Just how many happy endings can a story have? Susan McBride always wanted to write, and now she’s the award-winning author of the best-selling The Cougar Club and Little Black Dress, as well as a five-year breast cancer survivor, a sought-after speaker and—surprise!—a first-time expectant mom at age 47. (Although that surprise might be more accurately described as a happy new beginning.) The ebullient McBride says she’s also an ‘accidental cougar.’
“I had never dated younger men! My sister is the real cougar—she’s been dating younger guys since we were in high school. But then I met my future husband at an event at the Contemporary Art Museum in November 2005,” she says. “He looked like such a baby—he still does—and someone told me he was in his 20s. I had just turned 41 and I thought, No way! If he’s not at least 30, forget it. On our first date, I asked him how old he was and he was not quite 32.” With that out of the way, things moved pretty quickly. “We fell in love really fast!” The couple married about 18 months later. Although she used it in her book title, McBride is perplexed by the cougar label. “I think it’s a ridiculous double-standard and kind of silly. But there are a lot of people who take it really seriously,” she says. “When The Cougar Club was first being promoted, I got hate mail from women who questioned why I would write ‘such filth.’ And all I could think of was, You need to read the book! It was just the title that was provoking this incendiary reaction in some people,” she says. The book doesn’t focus on dating younger men, she adds. “It’s about women in their 40s, relying on their friendships, feeling good about themselves and finding what makes them happy.”
Since her own experience with breast cancer, McBride has been active in fundraising for the Susan G. Komen foundation and will be the featured speaker to the Kansas City chapter in May. She also has organized her own fundraising event, Wine Wit & Lit, featuring local authors, to benefit Casting for Recovery, a national program founded in Vermont in 1996. “They send breast cancer survivors to fly-fishing camps,” McBride explains. “When you’ve had breast cancer surgery, your arms are not as mobile as they used to be; they feel like they’re fastened to your sides with a string and it’s hard to get them over your head. Fly-fishing helps with that mobility.” The camp is only open to breast cancer patients, she adds. “It’s a small group where everybody can relate and talk about what they’re going through.”
In addition to women’s fiction, McBride also wrote the Debutante Dropout Mysteries series (including The Good Girl’s Guide to Murder and Too Pretty to Die), and several young adult books about Houston debutantes, researching them through personal experience. “I went to high school and college in Texas, and I was around a lot of debutantes. They practiced their curtsies—Texas dips, they called them— during study hall! And I had this vision: Someday I’m going to kill all of you in a book! But I can promise you,” she laughs, “No debs were ever harmed or killed in the writing of these mysteries!” The author also drew from her real-life experience as a medical transcriptionist. “I could ask the doctors things like, If a person were cut here, how much would they bleed and how long would it take them to die? Fortunately, they knew I was writing a book!”
The soon-to-be mom says she’s enjoying every minute of her pregnancy and has no doubt the experience will find its way into a future book. And, like many expectant moms, she’s having her share of cravings—healthy and not-so-much. “Yesterday, my mom brought me oranges, but I have to have Wendy’s Sea Salt Fries once a week. They’re sooo good!”
McBride and her husband don’t know if they should be thinking pink or blue, but McBride has promised to keep us posted.
Stay tuned for the next chapter!