March 7, 2023

Susan Reinhardt's Story Behind Her Book "The Beautiful Misfits"

Susan Reinhardt

When I wrote my latest novel, The Beautiful Misfits, I knew I’d dedicate it to my son, Niles Reinhardt, whose bravery and will to survive touch my heart daily.

Twice I almost lost him. Once in the womb, and later, in a gripping battle that nearly killed us both.

From the moment my pregnancy test turned pink in a Walmart bathroom, I have been crazy over the moon for my boy. I decided from that first month that I never wanted to forget a single moment, and started a journal I chronicled until he entered kindergarten.

But mine wasn’t the pregnancy I’d always dreamed about, and around the fourth month, a string of complications fell one after the other, threatening to end the life I carried. First, placenta previa and bleeding, followed by a tortuous experimental procedure to free my bladder trapped by the growing baby. At 28 weeks, I went into early labor and doctors pumped me with a brutal medicine to stop contractions, hoping I’d carry my son at least until 36 weeks gestation.

We made it a full eight months, and my baby boy debuted in this world healthy and weighing six pounds, three ounces. I thanked God every day for my son’s health, and for fifteen years our lives had been fairly typical and filled with school, sports, church, friends, and family.

It wasn’t until his teen years that I’d face another deadly crisis with him. That’s when he developed a disease that nearly destroyed us both, a much more serious battle than what he’d fought in the womb.

Niles nearly died at 19 from a combination of a near-fatal dose of alcohol and the ensuing car accident. One of his former friends had been driving drunk and whipped around a curve too fast, slamming into a tree. That “friend” fled the scene, leaving my son bleeding out on the road with head and facial injuries from being thrown into the windshield.

I don’t remember driving to the hospital, but I can still feel my body shaking uncontrollably, my mouth so dry I couldn’t swallow, responses that continue to this day when I hear sirens. I tried not to hyperventilate and fall apart as I saw him covered in blood. He lay there unconscious and hooked to tubes, shards of glass embedded in his forehead and cheeks. Fortunately, his CAT scan showed only a major concussion, but the doctors were concerned about the high levels of alcohol in his system, more than four times the legal limit.

I’d like to say that was the last time my child ever drank, but it wasn’t. For ten years, the scars still visible on his face, he fought these demons, just threw out the welcome mat and served them his soul. Every day I worried would be his last.

I spent years trying to get Niles into rehab, years not sleeping and worrying if he was safe. I joined a support group, The Addict’s Mom, followed by nearly 200,000 people on Facebook. I listened as they told harrowing stories of the kids they buried or visited in jails and institutions.

That’s when I knew that I’d write a novel about the struggles that those who love an addict endure, along with the struggles an addict weathers. The hard part was that I wanted my novel to be hopeful, and filled with honesty, grace, and even humor. I wanted it to offer answers, solutions, and ways to curb this crisis killing more of our youth than guns and car accidents combined. I spent years researching treatment centers and interviewing those who had warred with addiction.

The Beautiful Misfits, which was released this month from Regal House Publishing, takes on the drug epidemic but does so in a way that’s uplifting, even funny at times. While the novel isn’t a true story, there are things in my life, in my son’s life, that I drew from in creating the plot and characters.

The protagonist, Josie Nickels, is a former Emmy-winning anchorwoman who is the mother of an addict. One night as she delivers the news, she meltdowns on live TV, spilling family secrets and alienating her son.

When she loses her job, she ends up in Asheville, N.C., selling cosmetics at a mall department store for a luxury brand similar to Estee Lauder or Chanel. Like Josie, I’m also a former journalist, living near Asheville, who worked for a few years as a makeup artist and beauty advisor.

A friend of mine was employed by Clinique and told me about an opening at LancĂ´me. So I flew to New York for training and spent five wonderful years as a beauty advisor and regional makeup artist for the company.

Going from a journalist to a makeup lady is like dropping one’s legal career to style hair. But it was magical. The people I worked with were glamorous, hilarious, and had lives as colorful as those on the Housewives franchise. I knew the cosmetics counters had to be a setting in the novel. And the hijinks and scenes there offset the serious subject matter without being flippant.

As a reader, I don’t want to dive into a book that leaves me feeling as if I’ve swallowed a tackle box full of fishhooks. I want every emotion blaring, flashing, and dinging. Give me sad. Give me funny. Don’t forget the tension and high stakes. Throw in quirk and wit and a wonderful ending.

As a novelist, I strive for the same.

The Beautiful Misfits has a warm, satisfying, and uplifting ending. As does my son’s story. He finally got clean and sober. He started his own business in the hemp industry. CBD is one of the tools he used to get sober.

To celebrate his recovery, he and I recently traveled to Yellowstone National Park. We’re also planning another trip this fall to my happy place, St. John in the United States Virgin Islands. And as a spoiler, the final chapter of The Beautiful Misfits is set there.

Through God, prayer, my family’s support, and sheer stubbornness, I wasn’t about to give up on my son. No one should.

Because as long as there’s breath, there’s hope.

Susan Reinhardt is a best-selling author known for her gift of taking serious topics and infusing them with humor and heart. She is especially praised for creating casts of unforgettable, quirky characters who stay in readers’ minds long after the final page. Her debut novel, “Chimes From a Cracked Southern Belle,” won Best Regional Fiction in the Independent Publishers Book Awards international contest, and was a No. 1 Amazon bestseller. The novel was a top summer reading pick and a book-club favorite. She lives in the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, NC, and is on her second and final husband. She has two grown children, three steps, a granddaughter, and a rescue cat.

 Learn more at:

“A book club must-read and an emotionally charged story of one mother’s fight to save her son… full of heart and hope!”– USA Today Bestselling author Ciara Knight

“Susan is a wonderfully gifted storyteller who combines biting wit and laugh-out-loud humor with a beautifully moving writing style. She can turn tears of laughter into the other kind in a single paragraph. You’ll love ‘The Beautiful Misfits.’”

–Robert Tate Miller, bestselling author and movie screenwriter for CBS, NBC, Disney, and Hallmark including films such as “When Christmas was Young,” “Three Days,” and “A Summer Romance”

No comments:

Post a Comment