Happy Saturday all! First post from me is an interview with Susanna Beard on Meet the Author….a fellow nature and animal lover who tells us about her new books and surviving a fall down a crevasse……
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I live in beautiful Marlow, near the River Thames, with my two dogs, a Cairn terrier called Cookie and a Yorkie, Tipsy. They make sure I get out of the house, and they give me someone to talk to now my grown up sons, Greg and Charlie, have moved out! For most of my life I’ve had a career in public relations, running my own agency and dealing with clients ranging from toy companies to Californian wines. Apart from books, I love animals, the countryside, skiing and tennis – both playing and watching. I’m adventurous – I’ve swum with whale sharks, fallen down a crevasse and explored the sewers in Brighton, not necessarily in that order.
What inspired you to start writing?
I loved writing, and reading, at school, and wanted to be a writer from a very young age. I think if there had been creative writing degrees then, I would have done one, but instead I took a Linguistics degree. I wrote a lot in the course of my career in PR — news stories, articles, magazine columns, newsletters, website copy — but always longed to write from my imagination. A course at the Faber Academy (with Louise Doughty as tutor) really got me going.
How many books have you written and published?
I have two, published by Legend Press: Dare to Remember, published in 2017 and The Truth Waits, published November 2018. I’ve written two more, one of which I’m still working on.
Which book, out of all the books you have written, is your favourite and why?
All my books are different, so it’s hard to have a favourite — though my third is set in South Africa, so the research was exceptional! I was lucky with that one, too — I was able to write most of it during the summer of 2018, when the sun shone and I moved my office into the garden. Bliss.
How do you choose the names of your characters?
I make sure my characters have names that suit their generation, by researching online. I have a number of characters with non-British backgrounds, so I’m careful to choose appropriate names for them — like Margryta in The Truth Waits, who is Lithuanian. But I also like using contemporary, day-to-day names, ones that people are familiar with, particularly if the character has a more ordinary background. If the character is flamboyant, though, I might choose something a bit more exotic — or if they’re evil, I’d try to find something which means ‘baddie’ to me.
Which of your characters would you want to be stranded on an island with, and why?
I would choose Ricky, from my third novel, who learns ranger skills on an African reserve, so he knows how to survive! He’s resilient and knows a lot about nature and animals. He also spends some time homeless in London, which teaches him other useful skills.
Who is your favourite author and which of their books is your favourite, and why?
I love Hannah Kent. Her debut, Burial Rites, is one of my all-time favourites. It’s set in Iceland, and invokes this wonderful atmosphere of threat, wildness and hardship. I was in Iceland when I was reading the book, and the story was so vivid, it has stayed with me for years. But I also love Thomas Hardy, for his wonderful characterisation and portrayal of country life, especially in The Mayor of Casterbridge. And Isabel Allende, for the mystic quality of her stories…and…and…
What is the first thing you can remember writing?
I wrote a terrible poem in my English class at school – and it won a prize! (I haven’t kept it).
What other jobs have you done other than being an author?
Advertising, marketing and public relations, all of which are really useful in helping to promote books. Though I have had to learn about publishing and book marketing, which I’ve never done before, my background gives me the confidence to get going with promotional activities for my books.
If you could get in a time machine and had one chance to travel, where would you go? (Backwards or forwards!)
I’m too worried about the environment to want to go forward! I’m not so sure about going backwards either, because women have had such a hard time everywhere and in every era. If I could find a time/place where nature flourishes and humans don’t destroy the environment, where there’s no war and no poverty and all people are equal….This is such a hard question for me!
If you could have one conversation with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
My dad, of course, who died in the 1990s of cancer. He’d love to know I’ve become a novelist, and I’m sure he’d be really proud. He’d also be fascinated by the new technologies we’re all familiar with now.
Jane Austen would be a close second, for quite different reasons! I admire her for writing her brilliant books, even while she knew that as a woman, her work wouldn’t be accepted. Also for her perceptive, modern views about women and their position in the early 1800s; she was a remarkable person.
What are your favourite things to do?
What, apart from reading and writing?
I love walking with my dogs in the countryside – they’re so joyful, whatever the weather. Every day is different, and we see new flora and fauna all the time. Skiing is one of my favourite things; I love the stunning views, clean air and the buzz of speeding down a pristine ski slope. I’ve always enjoyed tennis, too — I’ve been to all the Grand Slam events except the Australian Open, which I hope to go to one day soon!
What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
I fell down a crevasse and lived to tell the tale! I did have visions of helicopters and ropes as I slid gently over the upper lip, but I was lucky: it was filled with compacted snow, and I was unhurt and able to clamber up over the edge of the lower side. I was a bit shaken, though, as were the five men I was with! We all had to have a sharpener after that…
If you could give your younger writing self any advice what would it be?
You really can do this, so do it now!
Name one book you think everyone should read?!
Reasons to Stay Alive, by Matt Haig. There are so many people suffering from anxiety and depression and these conditions are so little understood, or even recognised, in some cases. This book is about Matt’s own experience, and he achieves the impossible. It’s sensitive, accessible, humorous, human and joyful, while dealing with an incredibly personal and painful subject.
And finally, tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it?
The Truth Waits is a psychological thriller partly set in Lithuania. It starts with successful businesswoman Anna finding the body of a young girl on a deserted beach.
Anna is compelled to uncover the story behind the tragedy, despite concern from her partner, Will. Everything points towards sex trafficking, but as she searches, her own deepest secrets start to surface.
When Will disappears without a trace, Anna is pulled further into the murky world of organised crime. Time is running out for them all, and there’s a killer out there who will stop at nothing.
Where to buy: https://amzn.to/2xQvtwj
Thank you so much Susanna for taking part in Meet the Author – what a brilliant interview. Iceland is a fantastic place too and one of my favourites!
Have a great day all, and thanks for reading!