Not many people decide to pursue nursing in their 40s, which is what Susan Smith Daniels did.
Even fewer people give up potential careers in nursing to become novelists, which is precisely what Daniels is doing.
While the Rancho Santa Fe resident did achieve her bachelor’s degree in nursing, she was bit by the writing bug and pursued a master’s in creative writing at Fairfield University in Connecticut.
The fruit of that effort is “The Genuine Stories,” for which she won the Fairfield Book Prize from Fairfield in 2017.
In addition to a $1,000 check, the honor led to the publication of the book in November by New Rivers Press from Minnesota State University Moorhead.
Getting published “is very serendipitous,” Daniels said in a recent interview at a Rancho coffee shop. “It’s a little of luck — persistence and luck and you just never know. I’m sure there’s lots of good work out there that’s never sat on a bookshelf.”
She is scheduled to do a reading, book signing and talk about her life and writing from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, March 26, at the Rancho Santa Fe Library, 17040 Avenida de Acacias. Information on Daniels’ books and events is available at susan daniels.com.
“The Genuine Stories” is a collection of 16 short pieces about or related to the life of Genevieve “Genuine” Eriksson. While a girl, Genuine and her family discover she has the ability to heal the sick and injured.
The gift enables her to perform miraculous acts of compassion, but also saddles her and her intimates with a tremendous burden and results in complications and crises.
While each of the stories stand by themselves, they are synchronized through the central character of Genuine and follow a clearly delineated chronology.
“It works like a novel,” Daniels said.
In the settings for her tales, Daniels calls upon her experiences living in Southern California, Iowa (where she still lives part of the year) and the East Coast.
“‘The Genuine Stories’ is (191) pages of sheer wonder and amazing story-telling ... It’s one of those rare books that leaves you pondering for days after reading it how you personally would react to situations (Daniels) describes,” said Executive Editor Ed Pierce in his review of the book for the Journal Tribune in Maine.
Though “The Genuine Stories” is Daniels’ debut novel, she already has a book to her credit. That explains in part why the woman’s vocational direction took a sharp turn.
While Daniels pursued her nursing degree in the 2000s, she was also accompanying her equestrian daughter to show horse events around the country, including local venues in Del Mar and the Rancho Santa Fe area.
That prompted Daniels to compose a regular column for an equestrian magazine, and then a book: “The Horse Show Mom’s Survival Guide.” Published by Lyons Press in 2005, the book provides a humorous look at the horse show world, with advice and anecdotes from personal experience.
“I loved nursing,” Daniels said. “It just didn’t work out. I started writing and one thing led to another. ... I never took the time to pursue (writing), but it was in the back of my mind.”
Fiction, however, was Daniels’ true love and she began dabbling with her first short story in 2009. Back in the Midwest, she began attending events associated with the University of Iowa’s celebrated Writers’ Workshop.
“I’ve been an avid fiction reader all my life,” she said. “That’s what I really wanted to do, so I had to take some time to learn that.”
Now, having obtained her master’s degree and having an award-winning volume of fiction on her shelf, she is pursuing a doctorate degree in creative writing at Bath Spa University in Bath, England.
“I’m writing a novel as part of my PHD,” Daniels said. “I’m on my third re-write, but I think it’s going well now. But that’s not atypical for any novelist. ...
“I want to get that published. To get my PHD, it has to be published.”