PhD Student Publishes First Fantasy Novel

Susan Grayson calls it a “double-dream.”

“I can’t say I’ve always wanted to be an author because my dream has always been to be a scientist,” she said. “I’ve just always loved to read, and creating my own story felt like a natural extension of that.”

The second-year Pitt Nursing PhD student, whose area of research is breast cancer genomics and psychoneurological symptoms in individuals with metastatic breast cancer, just published her first novel “Spears and Shadows: Defenders of the Light Book 1.” Grayson started writing the book as a fourth-year BSN student at Pitt.

“The first draft of the novel took me about three months to write, but the editing process took me about a year after that,” Grayson said. “During that time, I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to pursue publishing, or if this was going to be a project I just did for myself. The road from a fully written manuscript to a published book is definitely the part of the journey that took the longest.”

“Spears and Shadows: Defenders of the Light” is a fantasy novel centered around Historian Nora Zvezda as she vies for a promotion at The Chicago Field Museum: “Nora struggled with work-life balance even before an immortal sorcerer showed up and turned her career and her love life upside down,” according to a summary of the book.

Grayson said she’s always been an avid reader of fantasy but felt she hadn’t read the exact book with the type of characters she wanted to see.

“It occurred to me one day that there was nothing stopping me from sitting down and writing it myself,” said Grayson. “I started writing it to be the type of book I wanted to read, and somewhere along the way, I realized that other readers probably felt the same way. That's when I started pursuing publishing my novel seriously.”

The novel, published by City Owl Press and released on June 16, 2022, is already receiving positive reviews on both Amazon and GoodReads. The novel’s average rating on Amazon is 4.7/5 stars.

“I feel incredibly lucky to get to live a "double-dream" of becoming a nurse scientist and a published fantasy author,” she said.

Grayson has another book coming out in January 2023 – a reimagining of Beauty and the Beast set in a fantasy version of Victorian London. “I’ve always loved fairy-tale retellings, so it was definitely something I wanted to take on next,” she said.

The sequel to “Spears and Shadows” is also written and is currently in the editing process. It’s tentatively scheduled to be released in July 2023.

You can find a copy of the novel here: Amazon: Spears-Shadows-Defenders-Light-Grayson