A long time coming

Today my sixth book is published by Blackbird Digital Books.

Books 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 each took, on average, about a year to write.

No. 6 has taken ten years from start to finish.

The first draft I started in 2002, with the working title “Mothers All” – a reference to all the mothers who affected my life – my own mother, the nuns at the convents where I was educated, my step-mother, and my first mother-in-law.

When I submitted it to my agent, the lovely Maggie Noach who died so tragically young, she was wildly enthusiastic, and proposed it to my then publishers, Transworld. They rejected it, saying that although it was well-written, engaging, etc. etc., memoirs and autobiographies of unknown people did not sell. (I was “unknown” in their terms, as a relatively new author on their list.)

Maggie was indignant and disappointed, and I put the draft away and moved on to a new title.

Over the years I occasionally dug it out, deleted certain events, inserted others, and each time I read the original manuscript with new eyes I realised how much I didn’t like the tone I had used, which was flippant and sarcastic. I was glad it hadn’t been published.

I kept changing the title. It went from “Mothers All” to “The Black Lamb” to “The Anniversary Clock” to “The Anniversary Clock Stood Still.” And it never felt quite right.

Two years ago I started it again and found that my perception of events and characters had changed considerably since I wrote that first draft. The sarcasm and flippancy didn’t fit. I realised they were masking real pain and regret, and overwhelming nostalgia for life in the glorious country of Kenya, and the little grey Somali-Arab pony who meant so much to me.

Over the last few months I have written late into the night, when I could be alone and cry unseen. I’ve shed more tears than a human body could feasibly produce, and I’ve eaten my way through endless plates of comfort food.

Finally I’m happy with what I have written, satisfied that it is honest and sincere and as good as I can make it.


A huge thank-you to Stephanie at Blackbird Digital Books who has been so supportive and worked so hard in the development and publishing of this memoir. Only she and I know quite how hard it has been. It’s available in Kindle now from all Amazon websites, and paperback later this week.

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7 thoughts on “A long time coming

  1. ‘ I wish I could say I was sorry’ by Susie Kelly

    This is an honest and moving account of the pain of growing up after
    an idyllic early childhood. Susie’s descriptions of her early years in grey post-war London
    followed by the dazzling sights, sounds and smells of Nairobi with its
    very different lifestyle made me feel I was actually in those places.
    She pays marvellous attention to detail, bringing characters to life
    whether likable or not.
    Susie is not afraid to put into words her feelings of insecurity as a
    young girl, evoking compassion for the trials she endured. I could empathize completely with her descriptions of life in a convent school, having been in one myself.
    I found this a riveting read and especially enjoyed the evocative
    descriptions of places that she lived in. I would recommend this book
    of Susie’s memoirs as one not to miss.

    Grace McKee
    Sent from my iPad

  2. Pingback: Harrowing Memoir of Damaged Childhood by Top Travel Author Susie Kelly Which Took 10 Years To Write Finally Published | Tibetan Rites

  3. Pingback: The Deeply Moving Memoir That Took 10 Years To Write | Blackbird Digital Books

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