Susan Wilson ’73
From at least the time she came to Eastern after two years and an Associate’s degree from Middlesex Community College, Susan (Hidler) Wilson ’73 knew what she really wanted to do was be a writer. It didn’t happen right away, and then it was a sidelight for a long while, but today Wilson can say that she’s an author.
Susan, a resident of Martha’s Vineyard for more than a quarter century, is now the author of nine novels and publishing a new one roughly every year and a half. The next, working title A Dog’s Best Friend, was well underway in the summer of 2015. Susan is best known for her stories reflecting the strong bonds between humans and their dogs and how canines support and sustain people in their times of travail. Her most successful book to date, One Good Dog, St. Martin’s Press, 2010, was on the New York Times best seller list for six weeks and has been optioned for film.
Being a novelist is “. . . really hard job and it’s a really fun job and it’s a really frustrating job, and it’s not like any other job in the world,” she said, then qualifying the statement a bit by saying it’s a little like being a sculptor, having a good concept and then chipping away at the raw material until it becomes art.
Susan majored in English in the two years she spent at Eastern, hoping to get to somewhere like the place where she is now. That was in the early days of Eastern’s transition from a teacher’s college to a public liberal arts university, though, and her advisors here got her to minor in Secondary Education as a practical job skill. She said there was one semester she was able to take nothing but English courses and she loved that.
As a woman entering the difficult early ’70s job market, she went from Eastern to a secretarial school in Connecticut to learn job skills like typing and shorthand. That helped her get a position with a Connecticut bank in the portfolio department, but she soon found herself writing for the bank’s newsletter.
“Everything I’ve ever done has always reflected back on a good education and an ability to put words together,” she said. “And every bit of writing that I’ve done has led me toward my ultimate goal of becoming a novelist.” It wasn’t until she and her family moved full time to Martha’s Vineyard that Susan was able to focus on developing her writing and over the past 20 years, the novels have come. The very first, Beauty, was made into a television movie starring Janine Turner, Jamey Sheridan and Hal Holbrook, with a result that pleased her more than is often the case with authors whose works are translated to film. “So many times you hear of “cinemutations,” but in this case Beauty the movie was every bit as I had imagined Beauty the book,” she says on her web site.
“I’m extremely grateful that I’m able to do this now as my only job,” she said, adding that she has been blessed with a certain success, “and it’s very sweet.”