Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How Novelist Susan Page Davis Makes Room for The Simple Life

This week we’re discussing The Simple Life with novelists, a group of folks who often have to live on much less and under simple circumstances in order to preserve the life they’ve worked so hard to obtain. Today author Susan Page Davis and I are chatting about the things Susan and her husband have done to simplify. Susan, welcome to Words to Go.

SUSAN: Thanks, Patty!

PATTY: Your simplification process comes more naturally to you since you were brought up with this mindset, right?

SUSAN: Yes, as a girl, I lived in an old house with no running water. In the pantry was a cast iron sink. At the end of the sink stood a small pitcher pump, and when we wanted water, we pumped away.

PATTY: Even though the town had grown up around my grandmother’s house, her sink was exactly like this. I loved drinking from the ladle that hung on her kitchen wall, pumping that water into the ladle.

SUSAN: This small pump was connected by pipes to the hand-dug well out in the woodshed. Over the 16-feet-deep well was another larger pump, and you could get water there too. When we wanted to wash dishes, we pumped water and put it in a pan on the stove to heat. When we wanted a bath, we heated more water and dumped it in the bathtub. Then we added cold water until we had enough lukewarm water to bathe in. When we wanted to wash clothes, we heated even more water.

PATTY: It’s unusual to hear these stories told by someone your age today. Primitive, for certain, but probably not so simple.

SUSAN: I am glad my life is not quite that “simple” anymore. I do love the convenience of running hot water, flushable toilets, and Internet service.

PATTY: When our churches take missions trips, it builds character for us to live at that level. But truly, the problems faced by these emerging countries seem to be complicated by this lack of infrastructure. But some of it is good, don’t you think?

SUSAN: But my husband and I have chosen to retain some of the simpler ways. We heat only with wood in a land of hostile winters. We pay cash for (used) vehicles and just about everything else.

PATTY: Yes, we pay cash for vehicles. But it’s not easy.

SUSAN: In these tough financial times, it’s a true blessing to be without the encumbrance of the monthly bills many are struggling with. Doing without some modern conveniences helps free us from the worries of paying for them and maintaining them.

PATTY: But in spite of all you have to do to preserve this lifestyle, you still write.

SUSAN: The Lord has blessed me in allowing me to write novels. Some of them are historical settings, set back in the simpler days. As I transport myself and my readers back in time, however, I find that even in the old days, life was complicated.

PATTY: But again, it seemed to build so much more character. My sons think I’ve been harder on them than other parents because I wouldn’t buy their cars, pay for cell phones, and I made them earn a college scholarship. But overall now I’m glad because they’ve both turned out well—I don’t lay awake worrying about them. But as a mom, there were times I know they thought I was e-v-i-l. Our forefathers taught us a lot about building character because they earned it the hard way. But, still, they had our same human flaws, didn’t they?

SUSAN: My heroes of the 1800s and colonial days might not have had oil bills to worry about, but they had the same basic problems we have today. Strained relationships, financial hardship, sickness, injustice, sin.

PATTY: True. They still struggled with the same flawed human condition.

SUSAN: I spend a fraction of the time my mother spent on laundry, cooking, and housework. She might have possessed the talent to be a writer, but I doubt she would have had time. She had five children, a big house to maintain, a large garden to tend, and many other chores, besides sometimes working outside the home to supplement the family income.

PATTY: I grew a vegetable garden a few years and canned. It takes three people to bring in the garden and prepare it. You would have thought I was asking my kids to cut off a limb. But they did it and now it’s a great memory. But if I’m going to write, something has to go. I gave up canning and vegetable gardening.

SUSAN: Because I have the time, I’m able to produce books. I thank God that my life is somewhat simple, even though I live in modern times. We no longer have to pump and carry every drop of water we use. Instead, I get to craft stories. I like that trade. But I’d still rather drive an old car than scramble to earn enough to buy a new one.

PATTY: Thank you, Susan, for sharing your thoughts on what you’ve done to have the life you always wanted.

SUSAN: I’m giving away one of my historical books today—Maine Brides.

Come visit me at my Website:

Thanks for having me here, Patty!

Thanks, Susan! This has been a treat getting to know you.

Please leave feedback and your name is entered in the Big Straw Hat for Saturday’s book give. And stay with us this week as we have more great author chats on this week’s topic “The Simple Life.”