Interview by Ceri Wheeldon
Our latest author to have her first book published in her late 50s is Sue Barnard. Sue shares her inspiration behind her books, and tips for others who want to pursue their passion for writing.
When did you start to write?
If you include the compulsory “Composition” exercises at school, I suppose I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. My life has been peppered with poems, short stories, articles, and the occasional stroppy letter to The Times. But it was a life-changing event in 2004 which prompted me to start taking my writing more seriously.
What have been the challenges for you?
Finding the time to sit down and write without guiltily feeling that I ought to be doing something else.
What did you do prior to this?
I got married straight after university, then had a variety of office jobs before becoming a full-time parent. (If I had my way, the phrase “non-working mother” would be banned from the English language.) When my sons went to school I worked part-time as Accounts Manager of an independent bookshop – a job which I did for more than twenty years. Sadly the shop closed in 2013, a victim of crippling overheads and impossible competition.
When was your first book published?
In 2014, when I was in my late fifties. The Ghostly Father is a re-working of the traditional story of Romeo and Juliet, but with a few new twists and a whole new outcome.
What is the title of your latest book?
It’s called Never on Saturday
What was the inspiration behind your latest book?
The main story is based on an old French legend, but the real inspiration came to me one afternoon when I was gardening. A line of dialogue popped into my head: “My name isn’t [X], it’s [Y].” [Y] is the character’s real name, which she takes great pains to keep hidden.
What can you share with us about the plot – without spoiling the ending!
Very little, I’m afraid! All I can say is that it’s a time-slip romance novella, set partly in medieval France and partly in present-day North Wales, and includes a hint of mystery and a touch of the paranormal.
Who are the key characters – and how do you hope readers over 50 will relate to them?
The key characters are Mel and Ray. Their developing relationship should (I hope!) appeal to readers of any age.
What do like the most about the character/s you have created?
Mel is a troubled soul, for reasons which become apparent as the story develops, but is resigned to her fate. Ray is charming and down-to-earth.
Are there any key issues you wanted to draw attention to?
One theme which runs through the story is the idea of revenge, which has lasting repercussions for one of the characters and threatens the well-being of another one. I wanted to convey the idea that taking matters into one’s own hands can have devastating consequences.
What do you want readers to take away having the read the book?
Enjoyment, and (without wanting to sound vain) the wish to read more of my work.
What’s next for you – will there be a sequel with the same characters?
My next book is a Wuthering Heights spin-off which speculates about what might have happened to Heathcliff during the three years when he disappears from the original story. It will be published later in 2018.
What 3 tips would you offer women looking to write their first book?
- Join a writing group (either in real life or on-line). Writing can be a very lonely business, but writing buddies will provide support, sympathy, valuable feedback, and like-minded company.
- Aim to write something every day, even if it’s only a sentence or two.
- Don’t worry about getting it right first time. You can always go back afterwards and improve what you’ve written, but you can’t edit a blank page.