Jan Surasky


KFAI Write On! Radio

I’m A Reader Not a Writer

What is the one book everyone should read?

The Elephant’s Journey by Jose Saramago.

Please tell us in one sentence only why we should read your book.

To take a journey in the shoes of a woman whose courage has echoed through the centuries.

Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects?

My novel Back to Jerusalem which is set along New York State’s southern tier in the 1970s will be published in 2013. I am working on a third novel.

What inspired you to become a writer?

I suppose all the beautiful books I have ever read.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I have always wanted to be a writer.

What’s one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?

Be true to yourself and your work.

What is your favorite quote?

“It is only with the heart one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”—Antoine de Saint-Exupery

What is your favorite food?


Which authors have influenced you the most?

All the authors of the many fairy tales I read as a child, Louisa May Alcott (“Little Women”), Frances Hodgson Burnett (“The Secret Garden”), as an adult Thomas Hardy, Ernest Hemingway, Sinclair Lewis.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.

Winning the Eric Hoffer award for commercial fiction, the very nice reviews the book has received, and the very kind feedback I received from readers who took the time to let me know how much they enjoyed the book.

Favorite place you’ve been?

Key West.

What inspired your last book?

Reading of Boudicca’s courage despite the tragic elements of her life.

What is your favorite smell?

The scent of a rose garden.

What things inspire you?

The beauty of nature, the kindness of strangers, the beauty of love, a small child’s happiness, understanding someone without the aid of language.

What is your favorite ice cream?

Peanut butter.

What is your favorite way to spend a rainy day?

Inside looking out at the beautiful rainfall. If pneumonia was not a risk, I would spend it outdoors barefoot dancing under the raindrops.

Luxury Reading Guest Post

Thank you for inviting me to your blog. My life before becoming a published author was interesting, at least to me, since that is what sets the scene for writing a book, especially fiction.

From my first memories, at least from third grade, I always knew I wanted to be a writer. I imagined a book in my head if the walls of the house my family was living in could talk. I was certain they would say something that no one else would ever have heard. My third grade thinking did not include the idea of universality.

But, I’m sure it was the librarian who spoke to my first grade class when we visited the local library to learn how to take out books who gave me my start in being in awe of what books could do. That wonderful librarian said that books are our friends and we must take care of them properly. Hearing that books could be my friends I was a regular visitor to that library and spent many of my grade school years bringing home the most wonderful books. I lived from cover to cover and that took me away temporarily from my childhood problems. I also thought there could be a life that included the world of Little Women, The Secret Garden, and one where handsome princes slayed dragons and rescued beautiful maidens and princesses. I still do, at least the grown-up equivalent.

However, the practical side of becoming a published author was much different. I had my share of menial jobs though high school and through college. I finished college with the idea of leaving home on the east coast and going to San Francisco (without a job) and getting a newspaper job. Not so fast. After a few months of yet more menial jobs I landed a job on a daily newspaper not writing but answering phones in the circulation department. Close. More twists of fate took me to a job in the editorial department, still menial (editing the movie log, etc.) but eventually to reviewing movies and books and a variety of entertainment writing.

From there I eventually returned back east, settled down to raise a family, free-lanced for national magazines and newspapers, writing some fiction, mostly non-fiction, mostly profiles about people. I also taught writing at area colleges and a great literary center. But, always in my mind was the idea of putting fiction into a book and so I did. I have finished a second novel which will be launched next year and I am working on a third.

I am gratified that I can have the type of communication through books that gave me so much pleasure as a child and even later on, only now it is in reverse. Books can move people, inspire people, change people’s lives, and even impact whole societies and change the world. They are certainly worth spending an afternoon with.

Sheila Deeth
Jan Surasky’s Dying Light Revealed

1.   Can you tell us the story behind the story. How did Rage Against the Dying Light come to be?

While I was researching an entirely different topic, I came across the entry on Boudicca to which I was immediately drawn. I was impressed with her courage and the beautiful and tragic life she had lived. I knew I wanted to tell her story.

2.   I have a great fondness for Boudicca. What was the most challenging aspect of writing Rage Against the Dying Light?

Imagining Boudicca’s story based on the very few facts available and trying to get it right was the greatest challenge. I wanted to do justice to the society and culture in which she lived. Also I wanted to depict the beautiful English countryside which so inspired her courage.

3.   What is the message you want readers to take away from your book?

I hope readers will be inspired by Boudicca’s courage and I hope they will enjoy and appreciate living in, if only for a short time, the culture that she loved and that inspired her.

4.   How would you describe your background?

I have worked for a San Francisco daily newspaper as a book reviewer, movie reviewer and entertainment writer. My many articles and short stories have been published in national, regional and local magazines and newspapers.

5.   What about your writing schedule. Do you outline? Do you have any special writing habits?

I write every day. I do not outline but for this book, I had a one word chapter heading for my use only as a guide. I edit my work daily.

6.   What books are on your nightstand? What are you currently reading?

The book on my nightstand is a book of Hemingway’s letters recently released from Cuba and so far unpublished. The book I have enjoyed the most this year is The Elephant’s Journey by Jose Saramango.

7.   Which authors inspire you?

Many authors have inspired me including the authors of the many fairy tales I have read, Louisa May Alcott, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Thomas Hardy and Ernest Hemingway.

8.   What have you learned from this experience?

I have learned that a woman who summoned her courage inspired so many.

9.   What is your advice for aspiring writers?

My advice to aspiring writers is to hang in there, be true to your work and believe in it, and never give up.

10.   Thank you Jan. And one final question. What are you working on now?

My second novel Back to Jerusalem is in the launching stage and I am working on a third novel.

My Life One Story At A Time
Guest Post

We did not have a library in the grade school I attended so our first grade class was obliged to visit the neighborhood branch of our city library system to learn about books. I will never forget that encounter. The children’s librarian gathered us around her and held up a book. Books are your friends, she told us. That hooked me. Friends are good, I thought. She then proceeded to tell us how we should care for them. Wash your hands. Don’t bend the pages. Etc. I was in awe.

From that day on I was a regular visitor to that neighborhood library. And, that librarian never changed. She was just as nice as the first day I had met her. She did try to push me to borrow the latest books that had just arrived, but I was just as adamant. I wanted to browse the shelves myself and look at all the books. And, she always let me with a smile.

I spent many hours through those grade school years browsing those shelves and finding some little known books whose stories have remained with me my whole life. I spent many hours transported to the worlds of those books drowning out my childhood problems. Who couldn’t imagine themselves the beautiful princess or cheer for the brave prince who conquered the villain?

It’s not that I was a stereotypical bookworm. It’s just that I loved books. I loved baseball and making snowmen and playing angels in the snow. But, books were a big part of my life.

I have wanted to be a writer ever since I can remember and I have been lucky to have had it work out that way. But, it hasn’t always been easy as any writer knows.

Rage Against the Dying Light is my fairy tale, even though it is based on a true story. For everyone knows that fairy tales are not just fantasy. They are the inspiration that feeds our own courage and makes our dreams come true.