What advice would you, as you are now, give yourself as a 16-year-old?
1) Throwing a house party while your parents are on holiday is actually a really bad idea – someone will puke all over your duvet, your sister will grass you up when she finds a beer can under her bed and you will get SUCH a bollocking.
2) Stop worrying that you’re fat – you look gorgeous.
3) Don’t lie on the application form for that summer job in The Body Shop – you’ll get found out.
4) Learn to drive the moment you turn 17 and practise loads while you’re young and cocky. That way you won’t be such a crap reverse parker in your thirties.
5) Don’t get slaughtered on red wine the night before your German A-level. Nicht gut.
6) Other than that, don’t worry. Your life turns out just great!
What was the first book you remember falling in love with?
The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. I was terrified of Dame Slap but loved Silky and Moon-Face – and would have given anything for a go on the Slippery-Slip!
If you were not a writer what would you do?
I was an editor of children’s books before I started writing and I loved doing that. In hindsight, it was way more relaxing working on other people’s books than my own, and I was lucky enough to work with really creative, fun and inspiring people. So I guess that’s what I’d want to go back to if the writing dried up tomorrow. Mind you, I still haven’t given up on my childhood ambition to be a chocolate tester… Green and Blacks, I’m here when you need me!
What is your worst vice?
Shouting “STOP SHOUTING!” at my kids.
When and where do you write?
At the moment, I write just two days a week but from September, my youngest child starts school, so I’m going to have a lot more free time which I’m rather looking forward to! No more late nights, trying to meet writing deadlines, I hope . . .
I write in a room at the bottom of my house, handily close to the kitchen. (Rather too close at times.) This room was once the coal cellar but has since been dug out, and there are now French windows at one end, overlooking the garden, so it’s lovely and light, painted apple-white and filled with books. With three noisy children in the house, this room feels like the one place I can get some peace and quiet, and dream up new ideas for stories. Bliss!
What started you writing?
I have always enjoyed writing, ever since I was a child. When I was six I wrote a poem about my favourite football team (Aston Villa) and it was picked as one of the winners in a county poetry competition. The glory! I got to go to a special ceremony in town where the winning poems were all read out by famous people including Brian Cant and Brian Blessed. From that point on, I just knew that good stuff happened when you wrote.
What book are you reading right now?
I’m reading BodySurfing by Anita Shreve which I’m really enjoying. It’s the first book I’ve read by her, and it’s a great family drama – I’m hooked!
For people who may not have read any of your books yet, could you give a brief rundown of your latest book?
Hens Reunited is about three women who all went to each other’s hen nights and used to be great mates, but unfortunately all of their marriages have since failed, and their friendships have broken down too. It’s a warm, funny story of love, friendship, betrayal and forgiveness – and hen nights too, of course!
How do you write? Typewriter, hand, or PC?
I write on the PC but have notebooks all around the house where I scribble ideas and little notes about characters or plot developments as they occur to me. I can type much faster than I can write longhand, so all my drafts go on the pc. Once I’ve finished a draft, I print it out and go through it with a red pen – I find that much easier than editing on-screen.
How to you spend your time when you’re not writing?
I have three young children so a lot of my non-writing time is spent looking after them. I write children’s books too, under my real name (Sue Mongredien) so they are great for testing stories out on, and often help me with ideas for plots and titles. Once the kids are in bed at night, I like to have a glass of wine with my husband and veg on the sofa. We’re watching the first series of Mad Men on DVD at the moment which is absolutely brilliant (and I am a little bit in love with Donald Draper).
What was the last book you read?
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters which I loved. Wonderfully spooky!
What advice would you give to any budding authors?
Read all your work out loud to yourself – it’s a great way of flagging up weak dialogue, repetitions or boring passages!
Get an agent – it’s pretty much essential to have somebody representing you if you want to be taken seriously as an author. It’s great to have an ally too.
Don’t give up – every author gets rejections at some point in their career, and part of the job is having the stamina and guts to keep trying, and believe in yourself. Good luck!