Tuesday 17 November 2015

An interview with Sue Moorcroft

I have known Sue Moorcroft since 1999, when I joined the Kettering Writers group where she was already a member.  We hit it off straight away and, for a while, were the only published writers in the group though, because we wrote genre fiction (romantic for her, horror for me), that didn’t impress the group leader.  Our friendship flourished - I remember reading Fresh Sheets back then, which later became Starting Over, the first of her Middledip novels and her first book from Choc Lit - and continues strongly to this day, I’m pleased to say.  Most of my UK horror writing chums know Sue as she’s now my Con buddy for FantasyCon and the like.

Sue’s also featured here on the blog quite often too - I interviewed her back in 2013 (which you can read here), I’ve reviewed her books and she’s contributed a couple of guest posts (all of which you can find on this link).

Earlier this year, as we met at The Trading Post on one of our “get together and talk writing and books until they call for last orders” evenings, she told me the great news that her agent had sealed a two-book deal with Avon Books.  I was chuffed, thrilled and excited - I’ve read the first book, which will be published next September/October (expect another interview and review then) - and having heard more about the second book on further evenings, I’m even more excited about that.  The news was finally revealed in The Bookseller on October 21st, just in time for FantasyCon (where it was lovely to see so many people congratulate her).

HarperCollins imprint, Avon, has won two new novels from Sue Moorcroft at auction. UK & Commonwealth rights were bought from Juliet Pickering at Blake Friedmann Agency.

Moorcroft said: “I’m excited to be joining Avon, with their reputation for successfully publishing fiction to extensive audiences. Eleanor and her team impressed me with their enthusiasm and drive, their ideas and the welcome they offered to me in my new home.”

The first novel will be published in Christmas 2016 with the second novel planned for summer 2017.

Good times indeed and it couldn’t happen to a nicer person or a better writer.  So I thought it might be fun to have another chat with her, to see how it feels to have the deal and what she thinks the future has in store for her.

MW:  First of all, many congratulations on the book deal!  Tell me how you felt when your agent first let you know.

SM:  Thank you, and for all your continued support!

It actually came down to a choice between two publishers. For a couple of weeks we’d been going through the nerve-wracking process of my agent, Juliet Pickering of Blake Friedmann, talking to publishers, and it had come down to Avon and one other. Juliet and I had a long meeting with Eleanor Dryden and her team at Avon HarperCollins UK and when were back outside the News Building in the sunshine I said to Juliet, ‘I think it’s Avon. They said everything I wanted to hear.’

The News Building - pic by Sue
MW:  How was the experience of heading down to London and meeting your new publisher?

SM:  Wonderful. The News Building is also known as the ‘Mini Shard’ as it stands next door and is of a similar glass-wall appearance. I was treated very starrily! The meeting room was decorated with hats, to reflect the career of my heroine, Ava, and they’d made me chocolate cake. I got on very well with Eleanor and her team, and hearing that Ava is to be a lead title for Christmas 2016 was music to my ears. I felt very wanted. The chocolate cake was amazing, too.

MW:  So how does it feel to be an ‘overnight success’?

SM:  Ha! At the beginning of April 2016 it will be the twentieth anniversary of selling my first magazine story, so I guess it has taken me twenty years to be an overnight success. It feels as if I’ve worked hard and stayed focused to get where I am, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.

MW:  Where did the idea for the novel (which, at the time of writing, is known by its working title of The Truth About Ava) come from?

SM:  Originally, it was to be a Christmas novella. I made Ava a couture milliner because I met one such at BBC Radio Cambridge and thought it would be a cool career for a heroine. I’m always aware that not everybody has a wonderful time at Christmas and so I gave Sam a particularly poignant conflict of his mother being between surgery and chemotherapy and not knowing if this Christmas will be her last.

MW:  I remember talking about the idea with you at The Trading Post, when it was still planned as a novella.  What made you decide to do it as a novel?

SM:  When I first conceived the idea of the novella I had thought that it would be fun to write about someone who doesn’t like Christmas. When my agent liked various angles of the story, Sam’s conflict and the Camden Town setting, that dictated the story becoming full length. I realised that Ava needed a meatier storyline and introduced the idea of her ex-boyfriend threatening her with revenge porn as a strong contemporary issue. The Internet is a fantastic thing but it has a dark underbelly and I decided it would be nice to bring it a little more into the light.

MW:  We can’t really discuss much about the book now (that’ll be in the interview next September), but it has a very different tone to the Choc Lit novels (which I loved).  Was there a conscious decision to do that?

SM:  No. I’m not really aware that it has a different tone. In fact, I would argue this point! (Sue smiles at this point) The setting is different as it’s a city-scape – maybe that’s it?

MW:  Yes, I think so, the story has a more cosmopolitan feel to it, if that makes sense.

SM:  Setting the book in London did mean I had to think differently. When I set a book in a village or in a small segment of a small island, people can credibly bump into one another. In a city of millions of residents and many more millions of visitors, that’s not going to happen. That’s why many of the characters in ‘Ava’ were connected with Sam’s communications agency, either by working there or being big buddies with someone who works there, or being an agency client. I did have Harvey, Ava’s ex, track down Ava in Blaggard’s Bar but, as he knew Blaggard’s to be her favourite hangout in Camden Town, it was an obvious place for him to lie in wait. I like London and, when I was a kid, lived not that far from Camden for eighteen months.

One of my favourites of Sue's novels
(and not just because I fancy the heroine!)
MW:  With regard to the revenge porn sub-plot, that’s one of the things that I enjoy about your books, you don’t look away from the darkness.  You tend to confront issues head-on in most of your books (thinking of All That Mullarkey and the issues with Cleo and Gavin, also the unpleasant elements within The Wedding Proposal), would you care to elaborate on that?

SM:  I don’t consciously look for darkness, it’s more that I look for conflicts that matter. A hate campaign can poison your life and, in All That Mullarkey, Justin loses his home and almost his job because of the hate campaign. He comes perilously close to losing his self-respect. And Gavin … while nobody should condone what he does, I feel most would understand why he does it. In The Wedding Proposal, it matters desperately to Elle that there’s something dark in her ex-husband’s past, because it affects her future. At the time I was planning ‘Ava’ an article caught my eye about revenge porn. That particular piece was about young girls being unwise enough to take explicit ‘selfies’ and send them to young boys. While I mentally filed that under ‘recipe for disaster’, I began thinking about all the loving couples who have bedroom fun with phone cameras ... and what happens to those images once the love has gone. How would the victim feel if the ex shared them on Facebook? Sold them to a sleazy website? Electronic images proliferate like fleas on a dog and my research made me desperately sorry for the victims, and angry on their behalf, so if ‘Ava’ makes even one person think twice about sharing images without permission, I’ll be happy.

MW:  How much research did you do?

SM:  I read extensively (literally for days) on victim support websites, about the kinds of sites that host such images with no care for how it destroys happiness, the law in various parts of the world, and, especially case histories. In other areas: Abigail Crampton of Abigail Crampton Millinery advised on Ava’s career. It was great to watch her doing demonstrations and visit her lovely studio in her garden and have a mock hat fitting. It was also a lot of fun to keep going down to Camden’s markets and bars. Serious illness … well, that’s distressingly easy to research, being so prevalent, partly online but also via chats with people who have been affected, either as patients or loved ones.

MW:  The second novel in the deal (which I am really eager to read, having followed it from initial idea into writing trials and tribulations and having the enviable task of being asked my opinion on plot points) is also removed from Middledip.  Can you tell us a little about it?

SM:  It has the working title of Just for the Holidays. Leah Beaumont, having remained determinedly single till her mid-thirties, ends up looking after her sister’s family in France while her sister Michele’s life derails. The premise is lifted directly from the experiences of a friend of mine, who made me cry with laughter when she recounted what had happened to her. I don’t think it was funny when it was happening, though.

Ronan Shea is a grounded helicopter pilot, doing up the house next door to the gîte in which Leah’s family are holidaying. When the book begins he thinks his biggest problem is that he has had a forced landing and broken his collarbone. Now I’m two-thirds of the way through the first draft, he also knows that his boss is trying to get rid of him. Oh, yes, and his ex-wife has just turned up, destitute.

Only four of my novels are set in Middledip, of course. Six are not.

MW:  You’ve now scaled back on some activities (listing them, I can think of critiquing, tutoring, article writing), did you feel they were overpowering your writing time?

SM:  Yes. I did a self-coaching exercise. What’s good/bad for me? What makes me happy/unhappy? What earns me money/doesn’t earn me money? Anything that fell into negative territory in all three headings got the chop. This freed up so much time that I began looking at other aspects of my writing life and came to an important conclusion: I only wanted to write fiction. So I left my constant teaching commitment, my regular judging, and once I’d adapted my non-fiction book, Love Writing, to be a course, I cut my non-fiction writing, too. I’m delighted to report that the exercise worked. I’ve had a good hit rate with magazine fiction and secured my agent and a new book deal. NB I haven’t stopped the kind of tutoring that gets me to lead a course in Italy. The Arte Umbria course for 2016 is already filling up.

Sue at The Trading Post, discussing books and plot
points the week before FCon (14/10/15)
MW:  Given the deal and the fact that 'Ava' is done aside from the final edit, are you enjoying having a bit of time and space to work on the second book?  When is it due to the editor?

SM:  Very much so. I can’t tell you how much less stressed I feel. Just for the Holidays is due in April – what is counted as a first draft but will probably be my third or fourth. Hopefully, you’ll kindly beta read it for me! (winning smile)

MW:  Of course, I'm looking forward to it!  One last question about the second book (since the first was already written when your agent presented it).  Did you pitch it, sell it on a tagline or none of the above?

SM:  I discussed the premise with my agent and she liked it, so I wrote her a one-page pitch and a three-page outline. By the time she was ready to send Ava to publishers I had begun Just for the Holidays and knew a lot more about it so I updated both pitch and outline and Avon liked it. The other publisher would have wanted both books, too. I’ve never had a multi-book deal before. It would have been possible to see the second book being contracted as a pressure, but I’ve chosen to see it as a vote of confidence.

MW:  Which is the best way, I think.  So what’s next?

SM:  Finish the first draft of Just for the Holidays, do my edits on 'Ava' (due any day), do several more drafts of JFTH and get it to my editor. Then I have an idea for another book, about a guy called Ben whose girlfriend is in a road traffic accident. And his brother is driving the car.

MW:  Thanks very much for that, Sue.

SM:  Great talking to you Mark. Thanks for inviting me onto your blog – see you next time.
Sue at FantasyCon 2015 with (from left) Steve Bacon, Steve Harris, me, Neil Williams
Award winning author Sue Moorcroft writes contemporary women’s fiction with occasionally unexpected themes. Sue’s a past vice chair of the RNA and editor of its two anthologies. She also writes short stories, serials, articles, writing ‘how to’ and is a creative writing tutor.

Sue’s latest book is "The Wedding Proposal"

Sue can be found on the Net in the following places...

Website: www.suemoorcroft.com
Blog: suemoorcroft.wordpress.com
Facebook profile https://www.facebook.com/sue.moorcroft.3
Facebook author page https://www.facebook.com/SueMoorcroftAuthor
Twitter @suemoorcroft
Google+: google.com/+Suemoorcroftauthor
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/suemoorcroft


  1. Thank you very much for inviting me onto the blog and for the interesting interview, Mark. :-)

    1. You're very welcome, always good to have you here.

  2. A great interview, can't wait to read more of Sue's books.