Suzanne Barclay wrote more than a dozen books for Harlequin Historical as well as one for Silhouette Intimate Moments. Her historicals were set in the medieval period, and she was known for her meticulous research. Hardly a month goes by that she is not on someones Recommended Reads list. Her fans fell first for her work, and then, if they were lucky enough to meet her at one of the numerous conferences she attended, knew her as a friend. (Romantic Times Reviewer, Debbie Richardson)
I was blessed to have known Carol as a friend. I met her seven and a half years ago when she was starting a local chapter of Romance Writers of America in the Rochester, New York area where I live. At the beginning, she did it all: led workshops, sent out monthly newsletters, critiqued the work of group members, did publicity to help the chapter grow, all while getting her own brand-new writing career off the ground. Carol worked tirelessly, wanting to give back in honor of those who had helped get her first book published. Over the years, with much thanks to Carol, Lake Country Romance Writers has produced numerous published authors.
Carol was truly a gift to aspiring writers, both in the RWA chapters she belonged to and in the Writers Workshops she presented for the Pre-Convention classes for Romantic Times. Carol was a true and gifted teacher. She had a great love of her craft and a generous, giving spirit that led her to help others feel that same joy of writing. She spent time reading newcomers work and offering advice, helping would-be authors learn how to network at conferences to sell their work, and even took time to introduce writers with promise to agents and editors she knew. Carol was an immensely positive person. She made aspiring authors believe they could succeed.
One memory that will always define Carol Backus for me occurred about two years ago while she was being published as part of a Harlequin anthology. She had brought the cover flat to share with our writers group, and was talking about some other anthologies that were coming out at the same time. She looked at us, pleased with the work, but said, I just wish there was a big name author on this. Those of us around her found our jaws dropping. You are the big name, we told her. That was Carol, totally unassuming.
Carol is survived by Kenneth E. Backus, her husband of 23 years, her parents, Phyllis and Whit Hoose, her four stepchildren, three sisters, nine grandchildren, a nephew, nieces, many friends and a legion of Suzanne Barclay fans.
Readers will miss Suzanne Barclay, an extraordinary storyteller whose spirit will live on as they re-read the tales of the Sommervilles, the Sutherlands and the Carmichaels. The people whose lives she touched will miss her unfailing optimism, her generosity of spirit and her infectious smile. Her fellow authors will miss the joy and knowledge that she readily shared. I will miss my friend. (Suzannes Editor, Karen Kosztolnyik)
As the editor for Suzanne Barclay, I felt incredibly privileged to work with one of the best historical romance writers in the business. But what was truly an honor was knowing Carol Backus, the wonderful woman behind the pseudonym.
Carol initially had a professional career in advertising for Xerox Corporation. But romance novels had always been her true love. After a chance meeting with author Jude Deveraux, who told her how she got started, Carol was inspired and decided to try her own hand at writing. When she finally published her first novel, Knight Dreams (Harlequin Historicals, 92), she had not only sold her first book, but two other stories that made up a trilogy. And the medieval family saga of the Sommerville Brothers was born. Carol became a full-time writer, igniting a career that produced 13 Harlequin Historical titles, including another popular medieval family, the Sutherlands, as well as one Silhouette Intimate Moments, Man With A Mission (93). Her final book, The Champion (Harlequin Historicals), is on sale December 1999.
Soon after I began working at Harlequin in 1995, I was teamed up with Carol to give a speech on Advanced Editing for an RWA chapter conference in New Jersey. I was incredibly nervous as this was my first conference, and I was speaking with an author whod already written seven books and had rapidly become a top star for Harlequin Historicals.
Then I met Carol for the first time, about an hour before we were to speak. She was so warm and kind-hearted, after only a few minutes, I felt Id known her for years. She suggested we sit down and go over the finer points. Immediately, I became relaxed. Carol had that gift of making you feel you could achieve anything. She even gave me some tips on how to jazz up my speech with some literary references shed used previously.
Needless to say, our talk was a hit. And I was quite impressed by the number of aspiring writers who flocked to Carol afterwards to ask her to sign their copies of her books and to request personalized writing tips.
Carol managed to touch so many people positively, not only with her beautiful work, but with her constant generosity, boundless enthusiasm, and outspoken loyalty for the romance genre. Being her editor, I cant say enough how much I enjoyed reveling in her creations of stories steeped in medieval times, all the knights and noblewomen coming to life. It was a world I loved to visit with her while we worked on a book together.
It brings comfort to know that she will be remembered and leaves behind a legacy that will give pleasure to generations of readers. A light has definitely gone out in the historical world. But Carol Backus will always be with usthrough her wonderful Suzanne Barclay books. (Karen Kosztolnyik is an editor with Silhouette Books in New York City. She currently acquires for Silhouettes contemporary lines)
Most of us in Carols home chapter, Lake Country Romance Writers, credit her with our success for giving us the lessons to pursue our writing goals and the persistence to achieve it. Through her own success and writing expertise, Carol presented us with a series of how to workshops which were practical, succinct and instructive. She also read our manuscripts and critiqued them. Consequently, some of us became published, and many are close.
But, like all that knew her, we will remember and miss Carol most of all because of the wonderful colleague and friend that she was. Always cheerful, never unkind, Carol contributed zest and unselfishness to the romance world. She responded with absolute joy and pride when we sold books, won awards and received good reviews. She built us back up when proposals were declined, we didnt get nominations or when books were received with less than enthusiasm. She never let the petty actions of others, in the writing world and in her personal life, get her down and refused to be encumbered by jealousy, competition and ambition. Her low-key approach to the industry and to life was a breath of fresh air for us.
It served her well in the end. Up until she went into critical care, Carol told us she was going to beat the cancer and she could handle it. It is what it is, shed say. So you have to deal with it. What choice do you have?
We, however, knew there were other choicessuccumbing, whining, asking, why me? Never once did Carol fall victim to these negative emotions. She was, and remained, a courageous, optimistic lady, just like the heroines of her novels. (Kathryn Shay writes category romances for Harlequin SuperRomance & Patricia Ryan writes medieval historicals for Topaz and category contemporaries for Harlequin)
Suzanne Barclay’s Books on Amazon: Suzanne Barclay