Not Dead Yet [UPDATE: Q&A RETRACTED]
After it was announced on social media that romance author Susan Meachen had taken her own life two years ago, the literary community rallied to support her family. It turned out to be a massive lie.
UPDATE: Since the original publication of what we believed to be Mrs. Meachen’s response and her answers to our subsequent questions, a number of people close to her on social media have expressed doubt as to whether or not the individual we spoke with in fact was Susan Meachen. Additionally, Mrs. Meachen has apparently denied that it was her we spoke to on other platforms. As we are currently unable to verify this, we have made the decision to hereby retract those parts of the article. What was originally reported has remained. We apologize to Mrs. Meachen and regret the error.
Susan Meachan was an independent romance author, having published fourteen novels since 2017 on Amazon. The Tennessee native amassed a respectable Facebook following of about 1,300 followers and was active in a private writer’s group known as The Ward with over 700 members. Her Amazon bio described her as a “mom, meme and friend.” Priding herself on her ability to write “flawed leads” in her books, she promoted herself as an “Author of Perfectly Flawed Romance.”
While not necessarily famous, she was prolific, had her share of readers, and networked well enough to become acquaintances with the likes of USA Today bestselling romance author Samantha Cole, with whom she frequently talked shop. Hers was an underdog story of a woman who nurtured her talents for years, spent time putting in the work and was on the way to blazing her own path through a crowded and fiercely competitive literary genre.
Then, in September 2020, things took a dark turn. Meachen began venting on social media about various difficulties she was encountering with being bullied by various literary cliques and complained about mainstream publishing in general. She also admitted to a history of mental health issues, saying that she had previously attempted suicide and that her next book, scheduled for release October 30 would be her last.
A few weeks later, someone claiming to be her daughter using her account would announce that Meachen had taken her own life after being bullied and harassed at length.
An Outpouring of Support
To those who were friends with Meachen over Facebook, the news was shocking. Several fundraisers were set up to help Meachen’s grieving family. Indie writers and friends banded together to help posthumously publish her final novel. Writers contributed to an anthology of —and I swear I am not making this up— Supernatural Bully Romance— that included this heartfelt dedication page:
Her friends even helped edit and publish several more of her books, including one whose release was said to have been meant to coincide with her daughter’s wedding as a gift— all allegedly free of charge. It was truly a touching display of sincere friendship.
Except Susan Meachen wasn’t dead.
Following the Money?
Since the story erupted a few days ago, there’s been no shortage of people asking questions and speculating as to why Meachen chose to leave this way and why she made the decision to make herself known now.
One possible motive is money: a reddit user in r/RomanceBooks wrote a post titled Another Author Behaving Badly.... coming back from the dead? They mention finding several posts on facebook and elsewhere of artists providing Meachen with cover art which they accuse her of turning around and selling, claiming it to be her work. The redditor linked the following screenshot, which they allege is a chat between disgruntled artists and authors who have been burned by Meachen as well as accusing her of using copyrighted art:
Emerging From the Shadows
In fact, unbeknownst to the rest of her writing group, she had actually rejoined under the name TNSteele, eventually taking over admin duties for The Ward.
Also, she was on TikTok the entire time with an account (now deleted) under her own name.
Two days ago she finally decided to make her formal return to the land of the living in The Ward, announcing herself to a group of hurt and confused members. (H/T @Daggerofliars via Twitter)
And the people who donated to those fundraisers?
Not looking too good for them, either:
The internet, naturally, has exploded. The story has gotten a metric ton of mainstream attention from the likes of the New York Post and Rolling Stone, though details are all more or less the same.
However you can find a video featuring commentary about the whole thing from Samantha Cole on Austrailia’s News7 and a thorough, if at points circumstantial compilation of events and evidence on r/RomanceBooks on Reddit.
And with that, we are left with so many questions, that mostly boil down to one question: Why? What it was that drove a woman to immolate her credibility, professional good will and reputation in a series of social media posts, we may never know. If she wanted attention, well, she certainly has it now. And if one is inclined towards cynicism and truly does believe that no publicity is bad publicity, this wave of scandal may very well have her reap a windfall. Time will tell.
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