Sue Harper is a local Kelowna author whose debut book, Winter in the City of Light: A search for self in retirement was released in May 2019.
Winter in the City of Light is about what happened to Sue well into retirement. A time when she felt disenfranchised, rootless, purposeless. A time when what retirement experts call “the sugar rush of retirement” had definitely crashed.
At this pivotal stage in her life, Sue's partner, Bonnie, was accepted into an art course in Paris and Sue, of course, planned to go along with her. Who could turn down Paris?
Sue claimed to anyone who would listen that she was going to be like Hemingway, become a flaneur, roam the streets of Paris and write.
She knew it was a lie. She was terrified to be in a city alone, where she didn’t speak French and was petrified of getting lost.
Winter in the City of Light follows Sue's journey of self-discovery through the streets of Paris.
Before the start of their adventure, from the comfort of their home, Sue and her partner rented a one-hundred and eight-year-old apartment online. It was gorgeous—way more expensive than they could afford, but the pictures on the website were fabulous. They couldn't say no.
When they arrived in Paris, they walked up the stairs to their fabulous apartment, buzzing with excitement. With every step, they anticipated the large lounge area, the modern kitchen, the old-fashioned bathtub—all those things they fell in love with.
They put the key into the door, grasped the doorknob, and—it fell off into Sue's hands. If she hadn’t been so shocked, she would have laughed. From there on in, their dream accommodation spiraled downhill.
Welcome to Paris.
Determined to make the best of it, the myriad of stories Sue gathered as she walked the streets of Paris for nine weeks pushed her to get in touch with her retired self. She recognized the stories had potential.
Paris became a character in her life and eventually in her memoir.
Winter in the City of Light weaves together three major threads – finding out who she was as a retired person, the stories of Paris, and the psychology and neuroscience of the brain as we age.
She figured out how those elements worked together so she could make the weaving of all three threads make sense—creating a beautiful tapestry. A story of her Paris.
Busy writing high school English textbooks for the English curriculum in Ontario, Sue didn't decide to pursue writing until quite late in life, compared to so many writers who say they knew they wanted to be writers from the womb. Although, she did dabble with writing short stories and found she quite enjoyed it.
It wasn’t until Sue was fifty-four that she decided she liked writing non-fiction much more than fiction. She discovered interesting stories were happening all around her and decided to start pitching articles to magazines. She found she could bring many of the elements she had learned in fiction writing into her non-fiction.
Looking back, Sue Harper has always been a voracious reader, passionate about the written word. So much so, she went back to school at sixty-two-years of age to take a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Non-fiction.
Is there more to come? Time will tell.