Inside the Author’s Mind – Suzannah Burke

The first time I learned of Suzannah Burke was when we did R.B. Wood’s Word Count podcast  back in March. As I read her bio from the show notes, I became intrigued by the Australian woman with the kind eyes and beautiful smile. I knew her book, Empty Chairs, was written under her pen name of Stacey Danson. It was an autobiography, but I had no idea what it was about. Over the next few months, we continued to cross paths. I learned more about Suzannah (or Soooz) as she’s also called, and I have only developed deeper  respect for her as a person and an author.

Abused from the age of three and forced to live on the streets by the time she was eleven,  Suzannah has survived atrocities that few of us could ever imagine. I cannot even begin to fathom the courage it took for her to chronicle  her story and revisit the pain of her childhood in doing so.

I love strong women; I also love survivors, though I know Soooz is not fond of the word “survivor.” Perhaps implicit in its meaning is someone who might feel a sense of entitlement for having suffered a traumatic experience. Soooz is definitely not of this camp. She believes life is more than just about surviving. Not a victim, she is in fact, very much the opposite.

I’ll remind you that June on my blog was going to heat you up. You’ll feel the heat with Empty Chairs—it was not an easy book to read. It was bloody difficult, in fact, and you’ll no doubt feel sorrow, revulsion, and fury as I did in reading about a girl severely abused by her own mother and strangers. The book will horrify you, but breathe, persevere, and  read on … then let your anger subside.  Soooz has lived through this nightmare, and she could have easily let her past consume her, but she didn’t.  Despite what she’s been through, she’s one of the sweetest women I know with a spirit that refuses to be broken. You will hear in her responses an optimism and a warmth that is truly remarkable.

I encourage you to buy her book, read it, and be grateful she shared her story with us.

Please watch the powerful book trailer by the multi-talented Sessha Batto, who designed the book cover as well. I’d also encourage you to read an interview Soooz did with author, T.L. Tyson. I’ve included the link at the end of this post.

It’s truly my honor to feature the amazing Suzannah Burke.

*  *  *  *

Inside Suzannah Burke’s Mind

What is your idea of perfect happiness?   I had a day quite recently that caused me to take stock of that feeling, I was sitting on a rock, fishing. The breeze had a touch of Autumn to it, the gulls were wheeling in a cloudless sky; the smell and sound of the ocean encompassed me. I looked over to my left and the man I care deeply for smiled. No words, it was too perfect to spoil. I felt utter contentment. A rare and precious thing.

What turns you on creatively?  So many things, Eden. A child’s laugh can cause an entire story to evolve, or a piece of music. Being alone and just listening to the sounds I normally block. A visual image, I love looking at artwork of all kinds, I then want to, indeed I then have to write a piece about it ; I have to give it a reason to be.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?   “Shit Happens” I say it far too often, yet I find it covers so much of what occurs on a daily basis. In my writing I use the word “actually” a lot, and have had to school myself not to use it at all.

What quality do you most admire in a man?   What do I most admire…phew, that’s difficult to respond to, I have a list of qualities that I expect a man to have…getting right down to it I guess I admire a man who is confident in himself and his place in the world. Confident enough not to require his ego to be stroked constantly. So, yeah… confidence is way up there.

What quality do you most admire in a woman?  That’s a whole lot easier. I like and admire women that don’t need a man in their lives to feel happy and fulfilled. So it would again be confidence..or self knowledge; either way a woman who can stand alone and be happy doing so rates high with me.

What is your greatest regret?  I had a very dear friend; Jenny. I had laughed and joked with her for many many years that I would write a book someday about our lives on the streets and what drove us to live there. She made me promise that I would write it…Jenny committed suicide on September 1st 2009. I hadn’t kept my promise. I have since written the book and had it published, but I will always regret that I didn’t have the guts to do it while she was alive.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?  My lack of trust. I would dearly love to be able to trust people instinctively, without question. I can’t. People have to prove to me that they are worthy of trusting, and that is rather unfair I know. I would change that if I could.

What is your greatest fear?  Being locked in a small dark space. A hang up from the sadistic nature of the woman that gave birth to me. I am terrified of being trapped in an enclosed space, even thinking about it causes me to feel ill.

Which living person do you most admire?  My daughter Amanda.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?  I would like to be a Child Psychologist.

If you could choose what to come back as, what would it be?  An eagle. I’d give anything to be able to soar through the air like that, and to be free to do so.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?  Staying alive beyond the age of 3.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?  I can’t abide selfish people. Greed and selfishness go hand in hand. I am a generous person and I am constantly amazed at the selfish me, me, me, attitude of other people.

What is your greatest extravagance?  Books. I can’t resist buying them. My collection threatens to crowd out my new home.

What is one thing you want to do before you die?  I would love to sail the Nile with a few dear friends. I have wanted to do that ever since I first read about the river and it’s history when I was around 11 or so.

What is your present state of mind?  Is determination a state of mind, hon? If it can be classified as such then yeah, I’m in a determined state, determined to laugh, live and continue exploring all the options open to me. I am in a very positive stage of growth at the moment. It’s scary as hell and very exciting.

What are some of your favorite curse words?  Lets see…sooooo many faves, “For fuck’s sake!” ‘What the fuck?” Fuck me dead’ and the old favorite ‘Shit happens’..I haven’t ever been able or willing to clean up my act when it comes to vocalizing. The only folks I don’t cuss in front of {if I concentrate} are older folks that would be horrified. You can take the child out of the streets but you can’t take the streets out of the child…that’s my excuse and I’m stickin’ to it.

What is your motto?  “If you always do what you’ve always done; you’ll always get what you always got.”

Connect with Suzannah

Soooz Says…Stuff blog
Stacey Danson blog
Twitter    Facebook

Buy Links
Barnes & Noble    Amazon

Praise for Empty Chairs
Author, Maxwell Cynn

Stacey Danson Interview
Author, T.L. Tyson

Thank you Suzannah for allowing us to learn more about you and your amazing book, Empty Chairs. I invite all readers to make a comment or ask a question of this exceptional woman and author.



Filed under Author & Artist Interviews

22 responses to “Inside the Author’s Mind – Suzannah Burke

  1. Comprehensive. I’ve read the Empty Chairs, a fine reading. The courage to express the torture is praiseworthy. Fuck, certainly is one of the most fucked words Sooze seems to use, if Empty Chairs is an indication.

    Waiting for the next part, as Empty Chairs ends without any conclusion or just ended with a cliffhanger or lots of dots. Thanks.


  2. tee

    This is probably the most indepth interview of Soooz that I have read to date, and still the tears fall in memory of reading the book !
    You’re a remarkable woman Soooz, and you know the depth of respect I have for you.
    Tee x


  3. An excellent peek inside the mind of the most amazing woman I have ever had the privilege to know. The fact that Sooz is the wonderful, open, warm-hearted woman she is reinforce my belief that it is possible to triumph over anything. In my opinion Empty Chairs should be required reading for everyone.


  4. What a powerful introduction and interview.

    I can relate to the trust issue. Very much.

    I am definitely adding Empty Chairs to my reading list.


  5. Poppet

    I love it! I’m a huge Soooz fan – I’m a fan of the person *nods*


  6. I love the interview. The fishing and small places answers are two I can relate to. I admire the courage of Suzannah and will add her book to my tbr list. Although I find memoirs of child abuse painful for personal reasons, I do have to read them out of respect for the author. It takes courage to share painful memories.

    Eden, thank you for sharing an incredible woman.


  7. Suzannah is a brave, tough lady but also a gracious one. It has been my pleasure to correspond with her.


  8. Suzannah, I loved your interview….You sound fantastic and strong person..


  9. Another great interview, Eden. Soooz is an amazing woman. Empty Chairs should be required reading for everyone who comes into contact with kids. It opens your eyes to things we naturally want to ignore, and that’s all it would take to end abuse – people opening their eyes and asking questions.




  10. Wow! Thanks for sending me the link Eden! I must visit more often. This is a great interview. Good on you for sharing your story Soooz – I am adding Empty Chairs to my reading list. Telling these stories is vital. I don’t see how else we can begin to change this atrocious human behaviour. Telling our stories = powerful transformation and not just for the teller, but also the receivers. Soooz it sounds to me that you are not just a survivor, you are thriving! Thank you for your courage. Giving of yourself in this way is healing, generous, and will make a difference. That is what mattered to your friend. Perhaps you are already the eagle, soaring above, seeing the big picture. I would love to hear about what you are working on now.


  11. To Sudama, Tee, Poppet, Sessha, Mark, Michelle,
    I know you are 1st-timers to commenting on my blog, and I truly appreciate your kind words for Soooz.

    Sincere thanks,


  12. What can I say? Thank you Eden…and thank you to the lovely folks that made the time to comment. In answer to the question of what is Soooz doing now…I have several fictional wips going at once. My psychological thriller is due out in September. My romance novel, is almost complete. My comedy /romance is completed and looking for a home. Most importantly however I am currently writing book 2 of Empty Chairs with a working title of “From the Streets to The Palace” This will cover my 5 years with an amazing bunch of street kids, who taught me how to love and more importantly how to be loved.
    It’s difficult to write, and the flashbacks are a little rough to deal with, but the memory of these people deserves to be honored. I hope I can do them justice.


  13. What a fabulous interview. I also have to applaud your courage, Soooz, because what you’re doing is not easy. I have found writing to be a cathartic experience in many ways, but easy is not something I’d use to describe it.

    It’s very brave and generous of you to share like this. I won’t be able to read it (like Glynis, I have reasons) but I will definitely pick up a copy of Empty Chairs. Blessings to you.

    Nice job, Eden, and thanks for introducing Soooz 🙂


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