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Rich Square native releases new book

RICH SQUARE — While growing up, Susan Inez’s arms were a safety blanket for her little sister, Jane.

Years later, it’s the little sister who has taken those all familiar arms and urged Inez on a journey that is just beginning.

The results of that urging were on display Tuesday night at The Roanoke Electric Cooperative Center. Inez, a native of Rich Square (her maiden name is Bryant), held a book signing to promote her first self-published book titled “Skin Deep.”

The book tells the story of Melanie Hutchins, who is slowly piecing her life back together following an accident that left her son permanently brain damaged. Just before Christmas, Melanie learns her 19-year-old unwed daughter is pregnant by a young black man.

“Skin Deep” follows Melanie as she struggles with mixed feelings about the impending birth of her first grandchild as well as highlights the prejudice in the small community her family lives in.

Along with the main character, Melanie, and her daughter, Morgan, the book also focuses on an array of characters in their world.

Writing for Inez began as just a hobby, a simple way she could entertain herself. Several years ago, Inez said she began to write “Skin Deep,” penning a few pages at a time and then placing it aside.

“I would write and then put it down and then pick it back up again,” she said.

Inez said she drew inspiration for the story from the birth of her grandson, who is bi-racial.

She explained that although the story is a work of fiction, she has pulled from events that have occurred in her own life.

During the several years Inez was writing the book, her younger sister, Jane (Bryant) Wooten, read a rough draft.

“I was shocked, it flowed and when I got to Jason’s (a patient in a psychiatric hospital the main character works at) part I cried,” Wooten said about the book. “I could read it right now and cry.”

When Inez began to delay finishing the story, Wooten stepped in.

“I gave her a deadline,” she recalled.

Since the time Wooten picked up her sister’s book, she’s acted as Inez’s so-called “agent.” Once the story was completed, Wooten researched self-publishing houses, discovering Llumina Press, which printed “Skin Deep.”

Wooten has also helped Inez in marketing “Skin Deep” by scheduling booking signings (the first was at a local authors’ celebration at the Greenville Hilton), running a website, contacting local media, working with bookstores to get the novel on the shelves and filling up the e-mail inboxes of well-knowns, like Nicholas Sparks and even Oprah.

“She’s been a big help,” said Inez of her little sister.

Inez, who lives in Greenville and works full-time as a licensed nurse, said she is currently working on the sequel to “Skin Deep” called “Beyond Black and White.”

She said that book will explore the two families coming together for the child.

At the book signing event, Inez chatted with each individual, some old friends she greeted with a hug. Wooten said an estimated 50 people turned out for the three-hour event.

Those that purchased the book were encouraged to visit Inez’s website (www.susaninez.com) where readers can submit their own review and read others.

Feedback from all over has already flooded the website; it has received “hits” from places as close as Virginia and Tennessee and as far a way Canada and even Egypt.

Debbie Robbins of Rich Square said she was inspired by the mother-daughter relationship threaded in the book. She urged people to pick up their own copy of “Skin Deep.”

“The focus of the book is to judge people, not by the color of their skin, but what’s in their hearts,” she said.

Inez’s ultimate dream for “Skin Deep” would for it to be made into a movie. Both Inez and Wooten already have in mind which actors should play each character.

In the meantime, Inez is happy to share “Skin Deep” with the world, one person at a time.

“If the book makes people stop and think about the way they look at others, then the book will be a success,” she said.