Welcome to the fifth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with mixed genre author Sue Roebuck. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here.
Morgen: Hello, Sue. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Sue: I live in Portugal, although I’m British, and I love the easy way of life here (even if we’re all tightening our belts at the moment, but then who isn’t?). I’ve always been a writer of some kind or another and my favourite subject at school was English (I was a real nerd because I jumped for joy when it was Drama or Composition Writing). My family are all artistic – my grandmothers were, my father wrote and my brother was just an all-round genius (you should see the caricatures he made of me when I was little, talk about fat!). My brother was my real muse – I could give him a mere suggestion and he’d turn it into a full-blown story in seconds.
Morgen: Wow. Mine’s a great editor. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Sue: I don’t know. LOL. Genres rule me. My published novel falls between genres. When people see it marked M/M (gay), they immediately pigeon-hole it into erotic which makes me mad because it’s not even explicit, it’s more suspense and just happens to be about two homosexual men. Reviewers have called it, “light literary” which suits me fine. I’ve also got a short story coming out in an Anthology soon which is horror / fantasy (more or less) and I’m currently writing a novella which I’d like to be soft horror, but it’s turning out to be inspirational – how weird is that? As I say – genres rule me.
Morgen: I write pretty much everything. I avoid sci-fi (although not intentionally, I just don’t read it) but wrote a piece for Story A Day May 2011 and one reader said it was his favourite so maybe I should write more of it! What have you had published to-date? How much of the marketing do you do?
Sue: My novel, Perfect Score, was published by Awe-Struck Publishing and later Mundania Press (e-book and now paperback) in September 2010 and May 2011. How much marketing? Boy oh boy – too much!! It’s a full-time job and I’m no marketer. I MUCH prefer writing, but that’s life these days. I am cutting down though because I really just want to write.
Morgen: If you count this blog as marketing then I too am doing more of it than writing but when we have to (like for Story A Day and NaNoWriMo) we find the time, don’t we. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Sue: Not really, not just now anyway. I was a debut novelist when I went on the submission circuit. I approached agents but they’re all so busy and I wasn’t, probably, hitting the right ones anyway. It’s very difficult to write the synopsis or pitch they want (and they all want something different). After twenty rejections I decided to try publishers directly. I knew I wasn’t going to get much joy from the big boys so I tried smaller, independent publishers. I got a lot of interest from them. One publisher said they’d love the book if I’d work with one of their editors to make it more erotic but I didn’t really want to do that (it didn’t suit the characters). Then two other acceptances came in on the same day! I do believe having an agent to protect your interests and to promote your career is excellent, but at this time I can’t expect that luxury. I would like an agent in the future though if one came along.
Morgen: You mentioned Perfect Score is an eBook, what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Sue: Yes, Perfect Score was published first as an eBook. It worked very well – the publishers did everything, the cover art, formatting and I had a wonderful editor (Marie Dees) who “got” the theme perfectly. The publisher kept to their deadlines and published when they said they would, the royalties (ahem, not a lot) come in on time. I’m obviously not going to get rich this way but you never know in the future… Yes I do read eBooks but I still read paperbacks. It depends what comes to hand.
Morgen: I think most people do / will still read paperbacks. eBooks are convenience on the move, aren’t they. What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Sue: I cried when Perfect Score was accepted because it was a confirmation that the book was readable (my biggest doubt) and that someone wanted it.
Morgen: Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Sue: Rejections are hell! It’s a terrible experience because they send you into the realms of self-doubt. I didn’t, fortunately, dwell on them – just put them into a folder and I don’t think I looked at them again. I understand the process of rejections and that form-letters have to be sent because publishers and agents receive thousands of submissions, but they still hurt.
Morgen: I’m the same. My rejections are in a red folder (and acceptances in a blue one, sadly the former currently outweighing the latter). What are you working on at the moment / next?
Sue: I’m on the horror novella that is turning into inspirational (how did that happen?) LOL. But my main project is a full-length novel which will be suspense. It won’t be M/M. Perfect Score was M/M because it worked best for the characters. This one (currently called When the Moon Fails) is set between the UK and Portugal and US. It features fishermen and a very very bad female bullfighter. I hate corruption and injustice (themes that are very much to the fore in Perfect Score) and they’ll be raising their ugly heads again in When the Moon Fails.
Morgen: You said that your marketing has been outweighing your writing, do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Sue: I try. Sometimes I mess about on the internet. You see, the marketing side of this business is extremely time-consuming – there’s the blog, the contacts, the groups, Facebook, Twitter, reading and commenting on other blogs, finding other marketing outlets – the other day I did my first professional interview for a newspaper (that was an experience – and I had to speak Portuguese!). Phew! I don’t know what the most I’ve written is. Probably not much because I’m a slow writer.
Morgen: I’m lucky that I think quickly and type quickly, I just need to sit down and do it. What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Sue: Only when I was plunged into an acute depression which unfortunately came after a serious illness a couple of years ago. But I’m out of that now, thank God, and the juices are running again. There was no cure in this case, I think. I just gradually crept back into it.
Morgen: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Sue: Yes, I know the beginning, middle and end, and something about the characters. But the stories tend to run themselves when I get going and I always need to “layer” the characters. Often the final ending is not what I had in mind initially. Perfect Score had twenty-seven versions!
Morgen: Good grief – I’m lucky then with four edits for two of mine. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Sue: Only those I wrote years ago, and I’m not always sure where they are (gulp). I wrote a ghost story many years ago which I loved, but I can’t find it now and don’t think I can reproduce it.
Morgen: What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Sue: Isolation is my least favourite and also people’s comments that it’s not a real job, I’m just playing. I also hate people’s reactions to Perfect Score and the fact it’s M/M. Some immediately jump to the conclusion it’s just another “Brokeback Mountain” – I’ve had that comment, and others have said “I don’t think it’s my kind of thing” when they don’t even know what it’s about. My favourite? I just love it when I’m in “full flow”. It’s better than any high that drugs or alcohol can give you. A real adrenalin rush.
Morgen: It’s funny, Sherri Dub said on Tuesday that she hates the solitude, I love it. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Sue: Keep at it and have confidence in yourself. If you think something’s wrong with your writing, it probably is. So go with your instincts and seek professional editing help if you think you need to. Don’t ask your family and friends to help because they won’t give you honest answers. But never give up. If you really love writing, then you’re a writer and people will want to read your work.
Morgen: My mother does. What do you like to read?
Sue: Anything and everything. It does depend on my mood. I’ll go light if necessary or heavy if I’m feeling intelligent enough. I’m reading The Morville Hours by Katherine Swift which is literary, but I’ve just read On My Knees by Tristram La Roche which is erotic M/M – so if that’s not eclectic….
Morgen: Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
Morgen: Where can we find out about you and your work?
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Sue: Thank you having me, Morgen!
Morgen: You’re so welcome, Sue, it’s been a pleasure to catch up with you outside of Facebook and Litopia, thank you.
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