that will happen when you’re no longer aware that you’re doing it, but you’re just there in the moment and there’s kind of this magical thing that is happening, and that is my favourite thing about writing,” she said.
Since the publication of her first novel, Taylor has published a slew of short stories and poems in various literary journals. She is also working on another novel. Her latest project focuses on the growing addiction crisis that has been plaguing our society with a particular focus on how it is affecting rural Newfoundland. This book, called Vigil, is set to be published in spring 2024 with Breakwater Books.