Suzy, it is so good to meet you! Tell us a little about the path you have traveled to arrive at the destination we call ‘successful author’! Don’t hold back!
Well, I was born and raised in Sunderland, a north-east town in England that’s now a bustling city. I always loved to read and found that books could take you to new places and give you great adventures. I suppose being an only child I was lonely at times, and so books became my passion, but I never once dreamed of being a writer. Fast forward a number of years, and I found myself working in a hospital – how did that happen? I became a qualified nurse and then moved south and trained to be a midwife. I got married, had two children and decided to take a career break, unaware at the time it would become permanent. Life has a funny way of guiding you along a new path sometimes. After beginning an English Literature degree, I added in a creative writing class and the magic happened. That was about seven years ago. Since then I’ve been writing for myself, practicing and improving my craft, I hope! Learning how to write has been a steep learning curve. How do you know you’ve started your story in the right place? Have you got the right blend of tension, and are facts and fiction weaved seamlessly together? There’s so much to consider and I couldn’t have done it without the help and critique of some great friends who are also authors, and of course, my fabulous editor.
During that time I also indulged in my passion for history, mainly military history and found my heart hankering for the 1940s for some reason. If I could revisit any period in history, for me it would have to be WW2, without any hesitation. So, with a love of writing and military history, it was inevitable I would combine the two and write historical fiction. So, most days I can be found at my desk lost in WW2. I research all sorts, although I have a particular obsession for military aviation. During my research, I’ve come across so many little-known stories, and one such story was about the Guinea Pig Club and it was so remarkable I had to write about it, so I did, and the rest is as they say…history.
Suzy has a fascinating obsession with military and aviation history. What is it that sparked this fascination or, rather, obsession?
In truth, I began researching my family tree – turns out that by indulging in a spot of genealogy, I became an amateur historian. Seriously, though, my grandmother had been almost a cipher in a sense, as she passed away when I was ten and had only recently moved to be near us and so I don’t have many memories of her. I suddenly woke up one day and decided to do some digging. In doing so, I uncovered her role in WW2, which led me to other people, places, events and that was all it took. I was hooked.
When deciding to write your first book was it an overnight decision? Or is this something that you have always wanted to do?
I never set out in life to be a writer. Nor was it an overnight decision. I think it was more of a gradual realization over a short period of time. I was in the middle of my degree and decided to study creative writing. It was obviously meant to be because something clicked and I knew immediately what I wanted to do with my life. Some people find that part out early on but that never happened in my case. My healthcare career never felt right, but writing feels right. This was the time when the seeds were sown and I realised that perhaps I could write a book.
We don’t want to sound pushy! Your first book is on pre-order. Are you working on another?
Yes, I am. Actually, just to plug the benefits and joy of NaNoWriMo, and as I’m a convert, having always dismissed it as a gimmick, I can vouch that it works. In 2016 I did it and exceeded the 50k word limit with my next book. Now I have the beautiful task of editing, which I’ve just begun. Again, this is another novel set in WW2 and I hope to be able to release it by May 2017.
One of my favourite outings was visiting Bikini Beach Books in Gordon’s Bay, a local book exchange. It was a clutter of books. An old house converted into a book shop. Every bedroom was the same. Books! To add to the smell of books was the noise. The floor was wooden so you can imagine the mix of noise and lovely old books. The signs were up for each genre and books were on bookshelves. But between the bookshelves the books were stacked as high as they could be. Here’s the question. If you stepped inside this magical world would you go from room to room and browse or would you look at the signs and dart for your favourite genre?
Ooh, it sounds like my kind of place – heaven in fact. It’s so tricky. Okay, so I’m walking through the door, my eyes light up and I’m glowing because I love it. It’s so beautiful but I know what I want, and I don’t know where they are so yes, I’m reading the signs, but I’m browsing as I go. I might get distracted and look at the odd book, but as soon as I find the historical fiction section I’m there like a homing pigeon. Once I’m done there, sure, I’ll browse around. What can I say, I’m just so predictable.
Once you are in your little spot that you have chosen will you be scanning the titles on the bookshelves or would you plonk your bottom in front of the pile?
I’ll be scanning those shelves running my fingertip across the spines of the books while I browse, looking for the one that will jump out and grab my heart.
Can you share one of the most valuable lessons you have learnt through writing your first book?
Well, firstly, as I write historical fiction, research is key, right down to the finest detail. Without it, your story isn’t going anywhere. But after that, writing regularly is equally key. Writing is just like any other craft. You have to flex your creative muscles in order to strengthen them. I was always advised to write every day, even if you only have five minutes. Well, I’m quite sure that’s good advice, but I confess I don’t always write every day, but most days. Once I’m locked in editing, writing becomes even less.
Equally, I think it’s so important to call yourself a writer because if that’s what you’re doing, then that’s what you are. You are never an aspiring writer – you don’t aspire to write – you simply write. It’s a mindset thing, and it’s crucial because, in writing, it’s so common and natural to be consumed with periods of self-doubt. So, first step is to call yourself a writer. Second step, get a blog and start writing there. Do some author interviews, book reviews anything just to make your mark. Meanwhile, keep writing and, most crucially of all, read every day. You learn how to write well from the books you read.
Do you have a dedicated spot where you sit and write? Chris Rose told us a little about his study. Can you tell us more about your office?
Yes, I have a desk in the corner of the dining room which suits me so well. It looks out into the country road at the front of the house, but from here I can see the mountains which are beautiful. It’s also one of the quietest places in the house and I feel so comfy here. My desk is cluttered just the way I like it with a mix of notepads, papers, stacks of books, usually my purse (handy for internet shopping) and my make-up for when I’m making a quick getaway! It’s so great.
Suzy, thank you for the chat! Now we know the nitty gritty! I’d like you to suggest someone for our next interview. Would you like to suggest someone?
Yes, Jane Dixon-Smith, my amazing cover designer.
Suzy will be giving away one of her novels on the 28th of November 2016. Be sure to like the page and make your comment and you could be the winner!
Dr Archibald McIndoe, a New Zealand plastic surgeon with unorthodox methods, is on a mission to treat and rehabilitate badly burned airmen – their bodies and souls. With the camaraderie and support of the Guinea Pig Club, his boys battle to overcome disfigurement, pain, and prejudice to learn to live again.
John ‘Mac’ Mackenzie of the US Air Force is aware of the odds. He has one chance in five of surviving the war. Flying bombing missions through hell and back, he’s fighting more than the Luftwaffe. Fear and doubt stalk him on the ground and in the air, and he’s torn between his duty and his conscience.
Shy, decent and sensible Stella Charlton’s future seems certain until war breaks out. As a new recruit to the WAAF, she meets an American pilot on New Year’s Eve. After just one dance, she falls head over heels for the handsome airman. But when he survives a crash, she realises her own battle has only just begun.
Based on a true story, “The Beauty Shop” is a moving tale of love, compassion, and determination against a backdrop of wartime tragedy.