I grew up in New Jersey, got my BA in sociology
from Bucknell University in
Pennsylvania, and have either been writing or
involved in education for most of my adult
Since college, I have taken a variety of writing
workshops and studied the art of fiction and
editing. When my children were young and in
Montessori classrooms, I became certified as a
Montessori pre-school directress and thoroughly
enjoyed my years as a teacher.
Three to six year olds are my favorite age
group! More lucrative, but not half as fun, was
the time I spent as a training consultant for
business, writing manuals covering everything
from personnel policy to how to change a tire.
During all these years, I was always the kind of
person who questions things.
I read a lot and study on my own,
mostly theologians, because I have a lot of
spiritual questions like: What does it mean to
be human and what is the meaning and purpose of
life? I am troubled by violence and hatred and
wonder if these things are fixed human traits or
if there is hope that the suffering of war and
cruelty can end. When I came across the work of
Rene Girard in 1997, I realized that I had found
a way of understanding the world that not only
explained the origin of conflict, but offered
clues as to how to move away from a culture of
violence. And then I saw
Staff Writer, Pioneer Press,
"Wicked" inspiration The story of
the two witches of Oz has been
passed along for more than a
century. Glinda and the Wicked Witch
of the West now have two stories,
one where good and evil are clearly
defined while the other blurs those
boundaries. Suzanne Ross, a Glenview
author and director of Christian
education at the First
Congregational Church of Wilmette,
has written a book that addresses
the concepts of good and evil as
presented in the musical "Wicked."
ďIt is a rare privilege as an artist
to have oneís work explored in such
a profound way. The Wicked Truth is
a fascinating and valuable study of
the ways we all wrestle with the
wickedness within and without us and
how we can combat it. Ē
Composer / Lyricist, Wicked
Where did you grow up and was reading and writing a part
of your life? Who were your earliest influences and why?
Suzanne Ross: I grew up in Morristown, New Jersey, the
oldest of five children. I read and wrote constantly! I
was very fond of book series in grade school. I remember
fondly books about a girl named Betsy and a series about
the Bobsey Twins, and I was consumed by the Nancy Drew
mysteries! My siblings and I created a family newspaper
to report on our vacation trips, and we wrote and staged
our own plays. I kept a diary on and off from an early
age and in high school enjoyed writing short stories.
Why do you write?
Suzanne Ross: I
canít imagine not writing. Itís the way I process the
events of my life and the ideas that influence me. And
itís the way I reach out to others, hoping to share my
discoveries. Itís as if I have this drive to learn and
grow, but it doesnít seem enough that itís for my sake
only. It seems to matter somehow that my efforts at
making meaning are only truly meaningful if they are
Wicked Truth was
inspired by the musical Wicked
a blockbuster musical that challenges us to think
carefully when we make accusations of evil. There are
lots of accusations flying around these days from issues
of war to the economic meltdown. Wickedís
message is to tread very carefully when we feel certain
that we have caught the devil dead to rights, because
thereís a good chance we might actually have an innocent
victim by the throat. In writing The
Wicked Truth, I
wanted to both highlight and deepen these lessons
regarding good and evil.
Briefly discuss The
Wicked Truth About Love -- What is Mimetic
The mimetic theory is about human relations. It says
first that the human self is not a separate entity but
needs otherness to exist. Itís like the poet said, no
man (or woman) is an island. We are more like a pot of
overcooked elbow macaronis all stuck together in a
glutinous wad. Once we realize this, it revolutionizes
everything we thought we knew about human relations. Two
critical facets of our relationships are desire and
conflict. Hereís where mimetic desire reveals the wicked
truth about love.
fundamental revolution is in our understanding
of desire. Itís no secret that from the moment
of birth humans learn everything from language
to social norms from others Ė parents, teachers,
friends. This learning takes place through a
process of imitation, which is what the word
mimetic means. The odd thing is that we even
have to learn what to desire by imitating the
desires of others.
about it this way. You and a cow both get hungry
and you both have to find something to satisfy
that hunger. Cows have no choice about what eat.
Itís grass, grass, grass. They donít suddenly
wake up one morning craving the breakfast
burrito they saw advertised on the side of a
bus. But you can go to the trendy new restaurant
you heard about from a friend because your
desire for what to eat is unattached to any
object. Itís learned. Put simply, we desire
according to the desires of another.
If I am
learning to desire the things that you desire,
maybe the thing we both want is something we
canít share very well, like a promotion or a
piece of property or a lover or the last
breakfast burrito. We could come to blows over
it, not because we are so very different, but
because we share the same desires. Shared desire
is at the root of the quarrels, rivalries,
conflicts and wars that have plagued desiring
humanity since we began walking on two legs.
You say "Perfection is a dangerous thing to wish for."
Perfection is a dangerous thing to wish for. We all do
it though Ė we keep this list in our heads of the
qualities of our one true love but there are two
problems with that. The first weíve been talking about Ė
that list came from outside influences so it may not be
a great guide for us to be using. And there is
absolutely no way that you are going to find a perfect
match. Either you will be passing over really good
possibilities because they fail in one or two
categories, or you will ďsettleĒ and try to change the
real person to fit your ideal. Thatís not love, itís a
What are the 6
Tangles of Desire?
fall in love with someone their friend is already in
love with Ė thatís taking sharing to a dangerous level.
Celebrity Chefs work
overtime to get their friendsí approval of their
lover and then when they get it, they can become
jealous and suspicious.
The Super Hero tends
to fall in love with unattainable people Ė the
greater the chances for rejection, the greater
Rock Stars fall
in love with people who do wonders for their
image. But if they find a flaw, itís out the
window Ė they wonít be caught dead with anything
less than perfection.
suffering with love, so the more it hurts, the
more they think theyíve found the real thing.
the wicked truth about love. They donít fall
into the other tangles because they donít
confuse their desires with the desires of
others. They know love is a mystery and a Gift
and that anything that good is worth working
What do you hope readers will say after reading The
Wicked Truth About Love ?
Suzanne Ross: I
hope that theyíll begin to enjoy living with a sense of
mystery in their lives. If we can free ourselves from
our need to know the answers, or to be right, we can be
open to receive what life may be offering us in the
shape of another human being who loves us. Rather than
ďitís better to give than to receive,Ē I hope people
will begin to say, ďIím going to practice receiving love
today and see what happens!Ē
What are a few things that get in the way of TRUE LOVE?
A lot of people
have these ideas in their head about what love is, what
their perfect someone looks like and acts like and
dresses like, and they have no idea that all these ideas
didnít come from the depths of their lonely hearts and
have next to nothing to do with what love really is or
who might be right for them.
What do you hope to achieve with your books!?
I hope to get
the conversation about love and what it means to be a
human being moving in a different direction. I think we
have been locked into a lot of misconceptions about
love, good and evil, desire and conflict that have
gotten us into a theoretical and practical rut. We want
to be good, yet so often our efforts backfire. We are
desperate for love, for peace, for community but instead
we find ourselves locked into rivalries and patterns of
gossip, betrayal and resentment. Itís time for a new way
to think about how to be good and how to find love that
delivers on its promises. I hope that my books offer a
fresh approach to these problems.
What was the last book you read?
The last fiction
I read was ďA Fine and Private PlaceĒ by Peter S.
Beagle. Itís a wonderful meditation on how, without love
in our lives, we are not truly alive. And I am rereading
ďThe Joy of Being WrongĒ by James Alison, my favorite
theologian. In it he talks about the shape of
forgiveness and how we can become a new creation formed
in the self-giving love of God.
Iím actually working with James Alison to make a DVD
series of him teaching classes based on his theology. It
requires me to do some script writing for the
production, which Iím nervous about because Iíve never
done this sort of thing before. But Alison teaches us
how to live a life of love, and I will do anything I can
to share that discovery with others.
Do you have any hobbies? What are they? How do they
enhance your writing?
Well, my hobbies rest my mind, give me a break from
thinking so that I can come back to my work ready to see
things in a new way. I like to cook for my family, to
play golf, practice yoga, watch movies, and read classic