Sue Barnard

What inspired you to be a writer?

If by that you mean “What inspired me to write my first novel?” it was in response to the prompt Write The Book You Want To Read.  Ever since I first saw Franco Zeffirelli’s wonderful film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, and left the cinema in tears after its heartbreaking ending, the book I’ve always wanted to read is the alternative version of the story, in which the young lovers don’t fall victim to a maddeningly preventable double-suicide.

Why, I asked myself, should there not be such a book?  And the answer came straight back: Why not indeed?  And if it doesn’t exist, then go ahead and write it.

The eventual result was The Ghostly Father, first published in 2014 by Crooked Cat Books.  It’s a sort of part-prequel, part-sequel to the original tale, told from the point of view of the Friar, but with a few new twists and a whole new outcome.  I was writing it originally just for myself, but judging by the number of people who have bought it, read it and been kind enough to say they enjoyed it, it seems that I’m not the only person who prefers the alternative ending.

 

What is your day job?

I edit novels for other authors who are also signed to Crooked Cat Books.  It’s hard work, but fascinating and very rewarding, and I’m sure my own writing has improved as a result.  I now have a much clearer idea what editors look out for.  It does have its downside, though.  I now can’t read a published novel without being constantly on the lookout for typos, grammar gaffes and continuity errors – and (sad to say) frequently finding them!

Are you a pantser or a plotter?

A bit of both, I think.  I usually have some idea of how the story is going to end, but quite often I have no idea on earth how it’s going to get there.  Having said that, sometimes the characters themselves take over.  In my second novel (Nice Girls Don’t) one of the characters took me completely by surprise by saying something which I have no recollection at all of having written, but which went on to change the entire course of the story.  But he was quite right: my original idea for the plotline would never have worked.

Do you always write on the computer?

For novels and short stories, yes, because I type much more quickly than I write, and it’s also much easier to change things on screen rather than on paper.  But I keep old drafts so I can go back to them and retrieve anything I might have deleted by mistake.  A line which doesn’t look right in one place sometimes fits perfectly in another, so I always save offcuts!  But if I’m writing a poem I usually draft that in longhand, then type it up when I’m happy with the final version.  I have no idea why – it just seems to work better for me that way!

 

Tell us about your current release. What inspired you to write it?

My most recent release (Never on Saturday, published in 2017) is a time-slip romance novella with a hint of mystery and a touch of the paranormal.  It’s based on an old French legend, which I first learned about a few years ago when I visited the area of Western France where it originated.   Unfortunately I can’t say a lot more about it here, as that would give away too much about the story.  But the inspiration came to me when a single line of dialogue popped into my head one day when I was mowing the lawn.  I get quite a lot of my ideas when I’m gardening.  The line was: My name isn’t [X], it’s [Y] – where [X] is the protagonist’s assumed name and [Y] is her real name, which is the key to her dark and terrible secret.

If you could give advice to a new writer starting out, what would that be?

Writing can be a very lonely occupation, so join a writing group (either on-line or in real life) and share your work with writing buddies who will give you feedback and encouragement.  But above all: WRITE.  Get the words down and don’t worry too much about getting everything perfect first time.  You can always go back over what you’ve written and see what could be improved, but you can’t edit a blank page!

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