Author Susie Finkbeiner on the Origin of a Novel

susie head shot

Today I’m happy to introduce you to Susie Finkbeiner, a West Michigan writer to watch. We’ve traded blogs for the day, so after you read this, head on over to Susie’s blog for my apologetic for the most depressing month of the year.

Susie has a quick wit and a quirky sense of humor, but she’s not afraid to tackle difficult, emotional subjects. Her latest book, My Mother’s Chamomile, is available for purchase for both Kindle and paperback readers. And I love the story of how she came about the idea, which she’s going to share with you below.

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The first time I heard reference to chamomile tea, I was a little girl, listening to my mom read Peter Rabbit. After his wild romp through Mr. McGregor’s garden, Peter had an upset tummy and his mother gave him a dose of chamomile tea.

I thought for sure it was punishment for losing his jacket and shoes.

“One tablespoon to be taken at bedtime.”

That sounded like something I wanted to avoid. I would have preferred the bread and milk and blackberries that Peter’s sister got.

Years passed (I won’t tell you how many), and I still had a prejudice against chamomile. A few people told me that it was “nasty”. Based on my childhood imaginings, I believed them.

Chamomile seemed like the kind of thing die hard tea drinkers sipped with pinky fingers pointing to the heavens. And, I truly believed, that they only imbibed it because they thought they had to prove how die hard they were about herbs.

You know those herbal people. They are a rough and tumble crowd.

Then, a couple years ago, I started work on my second novel. Somehow, my characters were tea drinkers. Throughout the writing, I discovered that, not only did they drink it, they grew it.

They had a big old garden full of chamomile plants.

I’m sure Erin would concur, characters in novels often catch the author off guard.

My Mother's Chamomile Front

I decided that I might as well learn as much as I could about chamomile. Part of that was steeping a cup and taking a sip.

Much to my surprise, it had a pleasant aroma, much like sweet apples. And the flavor wasn’t as terrible as I’d expected. In fact, I rather liked it.

I sipped and read about the plant. While I researched, I found that the flower has been used for nearly 2,000 years to wash wounds, reduce inflammation, calm upset stomachs. It is, however, mostly used to comfort its drinkers, helping them to rest.

A lightbulb popped on over my head. In addition to being tea growing and sipping people, my characters were also a family of funeral directors. They made it their business to comfort their community in their worst moments.

Like chamomile, they served to soothe and calm.

These days, when I read Peter Rabbit to my kids, I smile at the mother giving her son a tablespoon of chamomile tea. Instead of punishment, it turned out to be merciful. A remedy for his overactive little body and sour stomach.

I wonder if she drank what was left over to soothe her nerves from having such a rambunctious bunny.

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Susie Finkbeiner is a wife and mother living in the beauty of West Michigan. When she’s not busy writing, she enjoys playing Scrabble with her husband, zoo trips with her kids, coffee dates with good friends, and quiet moments to read. Susie is the author of Paint Chips and My Mother’s Chamomile, both published by WhiteFire Publishing. She blogs at

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