Today I am pleased to have an interview with author Sue Watson. We live close enough to each other to have a coffee now and then. We chat non-stop when we do meet.
Sue’s wonderfully named “Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes” was released by Rickshaw Publishing on 8 September 2011. Sue’s blog can be found here. She can also be found on Facebook as Sue Watson Books and on Twitter as @suewatsonwriter.
I asked Sue a few questions.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I have always written in my career – I studied English for my degree, then went on to become a journalist, then a TV Producer where I wrote scripts most days so writing has always been in my life. I used to be working on shoots and imagining stories and ideas for novels, watching and listening to everyone around me and always thinking how real characters make great fiction. It occurred to me one day that if I really wanted to – I should leave work and give it a go. My daughter was seven at the time so I combined the writing with being a ‘mummy,’ taking and collecting Eve from school and just enjoying doing stuff with her and doing my writing around this – which as a full-time working mother had been impossible.
How much of yourself is in your book?
I think there’s a lot of me in Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes and in the heroine, Stella Weston. None of the actual events that happen to Stella have happened to me – but while writing I definitely re-lived the frustration of being a working mum and having all those balls in the air! I worked through a lot of those old frustrations and I have to say it provided great therapy by exorcising some old demons. Through Stella I found my writing voice and I miss her already! I would love to return and spend more time with her and her friends, who make me giggle while I’m writing about them. I think next time we’ll go somewhere exotic and glamorous, make cocktail cupcakes and have a fabulous time … I reckon they all deserve it!
I know that you used to have a very busy job in the media business. How have you adapted to being a writer?
Yes I was a TV Producer working for BBC Birmingham and London. I had a very hectic life and worked on some great programmes with fantastic teams. I also worked with some great personalities – as the producer of Points of View I worked with Terry Wogan and my first job was as a researcher on Good Morning with Anne and Nick. It was all great fun and I really loved my job – but I realised recently that I had been making (mental and paper) notes about everything that happened while I worked in television. This has all resulted in Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes – perhaps my whole working career has been leading to this book! And to answer your question more directly, I actually adapted to writing far more easily than I ever imagined. I don’t miss the drive to work or the stress of having to make a programme nor do I have to get up at dawn and work ten hour days or leave my family behind overnight to go off filming. I don’t even miss people (because writing can be lonely) because I have lots of friends who I see when I should be writing. When I have a deadline though I am strong, say ‘no’ to friends and stay at home with my pink laptop on the kitchen table. Here I meet characters who are all really interesting people – who do the most amazing things that make me laugh and cry – all from my kitchen table.
What would be your best tip for newbie writers?
Go to a Creative Writing Class. I attended Sue Johnson’s class in Pershore, Worcestershire – it’s a lovely, easy class because Sue puts no-one under any pressure, just guides new writers gently. She always makes you feel good about what you do offering changes and ideas but never criticising harshly. This approach was perfect for me – I had written all my life – but never fiction – so this was new. I believe Sue’s teaching style is perfect because it allows writing styles and ideas to develop and not be knocked down at the first post.
Let the words flow and try to write at least 1,000 words a day. It’s not always easy to find time to write especially if you’re a busy mum or you have a career and you’re juggling the day job and the dream- but stay with it. If some days you don’t get the chance to write – don’t beat yourself up – it’s not a race it’s up to you how and when you write. And you must enjoy it.
Get your writing out there – either on a blog, an online writing site, offer it to publishers if it’s a novel, magazines if it’s a short story. You WILL get rejections, but deal with them and move on – you can only succeed in becoming a published writer if someone else sees your work don’t be shy.
Finally – and this seems so obvious but the best piece of advice I can offer to anyone is ‘don’t give up.’ I had a long and frustrating struggle after what began as a fairy tale – and when it all collapsed around me I kept driving on. I don’t know why or how I did, but I suppose somewhere deep down I truly believed in myself as a writer. I also believed in Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes and really wanted to share Stella’s life with other people because I think she’s very real and sharing her with other people brings her to life – I owed her that.
This is your first published book. How different has the experience of writing your second manuscript been?
My second novel is called The Terrible Truth About Tanya Travis – it’s the story of a TV Talk-show host with a dark secret and is set in Manchester and Nepal (with a sprinkling of NYC). The character of Tanya is very different from Stella and I’m really enjoying getting to know her – though she surprises me some days! I have found it easier to write about someone who is so different from me –Tanya has a tendency to OCD and cleans everything over and over (unfortunately I don’t!) I also have a more practical approach to writing based on my experiences with the first book – which went through many, many edits. I am also really enjoying writing The Terrible Truth About Tanya Travis because now my first book is out I feel like a ‘real’ author. This has given me confidence in my writing – helped along by my fabulous editor Jo Doyle, who knows my writing well and guides me through some of the more dangerous potholes.
Finally, could you tell us something about your new release ‘Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes’?
Stella’s on the wrong side of forty, the wrong side of twelve stone and her life is careering out of control. She’s trying to be a wife, mummy and career woman all in the same life and it’s starting to dawn on her that something’s got to give!’ Stella has daily dealings with mummy guilt, husband combat mother madness and an evil boss. During tough times our heroine finds solace in baking and there’s nothing that the heady, sweet perfume of icing sugar can’t cure. But what Stella doesn’t know is that something is just around the corner that will blow her world apart.
Book blogger Lou Graham summed up the whole book in one phrase – which I have stolen shamelessly and used over again.
She said; “It’s like Bridget Jones Meets Nigella Lawson,” which I love!
Here’s a little taster – I hope you like it as much as Stella’s recipes which are at the back of the book!
EXTRACT FROM FAT GIRLS + FAIRY CAKES
I was just loading twenty packs of unsalted butter into the trolley when I heard “Stella, is that you, with 200 kilos of fat?” Al had warned me about the ‘food police’ that supermarkets were now employing; I knew I should have shopped online. I turned round expecting to see some sort of police/Tesco uniform but was equally horrified to see athletic ‘Jemma with a J’, my Lighter Lift counsellor, swinging her way down the aisle. She’d lost seven pounds once by taking off her cardi and cutting out biscuits for a week so felt it gave her the right to be superior and talk down to anyone over nine stone.“You should be enjoying a good brisk walk and a chilled glass of Perfect Peach,” she said, wagging her finger.
I smiled sheepishly; “Jemma, hi. I’m…making a birthday cake for my daughter’s party,” I offered, feeling like a school kid caught skiving by the headmistress.
“I hope you’re not going to eat it,” she said, smug in her size-ten jeans and tight little top.
“Lovely to see you, got to go,” I said, grimacing and hauling the trolley in the opposite direction. It was resisting strongly under the weight of ingredients and its insistence on veering to the left was almost dislocating my hip. In my desperation to escape I yanked it forward, staggering past ‘Continental Cheeses’ in agony but with a determined gait, refusing to let her witness my pain.
Driving home with five million calories-worth of cargo I thought a woman is never free from guilt. If it isn’t my work or family I am letting down it is my own body. How could skinny Jemma think it was OK to jog up to me in Tesco like a bloody Olympic runner and tell me what I should be putting in my mouth?
Thank you for the interview Sue. I can’t wait to read the book and wish you every success with it. If you have any questions for Sue then please comment below.