Interview by Ceri Wheeldon
Continuing our author interview series as we chat to women publish their first novels over 50
I’m Sue Clark from an apparently sleepy market town in Oxfordshire, UK, where I worked for many years as a journalist, BBC comedy scriptwriter and PR writer. Newly retired, I’ve now turned my hand to what I’ve always wanted to do – write a novel. The comic novel, Note to Boy, isn’t the first I’ve written, but it’s the first to be published.
When did you start writing?
I’ve been writing since I could hold a pen. When I was a schoolgirl I used to write plays and put them on in our garden, cajoling my reluctant friends to be in them and saving the juiciest parts for myself, of course.
What was the main challenge?
I thought the main challenge of writing a novel was actually getting it finished. Now it’s written, I realise the real challenge is getting it published. Luckily for me I have a very encouraging and supportive agent who believed in me and kept my spirits up, until eventually I was taken on by the lovely people at Unbound.
How and when will your book be published?
It’s being published by Unbound, a new kind of publisher that works on a crowdfunding basis. This enables them to print a wider range of books than traditional publishers because, as they say, ‘great ideas shouldn’t fall between the cracks because they don’t fit the mould.’ Note to Boy will be in the bookstores and available online once the project is fully crowdfunded.
What was the inspiration for your book?
The novel is partly set back in the 1960s, in the fashion heyday of Swinging London. I was there in the late 60s and 70s. I lived in central London through those crazy days, working for an American film production company. I bought my miniskirts in Carnaby Street, went to parties in the King’s Road and regularly bumped into film stars – including two James Bonds (Lazenby and Connery) in the office. How could I not be inspired?
What can you share about your book?
Note to Boy tells the story of what happens when an outrageous fashion diva, Eloise, famous in the 1960s but now fallen on hard times, meets up with a withdrawn kid from a sink estate, Bradley. As she dictates her racy memoirs to him, they form an unlikely if volatile friendship. When they join forces to right a wrong, they are a formidable duo.
Tell us about the main characters? What do you like about them?
When we first meet them, both my characters are severely flawed. Eloise is, quite frankly, a demanding monster, selfish and far too fond of gin. Bradley, cowed by his brutal background, has learnt to keep his eyes open and his mouth shut.
As the story progresses, Eloise shows her more sensitive side and Bradley begins to blossom. By the end, I hope readers will warm to their spirit and determination, though I suspect both will always remain eccentrics. I certainly grew very fond of them. Eloise in particular proves you’re never too old to make a nuisance of yourself. I really like that.
What key issues did you want to draw attention to?
One of the intentions behind this book was to highlight the lives of people who are all too often ignored and underestimated: people like Bradley, an underprivileged youngster who’s never been given a chance; and Eloise, an older woman who fears her best days are behind her. And, of course, more than anything, I wanted to make people laugh.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently working on a novel about a woman who … wait a minute! I can’t tell you that. What I can tell you is that the next book will have a thriller element – laced with my trademark humour. Whatever I write always has comedy in it.
What three tips do you have for anyone writing their first book?
- Finish your first draft. Keep going, no matter how bad it is. (All first drafts are rubbish, Ernest Hemingway said – only he wasn’t so polite.)
- Rewrite and rewrite and rewrite to make it better.
- Show it to trusted critics (not just your mum or your dear spouse) and rewrite lots more to make it the very best you’re capable of.
And if all that sounds like too much work, sorry but you’re not truly a writer.
How can I get hold of a copy of your book?
Note to Boy is currently crowdfunding through the publishers Unbound. If you would like to find out more, preorder a book, or view a short video, please follow the links below.
Get involved at https://unbound.com/books/note-to-boy/
Watch the video at
Follow at https://twitter.com/SueClarkAuthor