Susan Joyce was born in Los Angeles, but spent much of her childhood in Tucson Arizona. She left the United States in 1968 to follow a childhood dream to see the world. Planning on being gone for a year, she has spent more than half of her life living abroad. Exploring other cultures fuels her curious, eager to learn life style. In addition to writing travel articles and short stories, Susan is an award winning author and editor of children’s books.
Interview with Susan Joyce by Charline Ratcliff for Tour de Blogg – a Say What? Savannah Mae company
Article first published as Interview with Susan Joyce, Author of ‘The Lullaby Illusion: A Journey of Awakening’ on Blogcritics.
Welcome Susan. Thank you for taking the time to share some information about yourself with our readers. Let’s get started, shall we?
Susan, I’ve been perusing the various websites and web-pages of yours and I have to say that you have lived an extraordinary life. If you don’t mind though, I’d like to start this interview a bit further back by asking you about your childhood. Who were you as a child? (Were you the shy, demure child, or did you always have that adventurous spirit)?
Shy? Never. I was more of a tomboy type. Always adventurous, I had a wild imagination. I was the second child born into a family of eight children. My father became a Pentecostal preacher months after I was born (was I to blame?) and my family moved from LA to OK, TX, CO, and then to AZ. Most of my childhood was spent in Tucson. I used to sit out on a hot rock in the desert with my dog and wait for the space ship to pick us up. I was convinced they had left me with the wrong family.
You mention that you were born in Los Angeles, but then you moved to Tucson, Arizona. Having myself lived in Phoenix, Arizona for many years, and knowing what a sleepy little town Tucson has been until only recently, that move must have been a huge transition? Were you old enough to notice/recognize the difference between the two cities/cultures?
Tucson was sleepy compared to LA, but because of the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base it had lots of activity happening. Because I was so young when we moved from LA, I didn’t really know LA as a kid. But when my family would pile into our nine-passenger station wagon and drive from Tucson to LA, to visit my aunt who lived there, it was very exciting. So many miles of cars and people scurrying about… I knew then that I wanted to return and live in LA someday. As my father used to say: “When you’re old enough to tell yourself what to do.”
What was life like growing up in Tucson? What did you do for fun? Is this where your love of books and possibly the notions for your photography/artist career began?
My creative juices were definitely stirred by the wide open spaces of nature surrounding me in the desert around Tucson. We lived out of town, near Sabino Canyon. We didn’t have a television. My father thought TV was evil and a waste of time. Imagine that! But we had a bookcase filled with books and a set of encyclopedias. Once a week we visited the public library and were allowed to check out as many books as we could carry. My father also read two daily newspapers and encouraged us to get beyond the comics. We all played a musical instrument and loved singing. At a young age, I wrote stories and songs.
At age twenty you left the United States, intent on exploring this big world of ours for one short year. How did that timeline work out for you? *chuckle* What was it you discovered that kept you from returning like you originally thought that you would?
I found myself wanting to stay a bit longer in every country. To explore more. When I needed money, I found a job and stayed on. So months of travel became years of travel. The more I traveled, the more I discovered. I was so young and naïve when I left the States, I often chuckled about the simple discoveries in life that changed me forever. Travel is the best education for anyone. The world is a great classroom. You learn volumes about yourself and others.
Even though I’ve familiarized myself with the countries you have visited/lived in, would you please share them again here for our readers?
I visited numerous countries during my years abroad—Israel, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, Italy, France, Germany, Luxemburg, Denmark, Sweden, Holland, Austria, Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Austria, India, Sri Lanka, Seychelles, Australia, New Zealand. Lots of different countries mainly in the Middle East and Europe, and now South America.
I’ve lived in Israel, Germany twice, Switzerland, Cyprus, Greece, England, Belgium, Mexico, and now live in Uruguay.
Susan, what were your favorite countries? Do you have any “not so” favorite countries?
They were all favorites at the time. Exciting to explore and to learn about different cultures and their unique history. Cyprus was probably my favorite, until there was trouble in paradise—the coup and war in 1974. I also loved living in Germany. Its central Europe location made it a great home base for traveling around Europe.
While I’m not going to list your age, simple mathematics makes me wonder what it was like being an American woman traveling, and living, in some of these tumultuous countries during the time periods that you did? How often (if at all) did you worry for your safety?
I don’t mind people knowing my age. It was probably safer to travel then, than now. Especially in the Middle East. I usually traveled with friends and felt a bit envious that Paul Theroux (a man) could travel alone anywhere and never be bothered. I was in my 20s-40s when I lived in the Middle East and Europe, and I can only remember being worried about my safety once in the souk in the old city of Jerusalem. I was admiring some large colorful pieces of fabric when someone covered my head with one and started moving me toward the back of the tent. Sensing danger, I started screaming. My husband, at the time, realized I had vanished and started asking questions of others nearby. After a struggle with the man, I broke free and ran out. The man laughed and pretended it was a joke, and offered my husband a few prized camels in exchange for a blonde, blue eyed young woman… I knew it wasn’t a joke, was not amused, and felt grateful to be rescued.
What was it that started you writing? Was it you wanting to share your various world-life experiences, or did the writing itch start at a much earlier age?
I enjoyed making up songs and stories at a young age, but my language skills needed help. I had dyslexia and when I spoke I got my words all mixed up. People often laughed at me. My nickname was ‘Dutch’ because it sounded like I was trying to speak a foreign language. My mom played word puzzle games to help me. By the time I was in the fourth grade, I was reading, writing and telling stories that others understood. I wrote a short story about my dog Brownie and his bad liver breath, and how I loved him in spite of his bad breath. The story won first place in a competition, giving me confidence to keep writing.
Susan, You have a new book coming out: “The Lullaby Illusion – A Journey of Awakening.” What prompted you to write this “travel memoir” of yours? What do you hope that readers will take away from it?
The idea came as I struggled to find answers to questions about mysterious events that happened in my life. My life was shattered by the coup in Cyprus on 15 July 1974, followed five days later by the Turkish invasion on 20 July 1974. Thousands of lives were drastically changed forever by the atrocities, including foreigners who lived there. Of which I was one. Bewildered at how a place—which seemed like paradise— could simply disappear and how my own perfect life could unravel as a result pushed me to find the missing pieces of the puzzle. As I started putting my life back together, scattered fragments of news clippings, letters from friends, dream and travel journals, poems, notebooks filled with tidbits of thoughts fell into place and I started writing my story.
I always expect a book to encourage and inspire me. So I hope my work does exactly that.
How have your dreams, and that little voice of “intuition,” shaped you into the woman you are today?
Like spirit guides, my dreams and intuition have directed me to find my own unique path in life and my place in the universe. Because I believe and trust in these, I have lived a most extraordinary lucid, aware life. Being aware is key.
And finally… If you could tell every single person in the world just one important “something,” what would that “something” be?
Believe in yourself and trust your own still small voice. It speaks your truth.
Thank you again, so much, for sharing your story Susan. It has truly been a pleasure learning about you, your experiences, your books, and what makes you…well…YOU!