Our conversation today is with Suzanne G. Beyer, associate editor and writer for Seattle’s Northwest Prime Time magazine, who also attends a manuscript critique class every Friday afternoon. Her many articles have appeared in national magazines on a wide range of topics from health concerns to sports.
Today we’re going to talk to Suzanne about The Inventor’s Fortune Up for Grabs, a nonfiction book she co-authored with John S. Pfarr, a Rhode Island and Connecticut attorney. Suzanne describes the book’s category as part memoir, part inheritance tale, and part mystery.
Monumental mayhem breaks out in a family following the receipt of a letter saying, “You have been determined to be an heir-at-law of Arthur Hadley…”
Great Uncle Art Hadley, inventor of the expansion bracelet, died leaving $7 million and a poorly worded trust. Who will inherit Hadley’s estate? Will it be two women, adopted as adults by Hadley’s son? Or, will it be myself, my brother, and our nine cousins – Hadley’s bloodline.
With a click of the mouse, I find Estate Planning Attorney John S. Pfarr, who, through initial reading of Hadley’s trust, thinks the bloodline has not a snowball’s chance in hell of inheriting. Thus ensues a 6-year legal drama through the court system, which included scuttled settlements, mediation, and a trip to the U.S. Supreme Court by two of the cousins. This turned out to be John Pfarr’s case of a lifetime.
You can order the book through Amazon – or go to www.theinventorsfortune.com. Click on “Contact Us” and fill out the form to Suzanne G. Beyer. She will discuss payment and then send you a signed copy.
Writers-Editors Network: Suzanne, what inspired you to write The Inventor’s Fortune Up for Grabs?
Suzanne Beyer: The roller-coaster court case began with the letter from an attorney saying we, Art Hadley’s bloodline, could be eligible to gain part of our Great Uncle’s massive estate. I first researched everything I could find out about Art Hadley, his expansion bracelet, which was the forerunner to today’s expansion watchband, and what kind of a character he was. I discovered he liked his bootlegged liquor, drove fancy sports cars, and had an eye for gorgeous women … all during the Depression!
My oldest cousin, Cindy Gay, took the lead in this event, and asked each of us cousins if we were in. After we secured a very apprehensive attorney, John S. Pfarr, who felt that representing a group of 11 cousins had many potential pitfalls, we were off and running on a journey of high hopes and the lowest of lows.
Attorney Pfarr and I both wanted to write books about this debacle; however, we both needed the other’s point of view, so we decided to write one book using two perspectives … that of the attorney on the case, and that of his client.
Writers-Editors Network: How did you go about the actual writing of the book?
Suzanne Beyer: I kept all the email exchanges through the six years of the inheritance case … emails between Attorney Pfarr and the group, and those among just the cousins and my brother. Several file folders of printed-out emails in chronological order, served as the guts for the book, jogging my memory of events. These also provided critical quotes I could use.
Writers-Editors Network: What was your favorite chapter or character in the book?
Suzanne Beyer: My favorite character in the book is my oldest cousin, Cindy Gay. Always my mentor with her English-major book smarts, coupled with street smarts, Cindy served as a big sister to me. Chapter 8, “Cindy takes a turn,” still makes me cry. I wrote that chapter from the heart, and to this day, have a hard time re-reading and re-living it.
Writers-Editors Network: What was the biggest challenge in bringing this book to publication?
Suzanne Beyer: One big challenge publishing this book was that our publisher, Book Publishers Network, wanted us to submit it to a fall book fair in Portland, Oregon, leaving us only five months to write and publish it. We made the deadline and were even chosen to be one of just a few to sign the book at the Portland exhibition.
However, for me, the biggest challenge was working with a co-author. Attorney Pfarr was used to collaborating in his field, and wanted to discuss each detail together with me. I, on the other hand, was used to working alone, writing my articles and submitting them to magazines. He was a phone caller. I was an emailer. The list goes on about our differences in modus operandi; however, somehow, the book emerged as a good product we’re both proud of.
Writers-Editors Network: Do you plan on writing more books about your family?
Suzanne Beyer: Since co-authoring The Inventor’s Fortune Up for Grabs, I’ve written my childhood memoirs, called Diving into Life. This is a book for family and close friends, which I published through Blurb BookSmart.
Writers-Editors Network: Has the book had any success beyond its print publication?
Suzanne Beyer: The book’s story was so compelling, I decided to query Investigation Discovery TV’s “The Will.” They researched all the legal documents of this six-year case and interviewed a few of my cousins, Attorney John Pfarr, and me. Investigation Discovery aired “The Art Hadley Estate Story” in 2012.
This story would also make a good screenplay. I’ll leave this one to Attorney John Pfarr if he feels like doing any more writing. But, just so everyone knows, I’d like Sandra Bullock to play me.
How she writes . . .
Writers-Editors Network: Where is your favorite place to write?
Suzanne Beyer: I like to write with pen and paper, feet up, on my favorite couch in the living room. Then I race upstairs to my office computer and bash out my scribbled notes. I also write on my daily walks, i.e. ideas swim in my head, then fall out onto the blank page upon my return home.
Writers-Editors Network: Do you have any writing rituals?
Suzanne Beyer: For some strange reason, I love to write around 4:00 p.m. This, however, is interrupted with dinner preparations around 5:00 p.m. Luckily, after dinner, I’m still inspired to write, which can go on into the night.
Writers-Editors Network: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Suzanne Beyer: When I was 35 years old, I submitted a “Letter to the Editor” of the Seattle Times. I was shocked to see it in the following day’s newspaper … with my byline! I must have run around the neighborhood heralding the news that I was a published writer.
After 9/11, I noticed that a favorite publication I read, Northwest Prime Time, didn’t have any stories on the tragedy. Since I was a native New Yorker, I’d be the perfect person to write it. Words flowed. When I submitted my 600-word piece to the editor, she immediately asked for a photo. I had kept a photo of my daughter and me standing on the roof of the World Trade Center, and submitted that. When I went to pick up the publication, I looked down at the feature, to see my photo staring up at me, accompanied by my full article. I knew then my passion for writing was here to stay.
Writers-Editors Network: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Suzanne Beyer: When I’m not writing, I like to walk four mornings a week, and swim the other three. I belong to a deep-end swim exercise class, that I used to lead. Now, it’s become a Tuesday and Thursday morning rogue game of beach ball/volleyball/water polo. We all emerge as drowned rats following that game. I also like to read, go on trips with my husband, Don, and have lunch with friends.
Her advice to writers . . .
Write from the heart! Be passionate! Don’t worry about spelling or grammar in this first draft. In the second or third draft, you can use your head to correct those pesky grammatical mistakes. Also, know that your life events and experiences are unique. Draw from them!