A chat with Sue Bentley

Sue author pic 4 (2).jpgMany thanks to Sue for agreeing to feature on the Authors chat’s strand on my blog. Sue writes for both children and adults, her latest book is We Other a dark fantasy novel. Here are a few snippets about Sue…….

 Who was your favourite childhood author or book and why were they a favourite?

There were many. I discovered the public library on a visit to my Grandmother – we didn’t have many books at home and couldn’t afford to buy them. I read Enid Blyton’s Famous Five novels, E.M Brent-Dyer’s Chalet School books etc. But it was discovering writers of fantasy that really captured my imagination. C S Lewis stands out, as does Alan Garner. I’m presently re-reading his book – The Weirdstone of Brisingamen. I liked getting lost in a completely different word. And it made me realise that you didn’t have to only write about the everyday. That opened up a world of possibilities.

When did you start writing and when and what was your first publication?

I began writing when working for Northamptonshire Libraries. My children had just started school. It took me far longer to teach myself to write novels than I ever imagined. My first book Mooncaste, was written in pencil in lined notebooks. It was an historical novel, based around the remains of an iron-age fort close to where I live. I was lucky enough to meet an agent who agreed to read it, after I’d typed it into my Amstrad PC and printed it out on my noisy dot-matrix printer. Mooncaste was never published, it wasn’t good enough, but the agent took me on. Sometime later my first book, Horse in the House, was published under the name Lucy Daniels for the Animal Ark children’s series. I’ve since gone on to write many children’s books under my own name. Most well-known are the Magic Kitten series for Puffin Books. 

Which authors do you currently enjoy?

I currently enjoy reading novels in a variety of genres. I still enjoy fantasy and historical novels, especially set in Victorian times. Recently I’ve read, The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge, The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis and The Good People by Hannah Kent – all brilliantly written and quite dark. Just how I like my fiction.

Do you have a ‘usual’ writing timetable and a special place that you write in? What is on your desk or what is around you as you write? Perhaps you enjoy the view from your writing window?

 I try to write every day, if possible. I’m not disciplined enough to get up early and get it done first thing. I might do a couple of hours in the morning and then go back later in the afternoon or evening. If a book’s going well, I’ll write all day. I’m very lucky to have a large room, lined with bookshelves, where I sit and work. I look out over the front garden to the bird feeders on the trees, so keep abreast of the changing seasons from who’s fighting for peanuts and mealworms! My desk is organised chaos, with my desktop PC, a print-out of my book-in-progress close to hand, mugs containing pens and pencils and a confetti of scribbled notes on bits of envelope and pages torn from notebooks. I also have a dictionary and various research books and folders nearby.

 Can you tell me something about your latest book please?

We Other book May 2017 (2) 

We Other is a dark fantasy novel. It’s set partly in a gritty urban landscape and partly in a world of cruel and predatory fairies. It follows the journey of Jess Morgan, a loner who doesn’t fit in and whose been looking after her alcoholic mother since she was very young. Jess is feisty and used to looking out for herself, but she’s also lonely and vulnerable. The book sees her face many challenges and dangers as she discovers that nothing she believed about herself is true. There are family mysteries, surprising plot twists and turns, and an unlikely love story at the heart of the book.


What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I’m working on Second Skin, another fantasy novel. Aledra is a two-skin, one of the Drakkoni race, hated conquerors of the continent of Esra. When she tries to save a life, things go tragically wrong. Aledra becomes a fugitive from justice. Hunted by her own people, she teams up with a native Esran boy, of the Yupek people. During their travels together they face many dangers, coming close to death and overcoming personal battles against prejudice and hate. It’s soon plain that truth is an elusive commodity and lies are ready currency between them.

What are your usual methods of research when planning a new book?

I usually have a germ of an idea and then live with it for a while. I make notes, cut items from magazines etc and stuff them into a folder. I read books around the subject – for example, when writing We Other, I read a lot of books about folklore and legends of the UK. I studied the fairy paintings of Victorian artists. I also read books on trees and wildlife. When I’m bursting to get started, I begin writing a rough outline of the book on my PC. I add to this, as and when, until it becomes fleshed-out and detailed. Then I dive in and start writing. I edit as I go along, so a first draft can take a while.

 ….and finally any tips for aspiring writers?

It sounds trite, but first and foremost – start writing. Don’t worry too much about getting it right first time. You can always re-write. In fact most writers, will re-write many times, before they’re confident about showing a book to a publisher or agent. Keep a notebook handy – even beside the bed. Ideas can come out of nowhere – you might wake up with a brilliant story strand in the middle of the night. You think you’ll remember it, but chances are you won’t. So write it down. The other thing is to read. Read good fiction – you’ll learn so much. Read things you love and things you hate. All writers are readers first. That’s often where the passion to become a writer begins. Good Luck!