Sue puts a wing in the tale!
I’ve always enjoyed making up stories and writing them for myself, but it’s only in the last few years that I’ve really explored the possibility that other people might like to read them too. First, I tried my hand at short stories, then I had a go at writing for children, but it was when I began writing women’s fiction that I felt I’d really found my place. My first novel took a good while to complete, going through many metamorphoses before emerging as the finished article. I would describe it as the kind of book I enjoy reading myself. It’s essentially a romantic comedy, but I’m assured that, as well as being funny, Doesn’t Everyone Have A Secret? has substance. It’s bold and hard-hitting and it covers some emotive subjects.
Tell us the plot in a nutshell
Three characters each have a secret they’re choosing to keep from the people closest to them. Meanwhile, angels tasked with the unenviable job of watching over this secretive lot. The story’s based on a piece of quick fiction I wrote a few years ago, which was a tongue-in-cheek look at the work of angels, exploring how they might feel if they were unfortunate enough to be assigned to look after me as I drove down a dark, country lane. From this short piece, my main characters were born and their lives and secrets soon took over the majority of the book – but the angels are still an integral part and I hope they provide an interesting slant.
Do you have a particular writing routine or way of working?
I tend to think about the next chapter in a character’s life as I’m doing other things. For example, the story plays out in my head like a movie as I’m driving, cooking or trying to fall asleep. Once I’ve ‘watched’ it in my head a couple of times, I type it up in one go, to ensure I get it all written. Lastly, I go back and re-read the chapter and tweak away until I feel it’s the best it can be.
What was the main challenge you faced as you wrote the book?
Finding the time! Especially when there were so many other things demanding my attention. Without a doubt, the hardest thing about writing for me is having to stop and finish jobs, go to work or simply sleep. Why do families require so many meals and how do they make so much washing and mess?!
And the biggest buzz?
I’d say it was when people talked to me about my characters after they’d read my draft. When someone refers to a character – who is entirely fictional and began life in your head – as if they know them well, it’s extremely rewarding. My friends really didn’t know how exciting it was for me when they said: “Well that’s just so like her,” or: “That’s typical of him.” Those simple sentences told me that they’d entirely invested in my characters; they cared, they believed. Now that’s a buzz!
What is your favourite book, and why?
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. From an early age I’ve loved time travel films and books. I think the paradox that the first time Clare meets Henry is not the first time Henry meets Clare, is brilliant. In my opinion, any book that requires you to check back regularly to see what year it is or what time you’ve jumped from, will keep you on your toes.
I’m currently about a third of the way into my second novel, which is about parallel worlds. The story explores how a fairly insignificant decision made by one person can change another person’s life immeasurably. So far, I’ve only shown it to a couple of people, but they really liked it and felt it had the same mix of grit and humour. I’m really enjoying the change, although I have to be careful not to mix up my worlds! As I’m clearer now on how to go about writing a full-length novel and because my children are that much older, this book seems to be coming together quicker and I hope to have a completed draft later this year.