When I last blogged in February 2015, I thought I was back to posting on a regular basis. But then … career and life happened.
In some ways, saying career happened seems contradictory because in the world of book publishing we’re asked to blog. In fact, many literary agents tell us that the number of blog hits we get—as well as the number of Twitter followers and Facebook fans we have—influences publishers to buy or pass on our manuscripts. And if they do decide to buy, then the number of our blog hits, Twitter followers, and Facebook fans affects how much publishers will pay us for our books.
Sometimes, though, when we’re working so hard on our books, we just flat don’t have the time or physical, mental, and spiritual energy to write anything beyond our books. At least that’s true for me.
Last February, i.e. the last time I posted, I was under frantic deadline updating and rewriting Breaking Point and The Fortune Hunter–two true crime books that were first published in December 2001 and 2004, respectively.
Breaking Point is my book about Andrea Yates, the Houston mother who drowned her five children. It was published just before Andrea’s first trial, which I covered every day but one. (I missed that one day because—at my publisher’s request—I was in New York to tape the Sally Jessy Raphael show.)
Since the day I signed the Yates book contract in the summer of 2001, my dream, my goal, my wish, my desire was to tell Andrea’s full story by detailing my coverage of her 2002 trial. In late 2014, Diversion Books offered me that opportunity. Soon thereafter, Dr. Lucy Puryear, who was the defense’s expert psychiatric witness, agreed to open her Yates files to me. I am the first and only reporter who has ever had access to her files.
Between Dr. Puryear’s files and my trial coverage, as well as phone and email interviews with others pertinent to Andrea’s case and life, I added a 20,000+ word update to the book’s original 80,000 words.
The Fortune Hunter is my book about Steve Beard, a Texas millionaire who lived just minutes from my (then) home and who was murdered by his wife Celeste and Celeste’s lover, Tracey Tarlton. It’s a case that I followed from the first day it hit the local newspaper in 1999 because of its psychiatric angle—Celeste and Tracey met in a psychiatric facility—and because Tracey had been the manager of my favorite bookstore, BookPeople in Austin.
Years before I signed the contract on The Fortune Hunter, even before I signed the Yates contract, I pitched the Beard case to my first publisher. They made me an offer, but my then agent encouraged me to turn it down, which I did.
Several years later, I was having lunch with a childhood friend, who said I’ve got your next book for you—Tracey Tarlton. I knew that friend from summer camp and she pointed out that Tracey had gone to our same camp. I knew then that I had to do the book. I also knew it would be the last true crime book I’d ever write, and, because of that, I wanted it to be the best true crime I ever wrote.
Alas, I screwed up. I allowed the book to be published before it was ready. And it justifiably bombed. Then Diversion offered me the opportunity to rewrite and update the book and make it a solid read. I took the opportunity, and—God willing—I’ve succeeded in making it good.
I pray that y’all will give The Fortune Hunter and me a second chance.
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“Suzy Spencer strikes gold with The Fortune Hunter — a brilliantly crafted and endlessly compelling true crime thriller, Spencer is among the best of the best.”—Burl Barer, Edgar Award-winning author
“Suzy Spencer’s The Fortune Hunter, a suspenseful, page-turning tale of bloody, Texas-style greed with a gripping narrative and colorful cast of characters, grabs you by the reins and doesn’t let you go until justice has its day.”—Caitlin Rother, New York Times bestselling author of Then No One Can Have Her
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Now on to life happened.
While updating and rewriting Breaking Point and The Fortune Hunter, I found out that a friend of more than 20 years was dying. In truth, we’d known that for 2.5 years. A couple of weeks before my book Secret Sex Lives: A Year on the Fringes of American Sexuality came out in 2012, she called and told me she’d been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.
Before you ask, she was a non-smoker. Anyone who has lungs–smoker or non-smoker–can get lung cancer. And for the record, since November is Lung Cancer Awareness month, lung cancer is the number one cancer killer of American women and men, exceeding the number of deaths caused by breast, colorectal, and prostate cancers combined.
By March of 2015, the cancer had spread. So as soon as I turned in my updated manuscripts, I flew to see my friend–Kathleen Greenwood. By then, she was in hospice. But my friend wouldn’t accept death, and because she refused to die, the following month, she was kicked out of hospice and placed in assisted living.
I flew to see her that month, too. We went to the beach. We ate pizza. We laughed. We depended on each other. I flew to see her again for her birthday. We celebrated her day. We ate pizza. We laughed, but not as much. She was going down fast, though we both refused to admit it.
The following month, I got the call. This time, it didn’t matter how much she wanted to live—and she did want to live—she was dying.
I’m not going to tell you the details, because I want to hold them in my heart and save them for my next book: Who Ordered the Wrinkle: How Lung Cancer Healed a Friendship. I will only say that with my friend’s illness and death, the last thing that’s been on my mind is blogging.
And right now, my dream, my goal, my wish, my desire is to focus my writing and physical, mental, and spiritual energy on that book, so I can’t promise that I’ll be back on here with a regular blogging schedule. I can promise that I’ll be working hard to write a terrific new book. And the meantime, I hope you’ll be content with the updated and rewritten editions of The Fortune Hunter and Breaking Point. Ironically, in 2001, Kathleen was working on her master’s degree in psychology and attended the Andrea Yates competency hearing with me.
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“In a world where a mother should be her children’s best protector, it is hard to conceive of someone like Andrea Yates. Suzy Spencer delves into the mind of a woman whose unspeakable murderous acts defy everything we know about human nature. Breaking Point is a truly spellbinding read.”–Aphrodite Jones, bestselling author of Cruel Sacrifice