Growing up in a military family and having married a navy pilot, I suppose I had a predilection for Susan Jimison and her story. We met at a book event hosted by Deeds Publishing where I heard Susan talk about Dear Mark, her first book. It’s the story of her brother, a helicopter pilot who was killed in Vietnam over forty years ago. Just saying his name aloud brought tears to her eyes and a lump to her throat, and maybe mine and the others who sat listening that evening under the stars.
Susan wanted to tell her brother’s story, but struggled for a decade with the task of describing the Vietnam War and its horrors. It was a world she had not experienced and could not fathom. She was to the point of giving up when a writing class partner suggested she try to tell the story in epistolary style, as if she were writing letters to her brother. Susan went back to the drawing board and began Mark’s story again. The change made all the difference. The words flowed as if she were talking to her brother, telling him of the events he missed, good times and bad times.
Today, readers often write Susan to mention how moved they were by his story and how much they appreciate Susan writing the book to honor Mark’s service and sacrifice. It’s a story that might not have been so well received in the 60s and 70s, Susan says, when the war was fresh and controversial. But today, it’s found an audience with survivors and families of those lost in our war in the Middle East.
After Dear Mark, Susan picked up the pen again, or perhaps more accurately, sat down at her computer to write the story of her cousin John Donovan, one of WWII’s Flying Tigers. John was lost in that war, amazingly, as Susan would discover, in the same country but one thousand kilometers away from where her brother had been killed. Though well known in some circles, Susan thought there was still much to say about the Flying Tigers, many of whom fought and lost their lives far from home.
It would take Susan another decade to write The John Donovan Story. Once again, she turned to letters—ones John’s brother had saved and which are preserved in the Pensacola Florida Naval Air Station Museum. John’s brother and Susan had a common bond, both had lost brothers and neither wanted their legacy to be forgotten.
Despite the tragedies in Susan and her family’s lives, there is a silver lining to her personal story. At a Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Reunion, Susan met Mike Jimison, a member of Mark’s company and fellow helicopter pilot. Soon after, Mike and Susan married and later Mike contributed a chapter to Dear Mark.
Even after two successful books to her credit, Susan is still a much self-deprecating author. She tells audiences where she and I along with Valerie Connors and Connie McKee appear as The Book Widows that she wouldn’t know where to begin to write a novel. We all laugh and just hope she’s working on something new, and that it doesn’t take a decade to come to market.
Susan and her husband Mike Jimison live in Woodstock, Georgia. Their children are grown but they have a furry one, Dude, who they claim is the best dog in the world.
Look for Susan at one of our area’s many veteran gatherings where she often speaks about her stories. You can also read more about Susan Jimison and her books at susanclotfelterjimison.com
Featured Bookstore Nearby: FoxTale Book Shoppe
FoxTale Book Shoppe has been named the best bookstore in Atlanta by Atlanta Magazine. Take a drive over there, if you’ve never been. Look for the inviting store (some say “homey”) tucked away like a fox’s den in a half block of stores just the other side of the railroad tracks that mark downtown Woodstock. The “foxes” that own and operate and make things tick at FoxTale include Karen Schwettman, Jackie Tanase and Ellen Ward. Be prepared to find the store filled with other new customers as well as long-standing fans, well-known and emerging authors, and children discovering a first book. FoxTale is known for the many events the store hosts.
105 East Main Street, #138, Woodstock, Georgia