1 – Finally I get to share some North East hospitality after being so well looked after by you and yours in Yeovil. What can I tempt you with, Sue?
SY - I’m delighted to be here at the Coffee House, Babs. Thank you so much for inviting me. I’d love a latte with a sprinkling of cinnamon on top and a warm almond croissant, please. Mmmm, nice!
2 – I’ve already touched upon your fantastic work for The Yeovil Literary Prize, but perhaps you’d like to tell us about your background and what you do when you’re not pounding away at a keyboard. Do you have an additional occupation or interesting hobby that you’d like to share with us?
SY - I was born in London and describe myself as almost a Cockney, my birthplace being just out of earshot of the Bow Bells! After studying art at Central St Martins, I went on to qualify as a chartered librarian and eventually became a School Library Advisor. My writing career began when, as a member of an amateur dramatic group unable to find suitable material to perform, I decided to produce something myself and ended up writing and directing three murder mystery plays. After that, I concentrated on writing short stories for many years. In 2013, I published my debut novel Happy Deathday and its sequel Resurrection. When I’m not writing, I enjoy, reading, cinema and contemporary jazz. My husband and I love to travel and prefer ‘adventure’ over relaxation. We’ve been to Alaska twice, using the local ferries to travel the Alaskan Marine Highway and did a five week road trip of New Zealand. Our most exciting and challenging trip to date, was driving the Dempster Highway (the Ice Road Truckers road) up to and beyond the Arctic Circle - in the summer… doing it in the winter, would just be suicidal! Wow! Sue, I’m impressed by your travelling adventures, and to think I had trouble navigating the London Underground.
3 – How did you get involved with The Yeovil Literary Prize? What is your role within it and how much of your time is devoted to this each year?
SY - 2011 was my first year as one of the three novel short listing judges. I was asked if I would help out with the online novel submissions and I said I’d give it a go and have been doing it ever since! It is very time consuming process with each submission consisting of a synopsis and opening chapters (combined maximum 15,000 words). I usually start in March, when the competition has been open for a couple of months and go on until July. You can’t do too many in one sitting as it is pretty mind-boggling! When we’ve each got our shortlist we meet up and thrash out which ones will go to the designated novel judge for that year. The other two categories, Short Story and Poetry have their own shortlisting judges but follow a similar process.
4 – Do you get carried away with the latest project to the exclusion of everything else, or do you flit from one to the other as the mood takes you? Are you a planner, or happy to go where your characters take you?
SY - I’m a planner initially but do let the characters guide me at times. Often I’ll see or hear something during the course of writing and incorporate that into the story but I do tend to stick to my original outline. I can only work on one thing at a time!
5 – I love to genre hop, how about you? Do you write in a specific genre? Which is your favourite and why?
SY - I too, like to genre hop and have tackled pretty much everything in my short story writing, including horror, supernatural, crime, historical and humour. I do have a particular passion for Sci-fi, so I suppose that it was inevitable that my debut novel would be in that genre.
6 – Is there a particular genre or type of scene that you would avoid and if so why?
SY - I have a problem with the Fantasy genre. I don’t know what it is but I just can’t get a feel for it, although a lot of my stories do have a supernatural element.
7 – As a child which was your favourite book? Were you read to as a child and did that develop your love of books? Do you have a favourite book and author now? What are you reading now?
SY - I devoured Enid Blyton as a child but was always rather disappointed that my family holidays did not involve dastardly criminals, giving me no opportunity to thwart their plans with my cunning detective skills! I remember being read stories at primary school, in particular, The Water Babies. It upset me so much, I was haunted by it for years! Fortunately, it didn’t stop me developing a love of books and reading but does show that you need to be careful to read the right book at the right time, to a child. Having said above that I do not like Fantasy, I have to say that, one book that I’ve recently read, has gone a long way in changing my mind and that is Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway. What a fabulous read! I’m currently reading Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier.
8 – Promotion and marketing is the bane of most writers’ lives. As a newly published writer how are you reaching your readers and promoting your work? Have you had any particular marketing successes?
SY - P & M is my nemesis and takes up so much time! But there’s no getting away from it, you have to get out there and do it. I’ve been helped a lot by friends and fellow authors but it doesn’t come naturally to me. I suppose the thing I am most proud of, as a self-published author, is getting my books in stock at my local branch of Waterstones.
9 – Tell us a little about the books you currently have published.
10 – Can you give us a little hint at what you have planned next?
SY - It’s in the very early stages but my next novel will be a satire set in the not too distant future and will involve a very creative solution to a problem threatening national stability!
11 – And tell us even more about the one you’ve brought with you.
SY - The novel starts with a seemingly innocuous accident, where Jonathan loses a week’s supply of the Supplement, he’s been required to take since he was nine years old and that he believes contains only vitamins and minerals. Without its influence, he begins to experience all the signs of puberty. He starts noticing things that he’s never noticed before, in particular Sarah. With his body no longer under his control, Jonathan struggles with his attraction to her and his growing sexual awareness. He also notices Zack, a Security Response Unit officer and two things become apparent. One that Zack is becoming an increasing threat to the Colony. And two, Zack has designs on Sarah. Fuelled by love, jealousy and the hormones his body’s been denied for years, Jonathan takes him on. The third main, ever present, character in the novels, is Time itself. It’s there at the beginning of each chapter, reminding us of how little of it, Jonathan and Sarah, have left. The Happy Deathday duology is a crossover novel targeted at the 14+/Adult age range.
12 – Pick one of your characters and sell him/her to us in twenty words or less.
SY - Jonathan, like Sarah, displays great bravery as he battles against, not only a de-humanising environment but also, his own body.
13 – While I top up your coffee would you like to read a short excerpt from your book?
Putting my used tunic in the recycling chute, I press the dispenser button for a clean one. I have already checked my shoes and they will be fine for another few days before, they too, will be recycled.
I exit my hygiene cubicle, cross to the food dispenser and press the button. A packet drops down onto the metal counter. Straight away, I see that it is smaller than yesterday. Opening it, I stare at the contents - two rice balls and a small pile of bean shoots. Raising the packet to chin level, I pick up one of the rice balls between my thumb and forefinger, put it whole into my mouth and swallow. I feel every centimetre of its journey, as it is pushed down into my growling stomach. A spasm of pain grips me under the ribs, as my gut muscles clench hold of it. I wipe away a trickle of saliva that creeps from the side of my mouth, with the sleeve of my tunic top then gobble down the rest of the contents. Spotting a grain of rice caught in the fold of the carton, I hook it out with my fingernail. Then, placing it on my tongue, I work it to the back of my throat and gulp it down.
I glance up at the time display on the COMSET and see that I must leave at once. I have lost track of time and hurry towards the door.
‘Remember Jonathan that your Pre-mortal course is scheduled for tomorrow at 14.00 hours. It is essential that you are carefully prepared for your Deathday ceremony.’
Perhaps it is the lack of food, but I have forgotten all about my Pre-mortal course and this troubles me a great deal. Ashamed at my oversight, I reach the door deep in thought and wave my hand over the console. But it remains closed. I freeze for a moment, unsure of what to do then hear a click behind me.
‘Jonathan, you have not taken your Supplement.’
Shocked at another mistake in my morning routine, I rush over to the dispenser and push the button. Nothing happens. In my haste, I have not applied enough pressure. I push it again, hard and for several seconds this time. But instead of one tablet, seven shoot out of the nozzle and bounce, one after another, off the metal shelf. I try and catch them with my knees but they fall onto the floor and I watch, in horror, as they clatter down the air vent in the floor by the wall. Standing quite still, I wait for the COMSET to respond. Nothing. I pour a little water into a plastic cup and pretend to take a tablet. I dare not look at the Eye behind me. After a few seconds, I walk over to the door again and wave my hand over the console. It glides open and I step out into the corridor.
I have lost a week’s supply of Supplement. The Supplement, I have taken every day of my life since my 10th Deathday.
Happy Deathday and its sequel, Resurrection, are available in Kindle and paperback formats from:
You can catch up with Sue at:
14– And finally a little game that I hope all my guests will contribute to. Sue, can you give me 100 words of your choosing to follow on from this? your last line will be picked up by the next guest... and so on:
She was chained up in the castle basement as the flood waters began to rise... The dark, encroaching liquid crept up her naked body, shocking her with its chill. She expelled a terrified scream from the back of her throat, the sound ricocheting around the slick stone walls of the basement. No-one would hear her cries. She was quite alone. As the water reached her neck then her chin, she struggled to free her chained leg but it was held fast to the floor. Then her nose slipped under the surface, the foul tasting water seeping into her lungs and she knew in this drowning moment that this was not a dream…this was real.
Thanks so much for coming, Sue. I wish you much success in all you do and hope all your plans come to fruition. Do pop back and let us know how you get on with your next travelling adventure.