Meet 2018 Golden Heart Finalist Suzanne Turner

Today we’re welcoming another Persister, 2018 Golden Heart Finalist Suzanne Turner, whose manuscript THE ART OF THE SCANDAL is nominated for Best Historical Romance.

Suzanne grew up in Oregon (Go Ducks!) but has found herself living in Jacksonville with three too-energetic boys, an equally too-energetic husband, and a lot of mosquitoes. She’s a lawyer by training (Dad’s fault), a lover of books by raising (thanks, Dad!), and will argue to the death that a Bloody Mary is a legitimate vegetable (sorry, Mom). 

This is Suzanne’s second Golden Heart final. Her previous historical romance, THE LOST CHORD, finaled in 2017. 

Here’s a blurb for THE ART OF THE SCANDAL:

The art is fake. The love is real. The risk is ruin.

Jilted by her fiancé, abandoned by her father, and scorned by her friends, Lady Lydia Pierrepoint and her pregnant, 15 year-old sister will be homeless by midnight unless she can charm the deed of her family’s home out of the mysterious South African who won the estate in a poker game. 

Grieving over the death of his Jewish father and English mother, Simon has no time for gallantry. He’s out to reclaim his mother’s name from the aristocracy who humiliated her. With an art collection worth millions and the National Gallery begging for a donation, revenge is within reach. 

But when Lydia points out that Simon’s treasure trove includes at least one forgery, they strike a deal. She’ll ferret out the fakes, and if the debut of his collection goes smoothly, she’ll win back her home. If she fails, she will take the blame and go to jail.  

Together, Lydia and Simon will feign an engagement, delve into the world of art forgery, and navigate the narrow-minded prejudices of London society to discover that love is forged, never faked.

Wow! That sounds rich and complex! And a half-Jewish South African art collector—a fresh take on a historical hero. Very exciting!

Okay, folks, come grab a lounge chair under our gazebo (no mosquitos here on the virtual lawn!) and enjoy a tropical drink with Suzanne and I as we chat about what drives her stories and why places matter so much.


Welcome back to the Rubies, Suzanne!! Thanks for being with us today, and congrats on finaling in historical for the second year in a row!!

Hi, Elisa! I want to say hello and thank you the Ruby Slipper Sisterhood for inviting me onto this blog. The Golden Heart creates such a strong community of writers in what is oftentimes a lonely world. Real truth, I used to write in my youngest son’s closet (mostly b/c he wouldn’t fall asleep unless someone was in the room). With the Golden Heart sisterhood there is leadership and mentorship and camaraderie and wisdom galore and in those moments when the rejection emails pile in, I find myself wandering over to your blog and finding courage and inspiration. Also, Elisa, you always make me sound like I’m actually an interesting person. Appreciate that!

You started writing IN A CLOSET. You are already an interesting person. (And I wish I’d thought of that technique with my own little guy who wouldn’t fall asleep alone….I just sat there in the dark wishing I was writing.) So, to do that, you must have felt a powerful need to write. Why romance? Do you have a core story that drives you?

My novels tend to start with a break-up. My heroine loses her sense of place. She’s betrayed or jilted by someone she loves and she sets out to reclaim her old self. She doesn’t want to change, she wants to be the person she was before she was betrayed. In comes the hero, a fellow who straddles identities, who shrugs off labels and fights not to belong to any place or anyone. 

The heroine and hero push each other further and further out of each other’s comfort zones—the heroine is going to learn, through a lot of trial and error, humiliation, pain and vulnerability, that her true self cannot fit in the tight boundaries she’s let society, family, and obligation draw for her. The hero is going to learn that boundaries are not a prison, that even if he picks a side or a person, he is who he is—he is strong, he is true. 

The true sense of place for both is not defined by geography or family, or social standing, but by the love the hero and heroine build together. Their place in the world is side-by-side.  

Ah—reclaiming the essential self, which can mean reclaiming a place. Liberation by coming (or creating a) home. What about you personally? What is your sense of place? Or experience of dislocation, as the case may be?

I grew up in Portland, Oregon, a world full of hippies and centuries-old pine trees. My high school history teacher lived on a pot farm. My favorite English teacher was a former spy. Another teacher camped out in Canada for a few years because he was dodging the draft. Our postman had a Ph.D. in Philosophy. I spent summers in the mountains, wearing sweaters and mittens.  

Okay, wow! I can see you come by rich and complex narratives naturally. What a point of origin!! But you don’t live there now. What happened?

I “adulted” in the San Francisco Bay Area, which has its own distinct culture, but to me, it was always like Portland’s snotty, stock-grant rich sister. There are still mountains and cold rain. I was still close to home.

And then one day my husband said, “Let’s have an adventure.” And we took our three boys and moved to Jacksonville, Florida, which is geographically, atmospherically (is that the word for the weather?) and culturally the total opposite of Portland. The pine trees are so skinny, they’re like toothpicks. The ocean is warm. The sun is…out.

The other day, someone said, “Rainy season has started. Summer’s here.” And I experienced that weird jolt of realizing I am in a strange place. It’s culture shock. It’s being in one’s own skin, but the skin is experiencing a sensory world it is not in tune with. 

I hear you on that! I grew on the East Coast and live near San Francisco now. I love the area, but I’m still baffled by the bone dry summers, since summer is “meant” to be deep lush Pennsylvania green. (My husband, who grew up in L.A. and who lived with me for awhile in Ohio, freaked out when it rained there in July…he’d wonder why winter was starting.) And I spent years feeling like I was flipping upside down whenever I tried to navigate along the California coast, since the ocean was on the “wrong” side. It’s definitely a visceral thing. A sensory world problem, as you say.

I’m starting to think my sense of place is simultaneously liking and disliking the place I currently am. So much so, that I recently joined the world of Instagram! Where I tell the story of my own sense of displacement. I try to be generous with Jacksonville because it has been great for my family, but no picture can capture the humidity. 

Oy…I will never miss humidity! And I’ll have to check out your Instagram!! It does sound like an adventure you’re having! But back to the question of your inspirations for writing. What’s your all-time favorite romance?

I am going to be a total nerd and say my parents. My parents met during the Vietnam War. My mother, who is Vietnamese, was a translator for the U.S. Army. My Irish-American father was an officer. At heart (and later by profession) my mother is an accountant, no nonsense, all logic. Her favorite love story, I kid you not, is Moneyball! At heart my father was (he passed a few years ago) Irish—you know, romantic, sentimental, a lover of poetry and rhyme. My mother is a vegetarian, my father smoked and ate red meat. To relax, my mother plays with a calculator. My father would fish. I cannot for the life of me figure out how they managed to get along so well and be so in love, when they were so different. But to the day my father died, my parents held hands.  

Aww!! I love it!!! That’s a fabulous inspiration for so many stories! And I can see why Portland, with all its contradictions, would appeal to the two of them. (And adds another interesting layer to the fact that you wrote a hero who’s Jewish/English/South African. So much more interesting than yet another “to the manor born” lord!) So, any other creative outlets in your life besides writing?

I stress bake. Which seems to have backfired on me since anytime my kids want a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies, they do their best to drive me insane. With three boys who refuse to wear shoes even when the alligators are out, I promise you, something’s always in the oven.

LOL! (Though I’ve got to tell you—the phrase “when the alligators are out” guarantees I will never, never be moving to Florida.) I admire your adventurous spirit! So, what question would you like to ask our readers to get the conversation going today?

Where do you go or where do you feel most in your skin?



Connect with Suzanne Turner on social media:

twitter @suziluvvturner

instagram @notajaxgirl



55 responses to “Meet 2018 Golden Heart Finalist Suzanne Turner”

  1. C.R. Grissom says:

    Suzanne, I love your story premise! I can’t wait to read it. You’ve lead such an interesting life and all your experience must shine through your characters.

    I’m most comfortable around my family and close friends. I’m allowed to be myself. While I love travel, home is the SF Bay Area and I can’t imagine not living seven houses away from my sister. So I’m a NorCal native (a rare beast) and wouldn’t feel right anywhere else. Okay, maybe San Diego. 🙂

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      NorCal natives are rare beasts!! I’m a transplant, and can’t imagine living anywhere else (unless my kids end up settling elsewhere….)

      Sadly, my sister is on the other coast. I tried lobbying for them to move here, but housing prices scared them off.

      • C.R. Grissom says:

        Truer words. My kids might not ever be able to afford a home here. That fact will be the thing that finally uproots me. 🙂

        • Elisa Beatty says:

          Oh, I troll through the real estate listings daily, wondering if I should try to (somehow) snag a second small house to make it possible for them to stay!! (We live in a tiny bungalow, so coming back to live with mom and dad would be….a bit tight.)

          I live in about the cheapest part of the East Bay, but my town is about to open a ferry to San Francisco (half hour boat ride to work!), and I think prices are going to go through the roof soon. Sigh.

  2. Suzanne says:

    C.R.—you get to live 7 doors down from your sister? I am beyond jealous! And as a Bay Area native, you’re practically a unicorn. Can’t wait to catch-up with you in Denver (a placr I wished we lived).

  3. Jennifer Bray-Weber says:

    Love this interview. So nice to “meet” you, Suzanne. What amazing and rich influencers you have had throughout your life. So many different people and paths you have crossed, the greatest of all being your parents.

    I’m a Texas born and bred girl, so I can appreciate sun, heat, humidity, and gators. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But I WOULD move to a Caribbean island.

    I absolutely adore the premise for The Art of Scandal. It sounds like a winner. Good luck in the Golden Heart!!

    • Suzanne says:

      Jennifer—nice to meet you too! Texas women are the bomb! You ladies are that amazing combo of southern gentility and cowboy grit. How you handle the humidity, though…i’d Love your secret.

  4. Love the premise (and the title!) for The Art of Scandal!

    Except for a 3-year stint in Minnesota, I’ve always lived in southwest Ohio. I have three sisters in Florida, one in J-ville, who can’t understand why I moved the wrong direction. Like you, I’m not a fan of heat and humidity. Or those giant cockroaches they call Palmetto bugs.

    My parents met in an aircraft factory during WWII. Dad was a second-shift supervisor, Mom a line worker. His description of her “She was the cutest thing in shoe leather.” Her description of herself: “I was cute and I knew it.”

    She quickly gained a reputation for being stuck up. Dad, recently returned from the war, thought it would be fun to take her down a peg. One evening as she came in to start her shift, he jumped in front of her and said, “Would you like to go out with me Saturday night?” Before she could answer, he snapped his fingers and said, “I forgot. I’m busy.” And walked away to the sound of uproarious laughter from all the other workers. He did that three times. The third time, before he could snap his fingers, she said, “Yes.”

    They married six weeks later and were married for over 30 years before she died.

    It’s hard not to believe in romance when you grow up seeing it every day.

  5. Kate Belli says:

    You know I cannot WAIT to read this!! And as a northeastern gal living in the humidity of the Deep South, I hear you.

    I feel at most home in NYC, where I lived for about 20 years until recently – pretty much my whole adult life. The minute I step off a plane and into a filthy cab, I sigh a deep contented sigh of “home.” Another place is a New England beach, as I grew up on one. There’s a quality to the air and the water that’s different from other beaches, and again, just feels like home.

    • suzanne says:

      Kate–I can’t stop laughing over a dirty taxi giving you a sense of coming home. That’s brilliant and SO NYC. I tried to make it as a New Yorker and didn’t even last a summer –you’re an urbanite. And i totally hear you on the New England beaches, there is something special about them.

      • Elisa Beatty says:

        I thought the same thing! So funny what feels like “home.”

        I admit, I struggle with NYC. Lots of cool places, but I feel overwhelmed by the crowds and dirt and the sheer expense of being there.

        So of course my kid decided to head to college there…and loves it. I hope I get her back to the west coast eventually!!

  6. Suzanne says:

    Jeanne—oh my gosh—your mom had sass and your dad was clearly in love the minute he spotted her in leather shoes. Sometimes, all it takes is six weeks. What a beautiful story and example I’d true love!

  7. Hi, Suzanne! Your book sounds incredible! Travel is a huge part of my inspiration as well, but as far as feeling most “in my skin,” I think it has far more to do with people than place. I’m a natural introvert, and there are very few people who I can truly open up and bare my soul to. One of them is my husband. So I think I feel most at home whenever we’re together. I’d love for that to be in a cottage in Ireland, however. 😉 Can’t wait to meet you in Denver!

  8. Julia Day says:

    Welcome to our blog today, Suzanne!

    With the exception of 2 years, I’ve lived my whole life in the South. My adopted state (and the place I’m most comfortable/would never live anywhere else) is North Carolina.

    My parents have a similar meeting story. He was an USAF officer, on an air crew at a Royal Air Force base in the UK. She was a schoolteacher for the US Dept of Defense–at the same RAF base. They met about an hour after she stepped off the plane, and married less than 4 months later. Wow, our parents’ generation didn’t mess around.

    I am also a big believer in baking therapy. When I’m upset, my family gets to indulge in brownies and snickerdoodles.

    • suzanne says:

      I could do North Carolina — in a lot of ways it is similar to Oregon (trees, mountains, four seasons), just warmer in the summer :). Love your parents’ love story.

  9. I “procrasti-bake” when I have a project on my ToDo list that I really just don’t want to tackle… so my family loves when I’m stressed.

    Being an introvert, my favorite place to work is when no one is around. Solitude and music make it easy to find my jam (unless my ADD has other ideas, which it frequently does.)

    Thanks for sharing your parents’ love strory!

    • auzanne says:

      procrasti-baking! I thought I was alone, but I’ve found a community of bakers. We should have a procratii-bake cookie exchange!

  10. Barbra Campbell says:

    Suzanne, your story sounds rich and fun! Best of luck with it.
    Despite being one of the least romantic people you’ll meet, my sense of home could be anywhere I get to be with my husband, especially if he happens to be in the Colorado mountains. Or maybe I’m just a simple introvert who likes to keep my circle close!

  11. Tracy Brody says:

    Suzanne, I love the sound of this story and that’s it is unique versus the typical historical tropes and I cannot wait to read it. I also LOVE your parent’s love story.

    I love the sunshine, can take the heat and most humidity and I feel most at home in the south and particularly at the beach where I can listen to the waves and watch for dolphins while I walk and plot. Wish I could live there versus a few trips a year. Look forward to seeing you in Denver where there is no humidity I’ve been told. 😉

    • suzanne says:

      Tracy–you’ve got the lilting southern accent that I wish I had! and dolphins swimming is a great sight. I have to appreciate the fact that we live close enough to see them often. Along with the shark teeth we collect on the beach. The teeth are amazingly small. One forgets sharks come in all sizes.

  12. I’m so glad you came out of the writing closet, Suzanne!! HR is what I cut my teeth on and can’t ever go too long without reading. Especially when it’s cold outside, nothing better than curling up with a good book. 🙂

  13. Suzanne, sense of place can be so powerful. To me it’s all tied up with identity, culture and nostalgia…and as a native Floridian I share your love/hate relationship with it. I still get chills at the magical way the air smells right before a 4pm summer thunderstorm sets in, and hives at the hot swampy, marshy glare of a sultry 90 degree “spring” day 😉 Great post!

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      As a transplant to California (which I love, except for the NO RAIN IN THE SUMMER thing…also the traffic thing, and the ridiculously high cost of living thing, and the distance from my east coast family thing), I really have appreciated summer rainstorms and thunderstorms when I’ve visited my dad and his wife in Florida. Very intense, very tropical!

    • suzanne says:

      Scarlet–there is something about the scent in the air right before a rain storm. But then there are the frogs it brings out at night–so loud, no one can sleep. And then there is the “eau du swamp” that we get when the rain and breeze aren’t around to clear out that particular pungent authentic Florida smell.

      • Elisa Beatty says:

        Oh, dear lord!! This time last year I was in North Carolina for a wedding, and we rented a little place right by a picturesque pond. Little did I know about PEEPERS!!

        When those suckers started up, I thought some mad scientist had started up an enormous generator just outside the window and we were all going to be blown to smithereens.

        Took me awhile to figure out it was tiny frogs making all that noise.

        Luckily my sister brought along some really effective earplugs, or nobody would have slept a wink.

  14. Suzanne, your story sounds amazing! Congrats on the second final!

    I love the way you approach a sense of place! That totally resonates with me. I grew up in Alaska & Hawaii and I’ve lived all over the world, but those places always feel like coming home – not so much the climate, but the feel of the place. the culture and the attitude. If I’m in the east and someone worries about wearing white after Labor Day I always hear this voice in my head saying, “Your ways are strange to me.” Not so many rules where I come from! 🙂

    Good luck in Denver!

  15. Laurel Kerr says:


    I love the plot of the ART OF SCANDAL, and I want to learn more about your hero! Your parents’ love story is so sweet.


  16. Your novel sounds wonderful, Suzanne. Congratulations on your second GH final!

    I feel most at home in Yorkshire, England, my birthplace. I long to roam the rolling emerald hills and purple moorland once more. Maybe next year, fingers crossed!

  17. You definitely had an interesting time growing up in California. I was born in Oakland, but we moved when I was a baby, so I don’t even remember it.I’m looking forward to meeting you at the Persisters’ get-togethers.

    • suzanne says:

      Leslie–oakland has some amazing restaurants, including this one Vietnamese place where Jerry Brown used to frequent. It only takes cash…suspicious, but delicious. See you in Denver!

  18. Melonie says:

    Suzanne – this sounds so fabulous and I can’t wait to read this story and watch how the hero and heroine’s journey unfolds.

    And *sigh* love your parents’ story!

    I feel my most “at home” on the shores of Lake Michigan at sunrise – the waves lapping, toes in the cool sand, the sun slowly creeping above the horizon like a cautious wild thing, coming out to play. That’s when I feel most in my skin. 🙂

    • Suzanne says:

      Melonie–you’re a born writer! Ii can feel the water on my toes and the sunrise on my skin. Lake Michigan is huge–I feel like “lake” is a misnomer.

  19. Addison Fox says:


    Welcome to the blog and congratulations on your GH final!!! THE ART OF THE SCANDAL sounds wonderful – best of luck in Denver!

    And I *love* your parents love story. What a happy story – I’m feeling gooey and melty which is EXACTLY how a good love story should make you feel! 🙂


    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Seriously, Suzanne!! You’re going to have to make a little foray into mid-20th-century historical romance, and write their story!!

    • suzanne says:

      Thank you! I, of course, never appreciated my parents story when I was growing up. They were just the annoying, bossy people who drove me around to after school activities. It’s only when I started reading romance novels that I appreciated what a love they shared. Though I didn’t appreciate the smug, “I told you so,” smiles they exchanged when I said so.

  20. Welcome back, Suzanne, and your ms sounds amazing!!! Historical romance was my first love and is still at the top of my list.

    Also, you are totally interesting. I love that you usually start off with some kind of break up. It’s such a great place to begin and we feel empathy for your jilted character instantly. Two birds, one stone, baby.

    Super big congrats! ~D~

    • suzanne says:

      Darynda– my first RWA Nationals was where you won the RITA for best first book. There was something so special about that night, and the crowd of Ruby Slippers cheering you on, you inspired me to try to finish the dang book!

  21. Suzanne, your story sounds so cool! High stakes and lots of complexity, examining some societal issues. As to where I feel most in my skin, I’d have to say up north in Alaska. I have never felt so wonderfully small as I did when we lived there, when I knew I could find a trail pretty much anywhere and forget about my worries for a while. 🙂

    Looking forward to meeting you in Denver!

    • suzanne says:

      Katherine–Alaska sounds amazing. I love long walks and the smell of pine and I can imagine you get a lot of plotting and fresh air.

  22. Janet Raye Stevens says:

    Wonderful interview, Suzanne! Your parents’ love story is so heartwarming, love that opposites attract thing. I also had a youngest son who had trouble falling asleep; still catching up on my own sleep 20 years later! Have to say I’m most comfortable in the water, especially the ocean. Which, living in New England, I only get to do a few times in summer, since the water is so cold. Can’t wait to see you in Denver! Write on…

    • suzanne says:

      Janet–come down to JAX where in July the ocean feels like a lovely warm bath tub!

  23. Meredith says:

    What a fun interview, Suzanne. And I hear what you are saying about a sense of place — I went from Arizona to Minnesota to Oregon! There was a stint on the east coast in there, and never again. I say NO to humidity! Anyway, loved your story premise, and also your personal story. Writing in a closet? Stress baking? Too funny. Can’t wait to meet you in Denver!

  24. Your novel sounds so rich and complex, Suzanne. I can’t wait to see it in my local bookstore!

    I’m looking forward to meeting you at the RWA Conference. 🙂


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