A Conversation With Susan Francis

The Love That Remains by Susan Francis

When she was a baby, Susan Francis was privately adopted from a doctor’s practice in Newcastle, NSW, Australia. She grew up and travelled the world, living in Southern Spain, England, Indonesia and the central west of NSW. The unexpected death of her husband in Portugal, in 2015, a man who was the love of her life, inspired her to finish her memoir.

Susan holds a Master’s degree in Australian literature and worked as a High School English teacher. Her only son Jonno is her pride and joy. Currently, Susan lives in her hometown of Newcastle, with no pets, too many books and an obsession to write about the truth. She is working on her second book, a crime novel inspired by the execution of the Balibo Five.

How could I write about the importance of truth and not tell the whole truth myself?

After twenty years spent searching for her biological parents, 52-year-old Susan Hull unexpectedly meets the great love of her life – a goldminer named Wayne Francis. He is a gentle giant of a man, who promises Susan the world.

Two years later, they throw in their jobs, marry and sell everything they own, embarking on an incredible adventure, to start a new life in the romantic city of Granada, where they learn Spanish and enjoy too much tapas. In love, and enthralled by the splendour of a European springtime, the pair treasure every moment together.

Until a shocking series of events alters everything.

It is an absolute pleasure to welcome Susan to the blog. I’d like to thank Susan for writing about her writing journey and memoir The Love That Remains – which will be a fantastic contribution to adoption/care experienced literature.

Tell us about your journey as a writer.

The memoir is my first traditionally published book. And that was published in 2020, when I was 59 years old. Prior to that, some of my short stories had been published. I worked as a Secondary English teacher for many years, including some time in Norwich so I was always immersed in language. I also completed a Master’s degree in literature.

What made you choose to write about being adopted?

It came from a place of anger. Because of the rules surrounding adoption, many people had denied me knowledge about the circumstances of my birth and my biological family and background. I could not understand why the rights of the mother were valued higher than the child. This was my story. Why did I not have the right to be informed?

Writing about my adoption (after 20 years of investigation) allowed me to rewrite myself into the world. It was my way of saying, you tried to keep who I was a secret, but I discovered my self, and here I am.

Orphans, adoptees or those in foster care or children’s homes, often feel they are stereotyped by their past. Have you found this to be so for adoptees too? And if so, how aware of this were you whilst writing your memoir?

As an adult, people will still look at you like you are a foreign creature, if you mention you were adopted. They are curious about what it is like. They always want to know ‘have you found your real parents yet’? I understand that. As far as being stereotyped, I don’t recall anything specific or derogative.

What is the meaning of the title?

There is a Portuguese word which best translates into English as ‘The Love that Remains’. Portugal, of course, is a pivotal setting in the memoir and it seemed appropriate to choose a word from that language, especially one with so much meaning. The word is saudade and it refers to still longing for or loving a place or a person you can never again see or hold close. It is all the love still contained within you despite that person or place no longer existing.

What are you currently working on? What can we look forward to reading?

I’m working on a novel. It combines historical facts with a fictional story. I guess you would say it’s a little bit of a genre crossover. The shooting of five Australian and English journalists in the village of Balibo in East Timor in 1975 is where the idea came from.

What #diverse characters do you think are missing from literature?

Older women and the experience of growing older are characters and stories not explored often enough.

If you could recommend one book for your readers, what would it be?

I will be 61 in May, and I’ve been reading since I was four years old. So you can imagine how many books I’ve read in my lifetime. Honestly, what could I choose? The best advice I can offer is just to read. Read what you enjoy and sometimes read what challenges you. Reading has made me a more tolerant, educated and empathetic human being. I don’t like to imagine how I might have turned out if I hadn’t read.

Who is your favourite literary character from childhood and why?

Not politically correct for some people, I know, but I grew up reading Enid Blyton and loved The Famous Five. For a year I pretended to be George. I loved George. She was brave, stubborn and very loyal.

What one piece of advice would you give adopted young people or those leaving the care system today?

Identities change and develop. You have the power to make your own. Hold onto the strength you own inside. We are not our families, or our carers or the system. We have survived all that and are strong and unique and capable of more than anyone believes.

 

The Love That Remains was published by Allen & Unwin and you can read the opening chapters here.

Follow Susan on Twitter: @susanfranciswr1

Join Susan at the Care Experience & Culture, Memoir and Autobiography Book Club, part of Care Experience History Month Event.

Saturday 9th April

10am UK / 6.30pm Adelaide / 7pm Melbourne. 

More details here.

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2 Responses to A Conversation With Susan Francis

  1. Wonderful inspiration for that title not to mention Susan herself, kudos for publishing her memoir and celebrating her authentic existence, bringing light to knowledge that should not be kept secret.

    Liked by 1 person

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