Susan Lapp-Mellott, a York Catholic High School graduate, doesn’t let illness stop her. Despite living her whole life with a heart defect and being diagnosed with chronic congestive heart failure more than six years ago, Lapp-Mellott has continued writing stories ranging from memoirs to children’s books.
Early this year, the York resident released her first adult fiction novel, “Sassy With A Capital ‘S.’” Now, she’s in the process of writing its sequel.
We caught up with Lapp-Mellott to see how it’s going.
Book Buzz: You’ve written in plenty of styles — children’s books, short stories, memoirs, adult fiction. What’s it like adapting your writing for different audiences? What did you like or not like about each one?
Susan Lapp-Mellott: I enjoyed writing for children. I suppose partly because I illustrated my own picture book and hard-bound novel. But I now enjoy writing for adults. I like writing both fiction and nonfiction. I enjoy pulling the ideas for adult novels out of my head, but I also like writing nonfiction. Writing my memoirs and ethical will was a very moving experience for me. I call it writing from the heart, and I find I enjoy that, as well.
BB: You’re in the process of writing a sequel to “Sassy With a Capital “S”" — did you plan it as two books? Tell me a little about the story.
SLM: The idea for a sequel came to me before I finished the “Sassy” story. So, I left an opening at the end of the book for a follow-up novel. Sassy is a story about seven women who have been close friends for well over 30 years. Their bond is a very special one, one that, it seems, usually only happens to women. The story opens with them heading off on an extended trip to Ocean City, Md. While there, they find they have a mystery on their hands. It’s a novel that has a lot of playful fun in it, as they find out who is responsible for their mystery. It showcases the love, respect, honesty and close friendship that is the cement in their relationships. The story is based on my Red Hat group, but it is fiction. The picture on the cover is of the seven ladies in my group, put into coloring book format, used with their permission, of course.
BB: How much time each day or week do you devote to writing? What does your “office” or writing space look like?
SLM: I normally spend about three to four hours a day writing, but lately, my writing has been for an online course I’m currently taking on marketing myself. I have a computer room where I sometimes write, but most times my writing is done while sitting on my sofa with my feet up. (Because of my CCHF I tire quickly, so that lets me rest while I write.)
BB: Where do your ideas come from for your fiction novels? Do you ever experience writer’s block?
SLM: So far so good. It just seems that the ideas just keep coming. While writing the “Sassy” book, I’d sometimes have to get out of bed to write something down, so I wouldn’t forget it.
BB: You were diagnosed with chronic congestive heart failure. How long ago was that? Does it ever affect your writing or how much time you can devote to it?
SLM: I was diagnosed with CCHF over six and a half years ago, but I was born with a heart defect. It caused me to go into Ventricular Tachycardia, which wasn’t really given a name until I was in my early 40s. At age 44, I needed to be implanted with a pacemaker, from then on I’ve been pacer dependent. I had a pacemaker for 14 years and then in 2006, I took a turn for the worse and was told I now had CCHF, because my heart had deteriorated, and was working at about twenty percent. When hospitalized, the doctor wasn’t sure I’d ever make it out of the hospital, but I believe God wasn’t done with me yet. I was implanted with a defibrillator with a built-in pacemaker. I am now on my second one. My life changed drastically after that. My normal no longer existed. My life, now, is very sedentary. I live every day of my life with gratitude and acceptance to God for all the blessings He’s bestowed on me.
BB: What types of books do you enjoy reading? What are you into now?
SLM: I love reading all types of books, but I certainly enjoy a mystery or a heartwarming story. I read mostly fiction. It takes me so many places where I’ve never been. I read every day. Right now I am reading “Storm of The Century,” the scriptplay version, by Stephen King.
BB: If you could meet one author — dead or living — who would that be? Why?
SLM: I don’t even have to think about that question; my most favorite author is Stephen King. He truly amazes me. I know his stories are way “out” there, but I so admire him. I feel God has truly blessed him with such a marvelous and vast imagination. I used to work for the company that made the fancy boxes that were satin lined inside, designed to hold his special edition of “From a Buick Eight.” My boss knew how much I loved and respected Stephen King, so he asked the company that published the special editions to send him a few books. So, I cherish that book and beautiful satin-lined box. My only regret was that the book was not signed by Stephen. I am so impressed with him! (Can you tell?)
Name: Susan Lapp-Mellott
Lives in: York
Family: Husband, Gerry; three daughters; six grandsons
Occupation: Retired because of disability
Hobbies: Writing, sketching, painting, making hand-made greeting cards, reading