Like many of the authors published by Moulin Publications via eBook Issues, Susannah Carlton has led an interesting and varied life not only as a British female writer, but also as a teacher and a counsellor specialising in domestic violence. You will see from her Amazon Profile that she has worked in both England and Sweden and now lives between her home in Somerset and a flat in Paris France.
This is Susannah’s ’author spotlight’ and her opportunity to reveal to you some of what she has learned about becoming a writer and the author of her first novel Lonely Mirrors a saga about the life of a family affected by the illicit affair of their father when he was a doctor in the second world war based in Egypt.
The Susannah Carlton Interview
Q) What was it that inspired you to write your book and how did you select the story line?
A) I’ve wanted to try and write a novel for some time just to see if I could do it. Get to the end that is. That was the first and major hurdle, not whether it was any good or not. I’ve always had a lot of respect for anyone completing a novel – and now I’ve got even more. I’ve written a number of plays in the past and had them performed on the stage and on television and radio but I found writing fiction more difficult. For a start you have to write, at least most of the time, in proper sentences and I found describing things very tricky. Too many adjectives? Not enough? In a play you can put it all into the stage directions and let someone else do the work. But I did enjoy writing what was going on inside someone’s head. And I wanted to write about the unreliability of memory so I thought I’d try with several stories that would inter-connect and go backwards and forwards in time. The starting off point was the death of my father who died when I was a child. There are some true biographical details in the novel. He was on the last boat to leave Crete, he did then go to Egypt and later back to London. But that was all. I don’t really remember him so I made him up and now this character is the basis of my memories of him in a way like Albert Einstein becomes Margaret’s father.
Q) How long did it take you to write the book and did you have a schedule for how much you worked on it each day?
A) It took me just two years but I had to take time off when ‘life’ got in the way. I try and write a bit each day but if I can’t I try and do a bit of thinking about the book and let things slurp about in my head.
A) I’ve nearly finished my second novel. It’s entirely different from Lonely Mirrors. The structure is simpler and more straightforward and the story is told by just one person. It’s called The First Sorrow and is about female genital mutilation taking place on little girls in London today.
Q) If you got a bad review for your book, would that really upset you and how would you deal with it?
A) A bad review? Yes, it would definitely affect me to start with and then I suppose I’d have to try and deal with it. I suppose it would depend on what the reviewer said. I might think the review was totally dumb or I might agree with it. Either way, chocolate would be useful.
Q)Do you think women make better authors than men, particularly in the family saga genre?
A) No I don’t think women make better authors than men even though I probably read more by women writers than men.
Q) Is there any aspect of being a writer that you find really difficult?
A) The first draft is incredibly difficult to do. But once you’ve got something to work on it gets better even though you end up deleting about 90% of the first draft.
Q) Are there writing activities you find really easy?
A) I don’t find any of it easy. I think if I did I’d be suspicious and know what I’d wrtten was rubbish.
Q) How did you come up with the names for your characters and are they based on real people?
A) I like thinking of names even though you have to be careful not to have too many names that are similar. I was once half way through a play when I realised the two main characters were called Louise and Lizzy which was kind of confusing so I changed one of them. Sometimes, as a starting point, names are based on people I know but as I get going the character changes and gets further away from the original. I’ve always hated the name Rosemary (a horrible, bullying girl from my earliest schooldays) so I could never use her name in a book without making her out to be a tyrant and as authors are supposed to create well rounded characters it wouldn’t work.
Q) The world has changed quite a lot over the period of your book; do you think things have changed for the better or the worse since the end of the second world war?
A) I think many things have changed for the better since the second world war. Socially life is much, much better – especially for women. And not just in terms of washing machines and central heating and efficient contraception. Attitudes have become less judgemental. Margaret, in Lonely Mirrors, would have found it possible to keep her illegitimate baby if she’d got pregnant today. The chance to escape an unhappy marriage, availability of safe abortions, the decriminalisation of gay relationships and now gay marriage reflect a more tolerant society. But politically and economically, things could always go backwards.
A) Am I ever jealous of other writers? You bet. Who wouldn’t be jealous of Anne Tyler, Maya Angelou, Richard Grossman, Michael Frayn or Hilary Mantel?
Q) Is there anything about writing that has really disappointed you?
A) I’m not disappointed by any of it. Nobody makes me do it and compared to being a coal miner or cutting cabbages out on the fens or teaching stroppy teenagers it’s a doddle. After all you get to sit down and stay in the warm.
If you have enjoyed learning a little more about Susannah and would like to see her get a little more publicity for the promotion of her book then please visit her Amazon book page and click the ‘Like’ button at the top of the page. Also if you have read her book you can help her enormously by writing an honest review to let other potential purchasers know what they can expect if they buy.
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