Interview: Sue Moorcroft

suemoorcroft:

Many thanks to Heidi for interviewing me for Cosmochicklitan.

Originally posted on cosmochicklitan:

I am delighted to be welcoming Sue Moorcroft to my blog today. 

Portrait of Sue Moorcroft

Your newest novel is called The Wedding Proposal. Could you please tell us a bit more about this book?

I wanted to write a reunion book because I love reading them so much. Had I realised that it would mean I’d effectively plot two books, the backstory and the frontstory, I may not have been so enthusiastic! I couldn’t believe how much backstory I needed to know to make the frontstory work. It took ages. I had to find a plausible reason for Lucas and Elle to have split up in the first place yet make it credible that they would eventually consider getting back together. I ended up with a secretive heroine and a hero that didn’t like secrets.

I set the book in Malta because I wanted a change, because I like to be in…

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How to ‘write what you know’ if you’re a horror author – from author Mark West

mark west profile pic

To celebrate the publication of his novella ‘Drive’ I’ve invited Mark West onto the blog today to talk about something that has always interested me:

what makes authors write horror and how do they go about it?

I’d like to thank Sue for allowing me to guest post on her blog and assure those amongst you who are squeamish that this little essay with contain no blood or guts. Or not many, anyway…

As a writer, you’re always told to write what you know and so – as you can imagine – when you write horror, that earns you plenty of odd looks. The first writers group I belonged to (I joined it in 1998 and it’s where I first met Sue), I was the only one who dabbled in the glorious horror genre and I chose to read a story about a kid getting chased by a sabre-toothed tiger. Which went down well. Building on this complete inability to read my audience, my next story was a little flash-horror piece called “Toes” (which you can read on my website now for free) and that, as you can perhaps imagine, went down a storm.

Back to the topic though and the truth is that, like any other genre, you write about what you know until you step over the line into fantasy (which is as true for writers of romantic fiction as it is for those horror lovers out there) and that’s when your imagination or research steps into play.

drive cover finalIn order to illustrate this, I’ll use my latest publication as an example. “Drive” (just released by Pendragon Press) is an ‘urban chiller’, that I think is nicely frightening without ever once resorting to a supernatural element. In it, our hero David is taking a woman called Natasha home from a party in a town he doesn’t really know and they cross paths with three droogs in a stolen car who decide they want to have some fun and start up a terrifying game of cat-and-mouse.

The initial germ of the idea came to me as I was driving down the M1 at 3am – I was on my way to Luton airport, to fly off on business and I was almost the only person on the road. My mind began to ‘what if’ wander – as it often does – and I wondered what would happen if somebody started to chase me. By the time I’d come off the M1, I had it clear in my head who the heroes were, a pretty good idea of the baddies and the fact that it’d take place almost in real time, over an hour or so of a very late night/early morning.

Meanwhile, at the time, my company was based in an office attached to a Morrisons warehouse in Northampton. A lot of their contract staff were Polish and the majority of them drove big cars with blacked out windows. One such was a big Audi A8, sleek and grey with a stereo you could feel in your guts from two hundred yards away. That, I decided, could be scary of an evening and was the perfect vehicle for my villains (who I called droogs all the way through the drafts, even naming the characters after the actors in “A Clockwork Orange”).

Since the novella is a ‘chase’, I had to draw the reader into that environment to make it work, to keep up the suspense and place as many logical (and realistic) obstacles in David and Nat’s path as possible. One of the bains for modern horror/suspense writers is the mobile phone – hey, you’re in trouble, ring someone – though it was easier than I expected to get rid of this element and I played it in the story as it would happen in real life, that you need the phone but it doesn’t have any battery life.

But the main thing to maintain suspense and realism was to “write what I knew” and firmly locate the story into a place. Almost all of my writing is set in a fictional town called Gaffney which is clearly in the middle of Northamptonshire and takes most of its cues from Rothwell (the town I now live in) and Kettering (the town I used to live in). Elements of Northampton and Leicester are sprinkled liberally over this place but the geography is constant, so whatever stories of mine you read there is always a brook at the bottom of the Rec, the bandstand is on the common and the old cinema is always on Russell Street.

The tour of Gaffney that our heroes undertake is, essentially, a trip around a night-time Kettering with a few liberal uses of fiction to make my tale work better. The Audi runs through the town centre causing havoc before latching on to the goodies and Nat lives on London road (though in real life there’s a church where her house should be and the police station – some distance away in the book – is across the road). In pursuit, David is forced onto the A14 and even though the geography and junctions don’t quite work, it’s very much the distance between Rothwell and Kettering and even includes the BP garage on the eastbound side (though I’m sure the people who work there in real life are nicer than in my story). The climax takes place on a road that really exists too, though I’ve made it a cul-de-sac and incorporated it with a farm at nearby Cranford.

So that’s how you “write what you know” to make the story flow, you incorporate real events and locations that people can identify with and then take them a step or two over a line they wouldn’t normally cross. I’ve never been pursued by three thugs in an Audi (and hope I never am) but I’ve made sure that my characters react the way I think me and my friends would do. I’ve never done the things that David & Nat have to do at the farm but I’ve made my goodies normal human beings, who experience pain and fear and a sense of self-preservation, as I’m sure I’d feel. And all the time, they are in locations that read and feel real because, well, they pretty much are.

I’m too close to know if it works properly or not, but if you’re writing anything and you need the reader to willingly suspend their disbelief, you have to give them a reality (or elements of it) to properly ground them.

Just, clearly, don’t use this kind of idea to excuse a trail of willful civil unrest across town and pretend it’s all in the name of research…

BLURB: David Moore has one night left in Gaffney and is at a party he doesn’t want to attend. Natasha Turner, at the same party, is lost for a lift home.

Meanwhile, three young men have stolen a car, and as the night darkens and the roads become deserted, David and Nat enter into a terrifying game of cat-and-mouse. . .

Mark West writes horror stories – sometimes they’re supernatural, sometimes they’re not – and they often have a bleak thread running through them. He’s written two novels – “In The Rain With The Dead” and “Conjure” – a collection – “Strange Tales” – a novelette – “The Mill” – and his chapbook from Spectral Press – “What Gets Left Behind” – sold out four months before publication. He’s also published over seventy short stories and has several novellas awaiting publication.

drive cover finalMark’s latest novella “Drive” is available now from Pendragon Press as a limited edition paperback (with an exclusive afterword) and as an ebook across platforms.

Mark can be contacted through his website at www.markwest.org.uk

Mark can be found on Twitter at @MarkEWest

You can check out his fetish flash-horror tale “Toes” at http://markwestwriter.blogspot.co.uk/p/toes-by-mark-west-free-fiction.html

 

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There are many ways to enjoy a wedding …

When we think of weddings we tend to think of all the traditional things – big venue, bride in gorgeous white dress, long black cars, bridesmaids, pageboys, guests in suits and hats. It’s an incredibly expensive undertaking.

For some, the price is just too much.

Recently, I discovered that the wedding plans of the son of friends had been badly affected by an unexpected redundancy notice. They had to look at the wedding expenses and see what they could cut. An obvious candidate was the wedding car at nearly £500. The dad said that he’d drive the happy couple, instead, but that would mean double journeys and fallback plans for others in the family.

2014-06-28 17.08.34It so happens that there’s a nice middle-aged sort of Jag in my family, so I volunteered to turn myself into a chauffeur for the day.

It was great! As soon as the ribbons were on the car I found that traffic stopped for me, even when I didn’t even have the bride and groom on board. (I’ve stored this information up for future use and may always keep a supply of white ribbons in the glove compartment.)

I ended up going to the wedding reception in the afternoon and then back to the extended family reception at the parents’ house in the evening. (By that time I was off duty and could indulge in a few glasses of Pimms.) I had time to chat with members of their family that I hadn’t seen for years, as well as meeting a few new ones.

TWP_HIGHRES 150dpiThe Wedding Proposal was at the printers, by this time, but this lovely wedding day did make me wonder what kind of wedding Elle and Lucas will have in the end. Will they do the traditional thing at a stunning venue? Run off to Vegas, as Elle once suggested? Or get married on a beach, somewhere exotic …

I wonder if they need a driver?

 

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It’s epublication day!

 TWP_HIGHRES 150dpiMy new novel, The Wedding Proposal, is out as an ebook today!

(The paperback comes out on 8 September.)

We lived in the top flat.

We lived in the top flat.

When I was little and used to look out over a Malta yacht marina from our balcony, I never dreamed that one day I’d set a novel there. At that time the marina was just part of the scenery. I was an army kid in army accommodation and never troubled my head over how it felt to live on a boat, even when I caught the school bus just opposite Gzira Gardens and gazed at the boats as the bus trundled along the seafront road.

When I decided to make Elle and Lucas meet up again after their break up four years earlier, I wanted to put them in a situation where they couldn’t easily escape each other and so had to face their past. Put them on a boat together, I thought. So I created the Shady Lady and moored her within sight of the bridge to Manoel Island. The boat belongs to Lucas’s Uncle Simon and it’s due to Simon’s meddling that Elle and Lucas end up in the same boat for the summer.

The twin of the 'Shady Lady'.

The twin of the ‘Shady Lady’.

I was lucky to be invited to the Southampton Boat Show by Fairline Boats to explore the twin of the Shady Lady. She’s 42′ long.

Oliver, the delightful man who took time out of a busy day to show me around, said, ‘This is a small boat for two people who aren’t ‘together’ to occupy together. There’s going to be friction.’

I just smiled. ‘He’s going to be annoyed when she turns up with four huge suitcases, isn’t he? They’re going to fall over one another at every turn.’ Yeah …

Sliema Creek and Ta' Xbiex marina in the distance.

Sliema Creek and Ta’ Xbiex marina in the distance.

The rock pools on the rocky foreshore.

The rock pools on the rocky foreshore.

And, of course, I went to Malta to take hundreds of photos of every area of Malta that I thought Lucas and Elle might need for their story to unfold. The seafront, the gardens, the nearby resort of Sliema and, across the harbour, Valletta, Manoel Island, the streets of Gzira, the rocky foreshore and the Mediterranean Sea. But everyone knows that I love Malta, so that was no hardship!

Here’s the blurb:

TWP_RGBpackshotThe Wedding Proposal – available today as an ebook.

Can a runaway bride stop running?

Elle Jamieson is an unusually private person, in relationships as well as at work – and for good reason. But when she’s made redundant, with no ties to hold her, Elle heads off to a new life in sunny Malta.

Lucas Rose hates secrets – he prides himself on his ability to lay his cards on the table and he expects nothing less from others. He’s furious when his summer working as a divemaster is interrupted by the arrival of Elle, his ex, all thanks to his Uncle Simon’s misguided attempts at matchmaking.

Forced to live in close proximity, it’s hard to ignore what they had shared before Lucas’s wedding proposal ended everything they had. But then an unexpected phone call from England allows Lucas a rare glimpse of the true Elle. Can he deal with Elle’s hidden past when it finally comes to light?

 

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Is there anything wrong with writing ‘for free’?

£ I write for money.

$ Writing, and all the stuff I do connected with writing (teaching, judging, speaking, appraising) is how I earn my living.

£ But that doesn’t mean that I think that money is the only reason to write. I’m writing this post because I occasionally get asked, ‘Is it OK to write for free?’

$ Sometimes writers write for ‘a byline’ – I’m not keen on the practice because the editor’s usually getting paid. However, the author gets a clippings file out of it, which might help him or her get paying work in the end. If you can see that working for you, then why not?

£ Writers write for connections, too. If they produce something for nothing, possibly the editor will remember once there’s budget to pay writers. I feel that there should always be budget to pay writers, but still …

$ Once in a while, I’ve written for exposure. It means giving someone a short story (usually one that’s already been published, if I’m honest) and, in exchange, they publish it with details of my latest book, with the cover. It’s a way of paying for advertising indirectly, that’s all. On the other hand, I often manage to get paid to write the short story and get the advertising thrown in … which seems a much better deal.

£ And I completely understand why people would write for the plain old pleasure of it.

$ Back in the day I wrote two novels in the evenings. They were rubbish but I didn’t know they were and I’ve honestly never enjoyed writing anything more. It was self-indulgence, but in contrast to some other self-indulgent hobbies, writing’s cheap and doesn’t bother anyone. There’s no commitment to a regular class or club (unless you want to get involved with education or a writing group) and the people you meet in your imagination can be nicer/more fun/hotter/more interesting than any you meet in real life.

£ Most importantly, they never ask anything of you and they never get upset if you don’t see them regularly. Their relationship is with your imagination rather than with your corporeal self so they never judge you, either! Perfect.

$ So although I write for money … that doesn’t mean that I think everybody has to.

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A Course with Wow!

Fizz on the terrace on the last evening

Fizz on the terrace on the last evening

I have just spent the most amazing week leading a one-week residential course for Arte Umbria in the Umbrian hills, Italy.

I’m not sure why I should be amazed – I taught there last year. But somehow I’d managed to forget some of the majesty of the views from the terrace on the Poggiolame estate, a little of the history and luxury of the stone-built house. ‘Gorgeous’ doesn’t do it justice.

The pergola on the terrace

The pergola on the terrace

Being at a venue so secluded is novel. The estate has 200 acres, most of it wild countryside but dotted with olive groves, fruit trees, tracks to wander around. Oh yes – and a swimming pool within the lovely gardens close to the house.

Flip chart and table on the veranda

Flip chart and table on the veranda

But my function at Arte Umbria isn’t  to admire the venue, it’s to lead the writing course. There’s something special about my classroom being at a table under a veranda or lounging comfortably beneath a vine-strewn pergola, the sun beating down around. It’s almost a shame to break for (yet another) delicious meal when the bell sounds. It’s a small course so it’s possible to provide a friendly and productive atmosphere and give individual attention to each student and their work in progress.

The students were fantastic. They got so much done and moved their work on so far that I was truly impressed.

Il Duomo - the cathedral at Orvieto, where we went on our day off

Il Duomo – the cathedral at Orvieto, where we went on our day off

Sunset on the terrace

Sunset on the terrace

I even got a chapter of my own WIP written, too! It was a bit of a challenge to write about Camden at Christmas when I was in Italy in July but every day of writing teaches me something new.

I haven’t yet heard what courses Arte Umbria will be running next year but if you’re interested in a course in art, sculpture or writing in fantastic surroundings, go to http://www.arteumbria.com and book.

My room

My room

The pool

The pool

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Festival of Romantic Fiction 2014!

Festival of Romantic FictionI’ve just signed up for the Festival of Romantic Fiction 2014.

My main focus is the book fair in the afternoon and the Reader Awards in the evening of Saturday the 13th of September. I really didn’t think I was going to make the Festival this year but, phew, I can be there for at least one day.

Success!

 

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