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Monday 5 February 2018

A MERRY DANCE - an interview with Sue Roebuck

My guest today is my friend and fellow-author Sue Roebuck.  I had the pleasure of working with Sue as editor of her forthcoming novel Forest Dancer, which will be released by Crooked Cat Books on 20th February.  If you want to be transported to Portugal without leaving your armchair, this is definitely the book for you.

Welcome, Sue!

Thank you, Sue, for inviting me to your blog today.

What prompted you to first start writing? What was the first thing you wrote?

The first thing I wrote was probably what prompted me to write in the first place.  I was fourteen and my illustrated (!) book filled a whole notebook and was about villagers in the south of England during WWII who were trying to get rid of an army training camp. I blame my brother for this – he named the characters (Willy Wormtongue being one of them). I DID win the class prize for it though.

Can you summarise your latest work in just a few words?

Forest Dancer’s main character, Flora Gatehouse, a classical ballerina with a London company, has recently lost her father, but she also suffers a blow when she fails an audition. She moves to a small cottage which her father has left her, in the magical fairytale hills just west of Lisbon. She endeavours to embrace the life in the small village with its dark secrets, and she falls for the forest ranger, Marco. But isn’t he married? And can she ever reconnect with her dream to be a principal ballerina?

Did you do any research for the book?

Oh yes! I know nothing of ballet nor forests so I did extensive research online and in the local library. No-one’s complained so far, so I must’ve got it right.

You didn't know anything about ballet?  I find that very hard to believe.  From the way you described it, I was sure you must have been a ballerina yourself!

Do you plot your novels in advance, or allow them to develop as you write?

Both really. My first draft is definitely the latter. When I go back to do the second edit I find so many inconsistencies that I generally work out the plot afterwards (I’ve always been known as back-to-front).

What has been the best part of the writing process…and the worst?

The best is when the story is developing and I know exactly what’s going to happen. Hours pass without me noticing them – it’s a lovely feeling because when I “come to” I feel so accomplished.

The worst part is getting stuck down a dead end. I’ve learnt that sometimes this can be solved by changing the point of view or making a minor character a major one.

Some people talk about “writers block” which is awful. From experience I think there are many issues that cause it: 

1. You’re tired and your brain’s had enough. 
2. You’ve suffered something stressful – like a bereavement – and, again, you can’t think of anything else but that. 
3. You’re scared. (This is my theory, remember). You’re scared you’re going to sit down at the computer and stare at a blank screen. From experience – this hasn’t happened. I force myself to sit down and I might write rubbish, but at least I write. But, also there’s often a little gem in that rubbish.

Now the book is published and ‘out there’ how do you feel?

Scared that no-one’s going to read it.  

I think we all have that fear about our own work!

Do you have any advice for new writers?

Don’t expect to get rich from writing. I know it’s “old hat” advice but don’t give up the day job.
Expect to be rejected and try and cope with how that feels. You do hear of authors getting accepted by publishers on their first try, but it’s rare…very rare.

Expect to receive bad reviews once your book is pubished and never respond to them. We can’t all like the same things, can we? I don’t like Star Wars – there, I’ve said it!  

Absolutely.  I can't abide soap operas or reality TV, and I've never seen a single episode of Game of Thrones!

What can we expect from you in the future?

Forest Dancer is the second in the “Portuguese series” (although the only thing the books have in common is that they’re set in Portugal, so they stand alone really).

The first book was Rising Tide, which is set in a small fishing village on the Alentejo coast. Leo, a deep sea fisherman from Alaska, and Piper, a coastal fisherman from Norfolk, UK, come to the village seeking answers.

The third book (which will be published by Crooked Cat Books later in 2018) is about a farrier, Joseph Barnaby from the UK, who has to run from a horse-racing mafia who are out for his blood. Joseph wants to be somewhere “at the end of the world” and lands up on a tiny stretch of land on the coast of the Island of Madeira.


Forest Dancer (paperback and ebook) on Amazon :