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Welcome, Immi

Hi, Suzan! Thank you so much for having me.

Can I offer you a drink? Tea? Wine?

I’ll have a red wine, please!

Can you tell me a little about yourself? (inc if you use a pen name and why)

I write fantasy and science fiction, mostly for young adults. I’ve been published since 2008, with some small digital-first publishers as well as one of the Big Five. The topics I always want to come back to are spaceships, shapeshifters, twins (especially identical ones!), controlling institutions, and teenage girls with terrifying superpowers.

I also work as a freelance editor.

And in my free time I, um, read and do word puzzles. My life has a certain theme!

You’ve just released a book. Can you tell us about it, including the genre?

My most recent release is A Girl of Stone & Smoke. It’s re-release that was first published some years ago, and is a young adult romantic fantasy, set in a world inspired by Greek mythology. And it has, yes, a teenage girl with terrifying superpowers (check) who’s been groomed to become a priestess and executioner by a controlling institution of bad priests (check) and who falls in love with the shapeshifter (check!) she’s supposed to kill.

What does a re-release involve?

First, checking you definitely have the rights back to the book you’re re-releasing! (This book was originally published by Samhain Publishing, which has since gone out of business, and all authors had their rights returned.) I didn’t have rights to the original cover, and I wanted to change the title anyway, so for me, this also involved making a new cover and rewriting the blurb. I also wanted to do a light edit, to make it clearly young adult (it was first published as adult fantasy, because at the time there was almost no digital market for young adult books). And then lots and lots of proofreading, formatting it for Kindle, print, and various other online vendors, and putting it up for sale.

If this book hadn’t been edited when it was first published, I would have hired an editor for it, so that was one of the advantages of it being a re-release. And if I hadn’t been able to create a cover I was happy with, I would have had to buy one. As it was, iStock and Canva were my friends!

What is the title and genre of the book you are currently writing?

Right now I’m working on the third in the series begun by A Girl of Stone & Smoke, which follows the second book, A Girl of Dust & Death, releasing in November. It’s another young adult romantic fantasy, and its working title is A Girl of Golden Flame.

How did you come up with the story?

Most of my stories come from a single idea or image. Linked, for instance, was based on the basic premise “telepathic twins in space”. In fact, that was its working title for at least a year, because it summed up exactly what I wanted to write about.

With A Girl of Golden Flame, I’d finished writing A Girl of Dust & Death, and I still had so many characters whose stories I wanted to know. Once you create a whole bunch of interesting shapeshifters and girls with superpowers, you want to carry on playing with them!

Are you working to a deadline? Do you write X number of words per day? How are you feeling?

I’m planning to release this book in May 2022. I’m such a slow writer that I need lots of lead time! On my best day, I can write 1000 words. On a not-so-good day, I’m lucky to get 100.

Do you write in first or third person?

I mostly write in third person. But it depends on the book—I have works-in-progress that just refused to be written in third, so I had to use first. I also have one scene of one book that insisted it had to be written in second person. I just kept looking at it thinking “This is going to be unsellable” so I didn’t write more than the first scene! Since then, though, I have read a couple of books written mostly in second person, so it can work.

Are you a planner or panster? Do you choose the venue and visit it before writing? Tell us about it.

Because I’m such a slow writer, I can’t afford to be a pantser—I just waste too much time trying to think what to write next. And a nice road map of where I’m going makes me very happy!

I don’t deliberately choose places to write about, but I often take snippets of places away with me as settings for books.  A stretch of deserted land waiting to become a building site turned into a setting on an alien planet in Linked—it had that bleak, dusty feel to it that was perfect for what I wanted.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Read a lot. Read in every genre (apart from the ones you hate). And if anyone tells you a hard and fast writing rule, ignore them. Good writing has principles, not rules. 

What is your writing routine?

Walk the dogs so they don’t interrupt me, make a coffee, open laptop. Hope for words…

Do you have an editing process?

My personal editing process can be summed up as just “Make it better.” After a first draft, I put the book away for a while, then I come back to it and start working through it, changing everything from comma placement to cutting out scenes and characters and rearranging timelines.

Where can people find you on the internet?

Website: http://www.imogenhowson.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/imogenhowson/ and https://www.facebook.com/imogenhowsonauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/imogenhowson

Is there anything else you would like to share with your readers?

Please do sign up to my newsletter if you’d like updates on my next book. I only send one out every second month, plus on release dates, and you also get a code for a discount on my editing services!

https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/h6z8z8

And thank you so much for having me on your blog, Suzan!

You’re very welcome, Immi.

If you would like to purchase any of Immi’s books please click here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Imogen-Howson/e/B0044CQ0JU%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

Welcome, Clare Marchant

Can I offer you a drink? Tea? Wine?

Hi Suzan! Thank you for inviting me. May I have a cup of tea? I like it really strong though so two bags in the cup if that’s okay.

*Hands Clare her cup of tea*

Can you tell me a little about yourself? (inc if you use a pen name and why)

I don’t have a pen name I really am Clare Marchant. I live in Norfolk with my husband and the youngest two of my six children, and our mini schnauzer Fred. With my adult children and grandchildren living locally it is always busy with people dropping in but thankfully the week days are usually quiet. In my spare time I like a trip to the coast for a walk and an ice cream. Oh, and I occasionally get out my saxophone for a quick blast!

You have two books out. Can you tell me a little about them?

My debut The Secrets of Saffron Hall is a dual timeline historical novel. It is set in both the Tudor era and the present day and links two women living five hundred years apart but bound together by grief, love, and a spice more valuable than gold. In Tudor times new bride Eleanor grows saffron which increases her husband’s wealth which grows his popularity at court, but this comes at a terrible price. In present day Amber discovers a book at her grandfather’s home, Saffron Hall, and it contains a secret which is closer to home than she would have imagined.

My second book which was published this summer is The Queen’s Spy. This is another Tudor/present day dual timeline. In the sixteenth century a deaf and mute apothecary to the Queen becomes her silent spy. Whilst in the present day a young French Lebanese girl inherits an old house from her father, a man she never knew. After making a haunting discovery she tries to discover what happened there centuries before.

You were nominated for the RNA Joan Hessayon Award. How did you feel? Tell us about it.

Being a contender for the Joan Hessayon Award was just the most wonderful experience. I was nominated because my debut book went through the RNA’s amazing New Writers Scheme and was subsequently published. The winner is announced at the RNA York Tea which this year was on the 18th September. As the event included afternoon tea and cake it was of course a stellar occasion! I am so proud that my book came through the New Writer’s Scheme because I learned – and am still learning – so much from the published authors in the Romantic Novelist Association and it was an honour to have been a nominee.

What is the title and genre of the book you are currently writing?

Unfortunately the next book currently does not have a title! I really must think of one soon before I send it to my publisher. I keep hoping something will suddenly spring into my mind, but so far…nothing! I can tell you that it is another Elizabethan/present day dual timeline though and this time it involves Sir Francis Drake.

Are you working to a deadline? Do you write X number of words per day? How are you feeling?

I most certainly am working to a deadline can you see the grey hairs multiplying on my head?! When I am writing the first draft then I aim for 2000 words a day. I start fairly early in the morning and work through until I take a late lunch. But once I get to editing then it’s just a case of working through until my eyes are falling out of their sockets whatever time that is.

Do you write in first or third person?

So far, I’ve always written in the third person but who knows, if I felt that a character would sound better in the first person I may try that. It’s just the way that they speak to me that dictates how they appear on the page.

How did you come up with the story?

I never have a fully formed idea for a story, instead I will have lots of threads of ideas rolling around my head. Sometimes they are triggered by places that I go to, or artefacts that I see or maybe an article I have read. But slowly all these threads come together and I weave them into a story. It is amazing when that moment comes!

Are you a planner or panster?

I am absolutely a planner. I could never just dive straight in to writing a book, I like to know exactly what my characters are going to do, where they will go and what will happen to them. Although having said that, when I was writing Saffron Hall the little boy Tom just suddenly appeared in the story and he had not been in the plan – I try not to let that happen often though.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

My tip is probably the same as every other author’s – you really do have to sit down and write the book. You can’t edit an empty page. Even if you don’t have much time if you can manage to write a couple of hundred words here and there because it soon adds up. And when you have that exciting new idea for another book just as the one you are currently writing is getting a bit tedious, do not abandon it for the new idea! It happens to us all but you just need to keep plodding on until you reach the end.

What is your writing routine?

I sit down at my desk between eight and nine o’clock and work until about two. I have numerous cups of tea and coffee during that time too although I am trying to steer clear of the biscuit tin! Despite doing several months of historical research before I start I find numerous areas where I need to look details up but that is very time consuming so I just make a note in the manuscript to come back to it later. I don’t like to interrupt the flow when I am writing.

Do you have an editing process?

Yes, I have quite a strict process. I start with the structural editing to make sure that there are no massive holes or anomalies. Writing dual timeline throws up all sorts of problems making sure that the two stories reflect each other, my present-day character can’t discover something that hasn’t yet happened in the historical story and that can take some juggling! I use a software for writing called Scrivener and it makes moving the chapters around much easier.

After the structural edit I do several rounds of line editing making sure that every sentence is as perfect as I can make it, and then finally I do a proof read (or three!) to check on punctuation.

Then the book goes off to my agent and she sends back suggested edits and it all starts again, and then it goes to my editor and guess what? I have to start again! But every round of edits keeps polishing the book so that when it is published, I know that it is the very best that it can be.

What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?

My favourite part of writing a book is definitely the historical research. I love reading about the past – and of course the Tudor era is my favourite – and so diving down rabbit holes reading about different people and events is just the best way of spending my day. I also enjoy the actual writing of the first draft, but I find the editing process difficult it makes my head hurt sometimes!

Where can people find you on the internet?

Facebook: ClareMarchantAuthor

Twitter: ClareMarchant1

Is there anything else you would like to share with your readers?

Readers are the most important link in the chain, I write books so that people will read them and hopefully enjoy them. I’m especially grateful to all the readers who reach out on social media and also those who leave reviews on Amazon which are so important for books (I don’t understand the Amazon algorithms but reviews do great things!), so thank you to each and every one of you who take time to do that, and do come and say hello on Twitter and Facebook!

Thank you Suzan for inviting me on your blog, I’ve had a lovely time. Any chance of another cuppa?

With two teabags?

Yes please.

Formats: paperback and eBook.

If you would to view and/or buy a copy or two here is the link to Clare’s Amazon page

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3zuLWDB

Welcome, Jenni Keer

Can I offer you a drink? Tea? Wine?

Hi, Suzan. Thank you so much for having me. Just a low-fat decaf wine please 🙂 – I’m trying to be healthy.

Can you tell me a little about yourself? (inc if you use a pen name and why)

I write under my own name, Jenni Keer, and I live on the Norfolk/Suffolk border with my husband, four teenage boys and four cats. I had my boys in three years – with a buy one, get one free at the end. It’s certainly a busy household. Two fun facts: I have a blind cat called Seymour (should have been see less!), and I’m part of a disco formation dance team.

What is the title and genre of your next book? And when is it out?

The Secrets of Hawthorn Place is out in paperback and ebook on 14th October 2021. It is a dual timeline commercial women’s fiction novel about two freakily identical houses, one in Dorset and one in North Norfolk, and the Victorian architect who fell in love with a woman he couldn’t have. In the modern day timeline, Molly finds a surprising link between the two properties that changes her life forever.

I love the cover and I’ve ordered my copy. Reading dual time will be a first for me and I’m excited.

How kind, Suzan, and I’m delighted you love the cover as much as I do. It really draws the reader in. There are so many fabulous dual time stories out there, and I hope this will inspire you to read more.

Do you write in first or third person? Please explain why

I write in both. Sometimes the story lends itself to one or the other, and recently with dual timelines, I’ve found it easier to have one narrative in first and the other in third. I don’t have a preference and am equally happy writing in either.

How did you come up with the story?

Haha, I can’t actually tell you without giving a massive spoiler, but there were a couple of great films I saw where I wondered if I could twist things a little bit and it led to the idea for the Hawthorn Place. For plot reasons, I needed a very distinctive architectural period but knew nothing about the subject, so I started researching and came across the Arts and Crafts Movement (William Morris and all that…) and from there Percy and his story was born. It was such great fun to write and the first time I’d attempted something historical, so it was a real challenge.

Are you a planner or panster?

I would have said definitely pantser a few years ago but I do plan more now. It’s not particularly detailed but I make myself write a strong outline so that when I start writing the words, they flow better. It’s a compromise that works really well for me.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

SOOOOOO many. I’m passionate about supporting those who want to write because I know how damn hard it is. Firstly, don’t put off writing that first novel and say, “When I’ve got more time” or, “when I retire”. The sooner you start, the better, because the journey will be a long one. It took me nine years to get published and that’s not unusual. Secondly, write a book – and I mean an actual book of 80k from beginning to end. DO NOT give up at 27,000 words because a better idea comes along. You will learn so much by finishing one and editing it – even if it never sees the light of day. Thirdly, don’t give up. Perseverance and a thick skin are key in this industry. If you want it enough, you WILL get published.

What is your writing routine?

Any of you who follow me on social media will know that I share a virtual office with historical author pal Clare Marchant. This means checking in every morning and updating each other throughout the day with our word counts, pages edited, etc. We start around half eight and work through until late afternoon. I like to get 1,000 words done a day, but I don’t worry if it doesn’t happen. Sometimes it’s better to have good words, rather than lots of words. I can work anywhere, and don’t need total silence, as long as I’m not being asked questions. I do dread hearing, ‘Mum?’.

Do you have an editing process?

Yes, if it’s edits from my agent. I tackle the easy ones first (for example, change a character name or simple copy edit queries) and the harder ones last. I like to do at least one paper edit, as you do see things differently. But generally, I just go over the manuscript several times, refining each time. Editing for me is more fun than writing the book in the first place because I know each pass has made the book better.

What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?

Can I tweak this and say what I like most about being an author is reader contact and author friends. I really feel I’ve found my tribe. Plus, I’m self-employed so in charge of my own hours, and I can justify everything I do to my husband, from watching a film to chatting with mates, as research! The hardest thing at the moment is reading all the lovely books I get asked to quote for, simply because I’m not a fast reader. Currently, I have a backlog and feel guilty when I keep people waiting. Also, writing can be lonely – which I think a lot of us found in lockdown.

Where can people find you on the internet?

Facebook: Jenni Keer Author

Twitter: @jennikeer

Insta: jennikeer

Is there anything else you would like to share with your readers?

Hmmm… I guess that I enjoyed the historical aspect of Hawthorn Place so much that my writing in now heading this way. The last two books I’ve written have a lot more historical content. Watch this space to see what I have up my sleeve next…

If you’re quick, folks, my publisher currently has it on a special pre order price of just 99p!

Formats: paperback and ebook, and look, ebooks are only 99p! https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jenni-Keer/e/B07JW6RYYY/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

Welcome, Kate G. Smith

Can I offer you a drink? Tea? Wine?

Hi Suzan, thanks so much for welcoming me to your blog, it’s lovely to be here. I shall have a cup of tea please, or a can of Irn Bru if you’ve got one?!

*Hands Kate an Irn Bru*

A huge congratulations for both of your books being nominated for the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) Joan Hessayon Award. How does it feel? (Readers: I will post the link to the Bookseller at the end of this interview.)

I am so excited to be nominated for the Joan Hessayon Award. The Romantic Novelists’ Association have been pivotal in my career as an author. I can honestly say I don’t think I’d be here without them. My readers’ report for You’ve Got Mail was so positive and supportive and made me realise that I could write and that I was ready to submit to agents and publishers. It’s a brilliant organisation and I’d urge any budding romance authors to join the New Writer’s Scheme.

In one paragraph can you tell me about yourself?

I am a writer of uplifting romantic fiction and an occupational therapist working in social services. I live in the most wonderful city of Norwich with my daughter and our elderly cat. You can find me either tapping away at my keyboard, reading, whisking something up in my KitchenAid, or painting wildflowers. I also love to immerse myself in a bit of PS5 when I have any spare time, particularly scary games that have me switching the hallway light on at night time!

I’m currently reading The Love Note and like your voice.

Yay! Thanks so much, I’m glad you’re enjoying it. I feel like my voice has developed over the five years I have been writing seriously. Of course, all the characters will have their own voices but the constant voice that runs through the book is just me (probably quite sarcastic!)

How did you come up with the story?

The story for The Wedding Dress came to me when I was scrolling Twitter and I saw a thread about a missing wedding dress. An idea sparked in my head: where was this dress? Why was it missing? Maybe it was missing for a reason. Maybe it had been hidden away. And the story kind of grew from there.

I get a lot of my ideas from the world around me and I always make sure I give myself this creative time

How did you make your characters relatable?

Aw thank you, I try! I use a lot of personal experience—not exact experience or people, of course, but the feeling I get when I’m with friends or going through something sad. I always try to make my main characters people that my readers will fall in love with. A little bit flawed, because nobody is perfect (Henry Cavill notwithstanding) and characters with good hearts. And if they have a good heart then I think that readers can learn to love their flaws too.

I also love the side characters, who I go a little off piste with sometimes because there’s nothing better than a quirky best friend or a beast of a mother when it comes to thinking up great scenes.

Are you a planner or panster?

I used to be very much a panster. I’d sit at my keyboard and see where the day took me. Now I do a bit of both. I have a rough outline, an A to B, but I’m not always sure how I’ll get there. I often find that my characters, who I know inside out before I start, lead the way. In fact, the twist in The Wedding Dress was a complete surprise to me when it happened, because it was character led!

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Write! No matter what you think about what you’re writing, just keep going until it’s finished. And don’t expect to be great at it from the get-go. We wouldn’t sit down at a piano and immediately expect to play Beethoven’s Fifth, so why should writing be any different. We get better with practice (though the self-doubt never goes away!)

Also read as much and as widely as you can.

What is your writing routine?

I write better first thing in the morning; it feels like the words come easier and more naturally then. However, as an OT working on the front-line and a single mum, that’s easier said than done! So if I can’t get my words down first thing in the morning (and I mean when I get up at 6.30, I don’t get up at 5 specifically to write!) then I will make myself write in the evening when everything is done and my daughter is in bed, but this feels like a slog.

I always try to write at least 1000 words a day when I’m in the writing stage of a new book.

Do you have an editing process?

Does crying into a bowl of Coco Pops count?

No, actually sometimes I can enjoy the editing process, especially the first round of edits when a book is newly finished. I love reading over what I have written, because immediately prior to this is when I’m at that stage of hating all the words, it makes the book come back to life for me. I will give it a once over and amend any glaring plot points and blank pages where I’ve helpfully written something like make this weep worthy romantic. Then the next round of edits I normally do character by characters, starting with the side characters first, to make sure they have a good story each. And this takes a bit of time as I do as many edits as there are characters. Then one final big prose edit before sending it to my agent. Phew!

Then there are the edits my agent sends me, the edits my publishers send me, and copy and line edits (which is when I break out the Coco Pops!)

Edits from agent and publisher. Here, you need a box of Coco Pops. In fact you need two, one for each.

Haha, yep! It does feel like that sometimes. But I’m very lucky to have the best agent ever!!! She totally understands my writing and my voice and adds plot points that really enhance my work. The same can be said for the editor I work with at Orion Dash, she’s so on the ball with her suggestions. So even if I have to eat my way through bowls of chocolaty cereal to get there, all the edits make my books better for my readers. 

Where can people find you on the internet?

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/kategsmithauthor

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/writingittoday

Insta: http://www.instagram.com/writingittoday

Is there anything else you would like to share with your readers?

A massive thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read, review, talk about, share, or sing about my books. I appreciate every single one of you and I hope that I can bring you more books to enjoy.

If you have read either You’ve Got Mail or The Love Note an Amazon review is so helpful as it does something to their algorithms that I don’t really understand but it makes the publishers smile. So please review if you would like to.

Thanks again Suzan for having me on your blog. x

You’re very welcome x

Dear Readers, If you would like to have a look at and/or purchase Kate’s books please click on this link https://www.amazon.co.uk/Kate-G-Smith/e/B08WLZ5MQW?ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vu00_tkin_p1_i0

Orion Dash does double on RNA Joan Hessayon Award shortlist

https://www.thebookseller.com/news/orion-dash-gets-double-listing-rna-new-writing-award-1277826

Welcome, Sue Moorcroft…

Thank you for taking the time to talk to me today, despite recovering from Covid. (Dear Readers, please note that Sue and I did not meet up for this interview.)

Can I offer you a drink? Tea? Wine?

I’m right off tea at the moment! I love it, usually, but Covid seems to have changed it. I’ll have a nice glass of chilled white wine, please.

*Hands Sue chilled wine*

Congratulations in having a book out this Thursday. I just love this cover. In fact, I like all your covers. I hope you’ll be well enough to celebrate on the day of publication. How many books is this now?

It’s a tricky question. Nineteen novels and a writing guide is the cautious answer but A Home in the Sun is a relaunch of my very first novel, Uphill All the Way; Family Matters was a hardback that was rewritten as Want to Know a Secret? in paperback and ebooks and I have a few short ebooks that began life as serials and then went on to large print. I don’t count the serials in the nineteen, nor count a book again when it comes out in a different guise, even though there are actually two editions on my shelf.

Many readers say that they’d like to write a book but don’t where to start. I say that their first book doesn’t need to be a full novel. It can be an article for a magazine, a novella or of course, if they want to write a full novel then go ahead. Not everyone plans at the beginning of their work and here Sue will tell us how she gets an idea to a finished full novel.

I agree with you. After two awful novels that publishers couldn’t return to me fast enough, I aimed at short stories for magazines. I sold the first in 1996 and had placed eighty-seven before I sold a novel – what is now A Home in the Sun. I’d also sold a serial and some writing ‘how-to’. My rule was that if it earned money and was connected with writing, I’d do it. It’s actually been a great pleasure to rework my first published novel. The story is the same as it was and I still like it but I had the opportunity to make a structural change to the beginning and edit it in line with my current writing capabilities.

Where did the idea for this book come from?

I was on holiday in Malta when I saw a guy leaving for work by climbing down the balconies of his apartment block to the street and decided he had to go in a book. I was also reflecting on how much I’d hated leaving Malta as a child and how it would be as an adult. I then read an article in the Times of Malta about there being no divorce in Malta (then) and how it left people in separation limbo. I put those things together. Divorce in Malta is now legal but as the book is set 2000-2005, that doesn’t matter.

One of the army quarters in Malta Sue lived in as a child.

How did you know that this idea would have potential for a full novel?

It was actually the eighth novel I’d written so I was getting the hang of it! Later, I was able to go back and sell three of the earlier ones, after further work. Another became a serial. Publishing can be a funny game but it pays not to throw anything away.

Do you write to a specific wordcount? If you do, how do you know you will able to write to that whilst keeping to the story?

I think there’s a lot of myths surrounding word count. Coming from a background of short stories for magazines, where you’re given a word count and expected to make it work, it’s not that hard. I have a feel for how much conflict and how many goals I need for the two main characters and if I’m falling short I can explore one a little more deeply and if I’m coming up long I can edit down. The latter is my norm. I’m contracted for 95,000-100,000 and my first draft is generally around 110,000. I rip it down in my next draft, the one I send my editor. Then she does the structural edit, which invariably calls for additions rather than subtractions, so I have to tighten again. I always get anxious at the end of the rough draft and think I’m going to mess it up but it’s like a lump of clay. All the material is there. I just have to mould it into the shape I want.

Do you write profiles for all your characters or just the main ones?

Main. I like to know a lot about their conflicts and goals and their lives till now. I don’t feel characters are born on page 1 and when I know who they are already, I know how they’ll react to what I throw at them. I also like to know what other characters think of them. In real life, my husband, son and brothers will each know different versions of me and the Sue my mum knew was different again. I reflect this in my writing.

Do you make up images of your characters or get photographs from the net?

Some of each. I don’t normally resort to photos unless the mental image is hard to keep still in my imagination. I like to know hair and eye colour, general stature, whether hair is curly or straight or if someone has a particularly attractive feature, like a smile.

Do all of your characters have goals to achieve?

Yes, I think so, even if the goal is known to me but not to them. In A Home in the Sun, for example, Judith returns to the UK because she feels there’s nothing left for her in Malta after Giorgio’s accident. However, she immediately begins putting her life in order and adapting to being back in the UK. She worries about her family and wants to help. She also wants her house back, which is tricky because her old school crush is her tenant and doesn’t feel like giving the house up till he has to. Sub-consciously, Judith’s seeking a new status quo but consciously she thinks she’s drifting. If I can give characters goals that conflict with the aims of a different character, so much the better, so at the end Judith can move back to Malta … but not with Adam. What’s she going to do?

At what point do you visit the place in the book?

In normal times, I visit Malta several times a year. It has always been ‘home’ to me.

Sue and her brothers in a different army quarter in Malta.

If the setting is Italy or France, for example, I’ll try and visit early in the process and maybe later, too. All very tricky in Covid times, which is why my earlier book this year was set where I’d set a book before, Umbria in Italy, and next summer’s book be set in France, as Just for the Holidays was. I already have loads of research pix, as well as my memory bank.

How do you build a plot?

I rely on what I call ‘my plotty head’. I give it material in the form of conflicts and goals that interest me and let it begin to weave. I’ve learned to rely on it quite a lot. It likes help from a notebook and pen where I ‘think aloud’ onto the page. Logic plays a big part, too, because I believe everything’s included for a reason, in fiction. If something is part of the story then it has to earn its place. It took me a while to learn that.

Do you use a white board, post it notes, planning apps e.g. Scrivener?

It varies book to book but I’ve never used Scrivener or similar. I get bored by the idea of learning to use software and when I’m planning I do like good old paper and pen, whether that’s on cards or stickies, a notebook or just a big sheet of paper. Maybe I’m missing something good but paper works for me.

At what point do you know when its time to start writing the book?

When Chapter One wants to be written and I don’t want it to escape. I love beginning a book. It’s like being on the starting grid of a Formula One race – everything is possible and you haven’t gone off at the first corner.

Do you write the first chapter then the next and the next or write the beginning and the end and fill in the middle?

Mostly, I write in order, but if a scene or chapter is pulling at me I write it in note form. I find the disadvantage of that is that by the time it falls into place it’s probably wrong. I often put thoughts at the foot of my manuscript and review them periodically to see whether it’s time to pull them in or time to delete them.

My last question: where can readers find you on social media?

Website [www.suemoorcroft.com]

Blog [http://suemoorcroft.wordpress.com]

Facebook profile [Sue.Moorcroft.3]

Facebook author page [https://www.facebook.com/SueMoorcroftAuthor

Twitter  [@suemoorcroft]

Instagram [https://www.instagram.com/suemoorcroftauthor/] @SueMoorcroftAuthor

LinkedIn [https://www.linkedin.com/in/suemoorcroft]

or you can just use my Link Tree linktr.ee/SueMoorcroft

Thank you, Sue. I’m now off to pre order my copy.

Thank you very much! It’s been a pleasure to chat to you, Suzan. Thanks for inviting me.

This title will be released this Thursday, 19th August and available in #paperback #ebook #audio.

Pre order now:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Home-Sun-Sue-Moorcroft-ebook/dp/B08TG2171R/ref=sr_1_1?crid=10EG856Z82ROJ&dchild=1&keywords=sue+moorcroft&qid=1628774209&s=books&sprefix=sue+moor%2Cstripbooks%2C158&sr=1-1


If you would like to have a look at and/or purchase any of Sue’s books please click on this link https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=sue+moorcroft&i=stripbooks&crid=10EG856Z82ROJ&sprefix=sue+moor%2Cstripbooks%2C158&ref=nb_sb_ss_ts-doa-p_1_8

Welcome, Phyllida Scrivens…

Can I offer you a drink? Tea? Wine?

Thanks Suzan.  I’ll take a Rooibos tea with a drop of milk please. However, by the end of this interview I wouldn’t be adverse to a small chilled pinot grigo!

*Hands Phyllida a Rooibos tea*

Can you tell me a little about yourself? (inc if you use a pen name and why)

Certainly.  I live with my husband Victor in Norwich, Norfolk.  I am not a native of Norfolk; in fact I was born in the North-East, but moving here from Surrey in 2005. Although I have always loved to write, including some newspaper columns, short stories and one act plays, it was not until I started working for the Head of Literature at the UEA, that I began to dream of taking the MA in Creative Non-Fiction. This dream became a reality in 2012, leading directly to my first book contract with Pen and Sword Books.

What is the title and genre of your latest book?

This will be my third book and is called The Great Thorpe Railway Disaster 1874: Heroes, Victims, Survivors. It will be published in September. All three books are biographical and based on local figures. The first is the full life story of Joe Stirling, a Kindertransport boy who made an amazing life for himself in Norwich (Escaping Hitler), and the second (The Lady Lord Mayors of Norwich 1924-2017) is a group biography, exploring the lives of the seventeen women who have been the Lord Mayor of Norwich. I am proud that this book won the Best Biography prize at the East Anglian Book Awards 2018.  My latest title is a hybrid of historical fact and potted biographies of the 28 people who died in Thorpe St Andrew in a famous Victorian railway collision, individuals who have until now simply appeared in lists of names.

Do you write in first or third person?

Both.  I do enjoy writing fiction, albeit occasionally, latterly achieving some success in competitions organised by the Norwich Writers’ Circle, of which I am a long time member and former Chairman.  These short stories are invariably in the first person, as I love to immerse myself in the main character, really getting inside his or her head.  I also like to read fiction written in the first person. However, with researched non-fiction, and particularly biographies, I write in the third person and usually present the chapters chronologically.  I think it is much easier to follow a person’s life journey if you start at the beginning, although in recent years there seems to be more scope for experimentation in that genre. 

How did you come up with the story?

I firmly believe that factual stories are often more engaging and fascinating than anything that is made up! I am that person on the bus who will wheedle your entire life story from you by the time we reach the terminus!  I love to interview people about their life experiences, also seeking out others who have known the subject, family members, friends, colleagues and the like. And the number of times following a talk to W.I.s, history groups, Probus Clubs etc, that someone will approach me asking if I’ll produce their life story! I explain that a biography can take 3-5 years to research and write up, I would need to be Methuselah to fit them all in!  Stories are everywhere.  As for fiction, again I will start with something or someone I know and take it from there. Sometimes I think it’s my computer that writes the denouements as I rarely have an idea where a fictional story will end!

Are you a planner or pantser?

With non-fiction it really has to be about the planning. I love the research stage, normally falling into the trap of becoming obsessed by the smallest detail and using up far too time and energy on it. Then, much later, having gathered the enormous pile of typed notes, I then have to assemble the enormous jigsaw that is before me.  My well-honed structural plans often fall at the first hurdle though, as I go off in a direction that is only marginally associated with the topic!  

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Don’t stress about finding inspiration, it will find you.  Be observant. Talk to people.  Don’t be afraid to tell them that you are exploring creative writing. Give and you will receive. People love talking about themselves and often it is just one little detail that will spark your imagination. Write everything down in a notebook.  Some of my best paragraphs come to me at 3 am. Unfortunately, I am usually too tired to lift a pen, or too fearful of waking my husband, so invariably the ideas are not recorded immediately. About 50% of them live in my memory until the morning, but I do sometimes wonder how many gems I have lost inside my head over the years! Start with small paragraphs, add more, join them up, and presto, you have a story. Consider your proposed audience and make sure there is something for them to engage with. Above all enjoy the experience… you are creating something unique.

What is your writing routine?

There isn’t one. I am certainly not a morning person, working better after lunch once the chores are complete, often forgoing the evening TV to catch up. When working on a major project I try and complete a certain number of words in a session, but with non-fiction that is very difficult, as I am constantly referring to books, websites and other reference material as I go along. I try and save some time for ‘normal everyday life’, but sometimes my husband does feel somewhat neglected, especially as I approach the dreaded deadline.

Do you have an editing process?

There is a lot of cutting and pasting involved.  During the actual writing I work on a split screen, with the narrative on one side and my specific research notes on the other. Then comes the edits and they say you should ideally take more time over the edit than when writing. I hate losing precious paragraphs, or even chapters, but it has to be done to achieve clarity and fit in with word counts. My husband reads everything I write and has become quite a proficient editor! I have been lucky to have a publisher who assigns a professional editor to me once I have submitted the so called “final draft”. This has been a fascinating experience each of my three editors working differently. It took about 12 drafts and two months to finalise The Great Thorpe Railway Disaster, but there is no doubt it was a better book by the end of the process.  

What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?

As I said before, the research is always revelatory and absorbing. Writing early drafts can be painful, but when a paragraph reads well, I can experience a real buzz. I love it when my head is at its most creative and certainly for this new book, I took the opportunity to experiment with novel techniques to add dialogue and dramatise some of the real-life events. Ultimately it is always brilliant when readers tell me they have enjoyed one of my books or been fascinated by one of my illustrated talks. I will admit to being a bit of an egotist and having my name on the spine of a book has always pushed my buttons!

Where can people find you on the internet?

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/phyllida.scrivens (where you will find links to Facebook pages for all 3 books)

Twitter: @escapinghitler

Is there anything else you would like to share with your readers?

I have been fortunate to be offered two public events during September when I can share stories from The Great Thorpe Railway Disaster 1874. Firstly, I will speaking as part of the the Heritage Open Days in NorwichDetails and tickets can be found at https://www.heritageopendays.org.uk/visiting/event/the-great-thorpe-railway-disaster-of-1874-heroes-victims-survivors

Secondly, the official launch will be at Jarrold, in Norwich, on the early evening of 30th September. Again, information and tickets from https://www.jarrold.co.uk/events-diary/events-list/the-great-thorpe-railway-disaster-1874

All three of my book launches have been at Jarrold, and I can honestly say they count amongst the best days of my life. After all the hard work, hours spent online, in Record Offices, in libraries, and at my desk, it is an amazing feeling to walk to the stage accompanied by warm applause from family, friends and fellow book lovers.  I am not sure if there will be another book (I am 66 now), but maybe the latest book launch experience will change my mind! 

Thanks so much Suzan for inviting me onto your blog.  It was a pleasure talking to you.

You’re welcome and thank you for taking time out to tell us about your fabulous new book.

Your pinot grigio is waiting for you.

If you would like to read about these books and/or purchase a copy …

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Phyllida-Scrivens/e/B07BWN8VWF%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

A wintery day

Temperatures below zero here. It’s a stay indoors and write day for me. If you have to go out please be careful.

Normally I leave my writing at a happy, exciting place so I want to go back to it next time but last time I didn’t. I left it with a problem. A big problem which would involve altering four or five chapters.

Yesterday we braved the cold and went out for a cycle ride. The sun was shining and during the ride I was able to see that what I needed to correct wasn’t really that big. I’m delighted to say that when I got home I was able to do the alterations.

Note to self (and other writers): don’t leave your writing at a problematic or boring stage as you won’t want to go back to it as quickly as you would if you left it at a good place!

Exercise today

Being in the highest tier (tier 4) it can be difficult to get motivated and do things. Although we have to stay home we are allowed out to work, attend doctors, dentists, hospital appts etc and, thankfully to exercise. It’s too cold for us to cycle today, so, despite the freezing temperature, we went for a walk. Not far as it was too cold but it got us out for fresh air and exercise. Now home in the warm and getting ready to write. Wherever you are during this pandemic please keep yourself safe.

I’ve done it, again!

I’ve donated my #ChattyCat book series to raise money for #ChildreninRead. If you’d like to be in a chance of winning these 5 books, signed and with a dedication of your choice please click on the link below. Ideal Christmas presents x

Book 1-5

https://www.jumblebee.co.uk/auction/detail/auction_id/4463?search=suzan%20collins&fbclid=IwAR0n6ZjOtut9P4-Ci45YwVjZ6NoJQkvRDge6eW5OWqsdwqS5cBTIMEnnhOc