Romance Author Susan Meachen Came Back from the Dead, Shocking the Book Community

by

Content Warning: Mentions of suicide, mental health, and faking death

 

Romance Author Susan Meachen is Back from the Dead—And No, This Isn’t the Plot of a Daytime Television Show. 

Creative individuals, including those in the writing community, are not strangers to mental health struggles.

Indie romance author Susan Meachen was no exception, but she did what she could to create a safe space for herself, other romance authors, and her beloved readers in her general online interactions as well as a private Facebook group called “The Ward.” But despite what her closest connections knew, her struggles were more than the writer of “perfectly flawed romances” felt she could take.

In 2020, Meachen’s daughter announced that Meachen had been struggling with her mental health for a long time, and she had since taken her own life.

But where Meachen’s life appeared to end is where her more twisted story begins.

 

“It Drove a Huge Wedge in the Writing Community for Months.”

Meachen was a frequent user of Facebook and Twitter during her time as a romance author, and the announcement was made on Facebook, allegedly by her daughter who had logged into her mother’s account to write the post. It’s the earliest conflicting detail of Meachen’s death, as the community ponders who actually wrote and published that post.

But in September 2020, the writing community was preoccupied with their shock at the news, the overwhelming grief of a lost friend and fellow writer, and the guilt some felt from the alleged reason behind Meachen’s death. Further clarification by “Meachen’s daughter” in a subsequent post insinuated that Meachen had been struggling with her mental health more in the months leading up to her death because of online bullying, which she found to be especially prevalent in the online book community.

Fellow author Samantha A. Cole reflected on receiving the news: “When it came out that one of our own had taken her life, that was destructive enough. We were grieving for that alone.”

“But when it came out that she was bullied,” Cole added, “all the finger-pointing started, and it drove a huge wedge in the community that lasted for months.”

 

“Dead People Don’t Post on Social Media.”

Before her death, Meachen had written her final romance novel, titled Love to Last a Lifetime, which she had penned as a wedding present to her daughter.

Susan Meachen’s Daughter on Facebook

While publishing and marketing the book online via Meachen’s social media channels, Meachen’s daughter was regularly contacted, inquiring why Susan Meachen’s Facebook profile was still active, rather than memorialized.

Meachen’s daughter soon created a Facebook post that troubled many: “Sorry, [I] thought everyone on this page knew my mom passed away. Dead people don’t post on social media. I’ve been on this account for a week now, finishing her last book, my wedding gift from her.”

The final line of the post read as flippant to some: “Now here’s the link to her last book and goodbye!”

While Meachen’s daughter was creating the final arrangements for the wedding gift for her mother, the writing community was actively doing what it could to support Susan Meachen’s memory, her contributions to the book world, and her remaining family.

Over the course of the next two years, “The Ward” on Facebook remained active, where the group kept Meachen’s memory alive, and fundraisers and book auctions were held to give monetary contributions to Meachen’s family, including covering the costs of her funeral.

A particularly meaningful project to the indie author community, especially among romance authors, was the compilation of an anthology of short stories in Meachen’s memory. The collection was called the Bully King Anthology and was focused on the bully romance trope. The dedication for the anthology read, “For Susan Meachen. An author of what she called ‘Perfectly Flawed Romances.’ The world is a little less bright without her. Words can hurt, but they don’t have to. Words can also heal. Let’s keep bullying where it belongs—in fiction.”

 

“Let the Fun Begin.”

But on January 3, 2023, author Samantha A. Cole shared a Facebook update that shook the writing community to its core and left its memory of Susan Meachen in a much darker light.

Susan Meachen in “The Ward” on FB

Her post directed fellow writers’ and readers’ attention to a Facebook post that had appeared in “The Ward” Facebook group—one that did not claim to be Meachen’s daughter, but Meachen herself.

The post read: “I debated on how to do this a million times and still [am] not sure if it’s right or not. There [are] going to be tons of questions and a lot of people leaving the group, I’d guess. But my family did what they thought was best for me and I can’t fault them for it. I almost died again at my own hand and they had to go through all that h*ll again. Returning to The Ward doesn’t mean much but I am in a good place now and I am hoping to write again. Let the fun begin.”

In a Facebook message with Cole, in which Cole asked, “What is going on?,” Meachen simply replied, “Nothing. I simply want my life back. My family was in a bad place and did what they thought was best for me.”

In the whirlwind of discovering Meachen was still alive, members of the community who were active in the “The Ward” Facebook group began to put together their own theories surrounding the Facebook posts that had periodically appeared on Meachen’s personal profile and in the private Facebook group under “Susan Meachen” since her “death.” Fellow writers and readers had noticed before Meachen’s departure that she consistently typed “‘post to” when she should have typed “supposed to,” and they noticed that “Meachen’s daughter” had made the same error in her posts. While it’s a possibility that the error had been passed down while raising her child, this explanation seems mild at best. It’s much more likely that Meachen was posting all along, the group reasoned.

Susan Meachen’s Daughter on Facebook

There was also a concerning post in “The Ward” back in February 2021 written by “Meachen’s daughter,” which reads: “Unless something changes in the next 21 days, all of Mom’s books will be unpublished. Her paperbacks will be going on sale [and then will be] unpublished. Her paperbacks will be going on sale, then unpublished. The only way you’ll be able to get the books will be through Audio. Her sales and page reads have been zero for a few months now, and it’s a waste of my time to work them every morning after work with zero movement. H*ll, we hired a PA (Personal Assistant) to help, and it’s not helped any so far. So if you want any of her work, then now is the time to pick them up. Also, this account will be dark except for Audio promoting.”

Some theorized that this sounded more like a resentful author whose plan to sell books posthumously had backfired, rather than a bereaved daughter. Some reasoned that if they were in the daughter’s position, they would have wanted to keep their mother’s books available, if only for another means to keep her memory alive, regardless of the book sales. They pointed out that if they became exhausted by the marketing of the books, they could simply leave them listed without doing further work to market them, and the books would still exist as keepsakes for someone’s mother, even if they weren’t functioning as successful income streams anymore.

 

 

Who is TN Steele?

TN Steele on Facebook

Posing as her daughter was not Meachen’s only method of keeping her personal profile and “The Ward” active, either. Over on TikTok, Meachen has maintained an account since before her “death,” under the name of Susan Meachen. The videos are primarily responses to trending sounds and face filters, and they do not directly engage with the WriterTok or BookTok communities, which was likely how Meachen remained off of all fellow readers’ and writers’ social radars. But it’s haunting to think of the number of videos she was able to watch, and the number of important conversations she was able to engage with, purely as a lurker, while the people she used to associate with mourned her and attempted to move on.

Also, just one month after the announcement that Meachen had passed away, a brand new author created a Facebook business page under the name “TN Steele.” Steele mostly posted silly memes and occasional writing-related memes but little else. However, Steele also requested to join “The Ward” and was accepted.

Recently, the writer who was running “The Ward” in Meachen’s memory announced that, due to personal events going on in her life, she would need to step down from her Admin role. She didn’t want to see the group close or become inactive, so she asked if anyone in the group would like to step up and be the new admin.

Though they were new to the scene, and presumably to the writing community, TN Steele commented, “I’ll take it, [name redacted]. I will overhaul it in hopes that it pleases you and Susan [Meachen].”

After Meachen announced in “The Ward” that she was still alive, TN Steele posted on their author profile page an update: “This account will be closing soon, and I will return to my real account and name. If you would like to follow, let me know.” The post to this date has fewer than 10 responses, all of which are negative in nature.

 

Is This a Real-Life Villain Origin Story?

Upon hearing the news of Meachen’s return, many people in the writing community addressed what the romance author had done. Some accused her of being thoughtless and apathetic to the feelings of others, specifically those who had grieved her loss. In response, Meachen claimed her daughter had posted all of the Facebook posts between her departure and the present, and she also stated that her family believed this had been the best plan for her at the time, given her mental state. She did not respond to the inquiries about grieving and emotional distress.

Others questioned if this was a ploy to sell more of her books, especially given the heated nature of that earlier post from “Susan Meachen’s daughter” back in February 2021, and they questioned if they could expect reimbursement for the donations they had placed under false pretenses. Meachen argued, first, that the money had not been given to her directly (rather, her family), so she did not owe anyone money, and second, that the money had been willfully donated.

Susan Meachen on Facebook and Anonymous Fellow Author

The nature of Meachen’s responses gave many fellow writers pause as her general demeanor suggested signs of narcissism and gaslighting, particularly given her dismissal of anyone’s expression of grief at her previous “loss,” as well as her accusations that she is now being “bullied again” while people attempt to hold her accountable. These are classic DARVO (Deny, Attack, Reverse, Victim, and Offender) traits commonly found in both narcissists and those attempting to gaslight someone. Fellow writers also took issue with the further negative connotations this could give people with mental health disorders, as well as the worsening reputation of the romance writers’ community, which is already frequently criticized.

To make the situation all the more confusing, some have now begun to wonder if it’s really Meachen typing on the other side of the screen. If it is, her behavior has become increasingly hostile and, quite frankly, villainous in the past few days.

A writer shared an interaction they had with Meachen on Facebook Messenger, and it gives off strong “this was all part of my evil plan” vibes.

The writer asked, “How could you pretend to be dead and have all of us donate money to you, all so you can come back and sell a book?!”

Meachen responded, “Honey, be mad all you want. Look on the internet, my name is plastered everywhere. This was all planned out from Day One. And now my books will be sold everywhere. I can say my daughter got the money, because you have no proof it was me. So go to the community and cry about it all you want. But the truth is, my plan worked, and now you will be unfriended and blocked. I heard Netflix is calling to do a movie about me. So call me crazy all you want. I’m brilliant.”

Over on Twitter, Meachen’s behavior has also become increasingly alarming, as (allegedly) she has tweeted, “I’m back, baby!” and “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,” and “Are we having fun yet?”

 

Who is Behind the Keyboard?

Similarly, journalist Michael Gallagher from Upstream Reviews reached out via comment to Meachen, asking if he could interview her about what had transpired, to which she gave a thumbs-up emoji. Gallagher interviewed “Meachen” about her experience of faking her death and her feelings about the money that had been donated. Since then, the publication became concerned that the responses were not actually written by Susan Meachen and had them retracted.

Here are the responses that may or may not have been written by Susan Meachen: 

“The best fiction is rooted in fact; the events may not be authentic but the emotions are. Since 2020, that’s been my life and death. Did I leave the mortal coil? No, but the pain was real. You can’t just take ‘a break’ from that, not unless the bullies take a break, too, which was basically all I wanted. I died not physically but spiritually.

“The bullying stopped, and I was finally able to breathe, ironically, when people believed I STOPPED breathing. They knew how far I was pushed and finally saw the toxicity. Things actually improved, not just for me, but for others. You can criticize the means, but you can’t deny the end.

“But then what? At some point, I wasn’t doing anyone any good by staying dead when there was more to be gained and more healing to be had by reaching out. The New Year seemed like an auspicious time for a New Beginning. I knew some people would be upset at least at first. I’m sorry they feel that way, but the proof is in the pudding.

“A fiction author’s job is to create new realities, which is what I did. Does transcending the pages of a book make me a bad author or a good one? Who’s to say where the lines are drawn, but in one tiny corner of the world, my death was real, the darkness that led up to it was real, and so was the light that emerged.”

Gallagher next asked, “What would you say to those who feel they donated under a false pretense and might feel wronged?,” to which Meachen replied:

“To those who donated, I would again stress that this wasn’t demanded of them. I’m sorry they feel wronged, but they chose to DONATE. It doesn’t magically become a loan because they regret it now. And WHY do they? Because an author told a story? The only difference now versus before is that I’m alive. They’d rather I be dead? Then they’d be happy about donating? That’s what it seems like they’re saying. They’re cruelly wishing death on me.

“Only the end of my life was a work of fiction, and those who would prefer otherwise should consider what that means that they WANT me dead. Even if you think I did something wrong, does it warrant THAT? The death penalty? The same toxicity that pushed me to this in the first place proves I was morally justified. As soon as the world learned I still had a pulse, the bullying resumed, and the ‘piling on’ began.

“So why did I make a public return? What will be different this time? As I said, the best fiction is rooted in fact. For the past 2+ years, I’ve lived my own death, I’ve witnessed what few others have, and I have survived to tell the tale. And that’s exactly what I’ll do. My next book will be one only I could write. Because I lived it, I lived that death. What better stage for a Perfectly Flawed Romance?”

 

What’s Next in the Book Community?

Readers and writers overseeing this situation are struggling to maintain what is real and what is fiction as the details continue to unfold. Without being able to watch someone physically type and post at their keyboard, how can we tell which words have been written by Susan Meachen, by her daughter, or by some internet troll who hacked into her account? Is this the work of someone unstable, looking to make a buck, or someone who broke in, ready to stir up trouble? At the moment, it’s impossible to tell.

If this really is Meachen speaking, it seems she has goals of writing “her story,” and she also seems to hope for Netflix’s or other major platform’s attention. Though the publishing community cannot control whether an author writes a story, or if other mediums choose to give it attention, readers and writers can still decide what to read and what to review.

But there’s a larger ongoing issue here, around what constitutes bullying and how to prevent it from spreading and saturating the book community. There are writers who have experienced frequent bullying, we have no doubt, and much more can be done by onlookers in the community to prevent further bullying from happening. Looking on is not enough; action has to be taken to make a person feel safe in their community and to discourage others from acting as bullies in that community. But what “Meachen” called “bullying” in the Upstream interview hardly seems to constitute bullying—but rather, accountability. Being held accountable can be a difficult, even painful, experience, but it’s hardly the same as bullying, and as any writer will tell you: The words we choose to use matter.

 

Statement by the Lit Shark Staff 

Lit Shark is only one small corner of the literary community, so we cannot predict the future of what will come from this controversy surrounding Susan Meachen. We also don’t want to play any “judge, jury, and executioner” games around here, so we don’t want to pass judgment on Meachen; we’re only here to report on the facts we know about this situation.

That said, Lit SharkLit Pup, the Shiver Collective, and our partner, the Banned Book Review, will collectively be a safe space for all readers, writers, creative enthusiasts, and supporters. That means that this is a safe space to take creative risks; to have important, tough, and fun conversations; and to be free from negative behaviors (including bullying, harassment, and more). Writers who have participated in these negative behaviors will not be featured in this safe space, and we will continue to challenge ourselves to make the literary community a collectively safer and more inclusive space for all.

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