A Novel Approach

February 2017 View more

Photos by Robyn Sheldon

Naperville is full of hidden gems, some more obvious than others. While the Riverwalk and downtown provide obvious bragging rights, tucked away, perhaps in a neighborhood near you, lives our very own paparazzi-worthy celebrities. Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Luis Urrea, are award-winning writers that have developed an international fan base that makes Naperville look like a small town.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips: Best-selling Writer of Romance Novels

Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Susan Elizabeth Phillips just returned from an international tour promoting her 21st novel, The Great Escape. No stranger to the world of romantic comedy writers and readers, this wildly popular author has been a Naperville resident since 1987. “I always say that I fell in love with this town 24 hours before our moving van even arrived with our furniture,” said Phillips.

In 1987, Susan, along with her husband Bill, and their two boys, came to Naperville by way of a company transfer. “It feels right to me. Hard to explain, but living on the East Coast for 11 years made me understand that I am a Midwesterner through and through, and Naperville is the best the Midwest has to offer,” said Phillips.

Phillips started her writing career when her sons were young. “I began writing historical romance with a friend. We were doing it just for fun and couldn’t have been more shocked when the first publisher we sent the manuscript to bought it in less than three weeks. Since then, I’ve written 20 other novels by myself,” said Phillips.

Since that first collaboration, Phillips’ solo career has not only garnered an impressive international following, but well deserved recognition. Her books have appeared on every bestseller list in the country, including the New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly. Her novels have been published in more than 30 languages. In 2001, Phillips was inducted into the Romance Writers Hall of Fame, and in 2006, she received the Romance Writers of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

“Being able to thrive amidst all the changes that have taken place in the publishing industry has been immensely gratifying. The stories I hear from readers, and the impact my books have had on their lives means so much. But as grateful as I am, I’ve never quite been able to process that,” said Phillips.

As any successful writer knows, the fans are an integral part of a writer’s success, and Phillips’ fans are no exception. “They inspire me, and I love hearing their stories. In addition to touring in the United States, I’ve been fortunate to tour in Germany, Croatia, and Slovenia, as well as receiving hundreds of pieces of email from all over the world. Since I can’t travel all the time, I love engaging with readers through FACEBOOK, Twitter, and my website,” said Phillips.

When Phillips isn’t working, she enjoys hiking. “I love hiking in new places. Over the last 13-plus years, I’ve walked or hiked in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Costa Rica, much of Europe, and most recently, Morocco. I also adore playing with my grandchildren. And, of course, nothing beats curling up with a great book!”

Luis Urrea: Poet, Novelist, and Essayist

Luis Urrea

Luis Urrea

Luis Urrea is a Pulitzer Prize finalist for The Devil’s Highway, best-selling author of 13 books, and a highly respected essayist and poet. He also calls Naperville home.

After living in Chicago, Luis, his wife Cindy, and their three children Eric, Megan and newborn Rosairo, settled in Naperville, in 2000. “At the time, Cindy was writing for The Sun and we agreed it would be easier for me to commute to the city, especially with a new baby. I love the peace and quiet in Naperville. I love the trees and the river. I love Anderson’s Bookshop (His latest book, Into the Beautiful North, was last year’s One Book One Naperville selection at Anderson’s), and our neighbors are awesome,” said Urrea.

For Urrea, writing was a natural career path. As a young child, he was a voracious reader and loved a good story. “I was always a book-nut and a story-lover. In junior high, I discovered that I could do this. By high school, I knew that the girls liked it. I was sunk,” said Urrea.

Along with his impressive writing accomplishments, Urrea taught expository writing and fiction workshops at Harvard. He has also taught at Massachusetts Bay Community College and the University of Colorado, and was the writer in residence at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. Currently, when he’s not on the road promoting his latest work, he is the distinguished professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Urrea’s writing has also attracted serious accolades including the Aspen Writing Award, Edgar Award for Best Short Story, Lannan Literary Award for Nonfiction, American Book Award, the Kiriyama, the Western States and the American Book Award, in addition to being a finalist for The Pulitzer. He recently was selected by the National Endowment of the Arts for The Big Read in 2013 for his novel, Into the Beautiful North.

When Urrea isn’t tucked away in his office creating his next gift to readers, he enjoys spending time with his family and taking road trips, which serve as fodder for his writing. “I like to drive and hike around the country, then write about it. But when I’m not traveling, I’m a dedicated viewer of The Deadliest Catch marathons,” said Urrea.

Urrea will soon be promoting the paperback release of Queen of America and enjoys meeting his fans face-to-face while on tour. As for what he enjoys most about being an author, “There’s too many to list. Every day brings something astounding!”

To learn more about these Naperville authors, visit www.susanelizabethphillips.com or www.luisurrea.com.