Sue Welfare is a woman of many names. Well, three to be exact. You may also know her as Kate Lawson or Gemma Fox. As Kate Lawson, she had "Mother of the Bride" published last year. As Gemma Fox, she was short listed for the Melissa Nathan Comedy Romance award in 2007 for "The Cinderella Moment." And as Sue Welfare, she recently had "The Surprise Party" published and is here to talk to us about it today. We're also giving away two copies of this novel worldwide, thanks to Charlotte Allen of Avon at HarperCollins UK.
You can follow Sue on Facebook and Twitter.
MP: How do you like to spend your time when you are not writing?
SW: I'm a really keen cook, gardener, reader, walker, singer – I'm in a local choir – not to mention being a keen photographer and rug maker – no, really!!
I'm always busy, and never have enough hours in the day. My rug making website is at www.rags-bags-and-baubles.co.uk and I write a blog about rug making too (which currently needs me to get on with updating it)
MP: What is your usual writing routine?
SW: I'm at my desk by 9 a.m. during the week, I begin by catching up on email, facebook, the admin – and then reading what I've written the previous day.
I edit as I read and then get on with the new stuff.
I stop for lunch any time between 12 and 2 o'clock.
Late afternoon I walk my dog, Beau, – which helps me think and blows the cobwebs away – and then if it's going well I'll often go back to my desk and do a little more before stopping to make dinner (or eat it, if Phil, my husband, is cooking … or as we call it , making great food and a huge mess!)
People will say you need to be self disciplined to write, which is true, but often my problem is not starting but stopping!
MP: Do you ever suffer from writers block? If so, how do you remedy it?
SW: I don't think I get so blocked that I'm unable to write – but I do get jammed into corners by plot problems or time constraints or just feeling my work isn’t as fresh or as free flowing as it should be, so I use several techniques to shake the tree –
First of all I always have more than one project on the go.
Alternatively I go for a walk and just play with the main ideas, playing 'what if' with the characters and plots.
My other favourite way of block busting is to sit down with a mug of tea and a blank sheet of paper ( I usually work directly onto my Mac) and handwriting conversations between my main characters – no descriptions, nothing but pure dialogue - and let them talk to each other and that often sorts out the things that are holding me back.
MP: What was your journey to publishing like?
SW: I’ve always loved books and stories and remember my mum teaching me to read before I went to school.
I submitted my first story to a magazine when I was about ten – it wasn’t published – but I‘d caught the bug and carried on.
I got married when I was 19 and had four fabulous boys and did all the things you do with kids if you’re a stay at home mum.
My creativity was focused on them really - and then in my late 30’s when all the boys were at school I started to ache to write.
I wrote in the day when they were at school or at night when they had gone to bed.
Around the same time I joined a postal writing group and began to write articles for magazines – and more importantly they began to sell.
In the mid 90's, I was commissioned by Virgin Black Lace for a book idea I had sent them. Then I entered the Mail on Sunday’s Night and Day magazine’s ‘first 150 words of a novel ‘ competition. I was amongst the winners and got an agent as a result of that and began to try and write my first "real" book,
It’s called "A Few little Lies" and is set in Wisbech in Cambridgeshire in the UK
At the same time I wrote erotic novels for Black Lace and Headline and so far have had around 25 books published.
MP: What was your inspiration for "The Surprise Party"?
SW: I've got a real thing about secrets and things not being quite what they appear – lots of my books have that as a theme. I was thinking about how we perceive our parents – I do lots of talks and somehow we all assume older people don't know anything about sex, drugs or rock and roll. We quickly forget they were once just like us.
I wanted to explore the idea that even in families that are loving and stable there is still a place for big secrets and misunderstandings.
MA: Why do you go by two different names when writing? (I know other authors do this too and want to know why that is the case, in general.)
SW: Sadly the explanation isn’t all that exciting! Actually I've written under three names for Harper Collins. I wrote for several years as Sue Welfare and had a good following, with six titles published.
My publishers had a plan to get me more widely known - Welfare sounds like it is made up and has slightly odd connotations, and when the promotions are over my books vanish down into the murky depths of the ‘W’ s on the shelves, where people just don’t browse. So Harper Collins decided to give me a make over – First of all as Gemma Fox, but unfortunately the week we launched our Gemma, a singer called Gemma Fox also made her debut – so if you Google Gemma Fox it isn’t my books you get, but the other Gemma’s latest album.
Then Avon ( a division of Harper Collins ) suggested we work together and we decided to rename me again – which was how Kate Lawson was born - and then my lovely new editor Sammia Rafique suggested for this book we go back to my own name and so I’ve come full circle.
MA: If "The Surprise Party" were to be made into a movie, who would you cast in the main roles?
SW: Wow that is such a hard question! There are six really goods roles for women in the book. And it’s a story that travels – so it would work just as well in the US as the UK
For the two older sisters I think Meryl Streep would be just fab as the Fleur, the feisty older sister of the two – or Bette Middler! You need some gentler for Rose, her sister, but she's still no pushover. Actually I'd be really interested to hear what my readers think!
MA: What is the biggest surprise you've ever received?
SW: Phil – my husband - asking me to marry him. We’d lived together for four years and had bought a house together but if I ever mentioned marriage, even in passing, he would go pale and quiet!! And then on Valentine's day last year he proposed to me – I was so stunned, that having said yes I didn’t say anything for around an hour, which for those people who know me, is something of a world record.
MA: What is your favorite thing about spring?
SW: Oh the light after the dark of winter - and that magical feeling of expectation and renewal that makes you long to get on with things.
MA: If you could time travel, what time period would you visit?
SW: Lol – how many places can I go to? I'm so curious about so many things
As I said I have a whole thing about secrets – so I'd want to go to lots of places to find out the answers.
Who really shot Kennedy, who as on the grassy knoll?
Did Marilyn really kill herself.
Who was Jack the Ripper?
What have they got at Roswell?
I could be the time travelling super sleuth… being terribly practical I'm just wondering what you'd have to pack, and what would you wear?
Special thanks to Sue Welfare for her lovely answers to our questions and Charlotte Allen for arranging the interview and giveaway.
How to win "The Surprise Party":
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Bonus entries (can be listed in one post):
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Giveaway ends Sunday, April 17th at midnight EST