Hope you are enjoying your start to Spring! It’s been beautiful where I am!
It’s another day to share my blog with an outstanding guest. Please welcome Suzy Davies, a multi-genre author. Today, we get to know Suzy through a fascinating interview. So, as always, please enjoy…
1) What brought you to a career in writing?
My career in writing is something which has emerged gradually over the years. In a sense, the writer in me has always been there, from an early age.
I started creative writing when I was around six years old. I read a great deal, and I wrote short stories. I was quite a sickly kid, so reading and writing helped comfort me, and pass the time when I was off school.
By the time I was eleven, I had discovered poetry, and my first published poem was “Chess Board World.” I don’t have a copy of it, but it went into Nuneaton High School For Girls magazine. It was an idealistic poem about world conflict, and full of teenage angst, but it also signaled the dawning of a social conscience, and reflected my growing awareness of social inequalities, and injustices.
This small step gave me the courage to write more and more, and I began to diversify more and more – reading plays, and making attempts at writing my own.
School homework, of course, was compulsory. I remember a particular essay I had to write for my English class, about “November,” and I chose to write about Bonfire Night.
I can still remember the teacher who told me I had a talent for writing. Her name was Mrs Pontefract, and she had cheeks like apples, and strawberry blonde hair.
She asked me to read aloud in class. I was surprised when my peers liked the piece I read, too. To this day, I always “say” what I have written, to ensure it flows, and sounds right, before I send the draft to my editor.
I believe I was very lucky to have had piano lessons. Many of my peers were singers and musicians. I often had friends round, who played a variety of instruments, in the front room of my parent’s house. My parents were very tolerant of the noise! In particular, I enjoyed singing, and writing lyrics. Studying music gave me a good ear for what language sounds like, and for the rhythms in writing, particularly dialogue.
After I left school, and started work, I began to regard writing as a hobby, a loyal friend, that kept me company in times of loneliness. It was a way I entertained and challenged myself.
As I matured, I found ways that I could integrate my first love – writing – into some of the jobs I did.
When I worked in Recruitment, I got together with some like-minded folk, and began to write a play for the West End, about Women’s Emancipation, that had a tentative sponsor. However, the deal fell through; I was disappointed, but I knew that I could make my own chances in the future, if I stuck to my passion.
When I worked in Estate Agency, I loved to create advertisements for the properties I was selling, and this kind of writing taught me how to be succinct and persuasive.
Going to university cultivated the reader in me, the critical eye, and a stoic willingness to pull everything apart to analyze it.
When you think about it, you have to take apart what you have written, in order to perfect and rewrite your work.
I still used to write for pleasure, even when I had term papers to write – mainly poetry.
My first degree at Leicester University was in the Social Sciences, and the factual nature of the work taught me how to do research. I also learned how to write at a pace, and somehow managed to meet most, but not all, of the hand-in deadlines!
Self-discipline is important for anyone who wants to be a professional writer, and if you are happy in your work, you will gradually be able to write more and more each day. When I am on a roll, I can write, and turn out relatively clean copy, of 1000 words or more each day.
My postgraduate course at Sussex was in Twentieth Century English Literature.
Studying great writers such as Allende, Conrad, Woolf, and Joyce, in detail, taught me how much work I needed to do to perfect my craft. I read many books, and studied the writing styles and techniques each particular writer employed.
Happy childhood memories, and some adulthood recollections of personal adversity, made me determined to put pen to paper, and write my debut novel, “Johari’s Window,” a Romance Novel, with Noir elements.
The book is reasonable, in my view, and I am glad to say, overall, it is more light than dark, more wistful than melancholy.
This novel was my apprenticeship, and I knew, when it was published, that it was only the beginning.
Writing is a joy to me, and no-one was more surprised than I was to have the opportunity to reinvent myself as a Children’s Author.
I will always write, every day. I can’t recall a single day where I haven’t written anything.
Over the years, I have identified writing as a consistent thread that runs through my veins, my very being, and my life.
2) What were some of your first story ideas?
I have had many early ideas for stories, and one was a story of a Red Dragon! I may write it yet!
3) Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
Travel always inspires me because it allows you to see things from a fresh perspective. People you meet may have interesting aspects to their personality, which provide inspiration for characters. When I feel introspective, music sparks ideas for a lyrical journey, as does Art.
“Johari’s Window,” my memoir and romance novel, was inspired by the cherry blossom in South Korea, where I lived and worked as a teacher of English as a Second Language.
I visited Daegu Opera House, and the special effects on stage of “Madama Butterfly,” with the dramatic music, which moved my emotions, helped me capture the meaning of “pink snow” falling from the sky, a poignant symbol of the fragility and transient nature of romantic love in the text.
Of course, I owe a debt of gratitude to the great Pablo Neruda, whose poem, “Every Day You Play,” helped me create the vivid imagery in my book.
In “Snugs The Snow Bear,” which has a travel theme, I gather together experiences of travel in my childhood, but some of the locations and scenes just come from my fertile imagination.
The story of my inspiration for “Snugs The Snow Bear” my first Children’s Book, may be traced back to a lino-cut my late dad helped me create of a Snow Bear, when I was about seven years old. I was so excited about this, and delighted when the print of the polar bear appeared, stamped on the page!
My fondness for bears in general, was also cultivated by a toy panda I owned, who I cuddled so much, his arms were bald.
My dad’s solution to this problem was to stitch the panda a red felt jacket on my mum’s Singer sewing machine, and I loved it that my bear dressed like a human being. Perhaps this is what gave me the idea for “Snugs” to be a bear who sometimes dressed like a human, had very human traits, and who was very snuggable and lovable.
Later in life, as if by magic, this Polar Bear re-appeared, more magical than ever, over the ocean on The Isle of Wight, and “Snugs” was born.
The Isle of Wight County Press have featured a photo of this bear, and the story of my inspiration as front page news!
Raymond Briggs, Elisabeth Beresford, Michael Bond, and the great Dylan Thomas, are just a few of my key influencers for this book.
4) What makes your writing unique? What makes you, as an author, stand out?
I suppose being a multi-genre author, who also writes poems, makes me stand out, and the fact that I was in my late fifties when my first book was published. I’m not sure, to be fair. I’d rather let my readers comment.
5) Do you have a special writing process?
The idea for a story and a main character is the beginning of the process. I write in my head before I pour it all out onto the pages. I know the end of the story before I start writing, but I also know I may modify and adjust the ending so that my character has some free will to behave as he/she wants.
Characters can be mischievous, and take you on the scenic route! All took often, they are strong willed, and take on a life of their own.
I always pay special attention to voice, and make sure that characters not only act true to their personalities, but also sound true to themselves. To achieve this, I like to get under the characters’ skins, and in a sense, take on their personality – the way they talk, the way they move, their inner life, and feelings, thoughts, and emotions.
The descriptions are also important. There needs to be an evocative sense of place, that is compelling and atmospheric, to stimulate the readers’ imaginations. What you leave out is just as important as the detail you put in. Inevitably, good writing means you have the nerve to prioritize, and the good judgment to cut anything that is unnecessary or over-written.
Writing Snugs was not easy, but I did write the first draft very quickly indeed. It took me about 14 days to have the first rough draft, then weeks and weeks of polishing, until it was more or less how I saw it all in my head.
Whenever I finish writing something, there is always an element of the unexpected that comes up, and a surprise, when it is finally all there. It is inevitably the surprise that is the magical aspect of the writing.
6) What part of writing do you enjoy most? What’s the most difficult part?
The most enjoyable part is the “method acting” – being a character, and at the same time knowing you are not him/her. It is great fun to be a bear!
The most difficult part is conveying a deeper message to children, and young readers, in a subtle, simple way so that they understand.
7) Your first book was a fictional memoir, which is very different from your children’s fiction book – SNUGS THE SNOW BEAR. What’s the story behind the different genre?
“Johari’s Window” came from the dark recesses of my personality, my alter-ego, if you like. It felt like night-time when I was writing it. I experienced times when material surfaced from my subconscious so that I doubted whether I was writing it. I was pleased with the “Journey Beneath The Stars” chapter, which just flowed, and felt like a deep, spiritual message.
The best thing about “Johari’s Window,” in my opinion, is the Magic Realism, and this magical element carries over into the descriptions and characterization of “Snugs The Snow Bear,” Book One of my Children’s Series.
“Snugs The Snow Bear” is a much lighter, brighter read. It is playful, and I think it reflects the optimism I have about my future, and my hopes and visions for young people, and generations to come.
8) Your children’s book is the first in a series. What can we expect next for the magical polar bear?
Now come on, I have to keep some things to myself!
All I can say, at this stage, is that in Book Two, the story has a more urban feel of a bear about town! I have already written Book Three, as well!
9) Will you share about the illustrations in your book?
My illustrator is Peter Hall. He follows his muse, and has waves of hyper-activity, when, all of a sudden, these colorful characters appear, as if by magic. All his illustrations have his brilliant unique signature, that make them instantly recognizable as his work. The illustrations really do reflect the personality of the lively animal characters to perfection, and, sometimes, they make me laugh, too!
10) Do you have a Writing Bucket List? If so, what are some of the items on it?
On my bucket list is a trip to Manitoba, Canada, and to Alaska, to see the bears. I would love to tour America and Canada to meet my readers and do book-signings! I also intend to return to Wales, my father’s homeland, and to England!
France, of course, is well-known for being a nation of book-lovers, as are Germany, and India! I would love to visit my fans in Japan!
Scandanavian countries relish Children’s Books in particular, and I would like to do a tour, and take in some of the beautiful nature and scenery.
There are many countries I would like to visit.
When I am better known, I would like to take my Children’s Books all over the world as learning resources in schools!
I would also love to see my characters animated! Sheila Graber, World Animator, has already read “Snugs The Snow Bear,” and complimented me on the activities of my characters! She did a wonderful job animating “Paddington,” and the great Rudyard Kipling’s “Just So Stories.” We may well collaborate in the future.
It would be nice to see “The Snugs Series” on Children’s Television. However, my feet are firmly on the ground, and for the time being, I am happy just writing my books. I am looking forward to launching Book Two of “The Snugs Series” fairly soon!
11) When it comes to your writing, do you do any research?
Of course I do! I like to delve into myths and legends to enrich my writing. I also research animals for their characteristics, and do background research into locations, unless I have actually been there.
12) When you’re not behind a pen or book, what can you be found doing? What are your passions outside writing?
I enjoy nature walks, boating, music gigs, mall shopping, cooking, and going to restaurants.
13) You’re not just a children’s writer or novelist, you’re also a poet and a life coach. As a woman of many trades, do your skills ever come together? Do they help in the other areas of your life?
Being a poet brings a lyrical quality to my writing. I use my knowledge of life coaching and motivational skills in my writing, too. I ask myself what kind of messages am I giving to young people who read my books. I hope they are good ones, which will inspire them as they grow, and lead their lives. When the going gets tough, being a Certified Life Coach gives me insights into self-motivation and keeping on track. I am available to mentor other writers, and to help people in general achieve their goals, and a life which they love. We are all works in progress, of course, and there is always room for improvement!
14. Do you have any works in progress you can share with us?
Yes, I do. I am currently writing a fiction book, “The Talisman.” It is the story of a Lapis Lazuli ring, which has magical powers. It is a kind of mystery/paranormal read. I have written over 7,000 words so far, which means I have at least 73,000 to go!
I have nearly completed a series of Children’s Short Stories, “Florida Critters.”
I am also very busy, of course, writing Book Four of “The Snugs Series.” I think there will be at least seven books, maybe more!
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Thanks so much for joining us for this delightful Author Q&A. Please help support Suzy with likes, shares & comments. And do check out her books!
Until next time………Happy Reading & Reviewing!