#QandA with Susi Osborne, author of Angelica Stone @susiosborne
I’m delighted to welcome Susi Osborne to Short Book and Scribes today. Susi has very kindly sent me a copy of her latest book, Angelica Stone, and I’m looking forward to reviewing it. But as I can’t get to it just yet, Susi has answered my questions about her books, her writing and more.
Susi is the author of four books and here’s a bit more information about each of them. Click on the picture to go to the Amazon page for each one.
Following years of sexual abuse and resulting psychological trauma, Angelica Stone has learnt to rely solely on herself. Unwilling to allow anyone to get close to her, Angelica is reluctant to allow her work colleague Lola into her life. Lola, in contrast to the damaged Angelica, is from what appears to be a happy middle-class family. But all is not what it seems. An unlikely bond is formed between the two as they learn more about eachother. As they become closer, a series of life-changing events leave Lola on the verge of ruin. Will the friends be able to better themselves and have the lives they so desperately want? Or will they succumb to the expectations and the path already laid out for them? Angelica Stone follows both characters in their own journey of self-discovery. This close and in-depth look into the lives of Angelica and Lola will see the reader laugh and cry as the two women learn about themselves and the invaluable friendship they have.
Kate is trying to rebuild her life after the death of her baby son and her husband s unfaithfulness. Having fled to Cornwall with her daughter, the last thing she expects is a call for help from her former best friend the woman who slept with her husband, Tom, and destroyed their marriage. With huge misgivings, Kate returns to the Cheshire town where her life fell apart and stays with Grace the indomitable warm heart at the centre of a loving but chaotic household. If an outspoken four-year-old, senile Gran and characterful dog can t make Kate forget her troubles, no one can. When Kate comes face to face with Tom again he still gives her butterflies does she still love him? But, more importantly, can she ever trust him again? The friendship between Grace and Kate the heroines of Susi Osborne s previous two novels – is the only constant in an ever-changing landscape of embarrassing moments, fraught relationships, and shock discoveries in this moving yet h
Sometimes Grace feels like she would like to escape to a more exciting life, despite the fact she lives at the centre of a chaotic, but happy, family. But then a letter arrives from her long-lost sister and her life is turned upside down.
After the upheaval of moving from Cornwall to Cheshire to find work, Tom and Kate Darrington seem to have life sorted out. Kate is a devoted mother and talented artist, Tom a caring and sensitive husband and father. They have the perfect marriage, a beautiful home, two gorgeous children and are still madly in love. But when a tragic accident strikes, their perfect lives are torn apart and their love is put to the test. But will love be enough to save their marriage? The shockwaves from the Darringtons’ tragedy spread out like ripples on a pond and touch the lives of the people around them. Kate’s best friend Chloe tries to offer support, but her own problems cloud her judgement. Caroline, the young receptionist at Tom’s office, complicates matters with her infatuation for him, and her clumsy attempt to help almost ends in disaster. As this hard-hitting domestic drama unfolds, lives become entangled and relationships change forever.
1. Can you tell me about your latest book, Angelica Stone, and where the idea came from for the story?
The idea for the story of Angelica Stone originally came from thinking about my family and friends and how lucky I am to have them – I’d probably had too many gins at the time and was getting overly sentimental! Seriously though, it really is all down to luck when you start out in life, you don’t get a choice about which family you are to be born into. And, in addition, the things that happen to you in your childhood shape the mind of the adult you become. If, like Angelica, you have a bad start in life, is it ever possible to break free from the cycle of misfortune into which you’ve been born? The people you meet along life’s way, and the subsequent friendships you make, can be a huge influence and impact upon your life tremendously.
2. Angelica Stone is your fourth novel. Do you find the writing process easier or harder than when you started?
A bit of both really. Obviously, having written four books now, I’ve found my own way of going about things and know what I’m doing – mostly anyway! But I think I’ve also become a lot more self-critical so writing, at times, can be a torturous process. That famous quote from Dorothy Parker springs to mind – ‘I hate writing.I love having written,’ For me, writing is a total addiction, I could never give it up. As I write it’s as though everything drains away… but then back it flows as I finish each section. Lifeblood I suppose – I couldn’t live without it.
3. I think your books may be darker than the covers at first suggest (to me, at least). What kind of themes are there in your books and are there any that you have found hard to tackle?
My first three books are loosely connected together to form a trilogy, although they are each a complete story within themselves and can be read individually. Looking back I agree, the covers for these three maybe do imply that the stories are quite light and fluffy when, in fact, they do contain some deeper issues. They are not dark like Angelica Stone, however, and do contain a lot of humour.
In one of the books, Grace & Disgrace, one of the characters has Alzheimers, as my own mother did. I was the main carer for my mum throughout the ten years she had this horrible disease and humour, and my writing, were the only things that saw me through. Some of the things in this story actually did happen. I had to laugh to preserve my sanity at the time and sometimes, in the beginning, my mum was able to laugh too. Often I found it hard to write about a subject so close to my heart, but I also found it decidedly therapeutic. As for the cover, the birdcage depicted how trapped Grace felt at the centre of her family – mixed generations, and needed by all. As for the pinkness, it set the scene for the light-hearted way in which a lot of the story was told.
When it comes to Angelica Stone, I absolutely love the cover. It’s very different from the other three and the contrast between them really shows that the story is so much darker. Depicted in isolation under the dark night sky, Angelica looks lost and alone – as indeed she is, until she meets Lola. It seems like the start of a beautiful friendship, and it is, but life is not always what it seems. Slowly, as a friendship develops between the two of them, cracks start to appear in Lola’s life. Things are most definitely not always what they seem – who knows what secrets lurk behind closed doors??
I really enjoyed writing Angelica Stone, and I think it shows – hopefully! The story was very different for me, and a bit outside of my comfort zone. But it’s definitely not all doom and gloom, there is a lot of humour too – it wouldn’t be me otherwise.
4. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
In general, until my last book, I haven’t had to spend a great deal of time researching as I’ve mostly written about things that I know. With Angelica Stone though, it was a bit different and I spent a considerable amount of time researching. The story touches on some difficult subjects. I already knew quite a lot about the care system from past personal experience, but I certainly had to research more thoroughly when it came to subjects such as homelessness and prostitution and mental health. The internet is invaluable when it comes to research, books and documentaries also of course, although there is nothing quite like talking to the homeless on the streets and listening to their stories of how they came to be there. Quite heartbreaking.
Writing this book, in fact, made me stop and think how lucky we are just to have a roof over our heads and somewhere warm to sleep at night. I’ve actually set up a Just Giving page for Centrepoint, do click on and take a look – and give a donation if you wish. Centrepoint gives homeless young people, like Angelica, a safe place to stay and help to move on with their lives. Because, did you know that 6% of all children leaving care when they’re sent out into the big bad world at eighteen end up living on the streets because, without support, they can’t afford to pay their way?
5. And related to that, do you plot your book meticulously before you start or wing it and see how it comes together?
I’d like to say I’m a planner, because it sounds so much more organised. But I cannot lie. So no, I am sooo not a planner! Basically, I have an idea for the beginning of a story, build up the characters, and see where they take me. My books are all totally character driven – but then, I think that’s the joy of writing. It’s exciting to see where you’re led, the characters take over and it never ceases to amaze me when they do something that was totally unexpected. For instance, I knew Angelica and Lola were from very different backgrounds but I never knew Angelica was a prostitute. And as for Helen…?!?!! (you’ll have to read the book). I’m sure this way of writing must sound completely bonkers but it’s just the way it is – and I love it!
6. If you weren’t a writer what do you think you would be doing now?
Well I suppose I’m of an age where I could just be retired – a lady who lunches, watches TV, knits, looks after grandchildren, cooks and cleans. Noooo!!!! Never!! I believe I would die of boredom. I think I would always have to do something creative – painting, interior design, house renovation. In fact I did do the latter once and really enjoyed it. That’s what I could be – a property investor – and give my houses to the homeless! I need some money first though.
I need to sell more books. Please buy Angelica Stone!!!
You heard the lady!
7. Tell me about your writing day. Where do you write and do you have a daily routine?
I do try to have a daily routine although recently it is rarely possible. A couple of years ago I had a great routine. My offspring had left home, we didn’t have pets, and we had an old caravan at the top of the garden where I could lock myself away to write. However, things change. The caravan disintegrated around me and unfortunately had to go. I replaced it with a little summerhouse which was to be my writing shed. But then daughter returned home, complete with a houseful of furniture which currently fills the summerhouse. And we acquired two dogs. Daughter is an actor and has, this very morning, been rehearsing a play with a fellow thespian in my kitchen. The play includes wartime songs sung to a ukulele. Very loudly. The two dogs vie for attention. You see my problem? Hopefully things will improve. Very soon.
I do see your problem but I have to say that I would be joining in with the wartime songs.
8. Do you have time to read yourself and if so what kind of books do you enjoy?
I read, but not as much as I’d like to as, in addition to writing, I also run Northwich LitFest here in Cheshire where I live. This year will be the seventh, and I organise at least fifteen events throughout the month of June, which is a colossal amount of work. Over the years we’ve had some great authors visiting – Adele Parks, Carole Matthews, Stella Duffy, Julia Crouch, Martin Edwards, Rowan Coleman, Angela Clarke, Paul Burston, Erica James to name but a few. Obviously I’ve read all of their books! But, in addition, I love to read Jojo Moyes, Marian Keyes, Maggie O’Farrell and this last year I have particularly enjoyed Gail Honeyman’s debut novel Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.
Oh, it must be brilliant to run a literary festival! I’m afraid I haven’t yet got round to Eleanor Oliphant but I hope to…..one day!
9. Do you have any interesting writing quirks?
Interesting question! But no, I don’t think I do really. I just need peace and quiet – which I find is quite hard to come by!
10. What are you planning to write next?
I do have the start of a new novel racing around inside my head but not had the chance to put pen to paper yet…or even fingers to keyboard. I did say I would start it as soon as Christmas was over but… Okay, I will start it very, very soon. Maybe even tomorrow!
Thank you so much, Susi, for such fab and full answers.
Susi Osborne is the author of The Ripples of Life, Grace & Disgrace, Secrets, Lies & Butterflies and Angelica Stone. She lives in Cheshire with her Scottish husband, her actress daughter and two mischievous little dogs. Their house is termed affectionately (hopefully!) amongst their numerous friends as the Osborne madhouse for obvious reasons. Susi also has an adult son and a grandson who live nearby.
Before she became a writer, Susi worked in libraries for many years. She also worked as a classroom assistant in a junior school. In addition to her writing, Susi organises Northwich LitFest, which she has been running for the past six years.
Alongside the writing of her latest book, Angelica Stone, Susi has been raising money for Centrepoint, the charity for youth homelessness, and has set up a Just Giving Page for the charity in her name.
Susi is a firm believer in the fact that it’s never too late to do anything. ‘You have one life – go out and grab it with both hands!’ She loves to hear from her readers and you can get in touch via her website or Facebook or Twitter. Susi is also available to give talks at festivals, events, libraries and reading groups and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org