Sunday 14 April 2024

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A Cup of Conversation with Suzy Henderson, author of The Beauty Shop.

I have recently got to know Suzy through Twitter and have since read her novel The Beauty Shop which is a warm story of love and the struggles faced to overcome the adversity that war brings with it. With a passion for military history and a weakness for ginger cake Suzy loves her writer’s life and shares her journey with us most honestly. I hope you enjoy her interview as much as I did…and welcome to A Cup of Conversation!


1. When did you start writing creatively?

I wrote stories as a child, but in all honesty, I never once imagined I’d become a writer. Later, life called and I trained to be a nurse and then a midwife but I never felt settled. It was during my early thirties while studying for a literature degree with the Open University that I began a creative writing course. That was a truly defining moment for me as I suddenly realised I could write and I’ve never looked back. My passion for history, mainly military history, has well and truly unlocked the writer within me and for the first time in my life, I actually feel as if I’m on the right path.

2. Which author has most influenced your own writing style?

That’s always a difficult question as there are so many in reality, but I’ve always been drawn to Pat Barker. One of her novels, The Ghost Road, is set during the First World War and won the Booker Prize. She’s such a brilliant writer, so eloquent, poetic and yet so simplistic and I love reading her words. I also love Hilary Mantel’s writing and find her voice so strong, close and rich in familiarity somehow.

3. Are any of the characters in your novel/s based on yourself?

Well, I’m sure all writers borrow a little of this and that from those who have touched their lives. In my case, perhaps my female protagonist, Stella, bears a little of my influence. I will admit to thinking of former colleagues when it came to some of the supporting cast such as the nurses. Movies are a great resource and I borrowed traits and characteristics from actors in a couple of movies. I think we are surrounded by so many sources of influence and we only have to open our eyes, our ears and our minds in order to truly see.

4. What are you working on at the moment/what’s next?

Well, I’m working towards completing the next novel which just happens to be one I began years ago and then abandoned in favour of The Beauty Shop. I always intended to write it and I feel better for having left it a while. It’s set during WW2, but this time the heroine is in France and this is based on her true story. This novel is more of an action/thriller but it does contain a small element of romance.

5. Where do you write and do you have a writing routine?

My usual routine is to begin early morning and work through until midday, and then I usually work in the evening too. However, it’s flexible and has to fit in around family life and interruptions. I find there are days when I’m so burnt out and don’t wish to write at all and when it’s like that, I don’t push myself. So often I’ve been told to write a little every day and while this is sound advice I also know that for me I can rest for days and pick up from where I left off (we’re all individual). When I’m not writing, I’m still working as I’m thinking of my plot and working through any problems. I find it’s impossible to shut off completely.

My writing room is at the front of my house which overlooks the Pennines, a view I adore, and my desk is an antique dining table which provides lots of space for clutter. I usually have towers of books, notes, stationery, teacups, all sorts really. It’s a space that looks so unorganised and yet makes perfect sense to me.

6. What’s your favourtite go-to snack when writing?

Ha! Snacks – every writer’s demon! I’d have to say ginger cake, which I love, but writing and snacking make a bad combination so I try to resist and drink water (although I’m sneaky and do cheat occasionally!).

7. Is there any aspect of the writer’s life you least enjoy and why?

I love writing and editing but I dislike marketing, simply because it’s the part I don’t fully understand. I’m not a sales or marketing professional and navigating those waters is definitely unchartered territory. However, I’ve made an effort to learn and have made progress which has been rather positive. The other downside is the amount of time involved in marketing and managing your author platform – social media. I love chatting to friends and fellow authors and have had many enquiries about my book on social media too, which is fantastic, but again it’s time-consuming and writing is the most important part of all. Balance is key.

8. Sum up your most recent novel in 6 words.

Love, war and triumph over adversity.

9. Are you a planner or a pantser?

Definitely a planner. I began writing my debut as a panster and when I look back now I realise just how unwise that was. Seriously, half-way through the novel, I came to an abrupt halt and I just could not get going. I agonised for weeks over the plot and how to proceed and suddenly realised everything was a complete mess. At that point, I decided to write a plan of the entire novel. I sat down and spent a few days going through the plot, making notes and then restructured each chapter and once I’d finished I suddenly felt able to write again. The last half of the book was written so much more quickly. I think with historical fiction there’s such a lot of information and it’s perhaps more sensible to plan in order to keep track of all the details.

10. What’s on your current to-do list?

My to-do-list is constantly growing. It contains things such as complete Q&A for blog interviews, post off books, update Facebook author page, manage social media, emails, articles to write, people to thank, research to do, and remember to eat, household chores and spend time with family. Oh yes, and most vital of all – write/edit my current novel. It’s a constant juggling act and again it’s all about finding the balance. My writer’s life is truly wonderful and I wouldn’t wish to do anything else. Such diverse and beautiful days… (universal buy link)

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