Hi Sue, welcome to Swirl and Thread. I’m delighted to have you over for a chat.
I love the fact you are so strong in your identification of yourself. How first and foremost you are a mother, a role that is clearly so important to you. Can you tell us a little about your family?
Yes, you’re quite right, I am first and foremost, a mum. I can’t help it really, being a parent changes you so much. It’s impossible to be selfish when you have children. They will always come first.
My husband and I have been together for 20 years now, (Ten years married.) I think our marriage is probably much the same as any relationship where the people have been a couple for two decades – we’re flabbergasted we’re still together, and yet, adamant that we’ll never be parted! I know, without a doubt, I love him, because when I have news, be it good news about my books or, as happened earlier this year, devastating news about the death of my mum, he is the absolute first person I need to tell.
Of course, there are days when I want to kill him, that’s par for the course, but he is my best friend. What he realised a very long time ago, and has cashed in on ever since, is that he can get away with being infuriating and exhibiting a fair amount of laziness, as long as he adds a pinch of comedy. He has a great sense of humour and makes me laugh more than anyone else in the world. It’s gotten him off the hook many a time.
We have two boys who are in their teens now. Unfortunately, both are typical teenagers! I’ve learnt to communicate in grunts and am waiting patiently for the day they emerge from their cocoons as fully fledged adults. When Harry Enfield wrote that sketch about Kevin the teenager all those years ago, he absolutely nailed it – I’ll say no more.
And the last member of our family is our standard poodle, Forrest (Forrest Gump). He’s about to turn two, which also makes him a teenager in dog years. He’s as mad as a box of frogs wearing party hats, but very loving.
Sue you mention your love of the sea and how it influenced where you currently live, The Isle of Wight. Have you always had a love of the sea? Was it always the dream? As some one not familiar with the area, can you describe to me your view every morning?
We moved over to the Isle of Wight five years ago. It was a big decision because we left all our friends and family back on the mainland. But it just felt right for us as a family. My husband and I have always wanted to live near the sea. Even before we met, it was an individual dream for both of us.
It can be frustrating, because in order to see people on the mainland we always have that infuriating ferry journey to endure, which is far from cheap, but on balance it’s still worth it. The island is beautiful, there are loads of gorgeous beaches and miles of greenery. It’s difficult to explain the attraction for us, it’s a quiet place and it’s often said that coming here is like stepping back in time, maybe that’s what we enjoy.
Our boys are happy here and we’ve all made friends. I wish I could tell you that I can see the sea from my house, but that would be a lie. However, it is just a stroll down the road for us to be on the seafront.
Right next to our house we have a copse which is fabulous and somewhere to walk Forrest. I often meander around the woods whilst chatting to my characters and deciding what’s next for them.
You have recently published your second novel, ‘Love Them and Leave Them’(Out Now). Can you fill us in a little on how your path to publication come about?
Many years ago, I attended some Creative Writing classes with a published author who writes under the name of Sophie King. It was during one of her classes that I had the idea for my first novel, ‘Doesn’t Everyone Have a Secret?’ It was several years before I finally finished my first draft, (back then my children were little and I never seemed to have the time to write.)
I asked Sophie if she could recommend anyone to approach with my much-loved book-baby. She suggested I send it to Corazon Books. This I did, and, fortunately, Ian at Corazon liked it. So, we set about preparing it for publication. We have a great working relationship and I feel very lucky to have found him.
He not only publishes my books, but he’s a brilliant editor too.
Can you share with us the premise of ‘Love Them and Leave Them’?
Love Them and Leave Them has been compared to the film Sliding Doors, and I’m happy to agree with that, in so much as it looks at the two possible outcomes of a split-second decision. However, I’d say it’s a bit grittier than Sliding Doors. Unlike Gwyneth Paltrow’s character in the film, many of my characters are either deeply flawed or very vulnerable. The book tackles some bold subjects, but that’s what made it so interesting to write.
Here’s the blurb …
‘Love Them and Leave Them: Sometimes you have to leave the one you love … sometimes you’re the one who’s left behind.
On his way home, Ed makes a split-second decision that changes the lives of all those who love him.
Six years on, Ed’s daughter, Jessie, is stuck in a job with no prospects, her dreams never fulfilled. It will take more than her unreliable boyfriend, Chris, and temperamental best friend, Coco, to give her the confidence to get her life back on track.
But what if Ed had made another decision? It could all have been so different …
Six years on, Ed’s daughter, Jessica, has a successful career, loving boyfriend, Nick, and a keen eye on her dream home. But when new clients, a temperamental Coco, and her unreliable boyfriend, Chris, walk into her life, Jessica’s perfect world soon starts to unravel.
Love Them and Leave Them is a story of love, families, friendship and a world of possibilities. Whichever decision Ed makes, the same people are destined to come into his daughter’s life, sometimes in delightfully different ways. And before they can look forward to the future, they will all have to deal with the mistakes of the past.’
Your debut novel, ‘Doesn’t Everyone Have a Secret’, was in amongst the top ten Amazon bestsellers. That must have been a very exciting time..
Oh, my goodness, was it ever?
I really had no idea what to expect. I thought my first book would sell to friends and family and I remember having a little flutter of excitement when it made it into the top 20,000! Then, after a couple of months, it just took off and began rocketing up the charts (as the old DJs used to say.)
To get into the top 10 overall was amazing. There was one point when it sold over a thousand copies in a day and I just kept saying to myself – 1,000 people are reading about my characters today!
When you’ve worked for so long on something and kept it to yourself for years, it’s very strange to realise that a great number of people are suddenly in on all your thoughts.
How, as a writer do you promote your books?
Mainly just the usual ways. Facebook, Twitter. Etc. I often worry that my Facebook page is littered with posts about writing and, in particular, about my own books. I do get the odd comment from my friends, ‘Oh, have you written a couple of books? I didn’t know that!’ But they’re usually pretty good natured. I think most of them are actually really pleased and proud of me and are happy to spread the word.
How would you describe your relationship with Social Media?
Up and down.
I love Facebook and I’m always on it, but I do find Twitter hard. I guess I’m just a bit old fashioned. I find it so difficult to keep up with all the people I’m following. I worry that I might be ignoring other writers I’ve made virtual friends with, and I’d hate that to happen.
My two most exciting moments on Twitter were being re-tweeted by Ricky Gervais and being followed by Reginald D Hunter.
Sue, I’ve read that you have a small obsession with the colour purple!!!!!! Please share……
You know, Mairead, it’s just one of those things. I can’t explain it really.
When I buy something, anything, and there’s a choice of colour, I’m always drawn to the purple one. If I buy a laptop, a notebook, a pen, a pair of kitchen scissors! The purple one always feels right for me. I have quite a few items of purple clothing because they’re the ones my eyes are always drawn to.
A few years ago, my sons worked out that I really like purple and they began buying me lovely purple presents for birthdays and Mother’s Day etc. I have so many gorgeous little things now which I not only love the look of, but which have sentimental value too, because I know they were chosen with love by my boys.
I had a big birthday recently and I went with my sister and ten friends for a spa weekend. We had the most amazing time. On the Saturday night, everyone arrived for dinner and it began to slowly dawn on me that they were all wearing purple. Purple dresses, purple earrings, purple nail varnish. I asked if it was a coincidence and they confessed that my lovely sister had planned it all.
Of course, I thought everyone looked brilliant.
Sue, you strike me as someone who has found the ‘Holy Grail’ of the work/life balance. Can you share your secret? I’m sure we would all love a few tips!!
I have a supportive family.
They understand that I need to write. It’s not just something that I enjoy doing, it’s something I need to do. They frequently have to wait for dinner because I’m on a roll and I don’t want to stop. I’m a person who hates housework.
Most days the cleaning will call to me and I’ll totally ignore it in favour of writing a few chapters of my latest work in progress. My husband and sons never seem to complain. I’m not sure I have any tips for you.
I’m just a very lucky person who gets to spend her days doing the thing she loves most – telling stories.
5 Biggest literary influences on your writing….
Penelope Farmer (She wrote ‘Charlotte Sometimes’. The first book I remember reading which explored time travel. It gave me a taste for something different.)
Marian Keyes (I love how she switches from humour to sadness in the blink of an eye. It appears to be effortless, although I’m sure in reality she works hard to achieve it.)
Jilly Cooper (I read her books as a young adult and became totally submerged in her world.)
Jackie Collins (The same as Jilly Cooper. I just loved her books. She showed me it was OK to add a bit of naughtiness.)
Sophie King (The writer whose classes I attended. She taught me so much about structuring my books, telling the story from more than one point of view, and keeping the reader intrigued.)
5 Favourite movies….
It’s a Wonderful Life.
Dirty Dancing. (Who didn’t want to be Baby?)
As Good as It Gets.
FAQ About Time Travel.
Paper v Kindle?? Why?
I’m a bit old fashioned so I’d say paper. But I do appreciate that some people can read a novel in a couple of days and would far rather buy it for £1.99 on Kindle. I think they both have their merits.
Summer v Winter? Why?
SUMMER, SUMMER, SUMMER!
I much prefer to be hot than cold. I love it when the nice weather begins and the summer months stretch ahead. The flip-flops come out and the toenails get painted. It’s a fabulous time of year. We have a really good climate down on the Isle of Wight, it’s a very sunny place and often a couple of degrees warmer than the mainland. Summer is full of possibilities.
For me winter is a depressing time when it gets dark five minutes after the kids come home from school. I don’t enjoy it at all.
Some of my friends enjoy winter because they look forward to Christmas so much. But I’m not a huge fan of it all. I mean, I like it. I can eat a nice turkey dinner as well as the next woman. But, I don’t see what all the fuss is about. No, sorry, winter, you lose. It’s summer all the way for me! (Whoops – did you say quick fire?)
Finally Sue, what’s next for writer Sue Shepherd?
I’ve just finished the first draft of my third novel and am about to be very brave and send it to Ian at Corazon Books for his feedback.
I’m pretty sure there’ll be some edits to do on that and then hopefully it’ll be published, maybe next year.
After that? Well, in case you haven’t spotted it, I’m a big fan of Time Travel and Paradoxes, I keep promising myself I’ll have a go at a Romantic Comedy with a bit of Time Travel thrown in. We’ll just have to see …
Thanks so much for inviting me to Swirl and Thread, it’s lovely to be here.
So nice to get off the island occasionally. *grins*’