By Suryatapa Chakraborty
Boston University News Service
The sea can sometimes leave ocean-lover Susan Casey in awe of its power. “You can’t stand in front of an 80-foot wave and say that I’m in charge of this place,” she said.
The Canadian-born author has written several nonfiction books that focus on different aspects of the ocean. Three of those books, including “The Devil’s Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America’s Great White Sharks,” were New York Times bestsellers. Casey also has been the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Illustrated Women from 2000 to 2009 and O, The Oprah Magazine from 2009 to 2013.
Her recently published book, “The Underworld: Journeys to the Depths of the Ocean,” is about mankind’s journey into the depths of the ocean. Casey said the reporting process for this particular book was very difficult, scientifically and logistically.
As a kid, Casey was drawn to water bodies, even the swimming pool. “I was compelled by the idea that below the surface there is a parallel universe and if you can dive through the surface, you can enter this other realm,” she said as the passion for the ocean shone through her eyes.
Casey said for her books, she finds the stories that will compel her readers to keep turning the page out of pure interest. While reporting, she observes the scientists and experts without getting in their way.
“I try to make myself as invisible as possible. The more invisible I can be, the better the reporting will be,” she said.
“The quality of whatever you write is going to be completely directly related to the quality of your note-taking,” she said. According to Casey, note taking is key to good research for the books.
Three researchers rigorously fact-check her work, Casey said. She records every interview for the researchers to go back and fact-check every detail.
Sharon Ludtke, was the editorial general manager of Sports Illustrated Women and she has worked with Casey for 30 years. Ludtke said she saw Casey’s resume before she saw her in-person. She was looking for a designer for PC World, where she was the art director when she came across Casey’s resume and was impressed by her organizational skills.
Ludtke was with Casey during 9/11 in New York and she said Casey’s first reaction was to give blood and help the injured. “She was a real leader that day,” said Ludtke.
“I give her the space when she is at home and in her process,” said Rennio Maifredi, Casey’s husband. He is an Italian fashion and portrait photographer who met Casey through mutual friends, he said.
Maifredi said he loves Casey’s intelligence, humor and how she deeply cares about people. He finds her commitment to her work inspiring.
“The closest thing I can say to what writing a book is like is training for the Olympics,” Casey said. She said the thought of how hard it is should not stop someone from doing it.