The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Randy Susan Meyers: Why I Write

April 04, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Although it’s been well over a year since Randy Susan Meyers debuted with her international bestselling novel The Murderer’s Daughters (see presentation/review), her writing continues to inform/enlighten in Beyond The Margins — a multi-writer blog, a sounding board, a daily dose of essays on the craft of writing — and The Huffington Post.

In today’s guest post, the author explains the need to share emotional truth in all her writing and also provides a glimpse of a second novel to be published in January 2013.]

Why I Write

When I was a kid, nothing was better than listening to my Aunt Thelma’s stories. She’d take humiliating awful situations and transform them into eye-popping, comic-tragic tales. Her pain was our gain.

Stories bang around my head and crowd my mind. I’m stuffed with ‘what if’ and ‘why did s/he do that?’ As a child, I made twice-weekly trips to the library. Writers were gods to me, purveyors of that which I needed for sustenance. Food. Shelter. Books. Those were my life’s priorities.

As an adult, I still feel that way. I’m constantly foraging for books that offer glimpses into a character’s psyche, that go deep enough to make me part of the choir, saying, “Oh yeah, me too, tell it, writer. True that, uh huh.”

As a writer, I’ve learned that reaching deep isn’t always comfortable. (My daughters will read this! My husband will think I’m portraying him!) And, honestly, there is a place on my shelf for soothing books. Sometimes I want a comfort read, a total escape, a warm place to rest. But my favorite books, the ones I return to time and again, are those gritty enough to have emotional truth (which is very different than the truth of events.) Thus, I work to write with a knife held to my own throat, so that my work will hold as much emotional truth as possible.

Do writers of dreadful happenings all come from dysfunctional families? I wrote a book that begins with two sisters who witness their father murder their mother and goes on to explore the myriad ways this event shapes their lives. Did my father kill my mother?

No. But he tried, and my sister and I were there. My sister let him in (after being told ‘don’t open the door for your father’) and somewhere in the background I stood, a silent four-year-old. Did that shape my work? I’m quite certain it did. Even though it is only the first chapter that holds my family DNA, the ongoing emotional tenor and the themes are all ripples from my past: invisibility, abandonment, neglect—much that was drawn on.

My next book, coming out in January 2013, The Comfort of Lies tells the story of three women connected by one small child: one gave birth to her, one’s husband fathered her, and one adopted her. The year their lives collide, they’re forced to make decisions about the child, their marriages, and face the damages of infidelity.

Did I give a child up for adoption? No. Did I adopt a child? No. But I struggled with issues of infidelity in ways that allowed The Comfort of Lies to come alive in my mind (and hopefully on paper.)

How does this happen, this weaving of truth and imagination? Does it always happen? One wouldn’t know without x-raying each writer’s past, but it’s a question I wonder about when reading my favorite books. What was that writer tapping into when they brought such depth to the page? Can a wrenching book be written without the writer taking a visit to their depths?

For me, writing transmogrifies fact into fiction, and thus, soothes my soul.

I used to play a song for my daughters, from Free to Be You and Me that swore that crying got the sad out of you. That’s kind of what writing does for me—it gets the sad, the mad, and the glad out of me.

Writing calms me. Writing excites me. Writing sorts out my world.

And writing lets me tell stories. Just like Aunt Thelma.

* * * * *

Enjoy much more of Randy on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Randy Susan Meyers’ The Murderer’s Daughters

January 18, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

Murderers Daughters
Randy Susan Meyers debuts tomorrow — Tuesday, January, 19, 2010 — with her highly anticipated and widely acclaimed novel, The Murderer’s Daughters. And, while a poignantly bittersweet cover depicts the title’s characters running alone across a boardwalk, please know that their steps are only the beginning of a 30 year journey of accepting the past and moving on to the future.

For as the back of the Advanced Readers’ Edition proclaims:


The Praise for The Murderer’s Daughters includes:

“Randy Susan Meyers’s sensitive story about the legacy of domestic violence is painful to read at times, but unforgettable. Meyers delivers a clear-eyed, insightful story about domestic violence and survivor’s guilt in “The Murderer’s Daughters.” It’s an impressively executed novel, disturbing and convincing.”—Boston Globe

“Meyers’ empathetic, socially conscious debut considers the burdens carried and eventually shed by two sisters, survivors of domestic violence. Ten-year-old Lulu and eight-year-old Merry are caught up in adult turmoil when their father murders their mother in July 1971. Over the subsequent three decades, Lulu feels ineradicable guilt for letting him into the apartment that day and takes on the responsibility of protecting her sister. Eminently readable . . . with affecting moments and insights.”—Kirkus Review

“Mesmerizing…empathetic…Meyers explores the bond between two sisters…and how their bond is tested by the reappearance of the past.”—Jenna Blum, author of Those Who Save Us.”

In The 7 Question Interview with Randy Susan Meyers, the author — when asked if there is something she would like to say to her readers — states:

“Yes, more than anything, I hope The Murderer’s Daughters provides a page turning and
thoughtful read. I hope the “what ifs’ in the story engage readers. I believe that I have
a covenant with them, to provide a story that is honestly and deeply written and which
is meant to touch, and to entertain, and inform them.”

And very personal “what if’s” are why Randy wrote the book:

“When my sister was eight, my mother warned her against letting my father into our Brooklyn apartment. Perhaps she also cautioned me, but I was barely five and can’t remember. Years later, as adults, when my sister and I began exploring our childhood in the way siblings do-comparing scars and recollections, piling up wrongs and shining up the funny stories-my sister said:

‘”Remember when I let our father in the house and he tried to kill Mom?”‘

“She swears I was there (where else would I be at that age?) but I didn’t remember any of it. As the years went by, and my sister fed me more details, the scene rooted in my mind and became my memory also. I heard my father sweet-talking his way in. My mother’s screams echoed.”

Please read the entire Backstory.

That backstory evolved into this synopsis:

Lulu and Merry’s childhood was never ideal, but on the day before Lulu’s tenth birthday their father drives them into a nightmare. He’s always hungered for the love of the girl’s self-obsessed mother; after she throws him out, their troubles turn deadly.

Lulu’s mother warned her to never let him in, but when he shows up, he’s impossible to ignore. He bullies his way past ten-year-old Lulu, who obeys her father’s instructions to open the door, then listens in horror as her parents struggle. She runs for help and discovers upon her return that he’s murdered her mother, stabbed her sister, and tried to kill himself. 

For thirty years, the sisters try to make sense of what happened. Their imprisoned father is a specter in both their lives, shadowing every choice they make. Though one spends her life pretending he’s dead, while the other feels compelled to help him, both fear that someday their imprisoned father’s attempts to win parole may meet success.

The Murderer’s Daughters is narrated in turn by Merry and Lulu. The book follows the sisters as children, as young women, and as adults, always asking how far forgiveness can stretch, while exploring sibling loyalty, the aftermath of family violence, and the reality of redemption.

You may also read Chapter 1.

Minor *spoiler alert*: For those hesitant that this novel may prove too dark and/or violent, please be assured that all the physical violence is contained in Chapter 1. In a sense that first chapter acts as the novel’s backstory — the unthinkable has been committed and now it’s the daughters’ story of surviving the consequences.

This is a gorgeous novel — with breathtaking writing — about one of the most vile of all crimes. Often described as an “act of passion,” the killing of a spouse/partner ironically is in deed a love lost.

Consider how often newscasts or newspaper report such murders. How commonplace they have become, leaving us to sigh, shake our heads at “how sad,” and then to forget. Yet do your thoughts linger a bit longer when learning “the children have been taken in by family”, or are “in foster care?” That information is given to comfort, to let us know that the children are being taken care of…they’re safe, they’re fine.

What Randy Susan Meyers reminds us is nothing could be further from the truth. The guilt, shame and painful loss of both parents will last — in some degree — forever, affecting not only childhood but adulthood too. Lulu and Merry try to heal and hide from their emotional scars by coping in different ways, but neither can outrun the past. Only accepting what is as it is can ease their burden of being a murderer’s daughter.

Using her informed working background with batterers, domestic violence victims, and at-risk youth impacted by family violence, this debut novelist tells a sensitive and very genuine tale of intense pain, anger, and the challenge to lead a normal life.

Randy Susan Meyers writes with her heart about hope of the human soul. You’ll find that and more in The Murderer’s Daughters. Please take them home with you…

Book Giveaway: Yes The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of The Murderer’s Daughters to anyone who leaves a comment on this post and is selected in a random drawing. The deadline is Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EST. with the winner to be announced here in Thursday’s post.

The Revealing of Randy Susan Meyers

January 13, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

RSMlikeRandy Susan Meyers debuts next Tuesday, January 19, 2010 with The Murderer’s Daughters, a compelling, brutally honest, yet sensitive story about all the victims of domestic violence. A full presentation of the novel is scheduled to appear here on Monday, January 18, 2010 but, in the meantime, meet Randy in her official, two-sentence bio:

I’ve published short stories in the Fog City Review, Perigee: Publication for the
Arts, and the Grub Street Free Press. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and now live
with my husband in Boston, where I teach writing seminars at the Grub Street Writers’

And now here is Randy revealed:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Writing, reading, husband, children, granddaughter, sister, friends: happy.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: At my grandmother’s 98th birthday, we asked her what she thought the most important thing is life was. Her answer: “Be nice to people.” I can’t improve on that and live by her belief.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: My perfect happiness is having healthy and happy friends and family. Extra-perfect is having writing as my work. That is blessed.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: My greatest fear in life is anything happening to my children or granddaughter. Even writing it, I want to spit three times to keep away the evil eye!

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: I am very lucky, because I want to stay right where I am; this is a wonderful time in my life.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: That would be Anne Frank. She always believed life would get better, she worked to see the best in people—while also having and admitting to her dark thoughts—and she had a rich inner life.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: I have to say Hilary Clinton, because she rose from a battle she lost, showed grace, and is working under her former opponent with dignity, and doing a difficult job splendidly. Though it was a hard choice between her and President Obama—a man carrying the world on his capable shoulders.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases
A: When speaking it has to be ‘nice’—my daughters are always making fun of how I describe the ‘nice’ pie I made, and the ‘nice’ spaghetti casserole we’re going to have. When writing, I always highlight the word ‘was’ to weed out passive construction. My writing ‘tic’ is using the word ‘leaned,’ as in ‘she leaned forward’ – I have to watch out that my characters don’t becoming leaning machines.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: Singing! I have a brutally awful singing voice. I can get my husband to do something just by threatening to sing to him. Oh, can I have one more? I’d love to be able to fix things—mechanically or otherwise. I have no talent for tasks requiring spatial and three-dimensional judgment.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Raising two wonderful daughters with admirable moral compasses.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: Taking action without meditating on what I am about to do.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: My best quality may be the flip side of my greatest flaw: I can accomplish tasks very quickly. Although, hmm, I hope that perhaps kindness to people may surpass speediness being my top quality.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: I very much regret that I never truly knew my father. He died when I was nine.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: Can I say that I’d like to continue being me, but minus 15 pounds? As much as I rummage around my brain, I can’t imagine leaving who I am at this moment. I love everyone in my life too much to imagine them away. I know that sounds corny, but it’s where I am at this moment in time. Had you asked me this question at another time in my life, I could have listed a bazillion people I’d rather be.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: Listening very hard to what folks are saying and trying to connect to the people I meet.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: The protagonist of MOSQUITO COAST by Paul Theroux, a young boy becoming a man, who has to face down his father and rescue his family.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Ah, it’s the father of MOSQUITO COAST. He is so deeply entrenched in his own rightness—I think that can be the most enraging of traits.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: I am rather sports-impaired, so I draw from a shallow pool here. Perhaps it would be Michael Phelps, because he must reach into a deep place it seems to go that extra mile. My question would be: “what do you think of during those hours of practice?”

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Easy question! People feeling that rules do not apply to them (especially driving, and especially driving while on the phone.)

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Reading.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: I would love to imagine myself as a police officer or a surgeon. (It seems I never can pick just one.) I don’t think I’m suited to either one, but I’d love to walk in those shoes.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Being kind. Having a true moral barometer. Showing grace under pressure.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: It’s funny that this is the question stumping me. At first thought, it would be my family Thanksgiving stuffing. It even has vegetables in it. Then I tried to think of a more rounded out dish. Chicken soup? No, it has to be the Meyers Family Stuffing.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Lean on Me, Fly Me to the Moon, We Are Family, Aint No Stopping Us Now, Come Rain or Come Shine.

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp. Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty.

Randy Susan Meyers is truly Nice, kind, and full of grace. To get to learn even more of this giving, gifted writer, please follow her on Twitter and become a friend on Facebook.


Book Giveaway: Book Giveaway: For a chance to win a copy of Melanie Benjamin’s Alice I Have Been, please leave a comment on this post by 7:00 p.m. EST tonight. (Everyone — i.e. readers as well as authors — is welcome to participate.) The winner — chosen from a random drawing — will be announced here in tomorrow’s post.