Susan Surman: From Actor to Writer

Susan didn’t intend to be a writer. She trained to be an actor and, as Gracie Luck and Susan Kramer, Boston-born Susan had a 25-year career in London’s West End, The Fringe in Edinburgh, and the Sydney Theatre Company at the Sydney Opera House.

Her transition from acting to writing came about in the 70’s. She was in rehearsal for a TV show and, with her lunch in a brown paper bag, had to take the train from Waterloo Station in London to a church hall in the countryside. That same week, she was to meet a producer about a screenplay she had just completed. She was picked up at her flat by a chauffeur-driven, white Rolls Royce and taken to lunch. Writing was where it was at, she decided.

Susan Surman

In between acting gigs, Susan wrote screenplays, plays, and revues, some of them optioned, some of them produced. Her first book, Max and Friends, was based on a cartoon about a rabbit that she had written years earlier in Australia.

Her next book was about a dog, Sacha: The Dog Who Made It to the Palace, inspired by her own dog’s visits to Buckingham Palace with a friend who was the royal florist. Susan offered a copy to the Queen Mother, an offer accepted by one of her staff, with specific instructions as to what time she was to arrive at the Palace, which door she was to use. Susan says that when she herself “made it to the Palace,” she went by bus to a side door, but still . . . A few days later, she received a thank-you note: “Her Majesty was interested to learn that the book tells the story of Sacha’s adventures that finally led the little dog to meet Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.”

Susan’s later novels have people for characters, not animals, and draw upon her extensive travels and her show biz experiences. Acting proved to be great training for her writing – learning to “be” someone else, to imagine that person’s life before she comes on stage, to know what she is thinking, why she moves and talks as she does. Dancing at all the Weddings, her latest book, follows an actress for 28 years from Boston to New York to Hollywood.

Our first meeting was over lunch, and we didn’t stop talking until mid-afternoon. When it became obvious that the restaurant would like to get rid of us, we walked across the street to a park. A cool May day, so we sat down on a bench in the sun. And immediately stood up, both of us laughing uncontrollably. We had never intended to be “old ladies” sitting on a park bench in the sun. We’re thinking now of collaborating on a play in which that stereotype is challenged.

 

 

 

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