Welcome, Susanne McCarthy
*offers Susanne a cup of tea*
(Cup of tea courtesy of The Coconut Loft Art Gallery, Suffolk)
Can you tell me a little about yourself?
I come from London, though I haven’t lived there for many years. After a long spell living in Shropshire, we moved to Devon a few years ago – my husband is a Devonian and always wanted to come home, and I always wanted to live near the sea. Now we live twenty minutes from the beach, and I love it.
What was the first story you wrote?
That’s far too long ago to remember – I was telling stories before I could write them down! When I was ten I won a national prize in a children’s writing competition for a rather weird story about a talking parking meter. My first published book was in 1985, published by Mills&Boon – a Long Way From Heaven.
Were you inspired by someone or something?
That particular book was inspired by watching Cheers and Casablanca over Christmas – somehow the two melded together!
Why do you write?
I can’t not write. Stories are buzzing in my head the whole time, jostling against each other until I give in and write them down. Some of them don’t go far, but fortunately a reasonable number work out.
Can you tell us about your newest book?
The book I have just published is called Summer Scandal. It’s the classic bad-boy-made-good, comes home for revenge plot – OK, that sounds really hackneyed, but I hope the strong characters lift it above the mundane.
How did you come up with the story?
The characters came first, and the setting – a small town on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors, in summer. Then it’s a process of fitting it together like a puzzle, asking and answering questions to create the steps which make up the story.
What genre best fits for the book?
My books are all happy-ever-after romances. There’s a fair bit of spice in them, but I wouldn’t describe them as erotic.
What are some of the benefits and challenges to writing?
I really enjoy writing, creating characters and working out what happens to them, why they can’t just fall in love and be done with it by page three, and how they eventually overcome whatever it was that was getting in the way.
The challenge for me is that I’m a really S-L-O-W writer. I just can’t stop myself sitting for hours trying to choose the exact word that I want, or going off to play a few games of Solitaire.
Do you attend a writing group?
No. I like the solitude of writing. I don’t think a group would suit me.
Do you have someone to critique your work?
I have several friends who read my stuff. One is American, and picks up for me where I have used terms which would confuse an American reader. One isn’t really into romance, and is able to take a fairly detached view of the logic of the story. Then there are a couple who do like romances. All of them are good enough friends to tell me the truth.
Also, if there is a specialist area (horses in Summer Scandal, for example) I try to find someone with relevant knowledge. People are amazingly helpful.
Are you working on something new at the moment?
Of course! It’s called Chasing Stars, and it’s set on a fabulous private yacht cruising the Mediterranean. I’ve never come across a romance set on a yacht before. And the heroine is a martial arts expert, which opens up all sorts of interesting possibilities.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Just write. And read. The usual advice is to read in your genre, but really just read anything. Read to enjoy, read good popular fiction – over time, the way good writers structure sentences and plots will sink into your brain.
What is your writing routine?
I usually start writing at about 4pm, and go on till about 10. I have tried starting earlier, but my brain doesn’t seem to want to cooperate before then. I have a workroom, with a very large desk which is usually very cluttered, and I have a file for each book I am working on.
Unfortunately I have to share my writing chair with Holly, my Border Terrier, who insists on lying behind me so I am perched on the four inches she will spare me. I’m sure Danielle Steele never has that problem.
Do you have an editing process?
Oh yes – editing is an essential part of writing. I usually edit a bit as I go along, then leave the whole book to rest for a few weeks before going back to it. Then I go through it to make sure it makes sense, that the characters are consistent, that there’s enough tension in the right places. Sometimes I find I need to do a bit more research to make sure everything is accurate.
The next edit is the “technical” one – to make sure the words flow, that there isn’t too much repetition or over-use of words, that the grammar and spelling are all correct. To do that I often switch the font to Comic Sans 16 which helps me pick up small errors.
Then I leave it again for a while, then print it off and read it through to see where I can make improvements – lots of scribbling in margins. After that I send it off to my Beta readers, who may point out problems or make suggestions (In Christmas Secrets, one reminded me that I hadn’t mentioned what had happened to the heroine’s guitar.)
And then finally I read it through again – just to see if I enjoy it!
How important is it for you to share your writing?
Once I am happy with a piece of work, I really want people to read it, to enjoy it. That’s why I decided to publish direct and to keep my prices low – I am in the fortunate position of not needing to depend on the royalties for income.
Where can people go to read your work?
As I mentioned, my first book was published by Mills and Boon in 1985. In total I had twenty-five book published by them, and some of them are still available as e-books on my Mills and Boon author page.
Unfortunately they have not wanted to publish any of my more recent books, so I decided to publish them direct on Amazon, where they are available both for e-readers and hard-copy.
Summer Scandal: http://goo.gl/nkobht
Christmas Secrets: http://goo.gl/DiL9Tc
Rogan’s Game: http://goo.gl/pquqCp
Where can people find you on the internet?
I have a website, www.SusanneMcCarthy.com – you will find information about all my books, including the ones which Mills and Boon have not yet made available for e-readers. I have also put a couple of short stories on there.
I am on Twitter – @McCarthySusanne.
And I also have a Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Susanne-McCarthy/1396398157284544
What do I do when I’m not writing?
South Devon is a fabulous place to live. I love being able to walk my dog on the beach – especially in winter, when we often have it to ourselves. I love going out for lunch to one of the dozens of coffee shops around here, many of them with fabulous views of Torbay. And I sing in a local ladies’ chorus, which I love.
Thank you, Susanne.