On Coffee and Roses I like to bring you news of exciting authors who are either waiting to be published or published and worth checking out.
This week, I'm really excited to welcome the wonderful LUCY DIAMOND aka SUE MONGREDIEN into the Coffee and Roses Writer Spotlight.
Author Photo by Alexander James
Sue's new book as Lucy Diamond, The Beach Café is published today and I can't wait for my copy to arrive in the post (it's my post-editing reward!). So, without further ado, it's over to Sue!
When did you first decide that you wanted to write? (Was it a Damascus-esque flash or a slow-burn?)
It was a long, slow burn for me (ouch, that sounds painful – it wasn’t!). I have always written – lots of poems and stories as a child (including my prize-winning poem Aston Villa We Love You when I was six), diaries, letters etc. Then, after graduating, I managed to wangle my way into publishing, starting in the children’s editorial department in Random House. Part of my job was reading the slush pile which, depressingly, was largely atrocious. After rejecting the thousandth variation on Betty Bunny Has a Tedious Adventure I decided I could do better, and began writing my own teenage novel. (Plus, being rather shallow, I was lured by how attractive an author’s life appeared from the outside – we were always sending them flowers and new covers to approve and reprints etc. I thought, I’ll have a bit of that, please!)
What interests you as a writer?
Oh, all sorts of things. I am extremely nosy. Relationship dynamics, family dramas, falling in and out of love, betrayal, secrets – and I’m a sucker for heroics. I found the stories from the recent 7/7 inquest so moving, for example, the real-life heroism and humanity that was shown by so many people that day – awe-inspiring.
Do you have a typical writing day? If not, when is the best time to write for you?
I have to write within school hours, so between 9am and 3pm, usually. It’s a short day and can be frustrating if I have to stop work right in the middle of a juicy scene to hurry back to school, but I find that having such time constraints is a good motivator to actually get stuff done. I try to write about 2,500 words in that time but it depends enormously on what else is happening.
What made you decide to write The Beach Café?
I remember as a little girl being on a seaside holiday in Cornwall and deciding that when I was a grown-up I would definitely live there and run the café. (The thought of ice cream all day every day played a big part in this ambition, but still… ) Sadly I have failed on both these counts, but it was great fun to revisit that dream and have my main character inherit a beach café in a gorgeous Cornish setting. It was even more fun being forced to research all those Cornish pasties and cakes…
What are the best things about being a writer?
The satisfaction of writing ‘The End’ on a first draft is pretty hard to beat, as is holding finished copies of a new book for the first time. Lovely emails and letters from readers are brilliant too – they make all the torturous parts of the process worthwhile.
And the worst?
The self-doubt that creeps in now and then that the book I’m writing is rubbish and no-one will want to read it. One-star Amazon reviews make me want to cry. And I sometimes miss all the banter and camaraderie from working in an office. Thank goodness for Twitter!
Tell me about what you're working on now.
I’ve just finished my sixth novel, which will be out next year. It’s about two very different sisters being forced to live together again – lots of arguing, jealousy and bitching – those scenes were a joy to write! I also write children’s books too, under my real name, Sue Mongredien, so by complete contrast, I am also working on a new adventure story featuring an evil witch, smelly trolls and lots of magic.
You've written books for both children and adults and have been short-listed for this year's Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance for your book Sweet Temptation. What would be your top three tips for aspiring writers?
a) Read your work out loud – I always say this, but it’s the best advice I can give. By reading your story aloud, you get a much better feel for the rhythm of the prose, you can hear whether or not the dialogue works, and any mistakes, repetition or boring bits will leap out at you.
b) Raise the stakes. Make things really difficult for your characters – don’t give them an easy ride. Every time they think the worst is over, ratchet the angst up a notch. It’ll make the novel a much more interesting read.
c) Stick to the story. Keep asking yourself – is this scene relevant to the main plot? You may have written the most brilliant or hilarious dialogue exchange in the world but if it doesn’t move the plot along in any way then sometimes it’s best to cut it out. Harsh, but ultimately for the best…
Do you have a dream project you'd love to write?
I’d love to write for television – it must be so exciting seeing actors speak your lines on the screen. Sadly I think writing for film and TV is probably even more competitive than book publishing so right now, it will have to remain a dream. But maybe one day…
The Beach Café by Lucy Diamond is published by Pan Macmillan on June 3rd. For more information on Lucy Diamond’s books, visit her website. I can’t wait to read The Beach Café - it's going to be a perfect summer read and I can't wait to get started on it! Why not treat yourself, too?