Interview With Author Sue Barnard

Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!

I’m Sue Barnard, a British novelist, editor and award-winning poet. I currently have five novels published, with a sixth due out in early June. In order of appearance:

The Ghostly Father, a re-telling of the Romeo & Juliet story, but with a few new twists and a whole new outcome.

Nice Girls Don’t, a romantic intrigue centred on a search for family secrets.

The Unkindest Cut of All, a murder mystery set in a theatre during an am-dram production of Julius Caesar

Never on Saturday, a timeslip romance novella with a hint of mystery and a touch of the paranormal, based on an old French legend

Heathcliff, an account of what might have happened to Wuthering Heights’ famous anti-hero during the three years when he disappears from the original story

Finding Nina, part-prequel, part-sequel to Nice Girls Don’t

What inspires/inspired your creativity?

I’ve dabbled with writing, off and on, for most of my life, but for many years I wrote nothing more complicated than poems, short stories, non-fiction articles, or the occasional stroppy letter to The Times. The turning point was when I came across one of those lists of Things You Must Do Before You Die. Most of them were pretty underwhelming – and in any case I’m not planning on dying any time soon – but the one which stood out from all the others was Write The Book You Want To Read. I’ve always loved the Romeo & Juliet story but have been constantly frustrated by the ending, and the book I’ve always wanted to read is the alternative version of the tale – the one in which the young lovers don’t fall victim to a maddeningly-preventable catastrophe.

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.

I’ve always been interested in family history, and this formed the basis for my second novel Nice Girls Don’t and its soon-to-be-published companion Finding Nina. My own family background is far stranger than any work of fiction. I’d write a book about it if I thought anybody would believe me.

How do you deal with creative block?

I go away from my computer and do something else for a while. I’ve had some of my best ideas – and solved many of my writing dilemmas – when I’ve been doing something unrelated to writing, such as gardening, or mowing the lawn, or listening to music. On one occasion a complete stanza of a poem arrived, fully-formed, when I was sitting in a traffic jam. I was driving at the time, so I had to keep repeating it to myself, over and over, until I got home and could write it down.

What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?

Apart from spelling errors or grammar gaffes (which can be very offputting for readers), I think the biggest mistake is factual errors. Apart from obvious ones such as inaccurate historical facts, they could also include continuity errors, implausible distances and timings, or something as simple as plants in flower at the wrong time of year. Accuracy and authenticity are vital in any genre. Unless you’re writing sci-fi or fantasy – in which case you can probably be as inventive as you like!

What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?

Best: knowing that my readers have enjoyed what I’ve written.

Worst: worrying that my readers won’t enjoy what I’ve written.

Most surprising: the length of time it takes to finish what I’ve written. As in most walks of life, the experts make it all look so easy – but writing a book takes much, much longer than reading one.

What are your plans for future books?

I’m currently working on a cosy crime novella, and a poetry project based on the works of Shakespeare. Both have been on the go for some time, so don’t stay in specially waiting for them to be finished!

Tell us some quirky facts about yourself

I once went out for dinner and ended up being sawn in half.

My mind is so warped that my son once described me as “professionally weird”.

I speak French like a Belgian.

I’ve never seen a single episode of Game of Thrones.


Author and Editor at Crooked Cat Books and Ocelot Press

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