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My debut novel is done. For real this time.

Updated: Feb 12

I’m so happy you’re here! And frankly, I’m happy I’m here, too. Being here, right now is part of my big dream coming true.

Do you love stories about instant success, people who dream it up one day and possess it the next?

Then my story isn’t for you. This is more of an underdog tale, a touch-and-go bender where the parameters of success are bent to suit me, stamina scores extra bonus points and redemption is the prize. It’s also a story about how a pair of capable kids learn how to make lunch for themselves (and more importantly, shut the stove off!) and to temper their excitement at yet another proclamation that their mother’s book is done. Again.

I’ve always been a writer. I started my first book when I was seven years old, featuring two dramatic friends named Brittany and Heather because, hey, it was the 80s. I started my second book when I was in my mid-twenties. I got about 150 pages in before I realized it was putting me to sleep as I wrote it (or maybe that was the pregnancy).

So just before our second child was born, I started a blog. What began as a family blog morphed into musings on motherhood and life. I wrote it for a decade until the juice leaked out when my kids grew, wanted their privacy and to tell their own stories. Rightly so. It was time for me to embark on something that was more mine.

A novel.

book with its pages fanned out

But before I could do that I needed to get myself out of the hole I was in. It was September 2015 and I sat on my patio banging on my laptop and trying to scrape my deflated self off the flagstone with a shovel made of words. It was one of those days when the air is cool but the sun is warm, and the leaves are a shade of gold so luminous it is as though the woods have been lit from within.

I was beyond depleted, having spent the prior year homeschooling and tending to one of my daughters through a particularly rough patch of her life. Caring for her had become my full-time job and, at that moment, all I had to show for it were the newly deepened grooves across my forehead and the fact that she was currently seated at a desk in a fifth-grade classroom at “real” school. (Total respect for homeschooling families. Hats off to you. Gold stars all around. For me it was HARD.)

She was thriving and I felt like I was dying. My insides empty and my future foggy, I was lost. Each morning I would open the living room curtains as the sun lightened the sky. Each evening I would pull them back across as darkness descended, a single, resounding thought echoing in me. What was the point?

I was full of tasks and starving to death.

We were also in the process of selling our house and relocating to a temporary living situation while we built our new home. Everything was shifting. I could find nothing solid to hold on to. Everything around me seemed as unfastened as I was.

Except for words.

I tapped away on my laptop there in the September sunshine, giving voice to my fears and needs and questions about being a mother, being a woman, being a human. It was a door cracked open, a hushed truth uttered.

I wasn’t sure what it meant to confess these unglamorous parts of motherhood, this ripping fear of having run empty and having nothing left to give my children, myself or my life.

But I was equally unsure what might happen to me if I didn’t.

Over the next months, a story started to form, telling itself to me, whispering as night surrendered to dawn and eventually barging into my waking hours until I had no choice but to write it. 

It was a story about a woman named Charlotte, a mother of two tormented by a secret about a tragedy in her past. The loss had cost her everything, including her relationship with her mother, the only person who shares her secret. Crippled by regret and loss, Charlotte feels trapped and incapable of mothering her children; she wonders if she would have been happier if she hadn’t become a mother. Through the wave of my writer’s hand, she gets to live her alternate life, to explore the path she didn’t choose.

I wrote this story as we packed up our house and said goodbye to the only solid home I had ever known. I wrote before the sun came up and in between my massage clients. I wrote from the parent viewing room at gymnastics and in the car with the heat blowing on my feet in the middle of winter.

I wrote between bites of my lunch. I wrote in between trips to Home Depot, appointments with kitchen designers and endless internet searches of lighting, faucets and flooring. I wrote in my head as I zig-zagged through town as a Mommy-Uber.

I wrote at Starbucks, sipping Americanos and free coffee refills until my hands shook and my kids actually thought I was a paid Starbucks employee.

Writing this book became my life raft. It, like me, was anchored to nothing, but together we floated, bobbing in an uncertain sea, trusting the current pulling us. I had no idea where I was going but knew for sure I must go.

Twenty-one months later, in June of 2017, we moved into our new house and my book was complete. At 405 pages and 205,000 words, it was a beast. And I was restored. I had filled myself full, word by word, page by page. Charlotte had figured out her life and I, more or less, had figured out mine.

I tipped my glass to my wife’s in the sinking afternoon sun and as we climbed into our bed in our new house and watched the indigo sky trace itself around the tall pines outside our window, this I knew: my book had saved me.

You don’t hear of people dying from lack of purpose or creative famine, but I would wager it happens all the time. Perhaps these are the precursors to the big-ticket medical diagnoses, a slow bleed of meaning from a soul. A crisis that plays out across the canvas of the body. A search for solutions that fix the wrong problem.

Writing was my medicine.

A few trusted readers gave feedback and I edited and revised two drafts with their suggestions. I shared version three with twelve beta readers in December of 2017 and synthesized their feedback into version four. (A HUGE thank you to all my amazing readers!) Though I had researched publication, I had somehow missed this shocking bit of industry advice: a debut novel should not exceed 90,000 words. Writers are often told they must “murder their darlings”. In my case it was an absolute massacre.

I started submitting version five to agents in the spring of 2018. I had two agents request my manuscript (huge!) but ultimately pass on representation. Their feedback was very helpful – if a bit painful- and shaped rewrite six.

My girls have grown up around my pursuit, stunning me with the weed-like nature of their bodies to lengthen and lean toward the sun. I have continued the plate-spinning of motherhood and my work as a massage therapist, ducking the question “How’s the book coming?” while relishing the fact that anyone remembered I was funneling my soul into a story that seemed to have no end.

Last winter, a dear friend read version six (105,057 words, 246 pages) and said, “I really like your writing, but I feel like you didn’t trust your characters or yourself enough.” She was referring to a heavy-handed plot, the one that was born on my patio that day, and the structure I had built to make such a plot happen.

I went home, deflated and unmoored, unsure how to proceed. If I changed the structure, the book would bear no resemblance to itself. In fact, the entire premise and theme would change. How much was okay to give up and still have it be mine? What if I lost the essence of the story?

But what if this was exactly what I needed? What if this was the call to dive deeper? And what was the cost of not answering?

No one can make these decisions for a writer. In the end, like at most major intersections in life, we must search ourselves for the answers. I could not change my book because my friend thought I should. I could only try on her idea and see if inspiration grabbed me.

And this, friends, is my favorite part of being a writer. It is sitting in that empty space of not knowing, of no thought, no idea, no creative impulse and waiting for it to come. I used to rail against this space, but it is essential enough to the process that I can forgive the discomfort and instead, bow in reverence to the emptiness. Because only in emptiness do we have space to be filled.

In this way, writing for me is an exercise in trust. Trust in myself, in my instincts, in this rope that will swing me to the next tree and the next across the wild jungle. It is very much a “leap and the net will appear” approach. One that has served me in my craft as well as in my life.

And just like that, the whispers began again. I was walking my dog when Charlotte barged through my consciousness and demanded to be heard. She didn’t want a different life anymore. She wanted to resolve the tragedy in her past and find her way back to her mother.

She, like me, no longer felt she had chosen the wrong life for herself. It was the pain beneath that impulse that was the real story. Hers and mine.

Then Charlotte’s mother, Myra, barged through. She didn’t like how I’d characterized her by only her anguish and brokenness. She wanted me to show her as she had been before and explain how she became the hardened woman she had. She wanted to tell her side of the story.

(Here’s a part of fiction writing worth clarifying: hearing voices is a good thing.)

I rolled up my sleeves and got back to work. Who am I to deny a character her story? Who am I to deny my own?

COVID hit and I closed my massage practice, a move I knew was coming eventually but suddenly seemed right. What came next was magic. I was swept up in the seventh and eighth rewrites of this book. I canceled everything and silenced my phone. We ran low on food, I slept little, the house got very dirty and I mostly stopped cooking dinner as I sat and wrote for so many hours that two different chairs are now imprinted with the curve of my bottom. The kids learned to feed themselves (and sometimes clean up), fold their laundry and be picked up late.

I cut more than half the book and wrote an entirely new half from Myra’s perspective. I had a deadline for an agent pitch and a novel contest at the end of September (2020) and I chugged through August, wondering how I would ever finish on time.

I decided to trust the magic.

It’s weird but true - often authors don’t really know what their book is about. I can tell you that it took five years and eight versions for me to truly understand the story I was telling. And it wasn’t just that the story changed.

It was that it was waiting, all along, for me to find it.

My book is called The Silver Loop. Here’s a little jacket copy for you:

When a tragedy shatters their family, Charlotte and her mother, Myra, are torn apart by a shared secret – the truth about who is responsible for the death of Charlotte’s little sister when she is three years old.

Myra’s story begins three years before the accident when she is a young mother of two, struggling between the pressures of being both a good mother and a good attorney. When a once-a-career case falls on her desk, she takes it, falsely believing she will have plenty of time to mother her children. Charlotte’s story unfolds in the years after the accident, as she attempts to bury her guilt and reinvent herself as an adult. But when the demands of motherhood weaken the barrier between past and present, Charlotte’s fears of being an incompetent mother distill down to one echoing certainty - a mother’s job is to protect her children, even if the enemy she must destroy is herself.

As Myra and Charlotte’s stories converge in the present, they are forced to face the truth about their past or lose each other for good. The Silver Loop is a story about the toxic power of a secret, the depth of a mother’s love and how the stories we believe shape our lives, whether true or not.

The agent I pitched at the end of September requested the entire manuscript. Very exciting! The next steps are an offer of representation by an agent who will then sell my book to a publisher. Though these pieces are still unfolding, I feel like I have already succeeded. Because, though it will feel amazing to see my book in print, I doubt it can compare to the transformative journey that brought me here.

For that reason, I’m already living my dream.

The Silver Loop started at 205,000 words and 405 pages. Today it is 97,000 words and 213 pages, and almost all of those original words are gone. In five years, I’ve written not one, but EIGHT books. It just so happens that it was the same book each time.

This story has been my passion, my obsession, my catalyst. I cannot wait to share it with you.

book cover of The Silver Loop by Suzanne C. Carver

***If you see any errors on this site, they are 100% my fault and not a reflection of my best intentions. I know as much about website creation and coding as I do about the foreign policy, becoming a Tik Tok influencer or plumbing a sink. Also, give me a heads up! Chances are I have no idea.

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