Friday, February 5, 2016



Everybody needs to run away from home at least once. Susan Corbett told people she was out to save the world, but really she was running – running from her home as much as to anywhere. Like many women, she was searching for meaning to her life or for a good man to share it with. In Africa, she hoped to find both.

Compelling and compassionate, In the Belly of the Elephant is Susan's transformative story of what happens when you decide to try to achieve world peace while searching for a good man. More than a fish-out-of-water story, it's a surprising and heart-rending account of her time in Africa trying to change the world as she battles heat, sandstorms, drought, riots, intestinal bugs, burnout, love affairs, and more than one meeting with death.
Against a backdrop of vivid beauty and culture, in a narrative interwoven with a rich tapestry of African myths and fables, Susan learns the true simplicity of life, and discovers people full of kindness, wisdom and resilience, and shares with us lessons we, too, can learn from her experiences.


Susan, how did you get started writing?
I've been writing in journals since I was 10 years old. I kept detailed journals the five years I lived and worked in Africa, not thinking I would write a book, just needing to write down my feelings and what I was experiencing. When I came home from Africa in 1982, people would ask me, "How was it?" How do you explain five years of an experience that changed your life in one brief conversation? In 1991, after I had married and had my 2 boys, I quit working full time to be with my small children. I started reading my journals again and realized I wanted to share my story with the world. So, at the ripe old age of 40, I took every local writing class I could find, joined a critique group, and started going to writing conferences. It took me ten years to write In the Belly of the Elephant

What's your favorite thing about the writing process?
I really enjoy structuring a story, figuring out the story arc and plotting it all out. I have flip charts all over my house outlining chapters, events, and characters. Then, once I get myself in front of the computer, I love the actual act of writing, just spilling my heart and creative soul into the words.

What do you think is hardest aspect of writing a book?
The biggest challenge for me is to actually sit down and WRITE! Writing is a creative process, but first and foremost, it is a discipline. The discipline of writing 3-4 hours every day can be hard to do (especially if you have a day job,) but is essential if you're ever going to finish the book. And, I have found, the more I write, the more my creative juices get flowing. Regarding my memoir, In the Belly of the Elephant was hard to write at times because I felt I was exposing my soul to the world. Not always an easy thing to do.

What do you think makes a good story?
For me, three things make a good story:
a) I love stories with complex characters that learn something and grow.
b) A good sense of place that the reader can become part of. I love stories where the place is a character in the story, by that I mean, the place has a profound effect on what happens to the main character and how the character changes.
c) The best stories have universal truths sprinkled throughout – insights the main character thinks about or learns that the reader can relate to their own life, or life in general.

What is the most daring thing you've done?
Join the Peace Corps when I was 23 years old and go off to live in the deep jungle of West Africa. Although, at the time, it did not seem daring to me. I wanted an adventure.

Who is your favorite fictional character?|
I love Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. I know, I know . . . such an old book, but Elizabeth Bennet has all the traits I admire most in women – independence, stubbornness, willing to challenge societal conventions, loves to read books, loves to dance, loves to take long walks, and is willing to admit when she's wrong. She's awesome!

I agree! What is the wallpaper on your computer’s desktop?
My dog in a park full of snow.

What is your favorite movie?
That's a tough one. So many! I love the movie, Stranger Than Fiction. It's about a writer (Emma Thompson) whose main character is actually living. It's funny, touching, and really fun to watch if you're a writer.

Do you have a favorite book?
Certainly one of my top books is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Incredible writing, wonderful characters.

What are you working on now?
My latest book, The Ghosts of Santa Maria Del Mar is the first in what I hope to be a mystery series. During the feast of the Virgin of Guadeloupe, young girls begin to mysteriously go missing, and someone is leaving long dead skeletons all over town while a mismatched crew of five American women (Melissa, Liza, Josie, Tina, and Sam) are on vacation in Mexico. Unresolved guilt from a thirty-year-old murder of a high school friend sets the group on a series of misadventures. They grapple with the town's handsome police captain, a troubled street youth, the Catholic priest, the town's pot dealer, a seance medium, a rich landowner, and the local ghost to unravel a mystery that goes farther back in time and place than December, 2015 and the small town of Santa Maria Del Mar.

These books will be full of my life experiences, my perspective, my love of place and travel, and the lessons I want to share with the world. They have strong characters and sense of place with a historical unsolved mystery woven throughout. I have chosen the fiction/mystery path because it is easier on the body and soul to write than memoir and more fun.


A writer, community organizer, and consultant in program management, micro-enterprise development, family planning, and HIV/AIDS education, Susan Corbett began her community development career in 1976 as a Peace Corps Volunteer, working in a health clinic in Liberia, West Africa. In 1979, she joined Save the Children Federation as a program coordinator for cooperative and small business projects in Burkina Faso. In 1982, Susan returned to the States where she has worked with local non-profits in drug and alcohol prevention for runaway youth, family planning, homelessness prevention, and immigrant issues. Susan has traveled to over 40 countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Pacific and Caribbean, and Central and North America and has lived and worked in ten African countries over the past thirty years (Uganda, Tanzania, Mali, The Gambia, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Mauritius, Tunisia, Nigeria, and Liberia). She lives in Colorado with her husband, Steve, her sons, Mitch & Sam, and her dog, Molly.

Connect with Susan:

Website  |  Goodreads