Monday, 23 March 2015

Debut Spotlight: Sue Shepherd

Today it's my pleasure to introduce to you author Sue Shepherd whose debut novel Doesn't Everyone Have A Secret? was published last Friday.

Born in Harrow, forty-something years ago, Sue went on to spent several years living in Hertfordshire before selling up and taking a leap of faith across The Solent. She now resides on the picturesque Isle of Wight with her husband and two sons. Her passions in life are: her family, writing, the sea-side and all the beautiful purple things her sons have bought her over the years. Happiest when hunched over her laptop with a cup of tea on the go, Sue loves to create stories with plenty of heart and laughs, but, she makes sure to include a bit of grit and sex too.

Ask Sue to plan too far in advance and you'll give her the heebie-jeebies and she'd prefer you not to mention Christmas until at least November!

Describing herself as having Champagne tastes and a Cava bank account, Sue hopes you enjoy her debut novel.

Why it’s more fun to write about naughtiness by Sue Shepherd

My debut novel, ‘Doesn’t Everyone Have A Secret?’ is out on 20th March. It’s essentially a story about three people; Steph, Mike and Penny.

These three characters are very different individuals. Steph is a slightly harassed wife and mum who feels she’s not fully appreciated; as a result she’s considering an affair with her children’s rather sexy head teacher. Mike is a vicar who’s being blackmailed, although things aren’t all they seem. And Penny; poor, sweet Penny, is battling OCD whilst attempting to deal with the backlash from a terrible childhood.

As the title of the book suggests, they all find themselves in a situation where they have secrets to keep from those closest to them.

I enjoyed writing their separate stories whilst gradually entwining their lives to form the bigger picture. But which bits were the most entertaining to write? I think, like many writers, I’d have to say, I gleaned the most fun from the cheeky bits. Those conversations that make the reader say, ‘No, no, no – you mustn’t,’ and the actions which cause them to gasp in disbelief. Making decisions for your characters which you just know will lead them into more trouble is great fun. My vicar is so much more than just his job, the book really only touches on his time in church, he is, first and foremost, a man. I found it interesting to write from a male perspective and his storyline required some intriguing research. I also enjoyed slowly delving into Penny’s life and I found it a hugely emotional writing experience to reveal her past but, ultimately, I have to say that if it’s fun we’re talking about then I had ‘it’ most when I wrote as Steph. As Steph ventured into the world of secret affairs I was able to be really naughty and, you guessed it, I loved it!

Amazon UK:

Twitter: @thatsueshepherd

Can you tell us a little bit about your debut novel Doesn't Everyone Have a Secret? 
‘Doesn’t Everyone Have A Secret?’ is essentially a story about three people; Steph, Mike and Penny, who all, sadly, find themselves in a situation where they have a secret to keep from those closest to them. Beginning the book unknown to each other, the characters’ stories gradually entwine. As well as these three, there are additional characters who are, in fact, angels. Throughout the story, these angels attempt to guide the main characters through their daily lives, not always with success. It’s a bold book and some of the subjects covered are hard hitting but ultimately there is a lot of love in it, albeit hidden behind secrets.

Where did the inspiration come from to feature guardian angels trying to guide your characters? 
A few years ago I signed up for a creative writing course with the author Sophie King. At a time when I had two young children and a million and one other responsibilities, those two hours a week were a chance for me to simply be ‘me’. I enjoyed the time I had to explore the writer in me. One night I was running late and I drove a tad too fast through pitch black country lanes in a desperate attempt to make it to the course on time. So determined was I not to miss a second of this experience that I probably wasn’t driving at my safest. Once I arrived at the class, we started, as we always did, with a bit of flash fiction - “For the next ten minutes write whatever comes into your head.” I feverishly wrote a short, tongue in cheek, piece about an angel who had been assigned ‘Sue Shepherd’ to watch over for the day. This angel (called Angela), was complaining that Sue was a nightmare to watch, as she drove erratically and was a complete liability. As I read it to the group, they all agreed it was funny and quirky and Sophie suggested I expand on it. Thus the idea for my novel was formed. As the book progressed the angels seemed to naturally take a backseat, as the main characters’ stories took over, but the angels are very much inherent to the novel. NB. You may notice that Steph Stubbs has the same initials as me :-)

Did you do a lot of plotting for the storyline or did you just go with the flow? 
I’d say a bit of both really, on the one hand I do like to simply sit and write; I enjoy letting the ideas flow and seeing where they take both me and the story. However, there was a fair bit of plotting required as well, because I had three angels watching three different people and often I had action happening to separate people simultaneously. Therefore, I did end up with a list detailing who was watching who, on which day, out of fear that, if I wasn’t paying attention, I could end up with an angel watching two characters in totally different places at the same time!

Which character did you have the most fun creating, Steph, Penny or Mike?
I think, if I’m 100% honest, it has to be Steph. I must add at this point that she is not me! But, she is very much like me and many of my friends. I enjoyed writing about her because through her I could live a little dangerously. Without doubt the characters who don’t play by the rules are the most amusing  to write. Having said that, throughout the course of writing the book I came to know Mike and Penny really well too. All three of them ‘spoke’ to me and I often had conversations with them when I was driving or when I couldn’t sleep. I love them all and if I could bring only one to life for a day it would have to be Penny, so I could hug her.

What can we expect from you next?
I’m currently about a third of the way through my second book. It’s a story about parallel worlds, a subject that has always fascinated me. At the moment I’m still busily trying to get the story down. As Terry Pratchett says; ‘The first draft is just you telling yourselves the story.’ Once I’m totally sure how it’s all going to pan out, I’ll go back and get well and truly under the skin of the characters. I anticipate it will be the same mix of humour and grit as ‘Doesn’t Everyone Have A Secret?’.  A couple of friends have had a look at my ‘work in progress’ and I’m delighted to say that they loved it. My children have grown up considerably since I first began writing and I’m finding they are more likely to leave me alone to write these days. Therefore, this second book is emerging considerably quicker than the first, and I’m really hoping it’ll be finished this year.

How did your writing journey start?
The earliest memory I have of writing and creating stories is sitting up at the table in my parents’ dinning room, writing short stories on a typewriter. These stories were purely for my own enjoyment. I was not the most diligent of students at school and I dread to think what the sentence structure was like in those early tales. As I said before, my first dabble into sharing my creative writing was a couple of courses organised by the author, Sophie King. On these courses I learnt so much about putting stories together and refreshed my memory on a few grammar and punctuation rules!

What is the best writing advice you have received to date?
Your reader may intend to put the book down at the end of the next chapter but your mission is to ensure they simply can’t! End every chapter on a cliff hanger.

When do you do your best writing, daytime or evening? 
I’d say daytime. I love weekend writing. Although, I do sometimes write at night and have, on occasion, nodded off onto my laptop whilst writing at stupid o’clock.

How did you celebrate when you found out your novel was going to be published?  
It was a while ago when I first met with Ian from Corazon Books and he decided this was a project he wanted to work on.  He’s been a great help to me since then, giving me immeasurable advice. If I’m honest, I can’t remember exactly how I celebrated but I do remember being extremely excited. I’d guess that it would’ve included a takeaway curry and a bottle of bubbles; standard celebrations in the Shepherd household.

Are you going to treat yourself to something nice to celebrate the publication of your first book?
We moved house in February – so you could say I got a new home. At the moment it’s treat enough that I can put the name of my book into Amazon and voila - there I am!

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