Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Q&A with Susan J. Godwin




Susan J. Godwin is the author of the new book Rain Dodging: A Scholar's Romp through Britain in Search of a Stuart Queen. Also an educator and a visual artist, she lives in Dickson, Tennessee.


Q: How did you first learn about Mary of Modena, an important figure in your book, and what led you to write the book?


A: I was fortunate to spend one summer in a tutorial at Oxford. While researching my final paper, I stumbled onto the late-17th century Stuart court of Queen Mary of Modena (pronounced m’ di nə/), consort to James II from 1685-1688.


From the time she had been Duchess of York, Mary of Modena had many women in her court who were writers, uncommon for the time. How did this come to be?


Something about this struck a chord, a chord I recognized whenever a seed of an idea for a paper germinated. I always knew when I found an idea to pursue. And I knew I wanted to pursue this. 


Something about the resilience of women writing and publishing in an age that did not support it brought forth an emotional reaction, one I didn’t fully understand—yet.


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


A: I was taking the train back to Oxford from Kent, chatting with a friendly Brit going to rendezvous with college mates, as all my train companions seemed to be doing when train traveling to London.


Somehow in talking about the beauty of Kent, he urged me to journey to Edinburgh for a night, which I had been considering. I had injured my back. Just days before, I didn’t think my injured lower back would take the train ride to Kent, but it was so much better. I was too close to Scotland. I had to go for it.

I don’t know the chap’s name, but I thought of him all day and giggled to myself, because we had laughed at how often I dodged the ever-present rain—so often, when I needed to be outside, it would disappear. He said whatever writing I ended up with should be titled Rain Dodging. A good metaphor, too, for my life. Hit and miss to be sure.


Q: The scholar Shellie Michael said of the book, “Rain Dodging is a kaleidoscope of memoir and mystery, a collage of images and events.” What do you think of that description?

A: That’s an easy answer—I love it! In fact, when playing around with title ideas I fiddled with the words “tapestry” and “kaleidoscope.” I see the book as a triple-helix: royal history, travel, and memoir.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?


A: I want women to know that middle age can be rich and fruitful, that learning can last a lifetime, and that women struggled to the death for our equality and the struggle didn’t begin with Gloria Steinem.


Q: What are you working on now?

A: I am busy with all of the post-writing aspects of the book, all new to me. Also, I will be audio recording the book myself throughout the next month. Wish me luck! After that, I will return to my young adult novel, tweaking it.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I am honored to be able to say “I am an author.”


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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