Article by Sue Clark
After a lifetime spent writing for others – for radio and TV, newspapers, magazines and PR companies – I decided a few years ago to write something for myself. A novel. A comedy fiction. The time felt right. The job was taking up less of my time and, to be honest, my interest. The mortgage was paid off. The kids had left home … come back, and left again, this time for good. What did I have to lose?
I took a creative writing course in Oxford. Mostly for the great advice and industry insights but a little bit so I could boast of being Oxford-educated! I’d recommend a creative writing course to any aspiring novelists, incidentally. I was used to journalism, copywriting and scriptwriting, but I soon found writing fiction quite a different dish of halibut. I learnt a lot and, as a bonus, made lifelong writerly friends in the class, who I still see for literary inspiration and lunch.
After the course, I started small with short stories. I had some limited success with women’s magazines but better luck with competitions, winning quite a few. In fact, it was a short story competition that really set me on the road to becoming a published novelist – I can hardly believe I’m typing that!
The competition judge was a quite well-known ghost writer – if a ghost writer can be well known, that is! He awarded my story second place. At first I was miffed at being beaten by a younger (and I suspected, more photogenic) writer but my indignation faded when the ghost writer judge phoned and very charmingly encouraged me to go on with my writing.
I did. I looked at that short story and I thought, there’s a novel in there. I’d created two colourful characters I needed to breathe more life into them and take them on an adventure. The result is my comedy fiction, Note to Boy, published in July.
The story grew organically. I’d written about Eloise, an erratic, faded fashionista and Bradley a glum but wily teenager. She wants her celebrity life back. He just wants a life. But why would such an unlikely pair meet, let alone end up joining forces? How did Eloise lose her fame and fortune? What is Bradley scheming, beyond getting his hands on her bank card? And what’s hidden in that mysterious locked room? I set about unearthing answers to these and many other questions.
I knew the novel had to be a comedy
One thing I knew from the start was, the novel had to be a comedy. Alongside a more conventional career, I have over the years written radio and TV comedy scripts for the likes of Lenny Henry, Tracey Ullman, Roy Hudd and David Jason. Note to Boy allowed me the freedom to give my funny side free reign, creating characters, conversations and confrontations that I hoped would raise a smile.
A lot of the humour in Note to Boy comes from the clash of two very different personalities: pretentious, bossy Eloise and naïve, resentful Bradley. Though it’s a light-hearted read, there is emotional depth too, as the two of them reveal more about themselves and their pasts, and a grudging respect grows.
Now from that second-placed (not that I’m bitter!) short story has come the paperback of Note to Boy, with a zingy front cover and some very kind review quotes on the back, one of them from that very same ghost writer judge who started the whole thing off.
What’s next? Why, another comedy novel of course! Wish me luck.
Note to Boy by Sue Clark, available 23 July 2020, published by Unbound.