Thursday, 16 March 2017
Sunday, 30 October 2016
SARAH'S NEW BOOK "MAGDA" IS OUT TODAY AS AN EBOOK ON AMAZON AND WILL BE AVAILABLE AS A PAPERBACK soon. It's the third part of a really scary trilogy and is available now on https://www.amazon.co.uk/Magda-Darkly-Disturbing-Occult-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B01M2ARTZP/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1477830274&sr=1-2&keywords=magda OR THE EQUIVALENT .COM SITE IN THE STATES.
My guest tonight is a freelance writer and has written more than 140 short stories for women's magazines such as Woman's weekly, while her first serial is due out in March - a murder mystery. Sarah has also written a comedy novel called Expected and a collection of horror stories and really wants to concentrate more on psychological thriller novels. The first two Father of Lies and Tanners Dell were published over the past two years and this week Sarah published Magda, the final part in the trilogy.
Originally from Sheffield, where she studied nursing, as did my daughter (though not at the same time!), Sarah now lives and works in Sheffield again.
Sarah, firstly many thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. I know you’re from Sheffield, where all the best nurses come from, or so my daughter tells me, but did you start writing up there, or after you moved down to Dorset?
Well my nursing days were back in the dark ages. I qualified in 1984. After that I worked as a drug rep for nearly 20 years. I never had time to do any writing but always wanted to. When my husband was transferred to the south coast for his job, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to start a new chapter in life. That was 8 years ago now and I’ve been writing ever since. However, I really am a Northern girl and most of my stories and ideas emanate from my upbringing.
A huge amount. I guess you could say it’s my USP. During my time as a drug rep I specialised in mental health – working in hospitals mostly – and when you spend as much time as I have in psychiatric units, and you realise that many of the staff are as bonkers as the patients, the well of ideas never dries up. Human nature is fascinating. Couple this with what you learn about psychiatric conditions and how really, none of us are precisely normal, and you have an endless source of material. I would also say that dispelling myths about mental illness and exposing the way the most vulnerable people in society are often treated, is something of a mission. Mental illness is very frightening and it can happen to any one of us at any time.
That's very true, Sarah. Whether it’s a short story, or novel how do you approach writing a new story from the point of view of plot and characters?
This is interesting. Mostly a short story will come to me with a beginning and an end, i.e. I will have the idea as if from nowhere, but it will likely be sparked by a memory or something someone said, or from a line in a book or film. This idea will then be jotted down and maybe used there and then, or saved until later. Once I start to work on an idea then I visualise the characters, how they look, the situation, how they speak…and do a rough draft so that the outline is down. Then I type it up, edit, print out, edit again, sleep on it, edit again. I ask myself what I am trying to say – why do I want to tell this story? What is the message? Then I go back and inject more humour, more thrills, clues or surprises – whatever is needed to increase reader enjoyment, because reader enjoyment is the primary aim. I do not write to please myself. I write to tell stories and to entertain.
140 stories is an incredible number. How do you come up with such great plots? Does personal and past experience play a part every time, or do you just have a great imagination?
Memories and experiences play a major part. I seem to have travelled a particularly rocky road, and I’m one of those people who never forgets - not a single nuance, expression, slight or bizarre incident. Add to this the ability to kind of get into people’s heads. I can imagine being them – whether male or female, good or bad. I often think I should have been an actress – except I prefer to be in the shadows – lurking!
Persoally, I can't imagine you in the shadows, Sarah. You’ve now written a novel called Expected? It’s a comedy, that I know, but what’s it about?
I love ‘Expected’ Why do I love it? Well because my heroine, Sam Sweet, is a hapless, funny working class girl who has the worst luck in the world. There is no safety net – aka Bridget Jones with her parents in the country – she’s from a tough sink estate, and so when she gets into a massive personal, financial and career-driven mess, she really is in trouble. However, there is a ticket to get out of trouble if she plays by the rules – rules that most women would give their eye teeth for. All she has to do is have a baby with her fiancé – the revolting, slimy surgeon, Simon. Do what is expected, you could say! But boy did she pick the wrong bloke! Simon may be a surgeon but he is also a game-playing psychopath. And now Sam’s grandchild-obsessed mother has booked the wedding.
This is about survival for ordinary girls who have to make tough choices, not always based on what they want, but what they have to do. Breaking point follows for Sam. So can she find her voice in time to get out of this mess? I hope, by this point, we’re all rooting for her…. Oh, and yes – it’s a happy ending!
That's a relief! You also have a collection of horror stories due out soon? Tell me more!
Yes. Very excited. ‘3am and Wide Awake’ is a collection of 25 horrors, thrillers and on-the-edge stories. Most have previously been published, but about a quarter of them are new. The collection will be out on http://www.alfiedog.com in the next couple of months, I hope.
After reading, ‘3am and Wide Awake’ my best friend didn’t sleep for 3 nights, and the funny thing is – since writing this story I have done a lot of research into demonology for my next book, and most of what I wrote really does happen. I guess that makes it scarier! Several of the stories are based on mental illness and many on the supernatural. Not all of them are horror-filled, though – some, such as ‘Different Colours’ or ‘Rough Love’ are about the darker, tougher side of life, and will hopefully give the reader a spectrum of subjects from which to choose. ‘3am,’ ‘Retribution’ and ‘Out of The Woods’ though – yes, very scary!
Hide behind the sofa stuff! Do you intend concentrating on book writing in the future, or will you mix it with your short story writing?
Both. I currently have a 3 part murder-mystery serial in Woman’s Weekly, and several short stories to come in their Fiction Specials. I’ve worked very hard to ensure good relationships with many of the editors and really enjoy seeing my stories in print. So I don’t want to lose that. However, my ambition has always been to be a novelist and now that 'Expected' is being published soon by Crooked Cat Books, I've actually achieved that, but I do now intend to concentrate on supernatural and psychological thrillers. I think that’s where I’m heading!
Sounds like it. So who, as a writer, has influenced you most, Sarah?
It started with Thomas Hardy in school. But there are so many I love, right across the spectrum – Susan Hill, Patricia Cornwell, Stephen King, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, Minette Walters, Sarah Waters, James Herbert, Ian McEwen. If I had to say who had influenced me the most I’d say Stephen King because he is such a raconteur! It’s that ability to grip and hold the reader, that fascinating story on a dark night…..an age old talent we never tire of.
Do you have a set routine as a writer and a special place where you work?
I get ideas while out walking or deeply engrossed in a book or film. Or out watching and listening to people. For the long-hand drafts I sit downstairs in the ‘snug’ – a small room lined with bookcases where I have a comfy sofa. Typing up is always done on my laptop in the study. I have to have total quiet. I cannot work if my husband is home banging and crashing around.
What is the most important piece of advice you could give a budding writer?
Take critiques. Forget your ego – chuck it right out! Be ruthless and objective and take all the advice you can get.
One last question, Sarah. If you could achieve one important goal within the next 5 years, what would it be?
To have a psychological thriller published - and selling well because people enjoy it!
Sarah’s book-form short stories are available from her Amazon author page on http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sarah-England/e/B005P0GDYW/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1362924027&sr=1-2-ent
Sarah’s website as well as her blog is at http://sarahengland.yolasite.com/
‘3am and Wide Awake’ – is available onhttp://www.alfiedog.com
from Amazon at http://www.amazon.co.uk/3am-and-Wide-Awake-ebook/dp/B00CLFRFHS/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1367588367&sr=8-2&keywords=3am+and+wide+awake
from Amazon at http://www.amazon.co.uk/3am-and-Wide-Awake-ebook/dp/B00CLFRFHS/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1367588367&sr=8-2&keywords=3am+and+wide+awake
Monday, 15 August 2016
In the past I have occasionally repeated an interview if it was relevant to do so, but as far as I can remember I have never interviewed anyone twice, famous or otherwise. Tonight is the exception, because Suzan Collins, whom I interviewed in 2013, is such a multi-talented person and excels in just about everything she does, either as healthcare specialist, consultant, or author.
It’s time for an update, so sit back and enjoy!!
Suzan, It’s almost 4 years since we last talked and exchanged news, so what have you been doing since 2013?
It’s been a busy couple of years. SPC Consultancy is busy especially in inspecting care homes and delivering training on the different types of dementia and I am the Director of Get Writing, East Anglian Press, oh and the East Anglian Festival of Culture #eafoc.
The last time we met your publisher was due to release ‘Beyond My Control: How the Health and Social Sector Need Not Have Failed My Mother.’ How is that going?
It’s going really well and thanks for asking. The main reason for writing the book was to tell people what happened and to give advice on what they can do if it’s happening to them or someone close to them. The book is selling well, of course people can get a copy from their local library and I’ve had feedback from many telling me how it has helped them and guided them.
Before I ask you about ‘Get Writing’ have you written any more books?
Yes, I wrote two books for staff working in care on the topic of Supervision:
Supervision Skills pack (buy singularly or both together)
Supervision Skills has been devised to equip managers and senior staff with the knowledge and skills to enable them to provide supervision meetings in the workplace. This workbook will provide guidance on how supervision is to be delivered to staff and explains the processes and requirements for supervision.
Making the Most of Your Supervision
This workbook is written and aimed at new staff or staff who want a more effective supervision meeting with their supervisor.
Was there any particular reason for writing them?
I do believe that staff need to be supported in their job, there is a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it in. By having 1-1 supervision sessions with a trained supervisor they can share any concerns they have and receive feedback on their practice. Unfortunately some supervisors are given this role without any training which can result in badly handled 1-1 supervision sessions or not held because the supervisor is not confident to facilitate the sessions.
I hear you’re the author of the Chatty Cat series. Tell me more…
Chatty Cat is my cat I got from the rescue centre. They named her Twinkle but as she chats a lot Chatty Cat seemed more appropriate.
In 2014 I wrote the first book in the Chatty Cat series which is about Chatty Cat, settling into her new home with her hooman, me. Yesterday, 14th August 2016, I released book 4.
Book 1: Chatty Cat: My Purr-Fect New Home
Book 2: Chatty Cat: Spring Into Summer
Book 3: Chatty Cat: My Purr-Fect Friends
Book 4: Chatty Cat: Activity Book.
These books are unique as they are narrated to me by my cat. You can read about the life of a cat and at the same time read some helpful tips on caring for cats.
I notice that Chatty Cat has her own Facebook page, blog and Twitter account. What does she chat about?
‘I tell my own stories in my Chatty Cat books because they are about me and what I do and what I think. They are books for children but adults read them too #chattycat.’
I know someone else’s pet was in Chatty Cat Book 3 after an auction for an excellent cause. If someone wants a chance to have their pet featured in book 5: Chatty Cat: Autumn into Winter, is this an opportunity to do so?
In book 3 ‘Chatty Cat: My Purr-Fect Friends’ I ran an auction in which the highest bidder had their pet named in print (money from auction went to Alzheimer’s Research UK), I am again offering a lucky reader the chance to have their pet named in book 5 ‘Chatty Cat: Autumn into Winter’ with all monies raised from the auction going to a cat rescue centre. Click here if you would like to place a bid https://www.facebook.com/suzancollinschattycat/
I see in book 3 ‘Chatty Cat: My Purr-Fect Friends’ you’ve touched on sensitive subjects of bullying and dementia (in different chapters). Is there a particular reason why you wrote about these two subjects?
Children and adults suffer from bullies and bullying and also children and adults will know someone who has dementia. Both subjects need to be out there so they know:
· What bullying is and how to stop being a bully (if they are one) or if they’re being bullied what to do
· What dementia is
Both children and adults read Chatty Cat books and as you say I have only touched on these two subjects (or rather Chatty Cat has). We will be expanding on them but not sure at the moment if I should have them in a chapter in book 5 or in separate books told by Chatty Cat. Perhaps readers can let me know.
If you would like to buy any of Suzan’s books here’s the link to her author page on Amazon. I know from experience that her Chatty Cat series is great fun and that her more serious books are fascinating to read and highly respected. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Suzan-Collins/e/B0037DXY46/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1
Tell me about: Get Writing, East Anglian Press and the East Anglian Festival of Culture #eafoc.
Two years ago I ran a set of writing workshops and I had some fab authors come to facilitate some workshops for me: Jayne-Marie Barker, Glynis Smy, Rosy Thornton, Jo Wilde and Ann Bowyer. The workshops covered Getting Started and Planning . Researching . Editing . Publishing . Marketing. Some of the writers were already writing and some enthused by the 3-day workshop said they would start writing. I expected for the three days to finish and that would be that but one writer announced that she was so motivated she was going to write a book. I said something like ‘If you are serious I will help you self-publish it and if this is done before my pop-up bookshop in July you can have a stall. Every writer then said I am going to do it too and they did. We formed a group ‘Waveney Author Group’ (WAG) and we’re currently on tour (a year on tour and it ends next month).
The pop-up bookshop July 2015 was such a success authors booked almost immediately and we were soon full. In July 16 we held the first ever East Anglian Festival of Eafoc #eafoc with authors coming from across the country. We are now planning for the second festival which will be in July 2017 and will have a wider genre.
Each year more writers come to our Get Writing workshops and to date I have helped 22 authors independently publish their books and see on Amazon, many are published under my imprint, East Anglian Press.
Along with running the structured writing workshops Get Writing also invites people who want to come and join other writers and finish writing that book in the fabulous 55 acre grounds of Gunton Hall and finish at 4pm with a swim in the pool (and have some time afterwards if writers wish to discuss the writing they have written that day).
*Come for the facilitated writing workshops or come and join other writers and finish writing that book!*
The first of our 3-day writing workshop this Nov will be a little different, yes it will cover fiction but in particular it will be a day of ‘Writing a Novel.’ I have booked 10 times novelist Jane Lovering from Yorkshire and I am very excited. And if writers wish they can book our 2-night writing retreat in Jan which is being held in an 18th-century country house hotel. Writers can write in their rooms or in the room we have booked and there is the option to discuss their work after dinner around the open working fire.
More info can be obtained from www.getwrting.co.uk
Contact details for Chatty Cat:
Contact details for Suzan:
· Blog: https://suzancollins.wordpress.com/