Sue Moorcroft Interview
Posted on 19 October 2010. © Copyright 2004-2017 WriteWords
WriteWords talks to romantic novelist Sue Moorcroft|
Tell us something about your background.
I began with short stories for the magazine market – mainly because I’d read that a body of work of about twenty short stories might get a publisher interested in my novels. I’d sold 87 by the time I did actually sell a novel so I was a little behind schedule.
I also write serials, articles, novels and courses. And I’ve a written a ‘how to’ book about writing fiction. And I’ve edited an anthology of short stories that celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. I’m a long-term committee member of the RNA so it was a labour of love (ho ho).
My work in progress is a romantic novel set in and around Brighton on the south coast of England. The probably title is Love and Freedom. I’m really enjoying writing it and wish I could go and live in Brighton for a couple of weeks to really nail the first draft.
Other work besides writing; ie. Editing, dramaturgy, tutoring, and how it works for/against your own writing
I’m a creative writing tutor and I judge competitions and appraise manuscripts. Although I prefer writing to any of these occupations, I’m certain that they help hone my own skills. If I have to pin down why a novel is sagging or a short story isn’t paying off, it makes me reflect on the craft of writing. And, occasionally, I realise, ‘Duh! You’ve done that yourself!’
How did you start writing?
I learnt to write at the age of five and have never really stopped. It was my favourite subject at school, even though they did the best to suck the life out of it. At certain times of my life, such as when my children were small, I only managed to write ‘in my head’, so I was telling myself stories rather than actually putting pen to paper.
Who are your favourite writers and why?
My all-time favourite novel is A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute. I love everything he wrote and have the whole collection on a shelf in front of me, now. But ‘Alice’ was something special and it was through that book, one of the first adult novels I read (aged 9), that I learnt how to fall in love with a hero. Nevil Shute books are great comfort reads for me and I love to have forgotten one of his books sufficiently that I can enjoy the rereading. Although many of his characters are dated (he died the year before I was born, so that’s not surprising) and so are his writing structures, such as writing a story within a frame, they are characters that remain with me.
Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances are almost as dear to me, again because of the heroes, but also because the characters make me laugh. And they all fall in love, of course.
In contemporary writers, I look for a story that sucks me in – and that is usually a romantic story. I love Katie Fforde, Jill Mansell, Judy Astley, Linda Howard, Suzanne Brockmann, Mary Balogh, Jennifer Crusie and Janet Evanovich etc. I used to read a lot of crime, too, but haven’t been so interested in the past couple of years. I suppose I don’t want to be made to feel uncomfortable. I have a two or three book a week habit.
I write the same kind of books that I like to read – entertaining and, I hope, involving, with a strong central love story. Yet I include real issues. My heroines aren’t bits of fluff – cross them at your peril.
How did you get your first agent/ commission?
I’ve written in so many areas that I could write a novel-length answer to this question! Instead, I’ll tell you what happened when my first novel sold.
I was having a bad day. My computer had been malicious and I’d spent hours trying to access its better nature (ie my files.) One of my sons sent me a text to say that a college assignment, due in the following day, was on the hard drive, but he had not printed it out.
Eventually, I gave up and unplugged the CPU, belted it into the car beside me and drove it to the computer workshop. The technician sucked his teeth and said that it would take a few days. I asked him to access the hard drive and get my son’s assignment off, which he agreed to do. But I didn’t know the filename.
I discovered my mobile phone was at home and I couldn’t remember my son’s number. So I got back in the car and drove to my husband’s office – only to find he had left his phone somewhere, too! So, hissing and steaming at the incredible pointlessness of my day, I rang my youngest son at home, to see if he had my eldest son’s number, which he did.
And then he said, ‘Oh, and Laura rang. She said can you ring her back?’ Laura was my agent. So I forgot the phone number, the file and the computer and rang Laura back. She said some of the most beautiful words I’ve ever heard: ‘I have an offer for you.’ I was told later that my only contribution was to say, ‘You’re joking!’ in various tones and volumes.
I was much more cheerful after that! My husband took me out to dinner because, I told him, ‘Novelists don’t cook dinner’, which I have since discovered to be untrue. I got home and my new editor phoned to congratulate me and I was the happiest, beamingest person in the world.
In the morning, I rang my agent at 9am to check that I hadn’t dreamt it.
What's the worst thing about writing?
Rejections. We all get them, in some form. Even in contracted manuscripts an editor will ask for substantial changes. Rejections are part of a writer’s life and I accept them and learn from them. But, groany groan, who likes them?
And the best?
Success. It’s not just a case of money, although I have to contribute to the household budget just like other people. But if my work is good enough to be published, it validates me – not just my work, me! – and tells me that I’m good enough. Just getting published isn’t enough: I want to be in bookshops in airports and high streets. I want online rankings to be high and reviews to be good.
Tell us what kind of responses you get from audiences\ readers.
I’ve been lucky with reviews and they are mainly good. I love to get an email from a reader saying, ‘This village has got to be in South Lincolnshire because I know one just like it!’ or ‘I fell in love with Ratty in Starting Over, cor, who is he?’ When people feel about my work as I do about books by my favourite author, I feel I’ve succeeded.
What was your breakthrough moment?
I think most careers hold more than one. After the selling of the first book, as mentioned already, and the second, my career wasn’t moving in the direction I’d planned so I approached Choc Lit because I’d looked at their stuff and been impressed. Choc Lit like my work and I like them and they’ve moved my career on. Also, they ‘get me’ as I am, rather than trying to make me something else.
What inspires you to write?
The actual act of writing is a compulsion. I just find myself making things up. But why I write about this subject or that …? I suppose I just find something remarkable and want to explore it. It doesn’t sound very interesting, put like that, but my mind wanders around and then latches onto something and I find I have something to say. Characters drive my fiction so finding the right character is a big help.
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