What genre would you say your novels fall into, or do they defy classification?
My novels are all, to some extent, cross-genre. If I had to group them under one single umbrella, I think the description would have to be “Romance with a Twist”. Having said that, three of my novels (The Ghostly Father, Never on Saturday and Heathcliff) probably fall more comfortably into the category “What If…?”
Two of my other novels (Nice Girls Don’t and The Unkindest Cut of All) could be classed as romantic intrigue, whereas my most recent novel (Finding Nina, which is part-prequel, part-sequel to Nice Girls Don’t) stubbornly refuses to be pigeonholed.
What made you choose that genre?
In the case of the “What If…?” genre, it would be more accurate to say that it chose me. My first novel, The Ghostly Father, is a re-telling of the traditional Romeo & Juliet story, told from the point of view of the Friar, but with a few new twists and a whole new ending. I’ve always loved the story but always wondered why it had to end so tragically, and I wrote The Ghostly Father in response to the prompt Write The Book You Want To Read. The book I’ve always wanted to read is the alternative version of Romeo & Juliet – the one in which the young lovers don’t fall victim to a maddeningly preventable catastrophe. Why, I asked myself, should there not be such a book? And the answer came straight back: Why not indeed? And if it doesn’t already exist, then go ahead and write it.
Since then, I’ve been inspired to write two more books in the same vein, both written in response to existing works of literature. Never on Saturday is a time-slip romance novella based on an old French legend, and Heathcliff is an exploration of what might have happened to Wuthering Heights’ famous anti-hero during the three years when he disappeared from the original story.
How long does it take you to write a book?
It takes me bloody ages to write anything. If procrastination was an Olympic sport, I’d have enough gold medals to need my own strongbox at Fort Knox.
What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I wish I had one. I envy those writers who can dedicate a particular time each day to their craft, and sit down and write to order. I can only write when I feel inspired, which can be at any time of the day – and frustratingly, I often find my best ideas arrive when I’m away from my laptop.
Tell me something about yourself your readers might not know.
I once appeared on a TV quiz show during which I did an impromptu impression of Dad’s Army’s Captain Mainwaring.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I wrote the first draft of my debut novel in 2012, and it was published in 2014. I was pushing 50. I’m not going to say from which direction.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I enjoy reading, walking, gardening and travelling. My other interests include family history (which inspired Nice Girls Don’t and Finding Nina) and the theatre (which provided the setting for The Unkindest Cut of All).
I’m currently working (very slowly) on a sequel to the latter.
I also enjoy birdwatching, but only to the extent that if I see a bird I like to know what it is. There are people who will happily travel the length and breadth of the country in order to see a particular bird. I’m not one of those, but I do admire their energy and dedication!
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
The length of time it takes to produce them. I found out the hard way that writing a book is nowhere near as easy as the experts make it look.
To date, I have six published novels, plus a small privately-published poetry pamphlet.
Do you Google yourself? What did you find that affected you most (good or bad)?
I’ve never tried this until you mentioned it. I’ve just looked, and found that there are several other Sue Barnards out there. I wonder if any of them have Googled themselves and found me. I hope they weren’t too shocked.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
As a child, the notion of “growing up” seemed so far in the future that I never really gave it much thought. As an adult, I’ve come to the conclusion that growing up is definitely overrated.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have on your computer?
Four that I know of (one novel, one novella, one short story and one poetry project). Other than that, goodness only knows what lurks in the murky depths of my hard drive. I haven’t dared look.
Sue Barnard is a British novelist, editor and award-winning poet whose family background is far stranger than any work of fiction. She would write a book about it if she thought anybody would believe her.
She was born in North Wales some time during the last millennium. She speaks French like a Belgian, German like a schoolgirl, and Italian and Portuguese like an Englishwoman abroad. Her mind is so warped that she has appeared on BBC TV’s Only Connect quiz show, and she has also compiled questions for BBC Radio 4's fiendishly difficult Round Britain Quiz.
This once caused one of her sons to describe her as "professionally weird." The label has stuck.
NOVELS: The Ghostly Father Nice Girls Don’t The Unkindest Cut of All Never on Saturday Heathcliff Finding Nina
POETRY: Variations on an Apology
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