It’s about time I restarted the author interviews on An Author’s View, and what better way to resume than to introduce one of my favourite Book Guild authors, Susi Osborne. Susi now has three novels under her belt: The Ripples of Life, Grace and Disgrace and Secrets, Lies and Butterflies; and, as if publishing and marketing three books wasn’t enough work, Susi has also given Cheshire town Northwich its very own LitFest.
Without further ado, let’s welcome Susi to An Author’s View, and hand the reins over to her. Hello Susi, and many thanks for answering some questions for us today. Please start by introducing yourself.
Susi – Hi everyone!
My name is Susi Osborne and I live in Cheshire. I am married and have two adult children, one of whom is currently living back at home with us when she’s not whizzing around the country living out of a suitcase – she’s an actress. I have had three novels published, The Ripples of Life, Grace & Disgrace and most recently, Secrets, Lies & Butterflies, which came out at the end of April this year.
Alison – Please would you give a brief description of your latest novel.
Susi – Secrets, Lies & Butterflies is a novel about friendship, love and trust. Like both of my previous novels, it tends to be somewhat of an emotional rollercoaster with lots of twists and turns. Tom has betrayed Kate and destroyed their marriage by sleeping with the one person she thought she could trust – Chloe, her former best friend. She’d thought they had the perfect marriage. He was the love of her life and she of his…or so she’d thought. Distraught, she moves away to Cornwall, taking their daughter with her, trying to rebuild her life.
A difficult year passes by but then the unexpected happens, Kate receives a call for help from Chloe. Reluctantly she agrees, returning to stay with the lovely Grace and her chaotic family for a while in order to come to Chloe’s aid. Inevitably, despite trying to avoid the situation, Kate comes face to face with Tom again. He still gives her butterflies – does she still love him? But more importantly, could she, or indeed should she, ever trust him again?
Alison – Wow, even the blurb is a rollercoaster! What initially inspired you to write?
Susi – Having worked in libraries for many years, I always had a longing to write a novel myself. However, life and family combined do tend to have a habit of getting in the way, or sometimes they’re just a good excuse! But when my children grew up and moved away the time seemed right. Apart from that, I was caring for my mother who had Alzheimer’s – writing was a kind of escapism, a form of therapy almost.
Alison – I lost my own mother to Alzheimer’s, so I can certainly empathise with your need to escape from the stress of caring from time to time. Are there any authors who have particularly influenced your writing?
Susi – Actually, it’s really hard for me to say which authors have influenced my writing – I’m an Aquarian, which explains a lot. We’re full of quirky individuality (apparently often bordering on insanity!) and do not like to conform. I admit that in my case this is quite true. However, I will say that Margaret Drabble certainly struck a chord with me in my earlier years. More recently I find myself hovering somewhere between Marian Keyes (love that lady!) and Joanna Trollope – a broad spectrum, I know.
Alison – What about your characters? They are all so well moulded and believable; are they modelled on anyone in particular?
Susi – Inspiration for characters comes from life in general and, of course, friends and family always want to know if they’re featured in your book. In general though, my characters are purely figments if my imagination! However, the character of the grandmother who features in both Grace & Disgrace and Secrets, Lies & Butterflies was very loosely based on my own mother who had Alzheimer’s and who I looked after for 10 years.
Alison – My friends often ask if any of my characters are based on people we know – especially the baddies! My characters seem to develop as the story goes along, as does the story itself, so now I don’t bother with any plans before I start a book. Are you a planner?
Susi – Plan? Me?? Am an Aquarian!! No, I definitely am not a planner. Not in any area of my life, actually – perhaps that’s where I go wrong! I like to have a rough idea for a story, introduce the characters, and then hit them with a bombshell to see how they react. I have a vague idea of how I would like the book to end, but usually the characters take over, go off at unexpected tangents and almost dictate the story to me. Rarely is it what I had intended it to be!
Alison – I can so easily relate to that style of writing, and I’m a supposedly methodical Virgo! I love not knowing where my story will end up, and my characters managed to surprise me more than once while I was writing Dory’s Avengers. Now, Book Guild (our publisher) told me briefly about the Northwich LitFest, and I’m fascinated. Please tell us more.
Susi – Northwich LitFest has been utterly amazing! I started it last year, single-handedly and without a budget. I had never organised a LitFest before and Northwich had never had a LitFest before…nor was it the kind of town which has a great ‘literary scene’. But, as Adele Parks said in an article she wrote, I ‘attacked it with gusto.’ Never have I had to blag my way into getting so many things free of charge in my entire life! Adele, in fact, even launched her new book at my LitFest. It was called Whatever It Takes and I had been determined to do whatever it took!
That first year was so exhausting that I vowed I would never do it again, but everyone had enjoyed it so much and I had so many people asking when it would be happening again – how could I not? This year its success was phenomenal. The positive feedback I’ve had and the buzz of conviviality at each of the events has been tremendous. I’ve had to work my socks off at it, but it really has been so worthwhile. It is definitely now an annual event – people are waiting for the next one already!
Alison – That sounds absolutely brilliant, and well done for organising such a great event. I don’t think I’d have the courage! With three published novels and an annual literary festival to your credit there must be plenty of advice that you could give to a budding author.
Susi – People often say to me ‘I’d love to write a book but…’ and it is so very easy to put it off until another day and thus give up at the first hurdle. We all lead busy lives and it’s easy to make excuses and delay doing whatever it is that you really want to do. My advice is to just go for it! Just make a little window of time in your busy schedule, even if it means getting up that bit earlier in the mornings while your household still sleeps, or staying up later after they’ve all gone to bed. Dedicate that time to doing what you really want to do …and do it! Don’t leave it until later in life, as I did. I so wish that I had started earlier. I feel now that I want to do it all, and have to run at all times if I’m to succeed!
Alison – Have you given any radio or television interviews while promoting your books? Was it a nerve wracking experience?
Susi – I have given quite a lot of radio interviews whilst promoting my books and I have to say that I’m always nervous beforehand but actually really enjoy it once I’m live on air. In fact I have been approached recently about the possibility of having a…oh, but that would be telling! Two radio interviews I’ve had really stick in my mind as being memorable. One was broadcasting live to Spain from my living room, which seemed somewhat surreal. The other one was my first ever interview, where the presenter asked me to sign a copy of my book for her just seconds before going live on air. Never has my hand shaken so much, the signature was practically illegible!
Alison – (Laughing) I bet! I’m still finding it difficult to sign books neatly, as I think it’s so funny that anyone would want my autograph. How did you feel when you saw your first novel in print? I still get a thrill every time I see mine.
Susi – My first book, The Ripples of Life, came out in 2008. It seems incredible to me to think that was only 5 years ago, it feels like another lifetime. The whole experience, for me, has been absolutely life-changing. I can clearly remember walking into my publisher’s office – my book was stood up, on display in the reception area, right in front of my eyes as I walked in through the door! It was a magical moment, and one that will stay with me for evermore. I felt as though I’d given birth…and I suppose I had, in a way.
Alison – Do your books form a series, and is that what you intended for them?
Susi – My books, The Ripples of Life, Grace & Disgrace, and Secrets, Lies & Butterflies loosely form a trilogy, although I have to stress that each book forms a complete story within itself.
They didn’t set out to form a series at all, it just sort of happened that way – I’m not a planner, as I said earlier. When I wrote The Ripples of Life I left it open-ended, mainly because I’d become so attached to the characters that I didn’t want to leave them, and thought I may be able to come back to them someday. There didn’t seem any point in writing a sequel at that point, as how did I know whether anyone would even like my first book? So I started to write Grace & Disgrace. Part way through, people who had read and enjoyed the first book started to ask if this was going to be the sequel, saying how much they couldn’t wait to read it. Oops!
So I had a brainwave…or so I thought! I briefly introduced one of the main characters from The Ripples of Life into Grace & Disgrace, and then linked the two books together in the final part of the trilogy with Secrets, Lies & Butterflies. It was a challenge, but hopefully it worked!
Alison – Thank you a million times for joining us today on An Author’s View, Susi. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.
Susi’s books are well worth a read, so do check them out. The chaos of modern life, great characters who become as familiar as old friends, and plenty of twists and turns are all portrayed with humour and sensitivity. I can thoroughly recommend them, so here are the purchase links:
The Ripples of Life UK Purchase Link US Purchase Link
Grace and Disgrace UK Purchase Link US Purchase Link
Secrets, Lies and Butterflies UK Purchase Link US Purchase Link
I really enjoyed reading this interview. As someone who witnessed Susi blossom into a successful published writer and enjoyed the Northwich Lit Fest I feel sure this lady is destined for great things.
Pingback: An interview with the writer Alison Lurie | Cool lady blog