LBI Author Susan Shapiro Barash Releases Debut Novel, Between the Tides

‘Call Me Susannah Marren’
By SHAYNA INNOCENTI | Jul 21, 2015
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Bestselling nonfiction author and gender expert Susan Shapiro Barash grew up in the Beach Haven Park section of Long Beach Township, a few blocks away from the Acme Market and more midland than her current bayview summer home in Holgate. Though she now resides in Manhattan with her family, Barash explained that her mind still wanders to the Jersey Shore.

“I am always thinking of the water,” she said, adding small anecdotes of when her family often vacationed in Cape May.

Having authored 13 books over the course of her career, Barash has focused on issues that women are facing today. Some of the titles, published through St. Martin’s Press, include Tripping the Prom Queen, Toxic Friends and Little White Lies, Deep Dark Secrets.

“I was so intrigued by women’s lives, by how they lead their lives, by the faces women wear versus the lives they lead, and how women of all ages in America really feel,” she explained.

Though nonfiction has been the basis for her career, Barash has recently delved into the art of fiction, writing under the pen name of Susannah Marren. Overall, she described her journey to becoming a fiction novelist as “a long road.”

Before she was a bestselling author, Barash had attended New York University, studying under novelist E. L. Doctorow.

“I just knew that I wanted to write fiction at that point,” she said.

She wrote a few novels, not attempting to sell them, but managed to sell a few screenplays in the 1990s. Despite this, Barash quickly delved into the world of nonfiction, jumping from one research project to another, concentrating her efforts on deciphering the world of women.

“For each book I would interview hundreds of women, of all different ages, social strata, ethnicities and environments from across the country,” said Barash. “I found that the emotional component of what they talked about was the same. For example, if you were unhappy in a marriage, the issues were very similar for women of different ethnicity and different places that they lived.”

After obtaining a master’s degree in English and creative writing while managing a family of her own, Barash became a professor in the Writing Department at Marymount Manhattan College, continuing her focus on gender studies.

But “I wanted to get back to fiction,” Barash admitted.

After a lot of consideration, and getting the green light from her editor at St. Martin’s Press, Barash began to thumb through her research topics, to look at them in a new, creative light: mothers-in-law, daughters-in-law, unhappy marriages, unhappy wives, happy marriages, mother and daughter relationships, “frenemies,” the toxic parts of female friendship, the competition between women, what it’s like to be a second wife, and so on.

Now operating under a pen name, Barash applied her acquired knowledge toward fiction writing. The first test of this pen name is inked across the cover of her debut novel, Between the Tides, published by St. Martin’s Press and released on July 21.

Despite already having a well-established career, Barash explained that since her fiction writing has a different voice, she wanted to have a separate identity from her nonfiction work. The decision was not made hastily; she discussed the idea in length with her editor at St. Martin’s Press and literary agent.

“We agreed that for my foray into commercial women’s fiction that it would be nice to have a sort of dreamy name,” said Barash. “I have always wanted to be called Susannah. It’s a perfect name – and how many of us get a perfect name?”

Despite being a veteran author, she found the writing process between her accustomed nonfiction and recent fiction differ greatly.

“My research has been diligent and constant all of these years, but to conjure up your characters, to create the women, was a fascinating process,” said Barash. “To sit down at a desk without research, books and articles, and not to go to the library and find the latest research, but to just dream it and own it is really quite a process.”

Abating the struggles of writer’s-block-syndrome, Barash said because she knew fairly early on in the writing process how the book would end, it helped her understand the story better as a whole.

“I think knowing the end really made it an easier task because I knew what I needed to convey. I can’t speak for other writers, but for me it helped greatly. I always felt anchored by it, very certain with the story.”

In light of her fiction work, Barash already has people asking her which she would prefer to be called, Susan Shapiro Barash or Susannah Marren.

Loving the dreamy qualities of her pen name, Barash’s response is “How about Susannah? Call me Susannah Marren.”

With the recent release of her novel, Barash is excited to be able to go “full throttle” with the pen name.

In September, Barash will be celebrating the big book launch of Between the Tides, but in the meantime, she will be busy traveling along the East Coast for her book tour.

Between the Tides is currently available for purchase on Amazon.com, but will also be available during stops on her book tour. Her Long Beach Island stops include:

• a book signing event on Saturday, July 25, at 6 p.m. at Tuckers Restaurant, 101 South West Ave. in Beach Haven, and

• an author talk with Q&A on Monday, Aug. 10, at 7 p.m. at the Long Beach Island branch of the Ocean County Library, 217 South Central Ave. in Surf City. For more information, call 609-494-2480.

Barash will also be speaking in Toms River on Thursday, July 23, and in Cape May on Thursday, Aug. 6. The complete schedule can be found on her website susannahmarren.com.

(Photo by: Ryan Morrill)
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