In October 2020, a post on indie romance author Susan Meachen’s Facebook page, allegedly written by her daughter, announced that Meachen had tragically died by suicide a month earlier. This news was followed by more posts from Meachen’s “daughter” (on Meachen’s account) in the author’s private writers group, The Ward, suggesting her mother took her own life because her peers in the online indie book community bullied her.
In light of this horrible news, authors and online friends helped fund Meachen’s funeral, created an anti-bullying anthology in her memory, and offered to help her daughter edit her mother’s final book, free of charge. On Monday—over two years later—Meachen’s account posted something new in The Ward. This time, it was Susan saying she’s actually been alive this whole time.
“I debated on how to do this a million times,” she wrote before explaining that she was, in fact, alive. After rightly assuming people would have questions and that some would want to leave the Facebook group, Meachen ended it with: “Let the fun begin.” I can’t help but wonder how many of the million versions of this post ended with that sentiment.
Meachen is (was?) a self-published indie romance author with 14 titles listed on her Amazon author page, including her “final” book, Love to Last a Lifetime, which was intended to be a wedding present to her daughter...according to a Facebook post on Meachen’s author page that promoted the book after her “death.” From the backlash this new announcement has received, it’s clear she had a somewhat sizable presence in the very-online indie writers’ community. Her Amazon author bio reads: “I live in the Southeastern corner of Tennessee with my husband of 24 years with our two cats and our four snakes. If you don’t see me running around online then I’m normally off creating a world for others to enjoy.” Arguably, the world she has created this time has not brought folks too much enjoyment.
I’m tempted to make a joke about leaving it to a self-published romance novelist to give you the twist of a lifetime, but the whole ordeal is all so baffling and upsetting. If Meachen’s latest post in The Ward is to be believed, it seems that perhaps she had attempted suicide in 2020 and that her daughter decided it was best to just tell people she had successfully committed suicide, because it was “what [the family] thought was best.” Meachen says she “can’t fault them for it.” Hmm, I…can? As a general rule, it’s best to announce that someone is dead when they are actually dead. Otherwise, things get a little messy.
Of course, immediately following Meachen’s announcement (revival? resurrection?), the online writers’ community that had rallied around the news of her death two years ago had a lot of questions. My personal favorite is the first comment on her post in The Ward, which just reads, “WB?” (welcome back?)
A search of Meachen’s name on Facebook brings up a slew of posts in line with Kelly Kapoor from The Office stating, “Yeah, I have a lot of questions, number one: How dare you?”
Writer and former online friend Samantha A. Cole wrote a lengthy post on her own Facebook page explaining Meachen’s resurrection and voicing her own anger and shock.
In that post, Cole revealed another wild tidbit of information: A month after Meachen’s “death,” she created a new fake account under the name TN Steele. Meachen, as TN Steele, joined The Ward Facebook group and worked her way up to leading it. Meachen’s former personal assistant, Connie Ortiz, had taken over the group after Meachen’s “death” but in November, Ortiz posted that her family’s recent health issues had made it difficult to keep up with her admin duties. She asked if anyone wanted to take over her role so that she didn’t have to shut the group down. Soon after posting, TN Steele commented, “I’ll take it Connie Ortiz. I will overhaul it and hope that is pleases you and Susan.” An insane thing to write in my opinion!!
It isn’t totally clear how folks determined that TN Steele was Meachen’s fake account, nor is it clear whether Ortiz was aware that Meachen’s death was an alleged hoax. Some people are claiming she was in on it; others, like Cole, are insisting she was “completely blindsided” like the rest of them. Those blindsided are rightly furious about the time, money, and grief they spent over what was allegedly a fake death to maybe sell more books (?). Some people, like Candace Adams, have reached out to Meachen directly, asking when to expect their money back. Meachen is claiming there was never a fundraiser in her name.
Looking through Amazon’s listings of Meachen’s books, almost every single one of them could be the title of this drama: Finding Me: Two Books in One, Stolen Moments, Letting Go. Obviously, a lot of questions have been raised by this whole ordeal. Does Meachen even have a daughter? Is this a hoax in and of itself? If it isn’t, is Meachen legally responsible for repaying those who donated to her funeral? What happened in those two years between faking her death and now? Why on earth did she end her resurrection post with, “Let the fun begin?”
I expect we will be learning more about this as it unfolds, and—as was maybe the plan—will be hanging onto every upcoming word Meachen writes.
If you or anyone you know is thinking about suicide, you can call 988 at any time of the day or night to speak with trained counselors.
Jezebel has reached out to Susan Meachen, Connie Ortiz, and Samantha A. Cole for comment about this situation but has not heard back.