Today I’m in the company of fellow Crooked Cat author, Sue Barnard
Hi, Sue and thanks joining me on the outskirts of London. I know you have many strings to your bow – some might describe you as the whole orchestra!
Hi June, and thanks for inviting me today. But I’d hardly describe myself as “the whole orchestra”. I think a more accurate description might be “a random selection of session musicians who’ve left their instruments on the bus”.
You studied French and Italian at University. Was this the start of you wanting to travel the world?
I’d been to France once before (on a school trip when I was 15), but yes, the travel bug really took hold when I was at university. Since then, I’ve managed to visit every continent except Antarctica.
Where do you get the ideas for your novels?
I wish I knew! My first novel (The Ghostly Father, published in 2014) was written in response to the prompt Write The Book You Want To Read. I’ve always loved the story of Romeo & Juliet but hated the ending, and the book I’ve always wanted to read is the version in which the star-crossed 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.
Since then, the Muse has been a little more erratic. I tend get a lot of my writing ideas when I’m away from my computer, such as when I’m out walking, or digging the garden, or mowing the lawn.
The idea for my forthcoming book Never on Saturday (due for release on 9 February 2017) sprang from a single line of dialogue which occurred to me when I was cleaning out the garden pond. But my current WIP, which is still in its infancy, is based on a suggestion made by a former school friend.
You are an award-winning poet, an author, an editor, and, have been known to compile questions for BBC Radio 4’s Round Britain Quiz. I believe your son has an interesting phrase he uses to describe you?
Yes, he once described me as “professionally weird”. I rather like that. Normal is for wimps.
Please tell us a little about your books.
The Ghostly Father is a re-telling of the traditional story of Romeo & Juliet, but with a few new twists and a whole new outcome. Nice Girls Don’t is a romantic intrigue based on a search for family secrets, with links back to both World Wars. The Unkindest Cut of All is a murder mystery set in a theatre during an am-dram production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. And my forthcoming novel Never on Saturday is a paranormal time-slip story based on an old French legend.
Being an author and an editor, you see life from both sides of the cover. An author feels their ‘baby’ is the best – but a good editor is priceless and protects writers from dangling modifiers and other grammatical and typo blunders that lurk in the text, unnoticed by the writer but glare back at the editor like flashing lights. Why did you choose to be an editor? Do you find it easier to edit another’s work rather than your own?
It’s interesting that you should use the ‘baby’ analogy, because I’ve often thought that the role of the editor is not unlike the role of the midwife: nursing the proud parent through the birthing process, looking out for potential problems along the way, and treating them as required in order to ensure a safe delivery.
Such problems aren’t confined to just typos, grammar gaffes, punctuation issues, or the dreaded dangling modifiers. An editor also needs to be on the lookout for continuity errors, plot holes, factual inaccuracies, inconsistencies, repetition, changes of point of view within a scene (known in the trade as “head-hopping”), passages which need further clarification, and incorrect local references. A story set in Portugal, for example, would not have the natives speaking Spanish. Having said that, you’d be amazed how many people (writers and non-writers alike) manage to get that particular one wrong.
Yes, I do find it easier to edit another author’s work than cast a critical eye over my own, simply because I’m so close to my own writing that I’m always in danger of losing all sense of objectivity. But then, as you’ve just pointed out, that’s why we all need editors.
As to why I became an editor, I originally thought that if I can’t make it as a writer myself, then at least I might be of some small use to those who can. I also saw it as a golden opportunity to channel the interminable rantings of my Inner Grammar Geek into a force for good.
Since joining Crooked Cat in 2013 I’ve edited books in lots of different genres: romance, historical, thriller, paranormal, crime, fantasy, YA, and CC’s only non-fiction title to date. One perk of the job is that I’m never short of good reading matter!
What’s the nicest or strangest thing that’s happened to you as an author?
The nicest thing is when people tell me how much they’ve enjoyed my books. I was staying in a hotel in Devon a couple of months ago, and the proprietor approached me at breakfast with a copy of The Ghostly Father and asked me to sign it.
The strangest thing is receiving emails from Amazon about “book recommendations” and finding that these include my own books. It’s reassuring in one way, I suppose, but it still feels weird.
You have a great sense of humour – who is / was your favourite comedian?
Oh goodness – how long have you got? I love good topical comedy such as Have I Got News For You and Mock The Week on TV, and The News Quiz and The Now Show on Radio 4. I’m also a huge fan of vintage comedy such as Morecambe & Wise, The Two Ronnies, Flanders & Swann and Round The Horne, all of which are just as hilarious today as when they were first written.
I also love QI, which manages to be entertaining, witty and intelligent, all at the same time. A few years ago, during a trip to Australia, Better Half and I were fortunate enough to see the QI Live stage show at a theatre in Melbourne. We didn’t realise at the time just how fortunate we’d been; it was only afterwards that we discovered that the whole tour was a complete sell-out, and it has never been performed anywhere else in the world. More’s the pity.
And I simply can’t imagine a world without Billy Connolly, Richard Stilgoe, I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, Blackadder, Horrible Histories, Monty Python, or the works of Terry Pratchett.
I was once told by a dear friend that “a sense of humour is a sense of balance”. I feel desperately sorry for anyone who cannot see the funny side. There is far too much misery in the world as it is.
Gosh, Sue! What an interesting life you lead. Thank you for joining me today. You have proved that life is strange with its twists and turns and, that there is always a story along the way.
Thank you for hosting me, June!
It’s been an absolute pleasure, Sue. I’m looking forward to reading Never on a Saturday in 2017.
- Blog: http://broad-thoughts-from-a-home.blogspot.co.uk/
- Facebook name: https://www.facebook.com/suebarnardauthor/
- Twitter handle: @SusanB2011
- Crooked Cat author page: http://www.crookedcatbooks.com/author-book/sue-barnard/
The Ghostly Father: Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, Nook, Apple iBooks, GooglePlay
Nice Girls Don’t: Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, Nook, Apple iBooks
The Unkindest Cut of All: Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, Nook, Apple iBooks