Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Author Interview: Sue Bentley

Today it's my pleasure to welcome author Sue Bentley to the blog, welcome Sue.

Did you always want to be a writer? 
Not consciously. I’m not one of those writers who wrote short stories or poetry from a young age. From childhood I’ve been a person who lives a lot in their own imagination and enjoys their own company. I’m one of five children and our council house (now social housing) was always noisy and busy. We didn’t have a lot of money, but Mum was a great household manager and we never went hungry although there were few luxuries. 

My life changed when I discovered the local public library. I totally fell in love with books. Everyone teased me for always reading. Books seemed like magic and authors were mysterious people. I’ve mentioned The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe in other interviews. Something about that book resonated with the dormant writer within me. 

Tell us how your writing journey began? 
I was lucky enough to go straight from school into working for Northamptonshire Libraries – the perfect job for a committed bookworm. I first put pen to page when my two sons started school. My historical novel was inspired by the remains of an Iron Age hillfort close to where I live. It was never good enough to be published, but I learned a lot from writing it and gained a literary agent. That’s another story! It came to my attention that a publisher was asking writers to submit chapters and outlines of novels ‘loosely’ along the lines of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. I’d never for a second imagined writing a ‘racy’ novel. I responded, and to my great surprise was accepted. I went on to write eleven novels and an Anthology of short stories for two different publishers. I became a published author, and gained my first two pen names. (Those early books are now out of print.)

How did you make the changeover to writing for children? 
My literary agent introduced me to a publisher looking for contributors to their children’s series.  I had never imagined writing for children, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have a go. The publisher liked my writing and worked with me. I soon discovered that writing for children was no easy option. But I persevered, eventually writing seven books for Animal Ark, seven books for Rainbow magic, and six books for The Fairies of Starshine Meadow series. In the process gaining three more pen names.

(Five pen names are enough for anyone! I now write under my own name. )

Magic Kitten, and the other books in the series have been phenomenally successful. How did you come to write your own original series?
An editor I had worked with on one of the existing children’s series moved to Puffin Books. She contacted me to say they were interested in my writing an original series. We discussed ideas, I got my thinking cap on, and my Magic Kitten books were born, followed by Magic Puppy, Magic Ponies and Magic Bunny. Almost fifty titles for Puffin in total.  I hardly left my writing desk in about four years! By then I was bursting to write a longer, more complicated book for adults. 

Tell us about your books for adults.
'We Other’ my mystery with family secrets, changelings and fairies you wouldn’t want to meet on a dark night was published in 2017 and reprinted with an Anniversary cover in 2019. It can be read as a stand-alone, but the door is open for a sequel. ‘Second Skin’ published in 2019 is an adventure inspired by the soaring landscapes of the American West, and the tensions when races collide. It has shape-changers, danger and there’s an unusual love story at its heart. Oh and there are stunning dragons in it too. It’s another stand-alone read but with the option for a sequel.

(You can see book trailers for ‘We Other’ and ‘Second Skin’ on my Youtube channel – Sue Bentley Official. Link below. I’d love it if you left a comment or subscribed.)

What are you working on now? 
My novel in progress as the working title of ‘Frozen Charlotte’. It’s a gothic mystery set around 1850 in a fictional town called Lastville, and is inspired by the Northamptonshire shoe-trade. The death of a brutish, cold-hearted shoe-maker is at the heart of the book. Was his death an accident? Or something more sinister? Miss Minerva Shaw - opinionated spinster, is the daughter of a local factory owner. Jack Swain - unusual and intuitive with only his pride to his name, is the son of the dead man. Together they are drawn into a tangled web of lies and deep-rooted deceit. 

Do you have anything to say about your writing personality? 
As opposed to my normal flaky self, you mean? I have my foibles, as do we all. I don’t think there’s one type of’ normal’ writer – we’re all individually odd! That’s what makes us human, and interesting. I suppose it’s unusual to write across the genres, but it wasn’t planned. There was a degree of luck in that opportunities came my way, but you what, the harder I work the luckier I become. In the end it’s all the art and craft of writing. You never know what you can do, unless you try.

I probably come across as outgoing and confident at author events and festivals, but there’s another side to me – as with so many creative people. Introspection goes with the craft of writing. As a novelist a lot of the work goes on in my head before it ever gets drafted onto the page. And then I know that the hard work of shaping, tightening, and cutting begins. I’m meticulous about saying exactly what I mean on the page, choosing the right word for any given situation, and cutting out anything that doesn’t advance the story.

Have you any advice or tips for new writers? 
To state the obvious – writers must write. The book takes shape in the act of writing, whether that’s physically penning it in notebooks or typing straight onto a PC, laptop or whatever. It can only happen that way. Something takes over. I’ve often set something aside and gone back later to edit it and thought; Did I write that? It’s really good! Or insightful or whatever. The other thing is to take every opportunity offered – as I have done. If someone shows interest and asks you to write something, say ‘Thanks very much for the opportunity I’d love to do that’ – then go home and work out how to do it. You’ll surprise yourself. And keep a notebook close by. Write ideas down when they come. You think you’ll remember them – you won’t!  

Finally what do you enjoy doing when not writing? 
I walk in nature, watch films and love to cook. And I read, of course. I’ve always loved historical novels – something multi-layered and mysterious with creeping menace. I also read contemporary and fantasy bordering on horror. As a writer I find it difficult to suspend criticism and will start editing a book in my head. If the writing is superb I’m hooked and can forget myself in the story. Dark and Gothic is my current choice. There’s a trend for Victorian crime at the moment. Which is right up my street.

Any books you would recommend? 
Favourite reads and authors of the moment are; Elizabeth Macneal (Doll Factory) Ambrose Parry (The Way of All Flesh) I’ve enjoyed all of Laura Purcell’s book and just finished (Bone China) – love her sense of place and detail. Sara Collins (The Confessions of Frannie Langton) and Laura Shepherd-Robinson (Blood and Sugar) were fabulous. I’m presently reading Nancy Bilyeau’s novel (The Blue) – and totally loving it.

Sue Bentley is a prolific author and writes across the genres for different age groups. She’s best known for her children’s books which have sold in their millions worldwide and been translated into many languages. She is now writing longer novels for YA and Adults.

For more about Sue and her books check out her website and these links:


All book links in bold are Amazon UK Affiliate links which will earn me a few pence if anyone clicks through and makes a purchase - any money earned will go towards buying books or gifts for giveaways.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful interview, Sue and Sharon! Lovely to learn a bit more about you Sue! All the best to both of you.