Sue Barnard was born in North Wales but has spent most of her life in and around Manchester. After graduating from Durham University, where she studied French and Italian, Sue got married then had a variety of office jobs before becoming
a full-time parent. If she had her way, the phrase "non-working mother" would be banned from the English language.
Since then she has had a series of part-time jobs, including some work as a freelance copywriter. In parallel
with this she took several courses in Creative Writing. Her writing achievements include winning the Writing Magazine New Subscribers Poetry Competition for 2013. She is also very interested in Family History. Her own background is stranger than fiction; she'd
write a book about it if she thought anybody would believe her.
Sue has a mind which is sufficiently warped as to be capable of compiling questions for BBC Radio 4's fiendishly difficult Round Britain Quiz. This once caused
one of her sons to describe her as "professionally weird." The label has stuck.
Sue joined the editorial team Crooked Cat Publishing in 2013. Her first novel, The Ghostly Father (a new take on the traditional story of Romeo
& Juliet) was officially released on St Valentine's Day 2014. Her second novel, a romantic mystery entitled Nice Girls Don’t, is due for release in July 2014.
You can find Sue on Facebook,
Twitter (@SusanB2011), or follow her blog here.
Can you tell us what prompted you to first start writing? What was the first thing you wrote?
to Allthingsbookie, Sue.
If you include
the compulsory “Composition” exercise at school, I suppose I’ve been writing more or less all my life – but it’s only in recent years that I’ve started taking it more seriously. The first thing I
remember writing was for a primary school competition organized by Cadbury’s. The whole class had to take part; we had to learn all about chocolate and then write an essay about it. For that I won a prize
of a tin of Cadbury’s chocolate. The chocolate is long gone, but I still have the tin. I keep my pens in it.
you summarise your latest work in just a few words?
The Ghostly Father is a retelling of the traditional Romeo & Juliet story, but with
a couple of major new twists and a completely different ending.
What was the inspiration for this book?
I've always loved the story of Romeo & Juliet but hated the way it ended, and have often wished that there was a version of the story which had a more satisfactory outcome. What finally kick-started the
process was when I came across one of those lists of “Things You Must Do Before You Die.” One of those things was “Write the book you want to read.” The Ghostly Father was
Did you do any research for the book?
story is told from the point of view of the character of Friar Lawrence, so I had to learn about life in a monastery – and also, since he was well-versed in herb-lore, I had to study that too.
What does a typical writing day involve for you?
I wish I had one! My writing isn’t very structured, I’m
afraid. I’d love to say that I could sit down and write for hours on end, but sadly that wouldn’t be true. If I get stuck (which happens alarmingly often) I find it helps to go and do something else
for a while; the answers then come to me at the most unexpected moments. Listening to music helps. On one occasion a verse of a poem arrived, fully-formed, whilst I was sitting in a traffic jam. And
I’ve had some of my best ideas of all when I’ve been mowing the lawn.
How do you decide on the names for your characters?
Because The Ghostly Father is based on an existing story, I already had the names of the principal characters, although in some cases I changed their names to the Italian versions (for
example, Juliet becomes Giulietta, Tybalt becomes Tebaldo, and Friar Lawrence becomes Fra’ Lorenzo). In the case of some minor characters who don’t appear in the play, I chose names which had some other connection with the
Which writers have influenced your own writing?
(obviously!). But in my other work (mostly short stories), I’ve been inspired by John Wyndham, Joanne Harris, and the Tales of the Unexpected by Roald Dahl. My second novel, Nice
Girls Don’t (published in July 2014), owes much to the help and inspiration of my friend and mentor Sally Quilford. I’d like to think there’s a touch of the early works of Jilly Cooper in there too!
What are you working on next? Do you have a WIP?
I have several unfinished projects on
the go at the moment. It remains to be seen which of them (if any!) gets finished first.
What has been the best part of the writing
process…and the worst?
The best part was receiving the email headed “Offer of Contract.”
The worst? Every writer’s nemesis: rejection. I was particularly upset when I received one rejection which was totally at variance with the publisher’s own guidelines. I
would have much preferred that they’d been honest with me, rather than making up some half-baked excuse.
Do you plot your
novels or allow them to develop as you write?
I start with a basic idea of what’s going to happen, but it isn’t set in stone. In The
Ghostly Father I ended up swapping two characters’ names round, because it came to me at one point that names are very significant in the story, and one particular name was far more appropriate for the outcome. And in Nice
Girls Don’t, one of the characters took me completely by surprise by saying something which went on to change the entire course of the sub-plot. Which was probably just as well, as I realise now that my original idea would
never have worked.
Have you taken any creative writing courses and would you recommend them?
A few years ago I took several online “Start Writing” courses with the Open University. Sadly these are now discontinued, but I believe that there is a free version of “Start Writing Fiction” available
on the Futurelearn section of the OU website. I’ve also studied Romance Writing and Short Story Writing with Sally Quilford, and Flash Fiction with Calum Kerr. All highly recommended.
What book(s) are you reading at the moment?
My Kindle is full of books by my fellow-authors
from Crooked Cat Publishing. I’m currently reading Shaman’s Drum by Ailsa Abraham.
If you were stranded
on a desert island and could only take three books with you, what would they be and why?
The Complete Works of Shakespeare.
I could spend many a happy hour just reading the works of the Bard, as well as dreaming up backstories for the characters, and working on more spin-off stories.
single-volume edition of The Bromeliad Trilogy (comprising Truckers, Diggers and Wings) by Terry Pratchett.
Although this trilogy was written for
children, the stories are packed with humour and satire, and can be read and enjoyed on any number of levels. They would also remind me of my sons, who first introduced me to the works of the great Terry Pratchett when they read these
books at primary school.
A really good anthology of poetry.
I just couldn’t imagine a life without
Do you have any advice for new writers?
Believe in yourself, and never
give up. If I can do it, anyone can!