Former supporters of writer Susan Mechen say it’s a “slap in the face”.
It’s a plot twist that romance writers didn’t see coming.
The Facebook account of Susan Mechen, an indie romance writer. Suddenly returned this week. More than two years after she committed suicide. Because, she couldn’t take online bullying from some of her competitors.
“I’ve debated how to do this a million times and am still not sure if it’s right.” Someone wrote Tuesday in Machen’s private 770-member Facebook group called The Word. “There will be a lot of questions and a lot of people will leave the group I guess. But my family did what was best for me and I can’t blame them.”
The author — it’s unclear whether it’s Mechen himself or someone posing for him. Hints at struggling with his mental health.
“I nearly died by my own hand again and they had to go through that hell again,” the author posted. “Being back on the ward doesn’t mean much but I’m in a good place now and I want to write again. Let the fun begin.”
Now the romance writers who mourned Mitchen. And dedicated a self-published anti-bullying anthology to him are outraged. And not just because they were apparently fooled into thinking he was dead.
They say they collected money for Mechen’s funeral.
“Authors are usually asked to donate gift cards. E-books, or swag (bookmarks, postcards, magnets, etc.) to be auctioned off to the highest bidder.”
Mechen’s former supporters are also skeptical of his explanation. Why he has remained silent and upset that they hurt someone they considered a friend.
“Finding out two. And a half years later that it was a hoax, it was a slap in the face,” Cole said.
Cole and other former Mechen supporters said they believed. He was still writing to Ward and participating in discussions, but under the name TN Steele.
Aside from Mechen’s videos on his Facebook page. They have never met him in person and likely wouldn’t recognize him. If he appeared on the covers of one of his dozen or so self-published books. Selling on Amazon.
They say that the world of indie romance writers who specialize in dramatic love stories. That they publish without the help of a literary agent is also largely a virtual world.
“We were just Facebook friends,” Cole said. “We have never met in person. This is very common in the book world.”
Email seeking comment. And did not appear to have a phone number for relatives, according to public records and his Amazon page.
While reports of Mechen’s death by suicide appeared online two and a half years ago. A spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office in Polk County, Tennessee. Said there have been no reports of deaths by that name in 2020.
Mitchen is the author of half a dozen. self-published books such as “Lose Him and Find Him”, “Chance Encounters.” And “Stolen Moments”. After her “death,” a friend named Connie Ortiz posted on The Word on October 22, 2020. Urging Mitchen’s followers to buy her latest book, “Love to Last a Lifetime.”
“He wanted to express it through his daughter’s marriage,” Oritz wrote.
But with Mechen seemingly gone, sales of his books began to decline. And in a since-deleted post on February 7, 2021, which appeared on Susan Mechen’s site. Someone who referred to the author as “Mom” urged her followers to buy her book.
“Unless something changes in the next 21 days. All Mom’s books will be unpublished,” the post author warned. “His paperback will be sold then unpublished. The only way you will be able to get the book is through audio. For months his sales and page readings were zero and after working with zero movement. And wasting my time working on them every morning we hired a PA to help and it still hasn’t helped.”
Mechen was a regular producer of the books. Although none of them were reviewed by Publishers Weekly. A magazine spokeswoman said. But he had a small following, his critics now say, and some reader reviews of his work posted. On Amazon were enthusiastic.
Besides, Mechen has become a pillar of the community. Seeking guidance from more established. Authors like Cole and helping them learn how to market and publish their books online.
Cole said he met Mechen around 2017 in several online romance writers. And readers groups that sprung up on Facebook and elsewhere on the web.
“If I remember correctly, he read some of my books and he joined my reading group,” Cole said. “And that’s how I remember meeting him and we chatted once or twice a month.”
But, Cole said, they hadn’t been in much contact until before Mechen’s suicide. And she was overcome with guilt when she heard the news.
“I felt so bad because it had been five, six months since I had really had a conversation with him,” she said. “For a few minutes there, I was once again grieving the loss of someone I considered a friend. Maybe not a close friend, because we never met in person.”
Then Cole said Meechen’s daughter, whose name she could not immediately recall. Alleged that bullying by some other indie romance writers. drove her mother to kill herself.
“It really tore the book world apart,” Cole said. “Lots of finger pointing without screenshot evidence of who the bully is.”
Ridener said he recalled posting a sympathetic post for Mitchen on a blog.
“Everyone was sad,” he said. “Many people mourned for him.”
But alongside the grief was a recognition that something. Had to be done about the online bullying. That some members of the community had experienced, Ridener said.
And someone — Ridener didn’t know who. Came up with the idea of compiling an anthology of pieces written by members. Of their romance-writing community that directly addressed the plague that is bullying.
“Several authors got together and published it. Donating the proceeds to Susan’s family,” Ridener said. “I’ve been in the indie community since 2011, and the war on bullying started back then. We all do our best, but there are still some really bad apples.”
Cole said the community has held several fundraisers. For the “988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline” in Mechen’s memory.
It’s unclear how much money was raised from the various fundraising efforts.
“But a lot of authors who were friends with her, a lot of people who were friends with her, shared links to her books. And told our own readers, ‘Go buy Susan’s book, please support her family now.” Cole said.
So when Mechen resurfaced online. Seemingly alive, there was a huge shock in this corner of the literary world.
“To say we’re shaking is the understatement of 2023 so far,” Ridener said.
After some angry romance writers confronted Meechen online. And demanded an explanation, screenshots of the exchange were published.
“So you waited two years before letting anyone know that your family did the right thing by saying you died??????” One wrote. “WTF??? Who does this? Is it so that people will feel sorry for them and buy your book????”
Ridener said what Mechen did was “inexcusable.”
“He crossed a line that no one should ever cross,” Ridener said. “I have loved ones who suffer from mental illness. And I have people I really care about who have committed suicide. He was so indifferent about the whole thing.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 988 to reach the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. Text home to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for more resources.