Crime authors spill their guts about writing...
This week: Susannah Beard
Tell us about yourself.
I’m an introvert with the odd unexpected flash of the extrovert – happy in my own company but only because I know it’s not going to last too long. I’m quite private, sometimes, and pretty sociable, usually.
After a long career in PR, writing to order, I decided to become a novelist and write about whatever I want. I have a vivid imagination and love deep dark stories from Victorian Gothic to contemporary Nordic noir-style tales. After learning the art of creative writing I wrote my first novel, Dare to Remember (published by Legend Press, 1st February, 2017). My goals are to write at least ten more novels – each better than the one before – and not to get old.
I live in Marlow with one of my two sons and my two dogs, who both keep me sane and ensure I don’t become a lounge lizard. I’m proud to have swum with whalesharks and trekked in Nepal, and I believe travel really does open the min
How do you pick character names? Do any have special meaning to you?
I try to pick names which sound normal, and are easy to pronounce; I’ve too often heard readers say they skim over names (as in long Russian classics) and so can never remember them. They usually don’t have any special meaning to me, though they become more meaningful as the story unfolds (in other words, the name takes on the character for me in real life!).
How do you go about plotting your book?
So far, with the two I’ve written, I’ve done an outline plot and tried to fill in the various plot points to see where the story needed to go. Neither did what I expected! Mostly it’s in my head and I spend lots of time figuring it out on long walks.
How long does your first draft take you?
I stop and start a bit, due to the need to mull over and figure out the plot (as above), so it takes about 18 months. I’m sure I could do it in less if the plot points in my life didn’t get in the way quite so much!
Where do you most like to do your writing?
I have a little office with a desktop computer set up to be as comfortable as possible, and dog beds behind me. I like working there, but I also like my she-shed in the summer.
How has your writing style developed over time? And the way that you approach writing?
I think it’s good to keep going, even if the first one hasn’t yet been published, and to crack on with something new. And the second time, I learned a good lesson - not to edit before I’ve finished the story.
What is the best writing tip you have ever been given? How has it influenced you?
Work at it, then work at it again, and again, and again. Make it the best you can possibly do. It’s made me realise that books don’t just flow from authors’ minds; even the most talented, successful writers work incredibly hard to produce their very best.
What book do you wish you had written?
So many! The Goldfinch. All the Light We Cannot See. The House of the Spirits. The Quincunx. My Brilliant Friend.
What scene in your latest book did you most enjoy writing? And why?
I wrote a scene for my latest book (still working on it) about my protagonist going to a late-night bar in Warsaw. I liked it because it was straight from my imagination, and it was all about observing the people there.
What’s the best and worst thing about being an author?
The best is the freedom to write about anything and in whatever way you want. The worst is yet to come!
Describe your current work in progress in five words.
A body on a beach…