Author Interview: Susan Wilking Horan
I'm so grateful to be part of the thriving #bookishcommunity on Instagram. I've met some truly wonderful people (writers and readers alike) on the platform. One of those lovely folks is talented, bestselling author, Susan Wilking Horan.
As an attorney and businesswoman, Susan has worked side-by-
side for the last 20 years with her husband Mark Fleischer, CEO of
family-owned Fleischer Studios -- owner of the iconic cartoon character
Betty Boop -- to catapult the beloved character from the worlds of
animation and Hollywood history into the real-life world of Betty fans in
58 countries around the globe.
I grew up watching Betty in syndication, so getting the opportunity to collaborate with Susan is really special. She's quite the busy-bee which, of course, I say with the utmost respect.
In addition to running the licensing and merchandising business of
Fleischer Studios, Susan is a survivor of three different cancers and
an outspoken advocate for health and wellness. Combining her degree
in Psychology with her survivor experience, Susan penned the Amazon
bestselling book The Single Source Cancer Course, co-authored the
number one bestselling book in Personal Growth and Spirituality
Unleash Your Inner Magnificence, and has contributed short stories to
Chicken Soup for the Soul, as well as several articles to a variety of
publications and organizations, including The Los Angeles Times, Aspire
Magazine, I Had Cancer and The David Lynch Foundation.
LQ: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
SWH: Actually, I never wanted to be a writer. I always thought with the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Baldwin, Stephen King, Maya Angelou, Jane Austen (not to mention, of course, Shakespeare, Plato, Socrates) and thousands of others, why bother? What could I possibly add? There’s nothing I could say that hasn’t already been said, in a much better way than I could ever say it. It always seemed like an exercise in futility to even imagine I could ever enter the sacrosanct realm of this literary world. For me, becoming a writer was an organic process that only took shape out of necessity, not personal choice.
LQ: Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
SWH: First-hand knowledge. I write non-fiction. I base my short stories on my personal life. I base my instructive and self-help books on personal experience. For example, my first 2 books were about cancer. Published in 2 volumes, the first was about prevention and the second was about survival. As a survivor of 3 different cancers, I was painfully aware of the lack of straight-forward, accurate information about cancer. And it wasn’t that there was not enough info out there, it was that there was too much info out there, fact mixed with fiction, an overload that can be much more confusing than the former. When one is diagnosed with cancer, time is of the utmost importance. When someone says, “You have cancer,” one does not have the luxury of time to research, investigate, compare and absorb the necessary information which allows one to make informed decisions. So, my goal was to write a book that covered everything anyone would need to know when facing a cancer diagnosis, and I titled it The Single Source Cancer Course, Volumes 1 & 2. I had already jumped through all the hoops, climbed over all the obstacles, and navigated all the pot holes, and my hope was that others could benefit from my experience and learn from my mistakes. Indeed, one of my favorite adages is a Chinese proverb that says, “To know the road ahead, ask those coming back.”
LQ: As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
SWH: Growing up in Wyoming and Colorado, I first wanted to be a cowboy. No, not a cowgirl. A cowboy. As a kid, I used to spend time on ranches and the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, and in those days, there were very few, if any, female ranch hands. I wanted nothing more than to ride horses over the prairie, go on trail rides, camp in the mountains, fish in the rivers, and take care of the horses and cows. And of course, in those days, in my pre-LGBTQ, transgender, politically, culturally, and socially correct child’s mind, I was under the impression that I would have to be a cowboy to accomplish that. So, that’s what I wanted to be.
LQ: Does writing energize or exhaust you?
SWH: Writing definitely energizes me. When I sit down to write, I can feel all the little ducks in my mind starting to line up in a row. Even on days when I’m tired or depressed, once I sit down and begin writing anything – a blog, a response to a colleague, a quote card – I begin to think more clearly. My mind becomes focused on the task at hand. When I write, I also become aware of a cadence, a rhythm, in my mind, which guides me in my choice of words and expressions. I can feel if the words fit properly, or if I need to change them. Of course, the more I write the more in tune with that I am. But experiencing this mental state is extremely satisfying and can energize my body, boost my mood and improve my perception even on the worst of days.
LQ: Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
SWH: I just try to be honest. Being honest is not being original. It’s just attempting to objectively see the facts or the evidence or the situation as it exists, and to record it accurately. I try to express that in clear terms and words a reader will understand. I have no idea if it’s what they want. I simply put it out there and hope that the thoughts, or explanations, or ideas make sense to someone and impact them in a positive way. It’s sometimes like cooking spaghetti. When you think it’s done, you throw it on the wall and see if it sticks.
LQ: Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
SWH: Of course. There are all kinds of writing. Some kinds involve passion and emotion, as when writing romance, mystery, or thrillers. Yet other kinds of writing require a keen eye, an objective viewpoint, and the ability to communicate in user-friendly terms, as when recording history, reporting a story, or explaining the newest I Phone instructions in the tech manual. In fact, for the latter kind, the author is required to remain objective without the intrusion of subjective emotion. True, some kinds of writing may not seem as sexy as others, yet they’re all important in different ways. They all communicate thoughts, ideas, emotions, experiences, or information designed to instruct and help readers understand concepts and the world around them.
LQ: What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
SWH: Good question! I first realized there might be something to this writing thing when I was 12 and won a poetry contest. This realization then remained dormant for a long time, however, until I became a little older and began writing letters to family members who lived abroad. I found that my words simply flowed easier from the “pen” than from my mouth. I was able to communicate better, be more descriptive, and be entertaining all at the same time. As an introvert, I would often become nervous and tongue-tied when speaking to others in person. Yet when writing, I experienced a freedom of expression that felt comfortable for me and proved effective with others. I’m reminded of a quote by the novelist and poet Margaret Atwood, in which she says, “A word after a word, after a word, is power.” The written word is indeed powerful because it takes the form of permanence on paper, in a book, online or in some other type of documentation. The spoken word can be forgotten, ignored or erased from memory. The written word takes on a life of its own and as a result, often grows in power.
LQ: What do you have coming next?
SWH: Right now, I’m working on a few things that are outside of my comfort zone. I’m basically a health and wellness advocate and my latest book, Betty Boop’s Guide to a Bold and Balanced Life, was a great romp through animation, classic cartoon characters, and the life lessons we find in both. It was a self-help book that was super fun to write, encompassing the themes of love, kindness, respect, courage, empowerment and, of course, health and wellness. Similar to my earlier books, this book was about personal development and improvement. Now, however, I’ve just finished two books about animals – dogs and cats specifically – written from a New Age perspective, which is a leap from the nuts and bolts, science and research path I usually follow. I also have plans to write a children’s book based on another cartoon character, which will focus on the relationship between humans and pets, and the life lessons we can all learn from one another.
Susan has been a guest speaker for radio, podcasts, cancer support and
women’s groups and is a Cancer Coach graduate of the Coaches
Training Institute. She is very active in the world of philanthropy as a
long-time supporter of the Los Angeles-based Motion Picture and
Television Fund, the Los Angeles Geffen Playhouse and the UCLA
Systems Health Care Board of Directors.
You can stay connected with her online at: