Susan Swan’s critically acclaimed fiction has been published in twenty countries. Currently, she is finishing a memoir, Too Big, about the way size shaped her life and working on a sequel to her short story collection, Stupid Boys Are Good to Relax With. She is the co-founder of the Carol Shields Prize for Fiction, a new literary prize for women and non-binary writers in North America.
Her latest novel, The Dead Celebrities Club, was released in 2019 with Cormorant Books and is a fascinating account of a Toronto-born tycoon jailed for fraud in the US. Dale Paul is the hedge fund whale. He enjoys a life of self-delusion that allows him to gamble other people’s money for his personal enrichment. When his biggest gamble — involving the pensions of the American military — fails, many of those who trusted him find themselves living on the street or in their cars. Sentenced to prison, Dale Paul is confronted with nothing less than the challenge of understanding himself and his place in the age of the new robber-barons.
The Western Light, (Cormorant Books 2012) describes a girl’s love for a dubious father substitute, an ex-NHL star and convicted murderer. Its heroine Mouse Bradford appeared in Swan’s international bestseller, The Wives of Bath, which was made into a feature film, Lost and Delirious (2001). The film starred Mischa Barton, Piper Parabo and Jessica Pare and was shown in 34 countries. The Wives of Bath, (about a murder in a girls’ boarding school) was a 1993 finalist for the U.K.’s Guardian Award and Ontario’s Trillium Award. It was picked by a U.S. Readers’ Guide as one of the best novels of the nineties.
Swan’s sixth book of fiction, What Casanova Told Me, links two women from different centuries through a long-lost journal about travels with Casanova in Italy, Greece and Turkey. What Casanova Told Me, was published by Knopf in Canada (hardcover September 2004 and paperback 2005) and in the US by Bloomsbury (hardcover 2005 and paperback 2006). It has also been published in Spain, Russia, Serbia and Portugal. Swan shares a Puritan background with her heroine Asked For Adams. A branch of Swan’s family immigrated to America in 1635 and settled near Boston before moving to Canada two centuries later.
Swan’s other novels include The Biggest Modern Woman in the World, based on a true-life ancestor, a giantess who exhibited with P.T. Barnum. It was a finalist for Canada’s Best First Novel Award and the Governor General’s Award for Fiction. The Last of the Golden Girls, about the sexual awakening of young women in an Ontario cottage country, was originally published in 1989. Stories from her collection, Stupid Boys are Good to Relax With (1996) were published in Granta and Ms. magazine.
Journalist, feminist, novelist, activist, teacher, Swan’s impact on the Canadian literary and political scene has been far-reaching. She has retired from her position of Associate Professor of Humanities at York University and currently mentors creative writing students at the University of Toronto and the University of Guelph. In 1999-2000, she was York’s Millennial Robarts Chair in Canadian Studies. As chair, she hosted the successful Millennial Wisdom Symposium in Toronto featuring artists and social scientists debating the ways the lessons of the past. As chair of The Writers’ Union of Canada (2007-2008) Swan brought in a new benefits deal for Canadian writers and self-employed Canadians in the arts.
A native of southwestern Ontario and graduate of McGill University, Susan Swan makes her home and garden in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood.