By Maddie Keenlyside/Journal Pioneer
SUMMERSIDE - Susan Rodgers' novels are about friendships, but they're ultimately about finding hope.
Writing them is something the Summerside author says she is deeply passionate about.
It was her son who first inspired her to write the series, after a novel she wrote became a finalist in the Atlantic Writing Awards of 2011.
"In the end, it was him who said I should write a series. And I thought maybe I could try it and see.
"It was a story that had been in my head for a long time, so it kind of made sense that that was the one that I'd try to write as a series, because I knew it so well."
With three books already out in her self-published "Drifters," series, there's a fourth on the way - it just needs polishing, she said. And there are even more to come.
"I've got a fifth one plotted, now, but I haven't started writing it. But it is plotted, and I can see where there'd be room for a sixth."
The series, which began with "A Song for Josh," is about a girl who was born and lived in P.E.I. until she ran away to Vancouver at age 12, where most of the series takes place.
"But the fourth book takes place entirely in P.E.I., I had to bring them home at some point."
The attachment she has to her characters feels like having friends in another town, she says.
"I've heard other writers say that too. You feel like you're hanging out with all these cool people and then when it's over it's like, oh, what do you mean it's not real? It's a neat experience."
And having so many books under her belt feels surreal, she added.
"But it's the most satisfying thing I've done in my entire life, because they're so close to me. The first time I say down to write a novel, I didn't know if I could do it. Now it's almost overwhelming, in a way. And it's something I absolutely want to do more of."
She's also currently working on a documentary about the International Children's Memorial Place in Freetown. Though she was hoping the fourth novel could be out by now, she has been devoting her time to her film.
"I have to finish my documentary film first, that's the priority. It's my own passion project, about the International Children's Memorial Place, [where] the mandate is to promote healing through nature for people who've lost a child."
And filmmaking provides her with another way to tell stories.
"I'm a storyteller at heart. And the documentary's also about finding hope, but in a different, more concrete way, I suppose. Walking through nature, though [both] are about the support of people around you."
Success is still tough, she added, and marketing can be harder than writing the books.
"I'm still dealing with that, but it's awesome to see that the books are selling. The word seems to be getting around, slowly but surely."
Rodgers is a member of the Island writing group, "P.E.I. Writes."
Her advice to P.E.I.'s budding authors?
"Keep writing, and don't give up. You may not think you can do it, but if you sit down and try, you'll discover that you can. It's just so incredibly satisfying, and I think the happiest I've ever been in my life is when I was writing those books."
She said she hopes other people can find that same sense of satisfaction and happiness.
Her books are available in local stores, including Summerside's Avonlea Book Store, Charlottetown's Bookmark, as well as online stores like Amazon, Kobo, and iTunes. They can also be found at her website, www.susanrodgersauthor.com.