Second Mrs. Hockaday (Rivers)

Author Bio
Birth—N/A
Raised—Shingle Springs, California, USA
Education—M.F.A., Queens College (Charlotte, North Carolina)
Awards—for playwrighting (see below)
Currently—lives in Blacksburg, South Carolina


Susan Rivers is an American playwright and, most recently, author of the Civil War era crime novel, The Second Mrs. Hockaday (2016). Rivers was raised in Shingle Springs, California, outside of Sacramento.

It was a high school librarian who first piqued Rivers' interest in southern culture and southern women in particular. Southern women, said the librarian, were schizophrenic—sugary sweet and soft on the outside but tough as a bear on the inside. River's English teachers further opened her eyes to the pleasures of literature, the way storytelling explores ordinary people, in their approach life and love and ideas. And so, as Rivers says in her website, she came to love language: "Language is my life."

Rivers started off as a playwright. At the age of 24, she wrote her first play, Maude Gonne Says No the the Poet, based on the British actress who had enthralled 19th-century poet W.B. Yeats. When it was performed in San Francisco, Rivers' play jump-started what came to be a fairly successful career in the theater.

Working as a National Endowment for the Arts Writer-in-Residence in San Francisco, Rivers received the Julie Harris Playwriting Award and the New York Drama League Award. She was named a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Award for British and American Women Playwrights. She is also a veteran of the Playwrights Festival at Sundance Institute for the Arts and the Eugene O'Neill Playwrights Conference. She has crossed the country working on productions and workshops of my plays.

Rivers married a stage actor and director. As she tells it, however, after witnessing the divorces and split families of so many of her colleagues, she realized life in the theater might not lead to a healthy marriage or family life. After talking with her husband, the two quit the theater and eventually, with their seven-year-old daughter in tow, decided to move. They ended up clear across the country, in North Carolina, where her husband took a corporate job and Susan wrote nonfiction and short stories. That was 20-some years ago.

Since then, the family has moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, where Rivers got her M.F.A., and then to a small town in South Carolina, where they live now. With their daughter grown, she and her husband collect stray animals (none, she says, are turned away).

Rivers also teaches English at a university in the upstate region of South Carolina, a job she says that allows her "daily interactions with bright young men and women crafting their own relationships with language." (Adapted from the author's website and from Greensboro News & Record.)

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