Newcastle author Susan Francis' debut book on love, loss and lies

Raw: Susan Francis' writing has been called fearless.
Raw: Susan Francis' writing has been called fearless. "I don't care anymore if people judge me or what they think." Picture: Simone De Peak

SUSAN Francis is frequently told she is brave to have survived traumatic experiences.

The Mayfield author, 58, spent 20 years searching for her biological parents, moved to Granada with the love of her life Wayne, saw him die unexpectedly in 2015 and then learned he'd been carrying a harrowing secret.

"But what else am I going to do?" she asked. "You have to - you don't have a choice."

The former English teacher hasn't just survived, she has shared her story publicly and with unflinching honesty. Allen & Unwin has published - "it's surreal" - her memoir, The Love that Remains.

"The reason I started writing was because I felt the parents that had given me up for adoption had kept secrets from me and I was really angry," she said.

"I thought no-one had the right to keep secrets from me when they were about me and where I came from. It was a means of getting myself together in one place - on the page - but also to reclaim myself."

She thought at first the memoir would conclude with romance and then that it would end with grief. Mrs Francis "agonised" over whether to include her discovery of his secret.

"We all do what we have to do to keep going forward."

- Susan Francis

"I thought if my whole book is about the truth it would be hypocritical if I did not write about that as well."

She thinks often about whether she would have wanted to know when Wayne was alive.

"If he'd told me early on it might have affected the way I felt about him," she said.

"Finding out after he died and after I'd gone through all the grief and love, it was impossible to take any of that back.

"I found the [secret] very shocking, but when do you decide you're going to fall out of love, or that you're not going to love them anymore, or that you've changed your mind?

"After all that grief, everything we shared, everything he did for me, I can't go back on the way I feel, it's impossible."

Mrs Francis said at times she's felt betrayed, but she now understands.

She keeps two images in her head: a young Wayne involved in "horror" and tragedy and her very different experience of life with a "man I knew and loved, who loved me".

"He was a man much more complex than I ever imagined," she said. "It sounds flippant, but that was then and this is now... he seems to have felt great shame and I think that's why he never told me. He was afraid of losing me."

She said she now viewed secrets about the past differently. "We all do what we have to do to keep going forward."

While writing has been "therapeutic", it's also meant reliving pain.

"But my gut doesn't grab me every day like it used to," she said.

"He was larger than life and the love of my life, but that doesn't mean I must not have life as well."