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Meet the WritersImage of Susan Miller
Susan Miller
Interview
In the summer of 2004, we asked authors featured in Meet the Writers to give us a list of their all-time favorite summer reads, and tell us what makes them just right for the season. Here's what Susan Miller had to say:

  • The Power of Intention: Learning to Co-create Your World Your Way by Dr. Wayne Dyer -- I believe very strongly in the power of intention, so I was anxious to pick up Dr. Dyer's book. The jacket says that Dyer views intention differently from other people, not as pit-bull determination, but as a quality that a caring universe allows in us, and that helps in the act of creation. I can't wait to dig in!

  • The Circle: How the Power of a Single Wish Can Change Your Life by Laura Day -- Laura Day's book changed my life and can change yours. I have to read this little 143-page book many times to catch all the points of wisdom that Laura has put into every page. I am determined to read it again this summer. Last year, after I posted a review of this book it on my web site, www.astrologyzone.com, this book quickly zoomed to #7 on the Top 100 Barnes & Noble Bestseller List. In The Circle, Laura helps you choose your main goal among the many you may have to choose from. Then, she shows you why reaching your goal isn't something you simply add to your life (like buying a car and parking it outside your house) but one you need to make room for, assuming you want your dream to grow and blossom. (And you do!) This and many other insights make this book a true standout, and one of my all time favorites. Laura also has an audiobook version now.

  • When God Winks: How the Power of Coincidence Guides Your Life by Squire Rushnell -- I love to read about the theories various authors have on the subject of coincidence. (Who didn't enjoy The Celestine Prophesy?) A kind AstrologyZone reader sent me this book -- he says it is a favorite of his. Again, this is also a small book, with only 167 pages, but it packs a punch. I have only glanced at the beginning chapter, but I can see that these pages will be filled with insight. My friend tells me you won't see your life the same way after you read this book. I am now realizing that it was no coincidence it was sent to me! There is surely a message in it that I can use, and most probably needed to see at this time in my life.

  • Big Russ & Me by Tim Russert -- I enjoy watching Tim Russert on his show, Meet the Press. After viewing his interview about this book on TV (on another show) I became convinced that I had to read this book. Tim refers to his father as Big Russ, and I refer to my mother affectionately as Little Mom. At the start of the interview I sensed Tim Russert has the same kind of relationship with his father that I do with my Mom. I am now even more convinced I was right. (My father died 14 years ago, but I was close to my Dad too.) Tim gets a lot of down home, very earthy and practical advice from his father, as I do from my mother. I understand that he shares some of that practical advice with his readers. I always admired Tim Russert, but after that interview, I admire Tim even more. He is real, unpretentious, and passionate about life and about journalism. I could go on -- but I think you would love this book too. I wish I could drop everything and read it tonight!

  • Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss -- This is a book on punctuation, written by a lady who lives in England. It was a surprise runaway best seller there and is doing just as well in the USA. I can see why -- it's funny! Lynne Truss was on the Today show with Katie Couric and did a fine demonstration with magic marker and paper. Not only was this author professional, she was hilarious! I write for a living -- on my web site, Astrologyzone.com I post 30,000 words in just my monthly forecasts -- so reading books on grammar interests me. I especially like theses type of books if they are entertaining – and Eats, Shoots & Leaves certainly is that! This is a must-read!

  • New and Selected Poems 1974-2004 by Carl Dennis -- Life is too short to live it without poetry. I, for one, need a steady diet of it. Carl Dennis is a modern poet (very much alive), who won the Pulitzer Prize. This lovely paperback has twenty new poems along with some of his older popular ones. Read the one that appears on the very last page of the book, "The God Who Loves You" -- a tender, warm and wise poem; my favorite so far.

  • The Third Miracle by Richard Vetere -- This book, by a new friend, Richard Vetere, was made into a movie. Ed Harris played the lead, that of a priest. I love books with moral dilemmas that also speak of life's mysteries, This book has both. At the heart of the plot is the question: Do miracles occur? When a young girl in Queens, New York, is inexplicably cured of a deadly disease, a statue of the Virgin Mary is seen crying tears of blood. Father Moore (Ed Harris) is sent in to investigate. As part of the plot, Father Moore also needs to investigate whether a certain woman in his parish can be qualified as a saint. I will rent the movie after I read the book, which Richard tells me had some plot changes. I can see by paging through this book that it is fast moving -- it holds you tight from the very first page. This book is just my cup of tea!

  • Jupiter Signs: How to Improve Your Luck, Career, Health, Finances, Appearance, and Relationships through the New Astrology by Madalyn Aslan -- Being an astrologer, I'm always on the lookout for a new, well-written astrology book. Although I know a lot about Jupiter, the planet of good fortune, healing, health, and financial benefits, I am always interested to see if I can discover a few new points about this planet. Sure enough, Madalyn Aslan, an author, astrologer, friend and colleague, found many new facts about Jupiter to bring to light in her new book. In Jupiter Signs, the reader can find out where Jupiter was at his or her birth and what gifts and talents Jupiter is likely to bestow. (Madalyn gives plenty of yearly tables to ascertain where Jupiter was traveling in the month and year of your birth.) This book is not intended for professional astrologers, but rather for everyday laymen, for it does not pre suppose any prior knowledge of astrology. Still, as said, even professionals can enjoy it. I love the design and layout of this book, as it makes the information so easy to read and access. Of course, it is Madalyn's clear and entertaining writing style that makes it special. This is a classic I will keep on my bookshelf.

  • The Island at the Center of the World: The Story of the Dutch, Manhattan, and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America by Russell Shorto -- Not much has been written about the Dutch settlement of Manhattan, so this book is a welcome newcomer, as it sheds new light on the earliest days of New York City. As a Dutch colony, New York City was founded three years after the Puritans landed in Massachusetts, and quickly became a melting pot for many nationalities. This book will show you the struggle between Peter Stuyvesant and the lesser known Adriaen van der Donck, whose appreciation for tolerance laid the foundation for our Bill of Rights and helped shape our national character. It also includes a great deal about Henry Hudson. The New York Times book reviewer loved this book, and I was so impressed with the critique that I read it out loud, in its entirety, to a friend over the phone. That friend surprised me by purchasing the book for me at Barnes & Noble the next day. Wow, now that's a thoughtful friend!

  • Poems of New York Edited by Elizabeth Schmidt and Kevin Young -- I adore New York City, the city of my birth, so how could I resist this beautiful little poetry book? So many of my favorite poets are represented: Walt Whitman, W. H. Auden, Dorothy Parker, e.e. cummings, Federico Garcia Lorca, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Amy Lowell, Herman Melville, William Carlos Williams, Frank O'Hara, Howard Moss and many others. I am also impressed that the book includes many modern poets too. I feel the poems truly capture the spirit of the city. It's tiny in size, just perfect for my purse. I love having a poem handy to occupy myself when I am standing on line. These poems are so beautiful, you will want to memorize some, as I do.

  • The Expanded Quotable Einstein Edited by Alice Calaprice -- Albert Einstein was a Pisces, and his quotes are insightful and thought-provoking. I keep this book on my coffee table so that I can have a quick shot of wisdom in the middle of the day.

  • The Sound of Paper by Julia Cameron -- I love books that tackle creativity. Julia Cameron is an author most of us know from her well known title, The Artist's Way, now a classic book. In this brand new book, according to the jacket, "Julia delves into the heart of the personal struggles that all artists experience. What can we do when we face our keyboard or canvas with nothing but a cold emptiness? How can we begin to carve out our creation when our vision and drive are being clouded by life's uncertainties? In other words, how can we begin the difficult work of being an artist?" This sounds very compelling. I paged through the book just now and I see Julia gives her readers concrete things to do to get going, even at the times you don't even want to start. I liked Julia's famous book, and I think you -- and I -- will adore this one too.

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    Susan Miller gave us some insights on her influences, family and work habits. Keep reading for additional questions from a 2001 conversation with Barnes & Noble.com.

    What was the book that most influenced your life?
    It is hard to choose just one book. The Bible is, of course, my guiding light. My faith in God affects all that I do and all that I am. As a child I also used to read books about the lives of saints, which affected me very much, and continues to do so, to this day. I admired their courage and their fortitude in times of adversity, and I would recall those stories when I faced hard times.

    Later, before I married and had children, I read The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. Friedan's book masterfully fleshes out of the problem of being a modern, educated woman in today's workplace, trying to mange both career and family life. However, Ms. Freidan does not offer answers, which at the time was frustrating. Finding them, I decided, was to be my mission. I finally discovered that being self-employed was the answer for me. I set up my business as soon as my children were born, which allowed me to be with them and work at the same time.

    The last book that deeply affected me was a book by Napoleon Hill, called Think and Grow Rich. The title is so off-putting that I would never have picked it up, had it not been for a friend's urging. Materialism never attracted me -- spirituality did and I mistakenly thought the two were in conflict. I read this book during a terribly difficult crisis in my life. It was 1989, and suddenly I learned I would need to be the sole financial support of my two young children, with no base resources at my disposal. I had no idea how I would make it from day to day.

    Written by Hill at the request of Andrew Carnegie, Think and Grow Rich sets down the building blocks of success. The book is not so much about gaining financial wealth as it is about clarifying one's thinking and choosing appropriate goals, which is why I like this book so much. Hill points out that thoughts are as powerful and real as tangible things. "Change your thinking, change your life" is part of its powerful book's message.

    Through stories and examples, the author draws you into the discussion. There is a little recount of the ancient warrior who had to fight one last battle against an adversary that was better equipped and that outnumbered his troops. His soldiers set sail for the site of the battle in their boats, and stealthy arrived in preparation for battle. This wise leader's first order to his troops was to burn the boats. "Win or perish -- there is no way off this island!" he thundered. Of course, you know what happened -- his troops were so fired up, and had such a reason to prevail that they scored a stunning victory. Hill suggests you "burn your boats" too -- if you have other options of retreat, you may not give your goal the wholehearted effort it requires. Being passionate is the key in being successful over obstacles, he advises, and I agree with that thinking too.

    Think and Grow Rich will change your outlook on life. It suggests that the thoughts you have today will ultimately shape the direction life will take tomorrow. Whenever life throws me a serious curveball, I pick up this book, and each time I do, I find something new to meditate about. By the way, I generated all the funds I needed to care for my children, despite my initial fears. This book works!

    What are your favorite books, and why?

    • Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin. This is a book should be read when there is a hint of frost in the air, when it looks like it's about to snow. Helprin's style of writing is so beautifully poetic that the sheer beauty of his descriptions will take your breath away. He is wildly imaginative too, and in this book he spins quite a fantasy. I loved the fact that his tale takes place in New York City, with so many of the scenes in Grand Central Station, up on the ceiling, where the zodiac constellation is painted. You won't forget the images he describes—they are amazingly bright and indelible and quite out of this world! Most important, Helprin has values that are interwoven into the plot. As one critic put it, "Helprin celebrates selfless love, a devotion to beauty, the desire to explore, and an acceptance of responsibility." It will always be one of my favorites.
    • Time and Again by Jack Finney. Set in New York City in the 1880s, this rich tale makes you believe in time travel. It is the story of a young Manhattan illustrator who is selected by a secret government agency to test Einstein's theory that the past actually coexists with the present. This tale is vivid, enveloping, ironic and captivating. It is so visual and so convincing, that you want to be transported in time, too, sometime soon! I was disappointed when the book ended -- I wanted it to go on and on. I heard this book first came out in 1970 and was an instant best seller. I can see why!
    • A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman. A masterpiece, this book is a true celebration of life. It is so beautifully written that it reads like poetry. Almost every passage will help you experience the world anew. Diane Ackerman's style is cinematic -- you will see, feel, hear, touch and taste all that she describes in such loving detail. Best of all, you will see everyday things in a fresh way. As I was reading this book for the first time, I would read passages aloud to any and all who happened to be in earshot, including complete strangers on crowded NYC buses who would let me share certain passages with them. Everyone (strangers, friends, family, coworkers) thanked me heartily. Diane Ackerman loves life, and it shows.
    • Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Dr. Estes is a Jungian analyst, and uses folklore, fairy tales and dream symbolism to encourage our intuitive skills that we forgot we possess. Our hectic, demanding lives tend to numb us, but as Dr. Estes shows us, we can recapture that inner "wild woman" fire again and approach life with gusto. This book had a profound effect on me because it is filled with great female wisdom and insight. I loved Dr. Estes' use of stories and symbols. It is a book I go back to again and again, and have many marked passages. Its message changes as you mature. It is provocative, uplifting, affirming -- this encourages you to think for yourself, but in a very symbolic, imaginative way.
    • A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger Von Oech. One of my favorite books, A Whack on the Side of the Head teaches you to think outside the box. I keep it on my desk to reach for whenever I have a tough problem to solve. After you read this book, you never see any problem in quite the same way, for the author teaches you to put your question through many different types of filters. If you become a skilled student of astrology, sooner or later you will see difficult aspects that are due ahead, but to cope with those challenges, you will need to develop a whole range of contingencies to deal with them. This book is the answer, for it helps you think broadly and deeply. Best of all, you will come up with answers that eluded you previously.
    • The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking. Stephen Hawking makes very difficult concepts crystal clear, and I like it that this book comes complete with illustrations. If there are complex scientific mysteries about the universe you'd like to understand, this book gives you all the answers in a fun way.
    • The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. This is an inspirational book that can be enjoyed on many levels. I enjoy thinking about creativity -- this book helps you take various concrete steps to unlock your talents. I understand this book has changed countless people's lives and I can see why. It touches everyone who picks it up.
    • Overnight Success: Federal Express & Frederick Smith Its Renegade Creator by Vance H. Trimble. One of the best biographies I ever read, this book about Fred Smith, founder of Federal Express. Smith is the son of the founder of the Greyhound Bus Company, whose father asked each of his children to take their $1 million inheritance and start a business of their own. Smith took that advice to heart and started Fed Ex. After reading this book and learning how much true grit it required to launch his business, it is impossible not to admire Smith's accomplishments all the more. Against all odds and many naysayers, Smith managed to create a service that completely changed the world. He also managed to set a modern-day gold standard for customer service to boot. Fred Smith is my hero.
    • The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama. This book is about finding true inner peace. The book is a collaboration between Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, the spiritual and current leader of the people of Tibet and Dr. Howard Cutler, an USA-based psychiatrist. In it the Dalai Lama gently shows how the Western ideas of happiness are often confused with the need to satisfy certain desires. Happiness, the Dalai Lama reveals, is more about the absence of suffering. Yet the Dalai Lama finds value in suffering too, and offers a philosophical discussion on the subject. Intimacy and compassion are also discussed in great detail. I found this book strongly uplifting and insightful.
    • Predictive Astrology: The Eagle and the Lark by Bernadette Brady. Bernadette Brady's work on eclipses is first class and ground breaking. It is the only book I have found that explains, in depth, the 19-year eclipse Saros series. The charts in the back of the book are invaluable. I have made eclipses my specialty. When I read Bernadette's book, my understanding increased enormously.
    • Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 by Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace. If you love New York City as much as I do, you will adore this historical account of the city that never sleeps. Clear and authoritative in style, the authors relate their information with the warmth of a storyteller who recounts tales around a campfire. After you read this book, you will never walk the streets of New York in the same way. The past will come alive, and you will feel very privileged to be connected to such an illustrious past.
    • Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris. This is a biography of Theodore Roosevelt, and I have to say, he was a far more extraordinary person, and U.S. president, than I ever knew. Meticulously researched, accurate, the part I liked best is that it is a full description of Roosevelt's character. I like reading about leaders -- this is a fine book.
    • World Poetry: An Anthology of Verse from Antiquity to Our Time edited by Clifton Fadiman. Life without poetry is a life not worth living. Poetry inspires me and at times calms me. It always makes me think. This book stays next to me on my bed stand. Sometimes I memorize poetry, which is fun too.
    • Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach. In this bestselling book, there are 366 insightful personal essays by the author, one for each day of the year. Each is warm and wise, and as you delve into this book, you feel like Sarah Ban Breathnach is sitting with you at your kitchen table. As the title suggests, some of the best, most comforting parts of life are the simplest and most available, yet we often overlook these pleasures. A talented writer, Sarah Ban Breathnach dares you to live your most authentic self, and to focus on what really matters.
    • The New A to Z Horoscope Maker and Delineator by Llewellyn George. This was my mother's favorite basic astrology book. She would say "Susie, if you have this handbook, you won't need any others." In a way she was right -- mothers are, you know. She was my teacher in astrology, so I should have known!
    Who are your favorite writers?
    For fun, I enjoy international spy thrillers. I especially enjoy stories that put the fate of world on the shoulders of one individual who has to be trusted to solve the eminent crisis, cleverly, with intelligence and ingenuity, and thereby save all of humanity. Ken Follett does it best. His books are real page-turners. I also like -- there are simply too many writers to name, so I will stop here.

    What else do you want your readers to know?
    This was a hard question, because anyone who knows me well knows I never unwind! I sleep very little -- five hours tops each night, and I don't use an alarm clock. I just wake up and pop out of bed like bread out of a toaster.

    I find going to the gym every morning at dawn, seven days a week, a perfect way for me to clear my mind and energize my spirit to start my day. Sitting at a computer all day is not really good for anybody, but writers necessarily have to do so. I make sure I get exercise every day.

    Family time is very important. I have two children that are the light of my life, Chrissie and Diana. Chrissie has her own apartment now, but happily, Diana, who is younger, is still home with me. We make time to talk to each other every day no matter where we happen to be, even if it's just to say "Hi, what's happening?" I also call my mother almost every day, and occasionally I go over to her apartment to work, just so we can be together. Time flows by quickly -- we must always make time for the people we love.

    Reading is vitally important to me. I subscribe to four newspapers a day (I admit I am a news junkie) and subscribe to about 20 magazines a month, both American and European. I read them all, often at the gym in my hour of cardio before I do my weight lifting. I usually read several books at once, too, but those I read late at night for about a half hour before I sleep. No one can imagine how I can read as much as I do, but in college, after being tested by a professional, I was told I was a natural speed reader. That was news to me! I do notice that I seem to read more than most of my friends, but I make time to do so. I simply cannot imagine life without books.

    Cooking and entertaining family and friends is great fun. I love the magic that happens when everyone is around the table, talking, sitting back and having another cup of coffee, while they share stories. However, because writing and managing AstrologyZone.com is such a big responsibility -- with many deadlines -- I don't get to entertain as much as I would like. When my father was alive, he had an Italian specialty grocery store in the heart of Manhattan. The store was started in 1898 by my grandfather, who had come to America from Sicily. With such fresh foods around me all the time, it was easy to become a good cook! I make all kinds of foods, but I guess I am proudest of my perfect shrimp scampi and also my pretty and delicious French soufflés.

    I love to take photographs, but not with a digital camera -- I love real film and darkroom work. Studio portraiture and still life especially appeals to me, and I have a whole portfolio of my work. Photography is a serious hobby that I have had to put on a back burner, but it will never be out of my mind. I wish I had the time to play more with my camera.

    Finally, I love flying (as a passenger, not a pilot!). For my book tours and lectures, I have to travel a great deal, but friends are always surprised to hear that I actually enjoy being in the airplane and am often disappointed when it is time to get off. I love getting the window seat because I don't want to miss seeing the view. Now that my children are older, I can fly more, and I simply cannot get enough of it. I hope to see more cities abroad in the future. Cruises are new to me, and have opened up a whole new world -- I love them! Seeing new cities and experiencing different cultures is one of life's greatest pleasures. As you might guess, I have no problem living out of a suitcase. As long as I have my laptop, I can continue to write (another great love), and I find can concentrate under any circumstances. I guess you could say I feel born to write, and to travel!

    Miller spoke with Barnes & Noble.com just as her book Planets and Possibilities was being released in 2001.

    Does astrology predict the future? How best can one use astrology?
    Astrology predicts future trends. We all have free will and are responsible for our own choices and actions.

    Astrology can make one more prone to act and less limited by inertia or fear, become more knowledgeable about inner gifts, talents and personality traits, accept change and challenge more enthusiastically and open up their creative thinking. It can also help to make one more compassionate and helpful to others, which I feel is our ultimate calling.

    No astrologer believes it is healthy to be obsessed with one's horoscope. The responsibility for success or failure of a person's life depends on that person; their chart is simply a map of many paths they may decide to pursue.

    How did you get started in astrology?
    My mother is very interested in astrology and has been since she was young. At home, she never encouraged her children to learn astrology. The books were on the bookcase, but she never actually sat down to teach me or my sister. I was born with a birth defect in my leg, had many operations and spent years recuperating. After each subsequent operation, I had to spend months, at times years, away from friends and family and in physical therapy.

    During the recovery process in my high school years, I read classic literature and history books, but at times I wanted something different to read. Unable to walk, I begged my sister to search the house for different and interesting books, and that began my lifelong research into the subject.

    My mother was more than willing to help me as soon as I expressed an interest, and it has been a great benefit to have a mentor teach me the delicate art of interpretation. However, her emphasis on research is so strong that she would not allow me to read a chart before I had studied with her for 12 years. She and I occasionally have some lively debates concerning the shadings of certain planetary aspects!

    How do you reply to skeptics?
    I welcome skeptics! As a teenager, I was my mother's biggest skeptic. When approaching any new theory, I feel it is healthy to be cautious and careful. It is a very personal decision -- I don't expect everyone to embrace astrology.

    My mother's observations and later my own were too powerful for me to ignore. Incidentally, my rise to prominence as an astrologer came through reading literally hundreds of charts for friends -- my readings, they tell me, are highly accurate. I thank my mother's emphasis on research and classic interpretation for that.

    What new information about astrology can people learn in your book?
    Planets and Possibilities covers not only the traditional astrological niche of personality traits, but also the science, history and mythology behind the zodiac. The book provides in-depth explanations and is chock full of little known facts about each of the astrological signs. Through using a unique series of contrasts, I reveal each sign's dominant traits, as well as what each sign is not known for -- both are important for a full picture.

    In addition to the Sun signs, I also explain the importance of the rising sign -- the sign of the constellation that was dominant on the eastern horizon at the moment of birth. Rising signs explain why people of all signs are not alike. We are all a blend of both the rising sign and Sun sign, and knowing both signs is important. These unique features make this an astrology book like none other.

    Why do you include chapters on all of the planets, with what the ancients said about them and what science today says about them?
    Many people aren't aware that the planets and their characteristics make them who they are. The signs, such as Aries, Leo, Gemini, etc., do not have any intrinsic quality apart from the characteristics given to them by the planets. For example, the word Aries is a convenient way of referring to 0-29 degrees on the horoscope wheel. The more you know about the planets and myths associated with them, the more you're able to get a three-dimensional view of who you are and how to develop your full potential.

    I have tried to resist a cookbook approach to astrology in this book. I invite the reader to decipher the same symbols that I have to describe the rich texture of their personality.

    Astrology has always been assumed to be a female interest. What explains your enormous popularity with male readers?
    On my web site, Astrologyzone.com, I have always attracted a very high male readership (an estimated 47% of readers are male). Being curious about the future is a human quality, not strictly a female quality. Astrology is a wonderful way to look at all of your options and offers a whole spectrum of possibilities for our lives. Plus, there's an element of surprise and randomness to astrology and men like this, too.

    How is astrology different from the "new age" disciples such as palmistry and tarot?
    Astrology is not fortune telling. It is also not a religion and it is not a substitute for religion. It does not rely on chance. Astrology is the study of mathematical cycles, unique for each individual, which indicates areas of life that will bring expansion or constriction.

    Each individual has free will. It is very important to remember that fact. I'm not able to predict what an individual will do about conditions being presented -- but I can see the various cycles operating on that person at any given time and suggest various beneficial courses of action. The more you study astrology, the more you realize the enormous power of the individual, both in terms of their personality and outlook on life. In addition, our ability to help others and make a lasting contribution to the world is truly unlimited.

    *Back to Top
    Author Essay
    Miller contributed this essay to Barnes & Noble.com in 2001.

    Nobody in my family wanted me to learn astrology, least of all my mother, who, as things were to turn out, was to later teach me everything I knew about the subject. "A little knowledge is dangerous, Susie," my mother would initially warn, an admonishment I would hear more than once. "Why not let me answer any questions you have?" she would ask. She felt that any understanding of astrology would require 12 years of careful study just to grasp the basics, and even then she felt I wouldn't be scratching the surface. "Better to know nothing at all," she would say. She was right, of course, but you rarely understand your mother's wisdom at a young age. The fact that I have become a full-time astrologer was as much a surprise to me as it might be to you, for nothing in my background would have suggested that my life would have taken this course. Astrology has a way of choosing you, and it is almost never the other way around.

    Before I go on, a little background might be in order. I grew up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. My Sicilian grandfather had come to New York City in 1898 and set up the beginnings of his Italian food specialty store in that neighborhood. Not being able to afford the rents on Houston Street, which is where all "the action" was based at the turn of the century, Grandpa moved uptown, to where the streets where made of dirt and cobblestones and where, as my father used to tell me, a brook still ran down 75th Street. Grandpa, along with his family members, saved up to buy a brownstone to house his food store. Once he was able to buy the house, all my relatives moved in to the three apartments.

    Grandpa lived and died before my time, but I can say that all my relatives -- aunts, uncles, my sister, mother and others -- lived in that building on Second Avenue, and after all this time, 100 years later, we all still live within two ZIP codes (about 30 blocks) of where Grandpa built that store in Manhattan. My father and uncle later continued the small business that Grandpa started, and it remained in operation until shortly before my father's death in 1988. Growing up in New York City was exciting, and I enjoyed it so much, I made sure I brought up my own two children, Chrissie and Diana, in Manhattan too, so they could experience much of the same childhood I had had loved so much.

    I come from a family that is probably much like yours, with hardworking parents who instilled strong values in their children, and who were very warm and loving. Indeed, we were, and still are, quite close.

    As said, it was my mother, of German extraction, who was interested in astrology and who was to pass her interest to me, perhaps unwillingly. She came to study the subject through the urging of her older sister, an interest that started long before I was born. She tells me that, like most people, before she actually studied astrology, she didn't initially believe it had any basis. She started to read her sister's books to see if she could find something to disprove. Instead, the more she studied, the more fascinated she became with the ancient art. My mother never told anyone outside the family that she knew astrology and nor did she ever accept money to read charts, even to this day. Instead, she did years of research, quietly and methodically building up a reservoir of information that she planned to keep closely confined within the heart of our family.

    When I was little, I would creep into the living room late at night to see her curled up on the couch, staring at her carefully constructed maps of the stars (known as horoscopes). I could never figure out how she could look at a two dimensional piece of paper and see all the way into the future. I always felt my mother had a good heart, because she was always intensely studying the horoscopes of all our family members. She was very sharing to everyone around herself, and she studied all our charts with a very energetic and caring attitude.

    I would say to her: "Couldn't we just let the future happen all by itself?" She agreed we could, but she also felt that examining one's life had great value. As a small child I was highly skeptical of astrology's value, and it would not be until I was a teenager that I was to become much more interested in what astrology could do for me.

    There were no personal computers at the time, of course, so my mother had to do all the birth hour, latitude, and longitude conversions to Greenwich Mean Time by hand. (Conversions of one's natal birth time to GMT are always required, so that astrologers can make planetary calculations from a uniform point on earth.) My mother claims she never liked doing the complex math, but all of us in the family laugh when we hear her say that. She is fantastic at any kind of number work, and her calculations are never off, not even a half-degree. To this day, her calculations stand up to all the computer printouts.

    I was born with serious problems with my left leg, so my mother was always very worried about whether the doctors would ever figure out what was wrong with me and find a cure. Trying to find the right specialists posed a real problem to her. Each doctor she brought me to throw up their hands, saying they had no idea what to do about my problem, and some suggested it might be psychosomatic. My mother kept doing chart calculations for me, determined to discover what was causing me painful attacks that would strike without warning and that would be so debilitating. She would study at night, when the daily chores and cares of the day had settled down. It was the only time she had for her, to do with as she pleased.

    She finally came to the conclusion that when I reached 14 years old, the problem would end. Boy, was she ever right. At 13 years, 11 months, and 20 days I was to have a massive attack that would send me into the hospital as an emergency patient for nearly a year's stay. It was to be an attack far worse than any other before, and it later involved a complete reconstruction of the knee and thigh of the left leg. It turned out I was bleeding internally in the leg and that I had been born with massive malformations that never showed up on X-rays. That was what had been causing all my intermittent difficulties.

    Waking up from the surgery, it was apparent that although the operation was successful there were some things that had gone seriously wrong during the operation. I could not wiggle my toes or flex my foot, or even feel it when the doctor ran his little pin along my left leg shinbone. I desperately wanted to know if I would ever walk again. Doctors planned to regenerate the main nerve of my lower left leg, severed during the operation, along the path of the old nerve by using electrical stimulation. My doctor, then the chief of staff of the hospital, and a man who I admire tremendously for saving my life more than once (there would be more operations, later), said things were going pretty well. However, I knew by the way he spoke that the jury was still out as to whether the treatment would work to fully restore my ability to walk. I wore a brace on my leg after the operation, which disappointed me to no end -- I was only 14, and I wanted to look like everyone else. Normal.

    A year later, at age 15, still very much in the process of recovery, I decided to write to Dell's Horoscope magazine to find out what my chart said about my chances of walking again. To my amazement, the editor printed my letter and answered that I would walk again and do so in quite a normal manner! My mother was a little surprised I had written to the magazine and asked why I hadn't simply asked her the same question. I explained that, after all, she was my dear mother, and she loved me!) I was sure she would never tell me if my outlook looked hopeless. She smiled and nodded, giving me a hug, telling me she completely understood why I sought an outsider's opinion. (As things turned out, that editor was right!)

    Friends have asked me if my mother would ever have told me if she thought I would never walk again. Honestly, I am not so sure -- my mother happens to be the most optimistic person on the planet. She would probably say, in that case, that my chart showed it would not be easy -- that I would need to do lots of treatment, and that I would have to marshal my energies with great determination and dedication in order to get well. My mother always felt if we wanted something badly enough, anything was possible. Astrology, she always taught me, was not destiny. If prospects looked dim in a chart, it meant that it would be a difficult road to hoe, but it didn't mean that the outcome would be bad. For the most part, she would tell me, we ultimately determine the course of our lives. What we choose to do about our challenges is what ultimately defines our character.

    After the magazine printed my letter, I was bitten with the astrology bug and had the time to pursue my interest. I was then 15, and wanted to know more about the aspects the editor wrote about in my chart.

    The fact that my mother didn't want me to learn the subject would not deter me. She was not enthusiastic about my learning astrology because she felt that in order to learn to discern a chart properly, I would have to study for 12 years. She feared that after only a couple of years I would have the impression that I knew more than I did, but instead of being a good astrologer, I would be seeing things in flat, cookbook terms. She wisely pointed out, "A little knowledge is dangerous, Susie." Mom felt I should read only for the family and promise never to practice on anyone outside the family until she thought I was ready. Constant research and empirical observation was imperative, she explained, and the process could not be rushed. In later years, she told me she never expected me to follow her advice but as things turned out I did listen to her -- to the letter. Like most mothers, Mom was right, of course, but I didn't fully understand what she was saying until much later. Tell a teenager not to do something and what do they do? Just the opposite! So it was not surprising that I took up astrology at first secretly.

    I guess I should add here that my mother, fearing criticism for being knowledgeable about a science that was not fully accepted by the public, never told friends that she knew astrology. She never ever did charts for payment. In fact, while I was still a teenager, she advised me not to tell anyone that she knew astrology either.

    At age 16 I started college, a sweet prospect because, after two and a half years of home study, I was going to be out in the world with other kids again. I chose to attend New York University, so I could continue physical therapy. I did extremely well, graduating with a B.S. degree in business, and several honors. My first job was with Life magazine, and I worked with several other magazines, such as Cosmopolitan and Seventeen. Later I became an agent for with world-class photographers. I enjoyed my work -- I never had any plans to leave my industry. On the side, I continued to study astrology and after 20 or so years of study, had become proficient, later taking the test from various astrological organizations and being deemed accredited.

    I began to do charts for many friends, with my mother's blessing. Like her, I never charged a fee for those charts. It was my way of helping those around me. With each passing year, I was learning more and progressing further.

    One dear friend who worked at Warner Books was impressed with my knowledge and complimented me often. I was grateful for her kind words, but they never went to my head -- I was glad to be helpful. Yet one thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was writing my first book, The Astrology Book of Days: An Illustrated Perpetual Calendar, in the fall of 1994, which was published by Warner Books. While I was busy writing that small book, the same friend offered to help me get an interview with the webmaster of the former Time Warner web site, Pathfinder, so that I could write a predictive column on astrology. Talks went well, and I was able to launch Astrology Zone®, my web site, in December 1995. I expanded Astrology Zone® into a large 450-screen site, with every article on the site penned personally by me. Later, in April 1999, I moved Astrology Zone® to Disney¹s Go.com. When Go.com folded in January 2001, Astrology Zone was picked up by another Disney family member, ABC.com.

    So you see, dear reader, as they say, astrology chose me, rather than me choosing astrology as a life's path. Perhaps looking at your own life, you can say that you never chose your current career but that it, too, chose you. Sometimes that happens!

    Astrology is not an end in itself. The point of using astrology is to shape a happier, more productive life, to use our talents to their fullest form, and to consider some of the many of life¹s rich and varied possibilities. Astrology is a wonderfully creative tool to use to this end. Until you delve into the subject, you may never know how perceptive and proactive it can make you. You¹ll know when it is time to act -- with no excuses allowed! On the other hand, you will also know when it is best to show patience and restraint. It is a rare and wonderful feeling to discover choices you never realized were there for you, and later to see triumphs materialize that you never thought possible.

    Some things simply can't be described but must be experienced firsthand, and astrology is one such endeavor. Although astrology may not be right for everyone, it could be for you, dear reader. You, like me, might just find yourself changed forever.   (Susan Miller)

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    In the Works
    Miller's at work on The Year Ahead 2003, promising that it will come out it a little earlier than previous annual forecasts: "Many readers have written to say they want it as soon as possible! I agree -- it's good to have a map of all the opportunities that lie ahead."

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  • About the Writer
    *Susan Miller Home
    * Interview
    * Author Essay
    * In the Works
    Chronology
    *The Year Ahead 2002, 2002
    *The Year Ahead 2003, 2002
    *The Year Ahead 2004, 2003
    *The Year Ahead 2005, 2004