Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Q&A with Suzanne Moyers



Suzanne Moyers is the author of the new historical novel 'Til All These Things Be Done. A former teacher and an editor and writer for educational publishers, she lives in New Jersey.


Q: What inspired you to write 'Til All These Things Be Done, and how did you create your character Leola?


A: I was a teenager when my grandmother, aka “Nana,” moved from her Texas farm to our home on Long Island. One day, I witnessed her staring into an empty corner, crying to the ghost of her long-lost father: Papa! Why did you leave? That corner might have been empty but my grandmother’s emotion was utterly real, driving me to learn more about the mysterious chapter of family history behind it.


I was fascinated by the true story of my grandmother’s struggle to survive after her father’s unexplained disappearance in 1919—all the more so because it didn’t really make sense given the fact Papa had really seemed to love his family and they, him.


The few intriguing details I knew about that drama provided the scaffolding on which I built this novel, but my imagination filled in all the blanks, including a more hopeful resolution than my grandmother had.


Like the plot, my characters derived from a mixture of research, observation, and imaginative license. Though Leola is as determined, empathetic, and strong-willed as Nana was, she’s also more willing to question the order of things. One manifestation of this is her growing unease with her culture’s brutal bigotry, which becomes an important subplot of the book.


But of course, characters share aspects of my own psyche. Leola is a deep thinker whose rumination can make her doubt herself. Sometimes, like me, she just needs to get out of her own way.


Q: How would you describe the dynamic between Leola and her father?


A: Papa and Leola share a deep bond—which is what makes his seeming betrayal so difficult for her to understand. I had to build scenes early on, before Papa leaves, that would show the depth of that bond.


In one such scene, Leola invents an assistive device so Papa can whittle one-handed; in another, Papa senses Leola is in trouble and shows up in the nick of time to help her. Though the novel’s resolution doesn’t justify certain aspects of Papa’s more problematic behavior, it does demonstrate that his love for her still existed in spite of his mistakes.


Q: The novel features the 1918 flu pandemic--were you writing the book during the Covid pandemic?


A: I wrote those scenes years before Covid, basing them on research and my grandmother’s recollections of that earlier epidemic. She contracted what was previously referred to as the “Spanish” influenza in 1919, during a surge caused by a variant of the virus. (Like our own pandemic, the great influenza lasted at least four years, eventually morphed into the less deadly but still dangerous disease we know today.)

My grandmother caught the grippe, as it was also known, after nursing her own sick mother who eventually died. Even though Nana survived, her lungs were permanently scarred, making her susceptible to respiratory infections throughout her life.


It was eerie, revisiting those pandemic scenes after Covid hit, realizing how naïve I was to think such a thing would never happen again. Now I understood exactly what it felt like to face a little-understood contagion that not only threatened one’s own life but the very fabric of human society. It gave me a much deeper appreciation of the characters’ perspective on that terrifying ordeal, which helped me add emotional depth to those chapters.  


As an interesting aside: Both pandemics gave birth to social justice movements advocating for the rights of Blacks, women, and workers, among others. It makes sense that, after facing such existential crisis, people might feel impatient for long-overdue change.


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: I was about to enter the design phase of my book cover, and didn’t love the title I’d been using up to then. Music was such an important part of Southern culture (and my own family traditions) that I turned to popular songs of that period for last-minute inspiration.


I must’ve skimmed hundreds of lyrics online until I came across this haunting Irish ballad, “The Turtle Dove,” in which the singer promises that his love will endure, ‘til all these things be done. The song’s theme speaks to the vow Papa made Leola before leaving home, as well as the journey both characters must take in addressing that broken promise.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’ve been so focused on PR and marketing for this novel, I haven’t had much time to write fiction of late, but do have some ideas in development.


One centers on a family of Dutch female traders living in New Amsterdam (now New York City) in the 17th and 18th centuries, and their unusual connection to the powerful Lenape chief, Oraton.


I’m also drafting a thriller, based on a true crime, in which a deeply religious suburban mom enlists her “golden child” to kill the rest of their family. Dark stuff, I know, but I am fascinated by what motivates so-called everyday people in committing unlikely (and sometimes diabolical) acts.


Q: Anything else we should know?

A: My website,, provides more context about the setting of the novel and the family mystery that inspired it. While you’re there, subscribe to my blog!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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