Just Tellin' Stories Like My Dad

Sometimes people wonder how I became a novelist. Well, I grew up in the home of a excellent and well-known storyteller, my dad, American illustrator John Falter. He painted more than 120 covers for the Saturday Evening Post in the 40's, 50’s and early 60’s, and he was known for his funny, and very human touch. He died in 1982, and his life was full of fun -- and plenty of make-believe.

Here’s are some of his covers – favorites of mine.

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What tickled him is actually also what tickles me, something about the undisputable humor found in everyday life. I post these because when I’m writing my novels, I often think about how much I love a great story. And how I got that from Dad.

Particularly, I love a complex, many-faceted story. And I like characters who grow, evolve and learn. And ultimately come together. Yeah – I believe in HEA’s, just as much as I believe in capturing the funny, true moments that make us human. I think that is especially present in my novel, Transformed: San Francisco.

I recently got to tour a museum of his work in Falls City, Nebraska, the small town my dad grew up in. What a joy that was to tour their collection of Post covers, and especially sit down with my son and watch the PBS special about him. Luke was born long after John's death, and never got to know him, so this was especially poignant. The museum also had a very cool recreation of Dad's Philadelphia studio, in the second home I lived in as a child.

Sometimes I posed for his covers -- like this one. I'm the girl in the red boots, and that is the farmhouse I grew up until age 8 in rural Eastern Pennsylvania. That house is no longer there ... but oh, what memories this evokes. And yes, we used to go skating on a nearby frozen pond (though the covered bridge is made up.) A beautiful, classic American experience. Just like Dad's art.

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After the Saturday Evening Post folded (due to the onset of photography in magazines), he turned to book illustration. I have no ideas how many times I pretended to be Becky Sharp, or Huck Finn, or Tom Sawyer for his Polaroid camera. Here's a picture of me posing as a little boy making a call on an old fashioned phone.

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Here's a picture of a little piece of his messy, wonderful studio from the Falter Museum. His studio always smelled like turpentine when I was a kid, and I loved it. It was packed with all kinds of paraphernalia, hanging from the rafters and stuffed in the corners, that he used in his work. I used to go up there and hang out every day after school, and it was a safe, creative, comforting haven to do my homework in. Dad would say things to me like, "Now hold still just a moment -- I only have one more inch of British soldiers to paint." (This was in his history painting period.)


Today I am so grateful to my cousins, Butch and Dobey Haws, for putting in countless hours to create the museum. And to the many Falter and Post fans who've contacted me over the years to keep be abreast of news of his work. John's legacy goes on in the Falter Museum... and in my own books, I'm doing my best to keep that wonderful storytelling tradition alive.

If you'd like to learn more about John Falter's work, drop by his wiki page — it's excellent.

Suzanne FalterComment