I am honoured that fellow writer Sue Hampton is my Saturday guest blogger. I first met Sue when she visited The Writers at Lovedean. She is a lovely lady and a talented writer.
I write for 6 – 16 year olds but also have an adult novel, ARIA, available as an e-book and audiobook and inspired by Jane Austen but set in present-day Florence. I have sixteen novels published by Pegasus. As a full-time author I spend some of my time visiting schools to lead writing workshops.
I was a teacher who wrote poems, school plays and paragraphs to use in class to illustrate writing techniques. I’d always wanted to be an author but worked an eighty hour week. Then I wrote THE WATERHOUSE GIRL one summer, drawing on my own experience of alopecia but adapting from life. My character isn’t me.
I’d made contact with Michael Morpurgo just to tell him I‘d felt the power of his stories in the classroom and his kind reply encouraged me to approach him again and ask him to read my manuscript. I thought my life was about to change when he rang to tell me he loved it, it was beautifully written and had moved him, and he’d put it into the hands of his editor at Harper Collins,recommending it. Months later Harper Collins rejected me, even though the editor concerned sent me a handwritten letter in which she agreed with Michael that it was beautifully written. It was all about the market – and eleven or twelve years later, it still is, more than ever before.
After my dad, who was a poet and playwright who never achieved recognition, Michael was my inspiration because his stories matter. They’re not froth. They strike deep and are powerfully emotional. I write because I love words; novels and characters that become real to us enrich our experience of life. Stories make us bigger people. I don’t write for the commercial market which would restrict me and expect me to follow trends. I’m interested in timeless themes rather than bandwagons.
So when I wrote POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCES, my seventeenth novel, published by Pneuma Springs, I used Royal Wedding Day as a one-off setting for changes in the lives of my young Londoners – including the big ones, love and death. It’s a YA novella, with adult characters around the sixteen-year-olds, and all the action takes place over twelve hours, which is a challenge I’ve had in mind since reading Mrs Dalloway! Once I’d found my characters, it grew quickly and they took control as they always do, but a little plotting proved necessary when it came to the circumstances in the title.
I still re-read my heroes: George Eliot, Dickens, Tolstoy. I admire Carole Shields, Anne Tyler and Siobhan Dowd (who died tragically after four children’s novels). Writing is very much a full-time job, even though it doesn’t make me a living, and it’s a privilege.
You can buy a copy of Sue's new book at...