Can you tell readers a bit about yourself?
I live in Scotland, just outside Glasgow. I worked in International Sales for 15 years, as I speak five languages (Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and French) and have travelled a lot. I also lived in France and Spain. Now I am working part-time and writing the rest. I am a voracious reader, although when I am writing it is hard to, as you get so caught up in your own work.
Your writing history/journey? I’ve been writing since I was a kid of about seven. However, more ‘recently’ I started my first novel Sign of the Times ten years ago. I would only write when I was on holiday, as had no time otherwise. So five years after I started writing the book, I decided to take a year off work. I finished the novel five months later and spent a few months drafting and editing it. It was sent out to a few publishers and agents, but nothing came of it. I then went back to full-time work and stopped writing, although I had already written three chapters of The Dating Game, due out later this year. In March this year, Sign of the Times was published on Amazon. Due to the amazing response from readers, I started writing again and am now almost half way through the firs draft of The Dating Game. In addition, I decided due to overwhelming positive feedback from readers, to write a sequel to Sign of the Times. This will be out hopefully by the end of 2013.
Your novel(s)? Sign of the Times is the story of 12 people who are based on the 12 signs of the zodiac. It relates the events that happen to them and how their lives intertwine. Here’s the blurb:
Twelve people. Twelve star signs.
Sagittarius - Holly, a travel writer, visits Tuscany to research her next book. Seeking help when her car breaks down, she gets more than assistance when Dario, a vineyard owner, puts temptation in her path. Disappearing without explanation, he proves elusive. Bruised, Holly tries to put it behind her until a chance encounter brings her feelings to the surface again.
Capricorn – Holly’s fiancé, Tom misses her while she is in Italy and turns to an internet chat room for solace. His construction business is under threat, but could foul play be at work?
Gemini - Holly’s sister, Lucy, a serial man-eater finally meets her match, which puts her long-term relationship and career in jeopardy. Cheating she discovers, can have devastating consequences.
Libra - Holly’s uncle Jack, an eminent prosecutor, juggles a difficult teenage son with his high profile career and finds himself lacking. When his son’s school work starts slipping, he decides he needs to take control, but it’s not long before the balls all come tumbling down and Jack finds his family on the wrong side of the law.
One event binds them all…
Can you share with us your latest news?
The Dating Game is underway. I am already editing the earlier chapters and have all the characters created, even the minor ones. I had to make an Excel spreadsheet the other day, so I didn’t give very minor characters the same name by accident! I also re-did the chapter plan last week, so that I know it is on course. It’s too early to have an official book jacket blurb, but here’s a mini-blurb taster.
Workaholic recruitment consultant Gill McFadden is sick of her friends trying to match-make for her. Up until now her love life has been a disaster and she’s going through
a drier spell than the Sahara desert. Seeing an ad on a bus one day, she decides to visit Happy Ever After dating agency. Before long she is experiencing laughs, lust and… could it be love? But like everything in Gill’s life, nothing is straightforward and she ends up wondering exactly who she can trust.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned that I should probably edit as I go along and to pay more attention to the word count. Sign of the Times is a long-ish book (480 pages), because it has 12 main characters, who are each given equal weight, but originally it was a much longer book for that reason, 300K words. It’s now 120K. It pained me to cut it so much, but it was solely done to comply with publishers’ submission guidelines. In the end, it would have made little difference as it was published on Amazon, but I didn’t know then that that would be the case. I had been advised by creative writing teachers, ‘just write’, so I did. Unfortunately I didn’t know when to stop!
I had an amazing journey writing my book. I’d like to be able to say that I learned to write every day, but sometimes Life gets in the way. I also learned what a difference an amazing editor can make . Fi Broon, my editor and old university friend, is brutally honest, but we have a right laugh when we edit.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I started reading when I was four and read constantly as a child. I used to be waiting outside the library on a Saturday morning for it to open. It was only open for half a day. I would get my six books, go home and be upset by 2pm, that I had finished them and the library wasn’t open until Monday again. My reading led naturally to writing. I remember my first story about a smuggler when I was seven. Then generally at school, I wrote very imaginative essays and got good grades. One exercise we were asked to do was write an essay out of an adjective, verb and noun we were given. So from that was born the tale of the magic, golden dancing sugar bowl!
Who is your favourite author and what is it that you love about their work?
Maeve Binchy. There are others whom I love too, but for me Maeve’s characters are so well drawn and they pull you in. Her characters are the inspiration for the way I draw my characters. I feel that she knows everything about them, even the things she doesn’t share with readers, which is exactly what I do with mine. Her stories are always such feel good ones, perfect for a bleak Scottish winter, under a blanket on the sofa!
If you could go on holiday with 2 characters from any books who would they be and why?
I realise I should probably trot out characters from classics here, but I’m not going to.
Bridget Jones from Bridget Jones’ diary – she is mad as a brush and I have often been compared to her, as I can be quite scatty. Every time I go anywhere stuff happens to me. She’s the same. It would be a good combo and she could give me the lowdown on Mark Darcy!
Henry from Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveller’s Wife – how exciting would it be , to be around him all the time, when he might just disappear at any second and then reappear days or weeks later? (although I suppose he might miss the flight home!) Being around him would keep the magic alive in any relationship! Plus who could resist seeing their partner at different ages. In this scenario, Henry and I would have to be going out of course….
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Keep writing. And stop calling yourself an aspiring author if you already have a work finished! You don’t feel like an author, until you start calling yourself an author. If you are still in the midst of your first work, fine, you are a writer. If your book is already finished and for sale, you ARE an author.
Marketing – you thought the writing part was hard. The marketing of your book can be all-consuming. I am still trying to find the right balance between writing and marketing. If your book is nearly ready, start creating a buzz about it already. Create a blog, so readers can find you. Entertain them, use your voice, the voice you have used in your book, which is what differentiates you.
Don’t wait for your book to launch to market. Use beta readers to get opinions before the book goes live (I didn’t, but definitely will next time). Use an editor/proofreader – do not skip this step. It’s what makes indie writers look amateur and can cause a potentially amazing tale to plunge to the depths of obscurity. There is a lot of advice on my writer’s blog, in various posts, since I catalogue my writing journey, as I write The Dating Game – www.susancbuchanan.blogspot.co.uk
Is there anything you'd like to say to readers?
Thanks to those of you who have already bought and/or read Sign of the Times and particularly to those who have given me feedback. If you haven’t already bought it, I think if you imagine Maeve Binchy combined with Nick Hornby, with a little bit of serious themes thrown in, that sums up Sign of the Times. If you like chick-lit, but with a bit more realism, ie not just all handbags and shoes, then it’s probably your kind of read. It’s contemporary fiction about ordinary people and the events that happen to them. I’ve been told I’m a ‘female Christopher Brookmyre’ and also that Sign of the Times would make a good drama series, akin to Cold Feet. I have 2 more books planned after The Dating Game already and hope to manage both in 2013.
Favourites: I’m assuming we are talking books here, so The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon; The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld; The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards; Light on Snow by Anita Shreve; Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy; The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova and The Island & also The Return by Victoria Hislop, among many many others. My all-time favourite is the children’s classic The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende, although I am also a huge Enid Blyton fan!
Genre: I read everything, except sci-fi, horror and biographies. That said there are now genres I know very little about, eg dystopian, flash fiction, steampunk, so can’t say I am a fan of those either, since I haven’t read them.
Mythical Creature: Medusa - I always wanted to have long hair…
Ice-Cream Flavour: either plain vanilla or stracciatella (Italian version similar to choc chip, but better)
Classics or Fairytales:
depends. I loved Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytales as a child, but studied European and South American literature at university. I haven’t actually read many of the great British classics in recent years. I’m more at home with Dante, Flaubert, Garcia Marquez and Machado de Assis…
Place: Mmmm. Just one – I love travelling and have been to 45 countries. I would have to say though, the white villages of Andalucia. We went there three years ago and I would like to go back later this year.
Team Edward, Jacob or.... Team: - Well, I preferred Edward when he was Cedric Diggory. The weird eyes didn’t really do it for me. And what a torso Jacob has! So it has to be Jacob, even if he does have a tail! A girl can overlook a few things!
Contact Susan via her:
Wesbite / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads
Purchase a copy of Sign of the Times:
Amazon.co.uk (Kindle Edition)
Amazon.com (Kindle Edition)
Massive thanks to the author for taking the time out and answering some questions for us! :)
What do you think of the interview? What do you think of Sign of the Times? Sound any good?