If you told Suzanne Locklear lightning never strikes twice, she would probably laugh her head off. Her story is filled with unbelievable luck, both good and bad, and it details the occurrence and recurrence of scourges like fire, starvation, disease and flood. Having never met her, you might imagine Locklear to be a bitter, hardened woman with a guarded heart. But against all odds, she is entirely alive and as warm as the goodies that have made her famous among friends and celebrities alike.
Sitting in the middle of Locklear's Garden City headquarters, it's hard to imagine how she runs two businesses, a household, a slew of children and grandchildren and the makings of a literary blockbuster. Everywhere are baskets, bows and foodstuffs, the backbone of her successful gift-basket service. Many of the fillers are her own label—Suzanne's Sensational Foods—a company and concept that grew from two bouts with breast cancer and an ingrained dedication to healthy living. From salad dressings to chocolate chutneys, Locklear's recipes are made with love and a lot of spice, much like her memories.
On the phone, her voice is rich and musical. She laughs a lot, sighs and pauses in just the right places. From the sound of it, she has been writing all her life. But Locklear insists that she has never written anything. She can't even remember completing an assignment for her high school English class despite the fact that her mother has a degree in the subject.
"My brother, Ray Everett, was the biggest supporter and source of encouragement in the very beginning. I knew I had an interesting story, but I'm not an English major. I couldn't remember any of the rules, but he kept saying: just write. So I did," Locklear said.
That was three years ago, and the book, entitled Thorns Have Roses, is a true-life memoir filled with adventure, misery, courage, wisdom and a collection of corresponding recipes. While still in the editing stage of the game, Locklear has already been offered a contract from a well-known publisher, validation that has been "a long time coming." The first draft was 280 pages and took two-and-a-half years to write, and though Locklear lamented her lack of experience at first, she soon realized the power of raw, spontaneous retelling.
"I wrote everything out of order. I would wake up in the middle of the night and a strong memory would come to me. At first I just lay there for hours thinking about the past and doing imaginary writing, and finally I decided to get up and do some real writing," she laughed. Each night, Locklear would tiptoe to her computer and let inspiration guide her fingers. When she had at least 15 pages or was done reflecting on a particular experience, only then would she stop and read. "I was amazed at what came out. I knew it was not a literary achievement, but I was pleased at the depth of it, the simple truth in what I wrote," she said.
When the first draft was done, Locklear began giving chapters as gifts to the people whose lives they painted. Lifelong friends, past lovers, mentors and relatives all came back with resoundingly positive feedback. Locklear decided to go forward, buying several guidebooks after the fact.
"I didn't look at any manuals until I was done. By then, I had already shared my chapters, and everybody said they couldn't put them down," she said. "I knew that was a good thing, because you want to keep the reader going."
What keeps the reader going in Thorns is a combination of Locklear's untrained style and a killer set of circumstances. Having been inspired by so many strong women, she hoped to write a book that could spread cancer awareness and teach grace and forgiveness in the face of adversity. It is a story filled with sadness and loss, but through it all, Locklear has kept her spirits and a healthy sense of humor. As for success, she only hopes she will touch people the way she has been touched.
"I hope it will make people laugh. I hope it will make them cry. I hope they see themselves in it and think: "Oh yeah, I've done that," she said. "I hope it will have them searching for deeper meaning and a real purpose in life. We all have one, it just takes some digging."
For in-store locations or more information about Suzanne's Sensational Foods, call 1-800-654-5017 or visit www.suzannesfoods.com.