Hello, and welcome to my blog! Storm Goddess Book Reviews is proud to bring in for an interview author Susan Mac Nicol. At the bottom of the post is a chance to enter a giveaway, so fill out the Rafflecoptor form and leave a comment to be entered.
Hi Susan, and welcome! I'm glad to have you with me today. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.
Tell me a bit about yourself, and your writing.
I was born in the UK and moved to South Africa when I was eight. In December 2000, we decided we’d had enough of the violence in SA and as a family - me, my husband and two children- we moved to the UK, settling in Essex. I work full time for a financial services company in the lovely city of Cambridge.
I’ve had quite an eventful life, with a few key milestone events that stick in my mind- living in Kenya for a short time, which is where my elder sister was born, the death of my dad just a week before I got married, a bad car accident in 1986 where I almost died myself, and, on a more positive note, moving to the UK where I’ve had my dream of becoming a published writer realised.
Writing to me is very much the art of telling a story in a way that’s easy to read, with characters that are believable, have strengths and weaknesses, and are people you’d love to meet one day. I want people to really identify with my characters and their story, feel as if they could be almost be there with them. I’m not fond of over complicated plots, as I get a bit lost and prefer writing about the people and relationship side of things whilst interweaving the plot in between.
2. How long have you been writing? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve written poetry, short stories and started novels since I was about nine years old. My stepmother bought me my first typewriter, similar to the Harrods one. I would clatter along on that, churning out stories which I still have in the garage in my old writing folder. I won a few short story competitions with local youth groups and wrote a full length children’s book in my twenties which I got an agent for. However, I was young, stupid and got fed up of the constant re-writes to make the book publishable, so let it go. It never got published. It’s a big regret that I have. The story of Spinny, the travelling anteater, sits in the aforementioned writing folder gathering dust.
3. What are your favorite genres to read?
My favourite authors are people like Stephen King, Phil Rickman, Dean Koontz, Kathy Reichs, Debra Harkness and Jonathan Kellerman. I like crime, suspense, psychological thrillers, horror and anything to do with the paranormal, occult or the supernatural. I have a huge interest in Wicca having practiced as such and enjoy books that deal with these sorts of aspects. They fire up the imagination and make your mind open to the unknown.
4. How many books do you have published? What genre?
I’ve got one book published so far in a series I call my ‘Starlight’ trilogy and hope to see the others published soon. These books are classed as contemporary romance, with suspense and intrigue. Cassandra by Starlight is the first one and no one is more surprised than I am that I gravitated to writing Romance, given my reading choices and favourite authors noted previously.
5. Do you write in multiple genres, or do you just stay with one? If you do not write in more than one genre, do you ever consider it?
I could write in multiple genres. I’ve already part -written a novel that is fantasy oriented, something I’ve been working on for a while, which involves detailed world creation and fantastic characters and creatures. I love the idea of creating my own worlds, where I can make anything happen and make my characters do anything I want them to.
I have found myself concentrating on the Romance genre at the moment and have already written two other stand alone novels - one with a bit more of a sex and risqué feel to it, a little darker than Cassandra by Starlight and another one which I’d say is a Paranormal Romance, involving Warlocks and witchcraft in the seventeenth century. I’ve also written quite a lot of poetry, all dealing in one way or another with the theme of persecution in the world, by people scared of the unknown.
6. What are some of your passions and hobbies outside of writing?
I’m afraid very few to be honest! Other than reading, writing has always been my over-riding passion. I’ve dabbled in stained glass painting, clay modelling and glass painting. These were all fairly short-lived as I lost interest quickly.
I do have a predilection towards gadgets, smart-phones, computers and anything geeky! I’m a self confessed nerd when it comes to this sort of thing.
7. What's the strangest question or thing you've had to ask/do for research purposes?
Probably researching S and M techniques for my risqué romance story and the psychology behind Stockholm Syndrome and Cults, which features in this story as well. My children are constantly horrified at my mutterings about spread eagle positions, bondage and sex slavery and tend to give me a wide berth when I’m in this mode...
8. Are you a plotter or do you write from the seat of your pants?
I do a brief character summary and description of each main character, adding to it as I go along as new characters come in all the time as the story unfolds. My ‘plot’ for my ‘Starlight’ trilogy consisted of a one pager with some brief details on the main events that bought them together, developed their relationship and a few key events that I want to use to bring it all together. Other than that, I don’t do any plotting synopsis. I do however keep a Timeline, an excel worksheet where as events happen, I make a brief note, with the day, time and year so I can refer back to them and see what happened when so I don’t have to read the whole manuscript. I’ve found this an invaluable tool when making sure a character isn’t in two places at the same time!
9. Name four books that stay on your keeper shelf.
The Stand by Stephen King, A Discovery of Witches by Debra Harkness, The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle and Dracula by Bram Stoker.
10. Ebooks or print, which do you prefer?
I have always loved the feel and the weight of a book, so switching to e-books when the family bought me a Kindle was a culture shock. Now I wouldn’t be without it. Yes, you lose the lovely colours of the covers, and the feel of something substantial in your hands, but from a practical perspective? My husband can now have his garage back, as before it was more of a boxed-in library. I’d like to think though that if the world ended and everything was covered by dust and earth, or if aliens came to visit thousands of years later, they’d still have real books to read to see what the past civilisation was all about. E-book readers would have run out of battery life long ago...
11. What is a talent you wish you had, but don't?
I wish I could sing really well. My family tell me I have a good voice, and should go on X Factor, but I’m afraid I’m nowhere near as confident as them in my ability. I’d really love to be able to sing like a real rock chick, a Lzzy Hale or even k d Lang.
12. What are you working on now?
The second book of my two part paranormal (or supernatural series as I call it), tentatively titled Double Alchemy. It’s the story of a chance meeting between Quinn Fairmont, a renowned book collector and philanthropist living on Hampstead Heath in London and Kate Mairston, a very feisty and independent Anthropologist.
Quinn is a Warlock descended from a very powerful family dynasty. Kate, unbeknownst to her until she meets Quinn, is a Fey, a water nymph with a few secrets of her own. Inevitably, the attraction abounds and the sparks fly whilst between them they fight off the dangers that getting involved together creates. I’ve written the first one and am 20000 words into the second.
13. What is a typical writing day/schedule like for you?
Unfortunately, and apologies to my employer, the full time day job I have is a distraction to the creative process! I’m out the house each day at seven a.m., have an hour’s drive to work in Cambridge, leave around five p.m. and when I get home, I have dinner, then sit on the couch surrounded by the noise and distractions of my family, and write.
Normally I write till about midnight then go to bed and the cycle starts all over again. Weekends I spend about six hours a day writing off and on and whenever else I get a spare moment.
14. Does your mood influence what you write, or read?
My mood improves with writing so when I’ve had a bad day at work or am just cheesed off with something, writing keeps me grounded, allows me that element of escapism until I get over what’s annoyed me or frustrated me. No matter what my mood, there’s always time to read and I still stick with what I’m currently reading.
15. What genre of writing style would you like to see make a comeback?
I can’t say I’ve any real opinion on this one. It’s strange but when I was in my teens and twenties, I insisted on reading anything that was written first person only. That soon changed and now I prefer third person. However, both Debra Harkness and Jonathan Kellerman write first person and I enjoy their books so I suppose from a personal choice perspective my answer is whatever is out there, as long as it’s entertaining me, is good enough for me.
16. If you could travel anywhere and do anything, no limits or money holding you back, where would you go?
Easy. I’ve always wanted to go and visit Maine, in New England. I want to travel the coastline, eat the much renowned Maine lobster and perhaps head down or up to see the leaves change colour in the Fall Foliage season.
It’s a desire bought on by watching too much ‘Murder she Wrote’ in Cabot Cove (Yes, I know its fictional and the scenes were filmed somewhere in California but please don’t burst my bubble), episodes in my younger days and a yen to meet Stephen King on a bright, blue, Bangor day and tell him how much I enjoy his writing.
Cassandra by Starlight
by SUSAN MAC NICOL
A London woman is swept off her feet into the glamorous yet surprisingly dangerous world of an up-and-coming star of stage and screen.
TO CATCH A RISING STAR
Unconventional though she may be, Cassandra Wallace leads the life of an average Londoner, from blind dates to rush hour traffic. Then, along comes Bennett Saville. Charming, erudite, the up-and-coming actor is like the hero of a romantic movie. He sets Cassie afire like he has the stage and screen, and defies the tragedy that brought them together. From the tips of his Armani loafers to their scorching hot first kiss, he’s perfect. Only, he’s ten years younger and from the upper class, and those emerald eyes invite dangerous secrets. The world is full of hungry leading ladies, and every show must have its villain. Yet a true romance will always find its happy ending.
Sue Mac Nicol was born in Headingley, Leeds, in the United Kingdom. When she was eight years old her family emigrated to Johannesburg, South Africa. One day, after yet another horrific story of violence to friends, they decided it was time to leave. In December 2000 they found themselves in the Arrivals area at Heathrow and have stayed in the UK ever since, loving every minute of it.
In between her day job as a regulatory compliance officer for a financial services company in Cambridge and normal daily life, the inspiration for the Starlight series was born; Sue’s characters, Cassie and Bennett, finally made their debut onto the flickering screen of a laptop and gave her the opportunity to become a published author—a dream she’s had since being a young girl old enough to hold a pencil.
Sue is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Romantic Novelists Association in the UK. She lives in a town house in the rural village of Bocking, Essex, with her husband of twenty eight years, Gary (who believes he deserves a long service award for putting up with her for so long), two children, Jason, 24, and Ashley, 19, and a mixed collie mongrel called Blu.
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