What do you think of men in general?

I don’t believe you can generalize men. Or, women. They each have their own brand of quirk.


You wrote a novel called What Drives Men. Did you write it from a male or female perspective? Since technically you are a female.

Technically speaking, it’s written from a male perspective though the various women who appear in the book have plenty to say about how they view things. Technically speaking again, Russell, a Gulf War vet, is my primary protagonist.


Did you feel conflicted writing from a male perspective?

A talented psychic once told me that I was born with a male spirit.  I believe that.  They say you get to choose your name, parents, sex, and time of entry into each incarnation.  I was given the name Michael at birth.  When questioned, my mother always appeared slightly confused.  She had a different story each time I asked.  She once said: Your grandmother wanted us to name you Nancy (thanks, Mom, that was enlightening).  I was called Mike growing up.  Or Mikie by the people who loved me best.  Also, I was tall for my age and kind of fearless and a bit of a Tom-boy.


But your name is Susan?

Yeah.  I changed it when I came back from working at the Seoul Olympics after almost a year. I had a hell of a time using my ‘Michael’ credit cards over there.  They kept telling me to come back with ‘my husband’.  I didn’t have one at the time.  It was kind of a nightmare, I kept running out of money.  Since my job required a lot of overseas travel I knew I couldn’t go through that ever again.  Plus, three men I had dated told me: If you had a girl’s name it would be Susan. Huh! So I went for it. Susan.  Nice, simple, easy.


Did your mother mind?

That’s the funny part.  None of my family minded.  They made the switch in a blink.  I think it was a karmic glitch – that Michael name.  Whatever.


You are legally Susan.

Yes!  Totally legally Susan.


All right!  So about your book, where did this idea come from to write a road novel about a male Gulf War veteran on the cusp of turning 50 who hooks up with an octogenarian C&W singer? 

Here is how I see fiction:  It’s an inconceivably large pot of stew.  It starts to bubble (in your brain) from some unconscious stuff you’ve stored.  At first maybe you only notice a few chunks of beef and some chopped celery.  But the longer you stir, the more vegetables and potatoes and meat catch in your slotted spoon.  Some are spicy and savory and get to stay while others are scooped out and dumped in the garbage (revisions!).


So you stir and chop and scoop out.  Some people would find your analysis a tad simplistic.

Fiction should be simplistic.  In the sense that life is simplistic at its messy conflicted core. Simplistic and simple are two different cuts of meat.


Does everything lead back to food for you?

More or less.  Food sustains life.  I write about life.  Even crazy is life. Food is a driving force.  My characters live and breathe on the page true to their own identities (there’s plenty of eating going on in this book though not haute cuisine by any stretch). Bon Appetit, dear reader!


SUSAN TEPPER started out as an actress during her teen years, supplementing her small income doing vocals with bands down the Jersey Shore. Most unforgettable gigs – with Clarence Clemons. Other life experiences include flight attendant for TWA, Producer at Futurevision Cable (now Time Warner), Interior Decorator, rescue worker and more. Blame it on a high interest range. She writes in all genres, has been nominated eighteen times for the Pushcart and once for a Pulitzer Prize for the novel What May Have Been. Her work has appeared a number of times in TNB, and is widely published here and abroad. Susan lives in and out of NY, with her husband and her dog Otis, a large Rottie who enjoys the Lincoln Tunnel ride.

4 responses to “Susan Tepper: The TNB Self-Interview”

  1. Tim Young says:

    Great interview, Michael, er, Susan. What Drives Men is a real page turner! Russell, especially Russell, is such a complete human being.

  2. Susan Tepper says:

    Thank you, Tim Young, and you may call me Susan, since Michael has outlived her days on the planet. So happy you found Russell to be a complete human being and that you enjoyed the book!

  3. Ramesh Avadhani says:

    neatly chopped and stirred and served.

    • Susan Tepper says:

      Ramesh, thanks so much for reading and leaving your comment. I’m glad you found it neatly chopped! If you’re going to do it, no point in doing it sloppy. Right!

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