We had the good fortune of connecting with Susan McCauley and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Susan, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
I was born in Webster, Texas and raised in the Clear Lake area. So, boats and spaceships were a big part of my life growing up. My father had a few boats throughout my childhood. So time on the water, exploring the bay, and water rescue were ever-present. I also attended school with astronauts’ children, and one of my elementary school teachers was an astronaut’s wife. I actually grew-up in Nassau Bay, just across the street from the Johnson Space Center. So, the idea of travel and the potential for what is possible for humankind were always in my line of sight. I’m not entirely sure, but I think on some subconscious level, that was very inspiring to me.
I started writing at a young age. I began creating poems and short films in fourth and fifth grade. In fact, Charles Bolden, who later became the Administrator of NASA, took a poem I wrote for him into space. Charlie was a family friend, and an astronaut at the time. Him doing that really inspired and encouraged me. I felt like anything was possible.
While my career might not be where I expected it to be at this point in my life (as I’ve gotten older, I’ve definitely seen how our lives can take unexpected twists and turns), I still believe that. Nearly anything is possible if we strive to create our own opportunities and work hard enough.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I write a wide array of books and scripts ranging from a children’s picture books, to a spooky-fun middle grade series, to young adult paranormal and adult horror novels. It’s comical to me that I can write sweet, cute picture books, but can then turnaround and write some pretty disturbing stuff.
I’m proud of all my books, and I’m excited when I get good reviews from the trades and from readers. I especially love it when a kid comes up to me and tells me they can’t wait to read my next book. That makes all the challenges worth it.
Getting to this point in my career wasn’t easy, and it still isn’t. The arts are full of challenges, and the ever changing world of publishing and film/TV production definitely keeps me on my toes.
I’ve got a feature film I co-wrote with Academy Award winner, Barney Burman, in development with Cardinal Trio Pictures. We’re hoping that will be shot in 2023. I’m super excited about the fourth (and final, for now) book in my middle grade Ghost Hunters series. It’s called Ghost Hunters: Swamp Witch, and will be released in September 2022. In December 2022, my debut picture book, Trooper at the Beverly Hills Hotel, a sweet book about Hollywood super-agent Andrea Eastman and her dog, Trooper, comes out. Then I have the first book in a whole new upper middle grade historical fantasy series, Merlin’s Apprentice: The Mage, launching in January 2023.
So, I’ve got lots of school visits and book signings coming up, which is fun.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If calories weren’t an issue, we’d definitely have a nice meal at Brennan’s of Houston, grab some barbecue at Rudy’s, and get some Mexican food at Ambriza. We’d visit Old Town Spring and take a ghost tour with Old Town Spring Ghost Walk, grab a coffee or glass of wine at Trilogy Brew, have a scoop of ice cream at Popp’s, and get a bite to eat and one of the local spots. (I love Old Town Spring).
We’d also make a trip to The Woodlands to visit the Waterway, shops, and restaurants. We’d definitely make a trip to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and would likely hang out at my house and spend a bit of time in the pool. Finally, I’d convince them to try a taekwondo class with me and my son. We just got our black belts and wouldn’t want to miss any training!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are SO MANY people who have helped me on my journey as a writer that I can’t possibly mention them all here. So, I’ll go with those who have made huge and lasting impressions on me and my life.
I have to give a shout-out to actor Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park, Independence Day). I met Jeff when I was 19-years-old and working on a film. I was sitting near him on set when he was reading a script, and he asked me to read it with him. He liked my work and ended up inviting me to study acting with him at Playhouse West in North Hollywood. The experience I had studying there was life-changing, and has definitely made a huge impact not only on me as an actress and writer, but also as a person. And, possibly even more important, Jeff spoke to my parents while we were still on set. My parents always supported me, but at the time they were uncertain IF I should pursue a career in the arts and move to Los Angeles. After Jeff spoke to them, they really threw their support behind me. And the timing was perfect. I graduated from the Univeristy of Houston a couple months later, and then moved to Los Angeles.
As a graduate student, I met Robin Midgley at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Robin was a theatre/TV director and teacher. He is the first person who I felt truly understood (at its core) what I was trying to accomplish with my work as a writer. And even though my work wasn’t yet ready for publication or production when I met him, he saw and encouraged my potential. He believed in me and in what I was doing. I was devastated when he passed away in 2007. I still miss him.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had some wonderful critique partners who’ve helped me grow as a writer. But if I have to give shout-outs to a few people in particular, I’d have to thank my editor, Deborah Halverson, who is phenomenal, my friend Pat Cuchens, who just keeps reading everything I write. My friend Kaitlin Burks, is amazing, too. She helps me A LOT at book festivals and signings. And, of course, I have to mention my mom, Sandy Basso, my husband, Rick McCauley, and my son, Alex McCauley. My family puts up with my distraction when I’m consumed with a project, and my mom still reads nearly every draft.
Headshot by Tracey Ivy.