Bibliothèque des Refusés

Susan Maxwell

SUSAN MAXWELL's writing career began in splendid style with a school story penned while sick and confined to bed as a child: the author, growing weary of the increasingly unmanageable cast of characters, brought their literary lives to a dramatic end in a conflagration that reduced the school and a number of its inmates to ashes. Recognition by the publishing world had, alas, to wait until adulthood, in the form of short stories and poetry in a number magazines and anthologies (see Bibliography).

In 2014 Little Island Books published the novel Good Red Herring for the Young Adult market, though as with most of Maxwell's work, it does not fit entirely comfortably into generic or age-related categories. Further, independently published, books followed this debut—A Wild Goose Hunt, a sequel to Good Red Herring, and And the Wildness, set in the same fictional 'Hibernia Altera' universe; the short story collection Fluctuation in Disorder; and the novel Hollowmen, both of the latter slipstream works aimed at an adult rather than a universal readership. 

Apart from writing fiction, Maxwell has served on fiction and non-fiction juries for the British Fantasy Awards; has a PhD in Archival Science and writes on themes related to archives and fiction; and reviews regularly for Inis, the magazine of Children’s Books Ireland. Literary influences come mostly from speculative and modernist fiction, the author being particularly fond of Flann O'Brien, Calvino, Beckett, and Woolf. 

When not writing, or painting, or being an archivist, the author can be found in the vegetable patch, listening to music, reading books, watching old detective series, or catching up on sleep.

From the desk of the author…

How the camera sees me

How the mirror sees me

How my publisher sees me

She writes...

fantasy for younger readers who don't mind complicated plots but who aren't looking for stories with romance, violence or psychological realism.  Fiction mostly for adult readers  who aren't looking for romance, violence, psychological—or any other—realism. Poetry. Conference papers.

She paints...

landscapes, lighthouses, trees, more abstract than realistic. No art training other than spending a lot of time looking at the work of fabulous artists. Paint isn't always involved—chalk/pastel, charcoal, oil acrylics, and colouring-pencils also feature.  Beginning to dip the toe in the water of plant-based pigment. Grew some woad as a start. 

She farms...

despite being an archivist with a PhD (that's Dr. Maxwell to you!) and afraid of cows. It's organic, it's starting to be regenerative, it's all vegetables and herbs at the moment but there are plans. There will be more vegetables. There will compost. There will be trees. There will be chickens. There may even be cows.

She lives...

in the middle of Ireland, but previously had her residence in Dublin, London, Surrey, Co. Durham and The Hague, though not at the same time. Wherever she lays (and loses) her hat, that's her home—locations as various as the seat next to the fire in Dowling's pub and the dining car of the sleeper train to Prague.

Publishing as an Independent Author

A word or [one hundred and ninety] two on independent publishing. 

Jean Rhys exhorted writers to “keep feeding the lake” of literature, which needed both the great rivers and “the mere trickles, like Jean Rhys.” The literature of an age is not only what is great, or good—or at least valued, or lionised—in that age. It includes what is not very good at all, and that which, even if great, does not fit its time, and is disregarded, pushed to the margins. 

It is in these margins that traditional small presses often find gems overlooked elsewhere; a further, author-driven, opportunity is offered by independent publishing. Both paths offer resistance to the kind of political philistinism that hollows out and devalues any form of endeavour that does not get its primary value from commercial exchange. 

Many authors turn to self-publishing if they cannot get a publisher to take them on. But margins—including what Philip K. Dick called ‘the trash stratum’—are, ecologically and creatively, where interesting things can happen. I turn to independent publishing not faute de mieux, but to echo the gesture of the 1863 Salon des Refusés in presenting my explorations of the margins directly to the public.