Spotlight on Guest Author Sue McDonagh

I’m joined on my blog this week by Sue McDonagh, whose debut novel Summer at the Art Café is published by Choc Lit on 15 May 2018. I have met Sue at the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) conference and she is a great character. Her route to publication is similar to mine as she was a member of the wonderful RNA New Writer’s Scheme before being picked up by Choc Lit.

Sue McDonagh

Sue remembers writing for pleasure as a child, writing regular features and stories for the school magazine, and later, as a police officer in Essex, for The Law newspaper.

Having survived cancer in her early twenties, she retired from the police, and became a full-time artist. Her work has since been distributed across the UK, and has been published into greetings cards, calendars and Limited Edition Prints, and she was selected for the regional finals of the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year. (Wow, I didn’t know that!)

When the idea for her debut novel began to occupy not only her waking moments, but also her sleep, Sue discovered NaNoWriMo, and embarked on the challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. Although it has been honed and re-written endlessly, that first novel was shortlisted for publisher Choc-Lit’s Search for a Star competition, missing a win by one mark. However, her second novel clinched the deal, and she signed contracts on both novels in 2017, with an option on the third, which she is currently writing.

Her debut novel, Summer at the Art Café is now available for pre-order.

Sue McDonagh2

I asked Sue some questions.

Can you share with us how you came to be a writer?

I’ve always appreciated and enjoyed the power of the written word, and I remember writing stories when I was in Primary school. Later I wrote for the school magazine, long and newsy letters to friends and family who lived abroad, and then, during a stint in the Essex Police Press Office, I wrote articles and features.

I had always harboured the idea of a novel, but I had no idea how it might come to fruition. It was NaNoWriMo, the world-wide challenge of writing 50,000 words during the month of November, which finally made me knuckle down. I soaked up instruction like a sponge and was inordinately proud of that first draft – even though it was utterly dreadful, and has been re-written countless times since, you’ll be pleased to know!

Where did the idea for Summer at the Art Café come from?

Eight years ago, a few years after my first hip replacement, I learned to ride a motorbike. The fun I had, combined with the steep learning curve and the amazing women I met who rode motorbikes, prompted me to think about how motorbiking had increased my confidence. I wanted to show that journey through the eyes of a female character and explore how overcoming her failures might change her life. Many of her experiences were inspired by my own, needless to say. It’s probable that my long-suffering instructor will recognise them!

SueMcdonagh 3
Sue and her Honda 1000cc motorbike

I know that you are also an artist and designed your own book cover. Tell us about your style of painting.

I couldn’t have been more delighted to be allowed to paint my own cover! Summer at the Art Café is set in Wales, on the Gower Peninsula, Britain’s first Area of Outstanding Natural beauty. I painted it in watercolour for a summery feel, although I’m probably best known for my paintings of children at play in pastels and lately, oils.

If you were in charge of casting for the film of your book, which actors would play the main parts?

Ooh, that’s a great question, and I think it would make a terrific film! My hero, Ash, would be played by Gerard Butler, although I think his Scottish accent would have to replace Ash’s Welsh one. Lucy is more tricky – I see her a bit Keira Knightley towards the end, but she is quite different in the beginning.

Seven year old Daisy was inspired by my gorgeous granddaughter, Emily, and if there was ever an audition for that part, I’ll be taking her along!

What can readers look forward to you writing in the future?

I have a second novel in the Art Café series already written. Once again based in Gower, vintage motorbikes make an appearance in this one, but the topic of step-families, a subject very close to my heart, takes more precedence, and there are secrets to be uncovered. Can there be a happy ending for Ed and Jo?

Number three in the series is being written as we speak and has plenty of twists and turns to keep track of!

Thank you, Sue.

Having met the author, I can’t wait to read her books.

To get in touch with Sue use the following links:-

Facebook Author Page


Sue McDonagh2

About Summer at the Art Café

From watercolours and cupcakes to leather jackets and freedom …

If you won a gorgeous purple motorbike, and your domineering husband said you were too fat for leathers and should sell it, would you do as you were told – or learn to ride it in secret?

Artist and café owner Lucy Daumier intends to do just that – but learning to ride is far from easy, especially under the critical eye of prickly motorcycle instructor, Ash Connor.

But gradually Lucy gets the hang of it, and in the process re-discovers the girl she used to be. So starts an exciting summer of new friendships and fun – as well as a realisation that there is more to Ash than meets the eye when she is introduced to his seven-year-old daughter, Daisy.

But can Lucy’s new-found happiness last when a spiteful family member wants to see her fail?

Buying links for Summer at the Art Café


Choc Lit website

Thank you for joining me on my blog and for answering my questions. I wish you well with sales of your debut novel.

Sue is among the contenders for The Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) Joan Hessayon Award for new writers with Summer at the Art Café, so I wish her well for that too. Winner announced on 17 May 2018.


Thank you for visiting my blog – Morton S. Gray – Author. I hope you enjoyed this post. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. My novel The Girl on the Beach published by Choc Lit is available from all eBook platforms – Amazon, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Google Play. The Girl on the Beach will be available as a paperback from 10 April 2018 – to order click Amazon. My new novel The Truth Lies Buried is published as an eBook on 1 May 2018 and can be pre-ordered here.


By Morton S. Gray

Author of romantic suspense novels.


  1. A great interview, Sue and Morton. Thank you both. I’m particularly excited about Sue’s new book having watched its journey from the NaNoWriMo first draft through to publication. I can’t wait to read ‘Summer at the Art cafe’ in a few weeks time. 🙂 I’m also looking forward to ‘The Truth Lies Buried’, Morton, having enjoyed ‘The Girl on the Beach’. Exciting times for you both!.

    Liked by 1 person

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