Sue Moorcroft writes romantic novels of dauntless heroines and irresistible heroes. Is this Love? was nominated for the Readers’ Best Romantic Read Award. Love & Freedom won the Best Romantic Read Award 2011 and Dream a Little Dream was nominated for a RoNA in 2013. She received three nominations at the Festival of Romance 2012, and is a Katie Fforde Bursary Award winner. She’s vice chair of the RNA and editor of its two anthologies, published by Harlequin.
Sue also writes short stories, serials, articles, writing ‘how to’ and is a competition judge and creative writing tutor.
1.What got you into writing? It’s a compulsion, really. I was a little late to learning to read and write but once I had learned I was entranced by the world of fiction. And I could get good marks for making things up! The compulsion to make things up, to create scenarios that turn into stories, never left me. The compulsion to become published came along a little later and it took a while to make it happen, but push and persistence won in the end.
2.What is a usual writing day like for you? Quite long. I work 50 or 60 hours most weeks. I have lots of projects on the go – usually a novel, also columns, short stories etc. And I teach creative writing via distance learning and also running workshops. Quite often, I work with students in the mornings and write my current novel in the afternoons. I find I’m more productive than, say, an entire day on one or the other. I also break my week up with a few classes: zumba, yoga and piano. The beauty of what I do is that so long as the work gets done it doesn’t matter whether I do it 9 to 5 or work 7.30 to 6 (which is the usual, either 5 or 6 days a week) and stop in the middle for a class and a cup of tea.
3.Do you get writers block? If so, how do you overcome it? I can’t afford writer’s block. Sometimes whatever I’m writing has turned to treacle, particularly if it’s the first draft of a novel (the part I find hardest), so I move onto one of my other projects for a while so that my head can try and untangle whatever the problem is. Research sometimes helps, too – if I can’t think what happens next, reading around the subject in question will throw up something interesting. Or, like everyone else, I go and spend 10 minutes on Twitter or Facebook and return to my work refreshed.
4.Are you a plotter/planner when it comes to writing a story? Kind of. But in a messy way. It’s not exactly disorganised but it’s not exactly regimented. I will usually begin with two characters and I’ll write their bios, looking at their history and their family position and stuff like that. I’ll write about them from the points of view of others – what does his father feel about him? What does her boss think about her? I think this makes the characters real to me. I also like to know about quests and goals and whether I can make his quest conflict with her goal or if I can keep her goal a secret and trip him up with it. So I have a sort of compost heap of material. I have a fair idea of the ending, too – not just that they’ll end up together but how the quests/conflicts work out. I find writing an ending that satisfies me quite hard.
In my WIP (The Wedding Proposal, due out in September), Lucas and Elle were together four years ago and I decided it would be nice to put them together on a small boat in a marina in Malta and see what they think of one another now. What I hadn’t appreciated is how much backstory I’d need to know and plot out. It was almost like plotting two books – the backstory and the frontstory. I found it so time consuming that I seriously considered abandoning the frontstory and just making the backstory the book. I ended up plotting quite a lot of the book on sticky notes along a wall. It worked quite well until my son came home and wanted the wall to his room back.
That was more ‘plotty’ than I usually am. Generally, ‘the compost heap’ provides me with a heap of material from which the story will grow.
5.What was the publishing process like for you, & any advice to aspiring authors? I wrote two novels – totally unpublishable. I threw them away and have never regretted it.
So I decided I needed some education. I read that if you could get 20 short stories published in national newsstand magazines then publishers of novels would take you more seriously. So I made that my aim and I began by doing a distance-learning course, similar to the one I now teach on. Loosely speaking, my strategy worked, except the figure was 87 rather than 20, and I’d also sold a serial.
My advice is always to educate yourself and to persist. Network, keep sending your work out.
6.What has been your highlight since becoming a published author? The day that I got The Call from my then agent was one. I’d had a seriously bad day and was in someone else’s office trying to get the telephone number of yet another person so that I could get urgent work off a computer that had just broken, when I got a message to call my agent. I dropped everything and called her and she said the magic words ‘I have an offer for you’. It was a truly life-changing moment.
Another happened much more recently, when I was doing a signing in a bookshop. A lady stopped to look at my books and then pounced on All That Mullarkey and said, ‘There! That’s the book I’m reading. Do you write anything like her?’ I sort of squeaked, ‘I am her!’ And she told me she’d been in hospital very ill and now had to rest for part of each day. All That Mullarkey was her current after-nap treat. Her husband came over and bought a copy of each of my books for her except for Want to Know a Secret? because it has a hospital in it and she had had enough of them … We chatted for a while and she rang a friend to tell them what had happened, because the friend was reading All That Mullarkey, too. It was a real privilege to know that my work had helped this lady cope with a bad time.
7.Can you share a little of your most recent book with us? And any other books of yours, if you wish. Is This Love? came out in November. It’s about the various qualities and types of love. Tamara’s life has been shaped by her big sister, Lyddie, who was the victim of a hit-and-run accident in her teens and needs more care than most adults. Lyddie is very loveable and it would break her heart if Tamara moved out of the village. So Tamara stays, regardless of whatever anybody else thinks she should or could do. What a lot of people don’t get is that she stays because she wants to, not because others think she ought to.
The story begins when Lyddie’s teenage sweetheart, Jed, returns to tell the family who was driving the car that hit Lyddie all those years ago. Jed’s an interesting man. He has no qualifications – how did he get his great job? Who’s his mysterious employer, Mr H? A lot has happened to Jed while he’s been away and a lot of it is tied up with his older stepbrother, Manny.
It’s a Middledip book, ie it takes place in Middledip village, where several of my books have already been set.
The book created some interesting research for me – alpacas, yoga, close protection, money laundering and living outside of society. I was pleased with the way it came out and it has had some lovely reviews (thank you, reviewers).
8.Apart from writing, what do you do in your spare time? The classes I mentioned. I love Formula 1 and am confident in labelling myself as a Formula 1 bore. I love reading. And chatting with friends, preferably in the sunshine with a glass of wine, is one of the abiding pleasures of my life. (But over dinner or a cup of tea will do.)
9.If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional, who would it be & why? A team principal in a leading Formula 1 team. I don’t want to be part of the hard decision process or take the stress, I just want to sit on the pit wall and monitor everything all the members of the team are saying to one another. And know all the insider secrets …
10.Do you have anything that you want to say to your readers? Thank you. Especially if you’re one of the readers who has contacted me on Facebook or Twitter to say that you’ve enjoyed a book. There are few things that give me more pleasure than knowing that you’ve enjoyed my work.