Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Susan Wands Interview - Magician and Fool

Photo Content from Susan Wands

Susan Wands is a writer, tarot reader, and actor. A graduate from the University of Washington, she has acted professionally across the United States and on Broadway. Her adaptation of Pride and Prejudice was produced at the Cornish Institute in Seattle and she has written plays, screenplays, and skits and produce several indie films. She was a company member in Rumble in the Red Room, an off-Broadway troupe, for four years. As a co-chair with the NYC Chapter of the Historical Novel Society, she helps produce monthly online book launches and author panels. Wands’s writings have appeared in Art in Fiction, Kindred Spirits magazine, and The Irving Society journal First Knight. She lives in NYC with her husband, actor Robert Petkoff, and two cats, Flora and Flynn.


When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
In high school, I had a teacher who chose to read a piece I had written out loud to the class. It was one of the most thrilling moments I can remember from living in Caribou, Maine. It’s taken me quite a few decades to learn how to write something worthy of being read out loud. My husband, who is an accomplished audiobook narrator, is going narrate my book with another wonderful female narrator, which makes this a whole circle of having my work read out loud come full circle for me.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to have a life in writing?
The best advice I could give someone is read as much as you and find out what the style of writing is that you like, but read all sorts of genres. Then write, write, write! Then get feedback from people you trust and don’t be afraid to rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.

Has reading a book ever changed your life? Which one and why, if yes?
Pride and Prejudice. I loved this book so much because Elizabeth Bennett has what we now call “agency.” She was like Cinderella in that she was picked by the “prince” but she issued the edict that she was not to be judged and valued as “less than” in his world. I loved her POV, her wit and her emotional integrity. I went on to adapt Pride and Prejudice as a stage play, and adapt some of her early Juvenila writings as a staged play in NYC. Pride and Prejudice changed my life because I saw a book that was written by a woman who wanted to write a story that she knew intimately and wrote

Can you tell us when you started MAGICIAN AND FOOL, how that came about?
In high school, I had a book that had the black and white images of the Waite Smith tarot deck (called the Ryder Waite deck during that time) and was intrigued to learn how to read tarot cards. When I moved to NYC at a restaurant called Nadine’s in the West Village, I had my cards read once during a brunch, my mother and brother were there, and the reader told me I was meant to go beyond reading tarot cards and bring the reason for cards out into the world. At the time I wasn’t sure what she meant, but what I did know was that I was obsessed with Pamela Colman Smith, the creator of the deck. When you bought a deck of those tarot cards at the time, there was a little brochure included which detailed what little was known of her life. I must have carried that brochure for over a decade in my purse, I just needed to carry her story with me. As I started to research her life, I wrote an early play about her but realized that for me, it was bigger than a staged play, I needed to write a series where the muse of each of her tarot cards came to life.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters?
First, I was surprised to learn that Pamela was such an accomplished artist and creator outside of collaborating with A.E. Waite to create the tarot cards. Then, I as I cast and based each of her Major Arcana cards on the people in her life, I learned what incredible people were involved in Pamela’s life: Sarah Bernhardt, Bram Stoker, W.B. Yeats, Henry Irving, Ellen Terry.

What were your inspirations for the character development?
Pamela’s character development is based on the 22-steps of the Major Arcana, each card has a lesson or a change that she learns and incorporates into her cards as she becomes a self-confident and evolved person.

Meet the Characters
PAMELA COLMAN SMITH — is an enigma wrapped up a mystery, as Winston Churchill would say, who is a character in one of the later books in this Arcana Oracle Series, Magician and Fool being Book One. Pamela was born to American parents in London, but there has always been a mystery about her birth, her parents and her heritage. She was a child progeny, having her book of Jamaican folktales published before she was twenty, going to the Pratt Institute of Art in Brooklyn at fifteen, and touring back to London with Lyceum Theatre company with Bram Stoker when she was nineteen. In real life, she was unknown for about one hundred years as an artist, even though one of her creations, her best-selling tarot deck (100 million copies in 20 countries!), did not have her name attached to them. I love writing about creative process with her condition, now known as synesthesia, where the senses are cross-hatched, you taste colors, feel words, smell music. As a young artist trying to start her career in London, I’ve loved the intersection of her life and that of Bram Stoker, who in really life was a mentor and friend, “Uncle Brammie” to her, and Ellen Terry, the highest paid female star on the London stages. And then there was Sir Henry Irving, the first actor who was knighted, who employed Pamela to tour and work with the Lyceum Theatre and William Terriss, the handsome stage star who became an inspiration to Pamela. Intermingled with these characters, is the Golden Dawn, a real-life society of magicians, where in this series of books, Pamela meets her nemesis, Aleister Crowley, known by some as “the wickedest man in the world” who was also determined to create his own tarot deck that would influence the world.

Best date you've ever had?
Going to listen to John Adams composition El Dorado in L.A. with my husband on one of our first dates.

What's your most missed memory?
I have an identical twin sister, Cynthia Wands, a brother Curt and two younger sisters, Kathy and Barbara. We used to go up to our grandparents farm in upstate New York and be totally doted on by our grandparents, Goldie and Courtnay Wands. They would let us “perform” in the parlor as children, which meant we dressed in up costumes and lip synced to albums like My Fair Lady.

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today?
My first husband died of brain cancer. I didn’t find out that he was ill until we divorced and I married Robert, who I have been very happily married to all these years later. This experience has changed the way I think about what I think I know and what I have to give.

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?
Oh, absolutely have a true love with a guarantee of heart break.

What is your greatest adventure?
My greatest adventure has been restarting my life after performing as Isabella in School for Husband at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego.

What is your most memorable travel experience?
Robert and I flew to Morocco to visit his sister and her family who were living in Casablanca at the time. Because of bad weather we were diverted to Fez, about two hours driving time south and would have to take a bus back up to the city. We didn’t speak Arabic or Berber and as the plane sat on the runway, surrounded with fog, we saw the English-speaking air flight crew being driven off in a golf cart. Thanks to kind people on the plane who we befriended during the flight, they made sure we got on the right bus in the terminal parking lot. It was the middle of the night and we drove through all these fog and misty stops along the way, men sitting at outside cafes in single breasted suit jackets drinking as the bus rolled by. At one point, I looked out the bus window and there about 500 yards away, was a gas station, where a man with a long-handled broom was washing an elephant. The lamp shone down from up above, and here weren’t that many outdoor lights, it shone brightly on the elephant and the man, making for an unbelievable sight. I’ll never forget it.

Pamela Colman Smith, newly arrived from New York to her birthplace of London, is received as an oddball in Victorian society. Her second sight helps her in her new illustrating tarot cards for the Golden Dawn, a newly formed occult group. But when Pamela refuses to share her creations with Aleister Crowley, a controversial magician, he issues a give up the cards’ power, or he’ll harm her muses.

In the midst of this battle, two of Pamela’s idols, the actors Henry Irving and William Terriss, take her under their wing. Henry, who tutors her as the leader of the Lyceum Theatre, becomes the muse for her Magician card. William Terriss, teaching her by examples of instinct and courage, becomes the muse for her Fool card. As Pamela begins to create the tarot deck, she is almost overwhelmed by the race to possess the magical power of her cards. In order to defeat Aleister, Henry and William will have to transform into living incarnations of the Magician and the Fool—and Pamela will have to learn how to conjure her own magic.

You can purchase Magician and Fool at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you SUSAN WANDS for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Magician and Fool by Susan Wands.

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