I’ve mentioned before how you can meet the loveliest of people on Twitter. Today I’m delighted to welcome Susi Osborne to Being Anne: we’ve followed each other for simply ages. Her latest book, Angelica Stone, was published for kindle by The Book Guild on 26th July, and today (28th August) is paperback publication day. Congratulations Susi!
Angelica has nothing, Lola has it all, apparently…
It’s all down to luck when you think about. You don’t get a choice about which family you are to be born into.
Angelica is brought up in care, following years of sexual abuse. As a teenager she absconds, living on the streets, before eventually being forced into prostitution to survive. She is reluctant to allow anyone to get close to her, fearing that she seems to bring trouble to everyone she meets.
But then she meets Lola, who is from what appears to be a happy middle-class background. Slowly, a friendship develops between them, but cracks start to appear in Lola’s life. Things are not always what they seem – who knows what secrets lurk behind closed doors?
A gritty tale of an unlikely friendship, counterbalanced by scenes of laugh out loud humour.
I’m really looking forward to reading and reviewing this one within the next month or so, but while we’re waiting let me introduce you to Susi…
Susi, it’s a real delight to welcome you to Being Anne – would you like to introduce yourself?
Thank you for having me, Anne – it’s a pleasure to be here. Of course – where to start? Well, I live in Cheshire with my husband, Robert, my actress daughter, Sophie, and our two small, mischievous dogs. I worked in libraries for what seems like forever, was a classroom assistant for a while, did a few other random jobs and then finally started writing seriously about 15 years ago. My first book was actually published on the week of my 60th birthday, so I now feel I have to work ultra hard at all times to catch up and to fit in everything I want to do. My life motto is ‘It’s never too late to do anything!’
Then we definitely have something in common there, Susi! I can’t believe that Angelica Stone will be the first of your books that I’ve read – your three earlier books look very “me” too! But let’s talk about Angelica first. Where did the idea for the story come from? And the characters?
The idea for Angelica originally stemmed from thinking about, as I said in the book blurb earlier, ‘you don’t get a choice about which family you are to be born into.’ If you then need to break free from the cycle of life that you find yourself in, for whatever reason, it’s tough. But the catalyst for breaking that cycle often consists of the people you meet along life’s way.
In the past I had an experience which gave me a deep insight into the care system. There are so many young people, like the character Angelica in my book, who can fall through the net of the system and ‘disappear’ – in fact 30% of all the homeless have been in care. Writing the book in fact, together with the research it entailed, evoked such empathy within me that I felt I needed to do something to help. I have actually set up a Just Giving page for Centrepoint – do take a look.
Meanwhile, despite the obvious difficulties Angelica has to face, her life is enriched when she meets Lola. In fact I think we all know someone like Lola. Someone kind and caring – a collector of ‘lame ducks’, someone who always wants to help. And, in spite of Angelica’s initial reticence, the two form an unlikely bond. Sometimes people can come into our lives and change everything – they leave footprints on our hearts and we’re never quite the same again. That’s what happened to Angelica and Lola. This book is definitely an emotional rollercoaster – tissues an absolute necessity one moment and side-splitting laughter the next. It wouldn’t be me otherwise – I’m known for my sense of humour!
I know that The Ripples of Life, Grace and Disgrace and Secrets, Lies and Butterflies formed a loose trilogy. Will Angelica appeal to the same readers, or is this one very different?
Angelica Stone definitely has a more gritty edge to it than my other books, but it will definitely still appeal to the same readers. The laughter and tears are all still there, as are the strong characters. In fact I think the readers will fall in love with Angelica, just a little bit – and Rafferty will make their hearts melt! I really enjoyed writing this book, and I think that shows – or hopefully it does anyway. I enjoyed breaking away from the previous three books and the people in them that I’d created, and getting under the skin of these new characters. In fact that’s one of the things I love about the writing process – character building.
I’ve read an (excellent) early review on The Book Bag that mentions authentically drawn relationships, and a neat well-executed plot with a great twist. Does that sum it up for you, or is there anything else you’d really like them to have mentioned?
Actually no, there was nothing else I would have liked them to add – they caught the feel of the book completely. I was absolutely delighted when I read the review – and I was glad they liked the plot twist too!!
Despite your wonderful looking books, I know many people will also associate your name with the Northwich Lit Fest. I see you already have one of my favourites, Laura Wilkinson, featuring in next year’s plans. Tell me more about how you originally became involved…
I started Northwich LitFest six years ago – single-handedly and without any budget. Never have I blagged so much for free in my life! But that very first year I managed to persuade Adele Parks to come. Her book was called Whatever It Takes and I was determined I would do whatever it took to get her there! Thankfully she did come, and the event was a huge success. Afterwards she wrote an article for a newspaper in which she said of the organising ‘I had attacked it with gusto’. Great comment!
Since then Northwich LitFest has gone from strength to strength. I run it for the whole of June each year, organising about fifteen different events. Over the years I’ve had people such as Carole Matthews, Sunny Ormonde (Lilian Bellamy of The Archers), Stella Duffy, Julia Crouch, Angela Clarke, Rowan Coleman, Paul Burston and many, many more. It’s been fantastic – even though it is such hard work! I’ve met some amazing people because of Northwich LitFest. And yes, you’re right, Laura Wilkinson will be doing an event here for me next year, as will Christie Barlow!
I often ask people how they fit writing into an already busy life, and it seems an appropriate question for you too! But how do you also fit in organising the festival too?
The simple answer to that would be… ‘I really don’t know!’ Life certainly is extremely busy. My daughter’s been touring her one woman show, Kissing Frogs, recently as well and we’ve been general roadies and all-round general assistants for that too. It all takes time, particularly the LitFest, which I start to plan at the beginning of each new year. By the time it gets to May and June my stress levels are pretty high and I don’t get time for much else other than Northwich LitFest. Each year I say ‘never again’, but each year I come back. I ask myself why I do it but then I think of all the amazing people I’ve met because of it. People like the lovely Sophie Parkin, daughter of Molly Parkin, who did an event for me at the LitFest this year. On the back of that, Sophie has invited me to launch my new book, Angelica Stone, at her arts club, Vout-o Reenees, in London on 8th September. Do come along Anne – you’d be most welcome!
Oh I do wish I could Susi – I’m taking my mum to Whitby for the week! Tell me about how you write. What’s a typical writing day?
So, despite touring plays, organising LitFests, and a rather whirlwind of a social life which seems to get increasingly more hectic the older I get, for some reason – I do somehow find time to write. I think if it’s in you, then you do. But to get back to the social life just for a minute, it seems insane that my husband and I often come creeping back into the house at 2am, trying not to wake either my daughter or the aforementioned dogs. She often mentions that surely it should be the parents waiting up for the daughter, not the other way round! Life in your sixties is definitely good fun – it’s possibly been my favourite decade actually. So there’s hope for all – it’s never too late!
Oops, sorry – got a bit sidetracked. My writing day and how do I write. My writing day is usually more of a writing afternoon. I am definitely not a morning person and find it hard to concentrate on writing at that time of day – the creative juices just do not flow. So I try to get on with all of the mundane tasks, the minutiae of life, prior to lunchtime and leave my afternoons free to write. It doesn’t always work that way, but that’s the plan! I used to have an old caravan at the bottom of the garden where I could lock myself away to write, which was great. But regrettably it sort of disintegrated around me and had to be disposed of – with obvious difficulty. It has been replaced with a summerhouse where I eventually hope to write but unfortunately that is currently storing furniture – I shall get into it one day!
Meanwhile I write in the house, with two little dogs vying for position of comfort on my knee. I need longer arms to reach the keyboard!
Planning, writing, editing, getting ready for launch, all that marketing – what’s your favourite part of the whole process? And the most difficult?
Well I have to say – I’m definitely not a planner. In fact one of my favourite parts of the whole process is having an idea for the beginning of a story and then seeing where it leads you as you write. I love the excitement of the beginning, creating new people from your imagination, building their characters and the way they interact. I often have an idea in my head of the way it should all go but then the characters can take over sometimes, go off at a tangent, and take you in a different direction. Quite fascinating really, the way that can happen.
As for editing – does anyone enjoy that? I think that is definitely the most difficult part and the one that I like least. You’ve just poured your heart and soul into a book and reached the end. Going back to the beginning and through it all again feels like the last thing you want to do. But unfortunately it has to be done.
Getting ready for the launch and all the marketing side of things I really enjoy though. In fact I throw myself into it ‘with gusto’ one may say! It’s good because, as a writer, you spend a lot of time alone when you’re working on a book, so to step out into the world and meet real people again, as opposed to imaginary ones, is great. There are so many different sides to marketing now though, I do wish sometimes that I was a little bit more tech savvy than I am.
And what writers do you particularly admire? if someone said “your writing reminds me of…”, who would you like them to mention?
Writers I admire. There are so many. Marian Keyes, Adele Parks, Jill Mansell, Liane Moriarty, Rowan Coleman, Julie Cohen…the list is endless. But if someone said ‘your writing reminds me of…’ I would like them to mention Jojo Moyes, who I admire tremendously. Actually somebody did say that to me once… but I think she was just being kind!
And what’s next for you? Are you working on something new?
I do have an idea for a new book in my head but so far it has not made its way to the laptop! Once I start writing a new book I like, if possible, to have a bit of a clear run for a while so I can immerse myself into it without having too many distractions. This year the LitFest ended on a real high and that was followed, almost immediately, by the marketing merry-go-round for Angelica Stone. We’re going away for a short family break for my son’s 40th shortly, then I’ll be back for the book launch at Vout-o-Reenees. I’m so looking forward to all of that. I then have various book events over the forthcoming months but life should not be quite so hectic. That is when I will settle down and start on Book Number Five. I’m so excited about it actually – can’t wait to get started!
Thank you for the interview, Anne – I really enjoyed it!
And so did I Susi – and the very best of luck with Angelica Stone, I’m really looking forward to reading it…
About the author
Susi Osborne is a Cheshire-based author. Her previous three books are The Ripples of Life, Grace & Disgrace, and Secrets, Lies & Butterflies. Susi ‘s fourth book, Angelica Stone, is published on 28th August. Susi also runs the Northwich LitFest throughout June each year.