In the Facebook group The Ward, the ongoing drama surrounding Susan Meachen’s fake death is perhaps more enticing than any novel.
Susan Meachen is an indie romance writer who, for the last two years, was known to be dead. In October 2022, a post to The Ward Facebook group – a private fanclub dedicated to Meachen – announced the aspiring author had taken her own life after she was bullied by fellow authors to the point of suicide.
Just one month before Meachen’s alleged death, the romance novelist posted on Facebook to her nearly 1,300 friends, lamenting about her career woes and the literary industry. Meachen revealed in the post that she’d previously attempted suicide and would be publishing her final book on 30 October.
The post announcing Meachen’s death, which claimed to have been written by her daughter, said that Meachen’s family wanted to honour their mother’s memory by publishing the book she had started, which they did.
Her final romance novel, titled “Love to Last a Lifetime,” is now available for $2.99 on Kindle.
Following news of Meachen’s untimely death, fellow book lovers and members of The Ward Facebook group shared their condolences. Two fundraisers also appeared to be shared to Meachen’s Facebook page to support suicide prevention, as recent as February 2022, although neither seems to have raised any money.
Editors offered to copy edit Meachen’s posthumous novel, free of charge. A group of authors even dedicated an anthology to her, writing in the dedication: “For Susan Meachen, an author of what she called Perfectly Flawed Romances. The world is a little less bright without her.”
But on 2 January, Susan Meachen was resurrected. Taking to The Ward Facebook group under her personal Facebook account once again, Meachen announced that she was never dead at all.
“I debated on how to do this a million times and still not sure if it’s right or not,” Meachen’s post read. “There’s going to be tons of questions and a lot of people leaving the group I’d guess. But my family did what they thought was best for me and I can’t fault them for it. I almost died again at my own hand and they had to go through all that hell again. Returning to The Ward doesn’t mean much but I am in a good place now and I am hoping to write again. Let the fun begin.”
Notably, it did not. Instead, authors and online friends of Meachen were stunned, and angered, by her post.
Samantha A Cole is a former police officer and paramedic turned author of nearly 40 books. Prior to Meachen’s supposed “death,” the two writers were somewhat colleagues – occasionally chatting no more than two or three times a month – and fellow members of The Ward Facebook group.
Speaking to The Independent, Cole described the moment she came to learn the friend that she once grieved was never dead at all. A mutual friend and member of The Ward group had sent a screenshot of Meachen’s post to Cole, asking whether she remembered the late romance author.
“I said, of course I remember Susan. And ironically, she had been on my mind a couple of days earlier,” Cole tells us. “It was just one of those things, you know, when somebody from your past just pops into your head for some reason. Before I had a chance to say that, she showed me what had been posted in the group and she goes, ‘I don’t know what to make of this.’”
So, Cole re-joined the group she had been kicked out of after losing access to her old Facebook account, and immediately went to Meachen’s cryptic post. She confronted Meachen in the comments section, asking whether her death had been a hoax.
“Contact me through Messenger and I’ll try to explain,” Meachen replied.
In their private messages, which Cole later shared screenshots of in a now-viral Facebook post, not many questions were answered. In the text exchange, Meachen explained that she “simply wanted her life back” after faking her own death.
Cole asked whether it really was Meachen’s daughter that was posting on her behalf, to which Meachen gave the dodgy answer: “I do have a daughter and son. I’m not worried about the book world letting me back in. I was never really in.”
For Cole, Meachen’s death stung especially hard because she had been accused of being one of the so-called bullies who led Meachen to commit suicide.
“There are some people in the book world that love to stir up drama,” Cole says. “One person in particular was pointing the finger at me saying that I was the person that drove Susan to suicide.”
In her viral post – which was shared to Facebook less than 24 hours after Meachen’s resurrection in The Ward – Cole revealed yet another twist. Meachen had created a burner profile under the name “TN Steele” just one month after her alleged suicide.
While TN Steele’s Facebook account belongs to a “want to be author, wife, office manager, and all-around goofier” from Georgia, Meachen’s Amazon bio states that she’s a “wife, mom, meme, and friend” who lives in the “Southeastern corner of Tennessee” with her husband of 24 years, their two cats, and four snakes.
TN Steele soon gained control over The Ward Facebook group, taking over from group member Connie Ortiz – Meachen’s “virtual assistant” who had become group admin in the wake of her death. In November 2022, Ortiz posted in The Ward that her family’s recent health issues made it difficult to keep up with the group, and asked if anyone wanted to take over her admin duties.
Under the post, TN Steele commented: “I’ll take it Connie Ortiz. I will overhaul it and hope that it pleases you and Susan.”
Of course, one emphatic Twitter user claimed Ortiz was actually Meachen’s sister who “helped with the farce,” but Cole assures us that Ortiz is not Meachen’s sister and that she’s “pretty convinced” Ortiz was “blindsided” by the whole hoax.
Samantha Cole isn’t the only online author reeling from the news of Susan Meachen’s alleged death hoax. Some people have claimed the once-dead author set up a “charity auction” for her funeral fund, but Meachen says no fundraiser was made.
Now, one week after Meachen’s fake death announcement, her supposed suicide has taken the literary world by storm. Susan Meachen, who was once an indie romance writer, has seemingly become like the subject of a juicy novel. The once-dead author kept a low profile after her planned death hoax became news, until she revealed in a new interview with The New York Times on 16 January that it was her bipolar diagnosis that made it difficult to deal with the pressures of the online romance community.
“I think it’s a very dangerous mix-up, especially if you have a mental illness,” she told the New York Times. “I would log on and get in, and at some point in the day my two worlds would collide, and it would be hard to differentiate between book world and the real world. It was like they would sandwich together.”
Meachen said the book world was like “an addiction” for her, making her disorder worse, while her husband, Troy, said the “book world” was becoming a danger to his wife’s welfare.
He instructed their 22-year-old daughter to write the Facebook post announcing Meachen’s so-called death after an incident in fall of 2020, in which their daughter found Meachen semiconscious from taking a large dose of Xanax.
“I told them that she is dead to the indie world, the internet, because we had to stop her, period,” he recalled. “She could not stop it on her own. And, even to this day, I’ll take 100 per cent of the blame, the accolades, whatever you want to call it.”
Meachen’s psychiatrist, Dr Niansen Liu, also confirmed that she is under seeking treatment for bipolar disorder and has been prescribed medications for anxiety, depression, and psychosis.
If you are have thoughts of self-harm, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).