Happy Thursday my lovelies! Today on Meet the Author we’re talking to Sue Featherstone about her characters choosing their own names, what she talks about with her friends on a Saturday morning while knitting, her granddaughter and her most recent book co-authored by Susan Pape, A Forgiven Friend, due out on 19th November…..
Tell us a bit about yourself
I’m a Midlander, who has spent most of my life living and working in Yorkshire. My debut novel A Falling Friend, co-authored with Susan Pape, was published by Lakewater Press in 2016 and a sequel A Forsaken Friend followed in March 2018. The final book in our Friends trilogy, A Forgiven Friend, will be published on November 19. We’ve also written two journalism text books together and are currently working on two new fiction ideas.
Married with two grown-up daughters, I also have a seven months old grand-daughter, Iris who is ‘definitely the most wonderful baby in the whole world’.
What inspired you to start writing?
I have printer’s ink running in my veins… I’ve been telling stories for as long as I can remember and starting scribbling them down as soon as I learned to read and write.
how many books have you written?
Three novels and two journalism text books (Newspaper Journalism: A Practical Introduction and Feature Writing: A Practical Introduction), all with long-term friend and former job-share partner Susan Pape. The text books came first. After the job-share ended we both fell into academic careers teaching journalism – me at Sheffield Hallam University and Susan at Leeds Trinity. Journalism was still a comparatively new area of study and how-to textbooks were few and far between. So we pitched to four academic publishers and had positive responses from three of them within the hour. We’re still waiting to hear from the fourth…After that, we thought it’d be fun to flex our writing muscles on something a bit different. That’s when A Falling Friend was conceived although it was another eight years before we finally gave birth.
Which book, out of all the books you have written, is your favourite and why?
I don’t have a favourite. I love them all equally although I tend to worry about the work in progress rather more than the others.
How do you choose the names of your characters?
The characters choose them.
I know, I know…that sounds soooo precious, but the names emerge from the characters themselves. For instance, when we started discussing our Friends protagonist Teri Meyer, who was tall, and spiky, and very, very slim – she was obviously a double for US actress Teri Hatcher, who played Susan Mayer in the TV show Desperate Housewives. And, voilà, Teri Meyer – although, unlike her namesake, she’s a blonde and not a brunette. Not sure how that happened…
The name of Teri’s best friend Lee Harper was inspired by the novelist Harper Lee – an incredibly talented writer, who preferred a life in academia firmly out of the limelight. Our character Lee is the same. She loves her job in a northern university and has absolutely no desire to be centre-stage unlike Teri, who is only too willing to hog the spotlight.
Which of your characters would you want to be stranded on an island with, and why?
Jerome from a WiP provisionally titled The Friday Night Knitting Club. He’s in his early 20s, good-looking, kind and a cracking handyman. The last is a MUST because I’m what Yorkshire people call cack-handed. In other words, useless at anything practical.
Or, possibly Mirrie from our other WiP, The Witches, who is a little bit magic.
Bet they’d both be able to rustle up a waterproof shelter.
Who is your favourite author, and why?
This changes on an almost daily basis. I love Agatha Christie, Georgette Heyer, Marcus Zusack, Gloria Naylor, Sembene Ousemane, Lee Child…
What is the first thing you can remember writing?
A story set in the American frontier lands about a girl who is kidnapped by Apache Indians and brought up as one of their own, an echo of a plot from the cowboy series The High Chaparral, which was popular when I was young. I must have been about eleven and wrote it at the dining room table at my grand-parents’ house in Stratford-upon-Avon. Can’t now remember much about the story – other than the bare outline – but have a vivid recollection of a mustardy-coloured, velour-ish tablecloth.
What other jobs have you done other than being an author?
My working life started as a Saturday girl at Trueform, (remember them?) part of the British Shoe Corporation, which at the time was headed by footwear magnate Charlie Clore. (Other brands under the BSC umbrella were Dolcis, Freeman, Hardy and Willis, Manfield, Lilley&Skinner and Saxone – all now gone.)
Selling shoes wasn’t very glamourous – you’d be surprised how many men had very smelly feet and how many old ladies had misshapen toes from squeezing themselves into badly-fitting shoes in their youth.
From there I progressed to a holiday job at the Burton’s factory in Leeds, before getting my break as a trainee journalist at the now defunct Rothwell Advertiser. A career in journalism followed, before a move into PR as employee communications manager for Yorkshire Water, which is where I first teamed up with Susan.
Eventually I left to study English Literature as a mature student and, after a brief career as a freelance, which included some journalism teaching, joined Sheffield Hallam University where my claim to fame is that I was the inaugural course leader of their journalism programme.
If you could get in a time machine and had one chance to travel where would you go? (Backwards or forwards?)
I wouldn’t go backwards because I don’t like visiting places without electric lighting, central heating or flushing toilets. Nor would I want to go forwards because it’s never a good idea to know exactly what’s going to happen next.
If you could have one conversation with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
My dad. He started jogging when he was in his early 80s and I sometimes ran with him. I hated every blooming step of our Sunday morning circuit but kept on going because Dad passed the time by sharing memories of his childhood and early youth. I’d love to catch up with him again.
What are your favourite things to do?
Apart from writing? And reading? Saturday mornings are spent knitting and nattering with a group of friends. Recent conversations have covered Brexit, Boris Johnson (we’re not fans of either!); the benefits of disposable toilet brushes; prison visiting; and Willi Prader syndrome.
In addition I go Nordic walking a couple of times a week and aim to squeeze in at least two, sometimes three, aqua fit classes at my local gym. That’s become more difficult since Iris came along because I love spending time with her. I’m trying very, very hard not to become the sort of grandmother (OMG! I’m not old enough to be a grandparent!) who bores on and on and on about her grandchild but not always entirely successfully…
What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
One of our textbooks has been printed in Chinese.
If you could give your younger writing self any advice what would it be?
Keep writing. Because so much of my professional life was spent writing factually, I stopped scribbling fiction. I should have kept on making things up.
Name one book you think everyone should read.
Only one? Okay, God’s Bits of Wood by Sengalese writer and film director Sembene Ousemane, which was published in 1960, the year Senegal gained independence, and which follows the lives of the people caught up in the 1947-48 Dakar-to-Nigeria railway strike.
Ousemane journeys the length of the train line telling the story of the strikers, their colonial masters, and the other workers whose livelihoods depend on the railway, as well as those of the wives and ‘concubines’ and the other women whose lives are changed forever by the strike.
The novel is ostensibly about the struggle of the black rail workers to be treated fairly, but it also addresses issues of class and gender prejudice.
Brilliant and thought-provoking and my copy is so dog-eared it’s practically falling apart.
And, finally, tell us about your most recent book and where can we find it?
Our most recent book is A Forgiven Friend, which concludes our Friends series and will be published on November 19. Available to pre-order on Amazon.
The blurb reads:
Friendship should always come first.
There’s only one way out from rock bottom and that’s up, and Teri Meyer is finally crawling out from the worst time of her life – no thanks to her best friend Lee. But no matter, she’s finally found love – real love with a real man, a successful man, a man who accepts all her flaws. Teri’s never felt like this before, and yet it’s changing her in ways she doesn’t understand.
And there’s only one person who can help, one person who truly understands Teri.
It seems that no matter how hard Lee Harper tries, there’s a battle awaiting her at every turn these days, and she’s tired. And as if she needs the extra stress, Teri continues to create constant and unnecessary drama. But Lee’s the only one who really knows what’s going on under Teri’s hard, convoluted exterior, and that’s why she’s always been there for her.
But the question is: will Teri be there when Lee needs her most?
The brilliant and entertaining final book in the unique FRIENDS trilogy dishes out another dose of rib-tickling mayhem for our favourite thirty-something professional women.
Buy links to A Falling Friend: https://amzn.to/33NhPYs
A Forsaken Friend: https://amzn.to/2pDcpAr
Buy links for A Forgiven Friend not yet available
Thanks Sue for this great interview! I’d love to join your Saturday morning knit and natter group – it sounds intriguing!! I love that your Dad took up jogging in his 80’s – what an inspiration; and that you have a text book printed in Chinese!!! Your Friends series sounds fab – I’ll be sure to check them out!
Any questions for Sue, drop her a message or comment below.
Enjoy your evening my lovelies.