Monday, 30 May 2011

Interview with Sue Moorcroft

Sue Moorcroft writes romantic novels of dauntless heroines and irresistible heroes for Choc Lit. Combining that success with her experience as a creative writing tutor, she’s written a ‘how to’ book, Love Writing – How to Make Money From Writing Romantic and Erotic Fiction (Accent Press). Sue also writes short stories, serials, articles and courses and is the head judge for Writers’ Forum. She's a Katie Fforde Bursary Award winner.


Sue's books
Love & Freedom
All That Mullarkey
Starting Over
Want to Know a Secret?
Love Writing: How to Make Money Writing Romantic or Erotic Fiction

All of Sue’s Choc Lit novels and Love Writing are available as ebooks.

What was the first thing you had published?
First ever was a story in the school magazine. They didn’t pay a penny and I had to write it out in my best handwriting. The first things I got paid for were letters to the press – my record was £150 for 89 words from Readers’ Digest – and I made a few hundred, like that. Then I sold a short story to The People’s Friend. Whoopee!

Tell us about your proudest writing achievement.
Gosh. That really brought me up short. I don’t know. Holding my first book in my hands springs to mind – it was produced just in time for the London Book Fair in 2005 and I went to my then publisher’s stand. They presented me with a copy they’d all signed, and I got tears in my eyes.

In another way, it’s my latest book, Love & Freedom, because it’s the first novel I’ve written in its entirety since my son died. I had thought I’d never be able to write novels again, and even left my agent on the strength of that conviction.

What are your writing strengths and weaknesses?
I suppose you’re talking about craft and something in me shies away from admitting weakness, there, because liking someone’s writing is so subjective. I do have a trait that can be both strength and a weakness – I have trouble believing when my work isn’t good enough. It’s a strength in that it makes me rewrite and rewrite and persist, but a weakness if it keeps me knocking on a closed door for too long. This used to happen with short stories, a bit, when I’d rewrite a story and keep sending it back to the same editor, sure that I’d get what she wanted in the end. Then I’d get a kind note telling me to write something else.

However, I do accept editorial direction. I don’t turn all precious and refuse to change a thing. I believe that me and my editors are always working together to make whatever I write the best it can be.

Do you have a writing routine or any odd writing quirks?
I write or teach writing or judge/critique writing comps most days, about ten hours a day, if you want to call that a routine. I often teach or judge/critique in the mornings and write in the afternoons but I’m not religious about it.

Is there a special place you like to write?
I do like to work in my study, rather than take a laptop to bed or the corner of the kitchen table, as I often read other writers do. My study is bursting at the seams with stuff but I know where each bit of stuff is. If I could change it, I’d push the walls out a bit. I’d especially like room for a big blank wall that I could stick notes to and move them around when I’m planning.

How important is it to you to plot your novels?
Usually, very. Maybe not in a very structured or detailed way, but I need to know where the plot is going and major things like goals, missions or what’s keeping people apart. That said, my WIP, which is currently called Dream a Little Dream, is just buzzing in my head and so I keep writing it down. I seem to have come at it from a slightly different angle – my characters, Liza and Dominic, both have things to recover from. I suppose recovery is a goal of sorts but it’s more reactive than proactive. It seems to be working at the moment so I’m just going with it – until it stops working, when I will stop writing and do a big planning session.

Are your characters ever based on people you know?
Not a lot. Maybe bits and pieces – traits. Family and friends do suspect me of basing things on them when I don’t. Occasionally, someone upsets me so I give a character their name and make them suffer. When I was in America last year a lady in the post office treated me like an imbecile and I left thinking, ‘Right! You’re going in the book!’ But there turned out to be no place for her.

What makes the ideal romantic novel heroine?
She has to be open to falling in love, even if she doesn’t know it, and be fun and likeable, at least a big chunk of the time. She has to have the ability to be deeply attracted to the hero and she has to attract him in the way that makes him want to jump her bones. I wouldn’t want a passive whiny whinger as a heroine because a) passivity makes her difficult to push through the action b) the readers wouldn’t want to spend time with her, any more than they’d want to spend time with a whiny whingy real person.

When judging a competition what's your biggest turnoff?
A bad opening has the most impact, because I know from the first page that I’m not going to be able to shortlist the story. But I’m most disappointed by hitherto good stories that peter out weakly at the end – fizzle where they should sizzle. I give big theatrical sighs and tuts because the writer’s got me all excited and then let me down, flip bits of paper about and mutter.

What qualities do you think writers should have?
Persistence. Willingness to learn and accept critique/editorial direction. Storytelling ability. Joy in their writing. Endless patience. Ability to promote themselves.

What are you working on at the moment?
Dream a Little Dream is a novel about making huge life changes, as I mentioned. Liza was a secondary character in All That Mullarkey – Cleo’s naughty little sister. Since then, she has been through a big life change and is off alcohol and men (if you’ve read All That Mullarkey you’ll know how unlikely this is). Dominic has had a huge life change, too, as, during the stress of his divorce he was diagnosed as narcoleptic. This is not good if you are an Air Traffic Control Officer as the pilots prefer you to be awake.

What advice would you give to an aspiring novelist?
Accept that you need education. Don’t fall for all this ‘writers are born and not made' stuff – it’s not true. Dancers, actors and artists, no matter how talented, go through years of training. Why would writers be different? Whether it’s classes, courses, seminars, talks, conferences, mentoring, books or magazines, keep learning your craft and understanding the industry and your place in it.

Love & Freedom will be published by Choc Lit on 1 June 2011. You can pre order it now or read the first two chapters. And you can listen to a recording of the FREE prequel chapter HERE.

You’re welcome to befriend Sue on Facebook or Follow her on Twitter.

Sue Moorcroft was talking to Maureen Vincent-Northam, co-author of The Writer's ABC Checklist


DW96 said...

Well done, Sue and Mo. I'm pleased to learn that I'm not the only who's never satisfied with the work (mine, not yours, Sue.)

I had to unblock my pop-ups to make this comment, you know.

Maureen said...

Thank you for commenting, David. You can block em up again now - just stop taking the roughage.

thewhitespike said...

Enjoyed the interview Mo, great insight into the writers craft, great stuff Sue.

Maureen said...

Thank you for dropping by, George. :)

Deb Rickard said...

Great interview, Maureen and Sue. Thanks, both. Sue - I didn't know you'd lost a son - My heart goes out to you.

Trevor said...

Thanks Sue and Maureen, great interview. Really enjooyed reading it.

Maureen said...

Thanks Deb and Trevor, appreciate your comments. :)

joanne fox said...

Lovely interview. I hope you find a place for the Post Office woman Sue.

SpeechContacts Human Communication Blog said...

Thanks for this interview, it's so timely for me. I'm just starting a romantic novel having decided to bin the first one. It's hard to let it go, good to know you've had difficulty too. Do you salvage scenes from unsuccessful work for later novels, or just forget it all?

PS worried about the narcolepsi thing: is it common in air traffic control?