It's a true delight to introduce Best Romantic Read Winner 2011, Sue Moorcroft.
Thank you Sue for popping over today and participating my spotlight interview, you're actually my second last . So let's dive in:
Tell us a little about yourself and how you became a writer.
Writing was what I was good at, at school. I had a horrible teacher when I was ten, a real Tazmanian Devil. But he told me that I could write and that one day there would be novels on the shelf with ‘Sue Moorcroft’ on the spine. I never stopped writing, but it wasn’t until my children were small that I began to try for publication. After a couple of novels had been rejected at lightspeed, I decided my education was incomplete, and did a correspondence course. At around the same time, I read that if I could get twenty short stories in national newsstand magazines, a publisher of novels would look at me and see somebody with an audience. I used the course to further this aim and had three short stories published by the end of it. But it took eighty-seven and a serial, before I sold the first novel!
As my children grew, I was able to expand my writing hours, and my success rate, so that I never had to go back to a full-time ‘proper job’ like the one I’d had in a bank. I did work part-time, often in the evenings, for Motor Cycle News and a typesetter, but I’ve been able to leave that behind. As well as writing, I do writing-related stuff like tutoring and judging.
Wow, on the short stories. I can't stop once I start a story, it's a talent to do what you do. Taz devil-lol.
I know you write different genres like myself but do you have a certain theme or trademark to your stories?
I think of myself as writing in different areas, rather than different genres. My writing career has included short stories, serials, articles, courses, ‘how to’ and novels. If you read one of my serials – which you can, because I self-publish them as ebook novellas, in response to reader requests – you’ll know it’s me writing it, I think, but magazine serials have to be wholesome, so you won’t find the bedroom scenes that you will in my novels. It’s the same with most of my short stories. They were written for the weekly magazine market and they’re not all romantic. For example, I had a lot of fun writing about two old men arguing over a ladder, a little girl learning to swim, or a young guy writing a song for his mother’s birthday because he couldn’t afford a present. I write what I think I can sell.
My Choc Lit novels, Starting Over, All That Mullarkey, Want to Know a Secret?, Love & Freedom, come directly from my heart, though. They’re the real deal, the real me, and where my priority lies.
That's awesome! P.s, I love the bedroom scenes ;)
Do you have an agent and how important do you think they are in the publication world?
I never know how to answer that question because some writers do brilliantly with their agent, some don’t. Some do brilliantly without an agent and some don’t! I used to have an agent and she sold my first two books, Uphill All the Way (now out of print but still an ebook) and Family Matters (which was only ever a hardback and I rewrote it for Choc Lit as Want to Know a Secret?). After a life-changing event, I left my agent’s flock because I’d been commissioned by Accent Press to write Love Writing – How to Make Money Writing Romantic or Erotic Fiction, I was writing short stories and serials and honestly didn’t think I would ever write a novel again. Then the Choc Lit opportunity came along and they wanted two books that she had come within a squeak of selling, so, obviously, I grabbed the opportunity. Love & Freedom is a landmark book, because, by writing it, I proved that I could still write novels (if I’m offered a contract so to do).
I’m still friends with my erstwhile agent and I think the door may still be open should I want to approach her again. But my current publisher distributes me in various countries and sells me into others, and puts my work out electronically, so I don’t currently have a reason to mess with that.
How do your stories come to life, from fiction or fantasy?
I don’t know. Does anyone really know? Stuff comes into my head. Sometimes it comes from a real life situation that begins a chain of thought; sometimes it’s nothing more than a daydream that, ditto. I was always a big daydreamer and I’d like to point out to various teachers that daydreaming is not a waste of time. (Although I accept that it may not get your maths paper completed in timely fashion.)
Hence, I was really, really terrible at math.
Are you a ‘go with the flow’ writer or do you have structure?
Some of each. I used to just begin a story and see where it took me, but I discovered it could take me to some pretty rambling, rubbishy stories. I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that the first book I really planned, Uphill All the Way, is the first book I sold. The more I write, the more I plan ahead. My planning may not be the most organised, though. I usually know the beginning of my book and, quite possibly, the end. I know some of the major conflicts. I get to know my characters by writing, longhand, about them. (Longhand has a special place in creativity for me. I have to have a pen in my hand to unlock answers. I can’t possibly work out a crossword clue if I’m not holding the pen.) I begin by writing third person and looking at major characters from various points of view – my hero might be regarded in one light by his ex-lover and a completely different way by his mother, for example. Somewhere in this process, I stop writing third person and begin writing first person. It’s unconscious and rather like method acting. Part of me becomes the character. So my ‘plan’ often consists of a lot of scribble and some sticky notes, and I’m a big fan of mind maps, because they’re not linear, they allow me to see possibilities in a plot rather than get tunnel vision and perceive only one route through it. I call it compost heap planning.
All that said, I hardly planned at all for Dream a Little Dream, which will be published at the end of 2012 in the UK and the beginning of 2013 in Australia and the US. It was an extraordinary book to write as it took off on its own and I rode along. I knew it would either be good or be awful, but wasn’t sure which. My publisher loves it, so I’m going with good.
Have you always wanted to be a writer or did you want to be something else?
Always. But I let myself be dissuaded. The only type of writing that seemed perceived as a real job, when I was a teen, was journalism. A careers advisor told me that to become a journalist I would have to complete a further six years of education, so I said, ‘I won’t do that, then.’ I didn’t like school. I went to college to do secretarial stuff, because I could do it in a year. On the first day of the course, I learned that some kids from other schools had joined a local paper as cub reporters, and the paper would put them through their training. I was furious with my careers advisor, but didn’t (then) have the push to contact the local paper and ask to be interviewed for the next year, promising to get my typing and shorthand qualifications meantime. I just decided I’d missed the boat. I would NEVER do that, now. Sometime later, I found my push and developed a ‘can do’ attitude that has stood me in good stead.
My secretarial qualifications have helped me in my writing career, though, and when people ask me what they should do to help in their quest to be a professional writer, I tell them to learn to touch type. They look at me as if to say, ‘That is not a good answer.’
What groups are you affiliated with and how have they helped you through your journey of publication?
The Romantic Novelists’ Association, in the UK, is top of my list. They helped with the ‘can do’ attitude, I mentioned. They’re friendly and supportive and I love going to events and meeting so many writers. I also joined the Romance Writers of Australia when my books went into Australia, which helped me understand the industry on the other side of the planet, and the wonderful Australian Romance Readers Association. I’m a member of the Society of Authors, which I use mainly for professional support with contracts or like issues. I’m a member of several email forums, which I find valuable for the industry information that floats through them. I’m also a member of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists, which doesn’t really need an explanation.
How much marketing do you involve yourself in and with the mass consumption of social media, does this play a part in your marketing choice?
Choc Lit provides me access to a publicist and I try to do everything asked of me. This might be signings or radio or interviews for print, or attending events or doing blog tours and online interviews. Whatever. We’re all working together to make my books (and the books of all other Choc Lit authors) the greatest success they can be.
Regarding social media -Yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. It plays a huge part in ‘getting me out there’ and I love that readers can friend or follow me and send me messages. (I’ve only ever had two freaky ones, so I think that’s quite a result.) I love that I can sometimes catch an update someone has sent via their reading device, that they’ve just bought or rated one of my books. I also use social media to make contacts and do research. It’s amazing. I can say, ‘OK, my hero is going to a halloween party and I want him to look hot. What’s hot?’ And I get a load of really helpful suggestions. The conversation about where he’d keep his phone, wallet and condom, was illuminating! Or I say that I want my hero’s social media to be hacked, and people come on telling me the likely ramifications and how he’d extricate himself. Twitter and Facebook rarely let me down.
Check out my website www.suemoorcroft.com and my blog at http://suemoorcroft.wordpress.com/ for news and writing tips. You’re welcome to befriend me on Facebook or Follow me on Twitter.
Well, next time you need help on the hot scale, let me know. I like them hot too.
Here’s a random one for you. If you could be one animal, which would it be and why?
I think a dog, because they get stroked a lot.
What would you say is your inspiration to write in general or writing a particular scene?
I’d say it’s more a compulsion than an inspiration. I go with what ‘something inside’ is telling me. But then I apply all the craft of writing that I know, to that. I write from the heart, but I have a commercial little heart, so my plan is to write stuff that sells.
With your titles and covers, did you get much of a say in this matter and how important is it to you to have input?
It’s important. With my current publisher, I get lots of say. It’s a team effort to package the book in the most appealing way, and title and cover are massive in that. My publisher likes its writers to have lots of confidence in their books, to love them, to convey that love to others. A horrid title and cringe-making cover are not the best tools with which to create that love.
But I don’t force my opinions through. They are the marketing people. I listen hard to everything they have to say. We find solutions we can all live with. And I’m lucky that Choc Lit covers are so gorgeous.
Do you have any tips for other aspiring writers or authors out there?
1. Persist. I truly believe that the name for a writer who doesn’t give up is ‘published’.
2. Educate yourself. Read ‘how to’. Buy writing magazines. Go to writing events, such as conferences and conventions or library talks. Meet authors and learn from them. Meet editors and agents and hit on them.
Where’s your favourite place to write?
My study. It’s crammed, I’d like a bigger wall for sticky notes, but it’s a refuge. I have a shelf for the books/magazines containing my work, I have an iMac just for me, everything is where I want it. I also use my study as a giant handbag and lots of my possessions find their way here.
Love that analogy!
Tell us of your releases- where and when can we buy them?
Starting Over, All That Mullarkey, Want to Know a Secret?, Love & Freedom and Love Writing you ought to be able to buy or order anywhere. They’re all in print and ebooks. Uphill All the Way, One Summer in Malta, Where the Heart is, A Place to Call Home and Between Two Worlds are ebook only (the latter four are serials/novellas).
In one word, how would you best describe yourself?
Now that we’re all friends, tell us your most embarrassing moment?
It may not be the most embarrassing ever, but it’s the most recent. There were no vacant seats on the Tube (the London Underground Railway) so I was standing talking to a professional contact, with whom I’m friendly. Because I’m quite small, I had positioned myself next to a vertical bar to hold on to, rather than a high up horizontal one. I talk with my hands a lot, so I had let go of the bar as we travelled, but as we came into a station and the train slowed suddenly, I put my hand behind me to grab it again. I missed the bar and grabbed a fellow passenger, instead. A man. Kind of low down.
I knew what I’d touched! There must be a word a universe past ‘mortified’ for how I felt – and I’m afraid I completely chickened out of facing the guy and apologising. I ran away.
My travelling companion followed me off the train, calling, ‘It’s OK. He’s a bit red in the face but he’s smiling.’
OMGawed. No way!!!
Do you have any upcoming signings or author appearances you would like to share?
30 JUNE 2012 - 10am-4pm. One day workshop, 'Short Stories for Publication and Competition by Sue Moorcroft' at The Write Place, The Jagger Centre, Dartford. 22-27 JULY 2012 - Writers' Holiday, Caerleon; attending. 28-29 JULY 2012 - Kidwelly efestival, Kidwelly, Camarthenshire; speaker.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with us?
Whatever else that has happened in my life, I think I’m lucky to have a career that I love. I never have Monday Morning Blues, I don’t have a stress-inducing commute every day. I probably could have earned more, or more reliably, if I’d returned to the bank and worked as hard as I have at my writing career, but I wouldn’t have gained such personal satisfaction.
And every time I begin a new book, I get to fall in love with the hero. Beat that
Sue Moorcroft writes romantic novels of dauntless heroines and irresistible heroes for Choc Lit. Combining that success with her experience as a creative writing tutor, she’s written a ‘how to’ book, Love Writing – How to Make Money From Writing Romantic and Erotic Fiction (Accent Press). Sue also writes short stories, serials, articles and courses and is the head judge for Writers’ Forum. Her latest book, Love & Freedom, won the Best Romantic Read Award 2011 at the Festival of Romance. She's a Katie Fforde Bursary Award winner.