Well, good morning Sue. It is wonderful to see you at Romaniac HQ. We’ve steam-cleaned the place and we have a bottle of Catherine’s lovely granddad’s cherry wine and plenty of Dream Bars in the fridge if you’d care to indulge.
Thank you! But could the wine be white, please? Sorry to be a nuisance …
Of course. I’m sure we have some left…Comfy?
Now I’ve got the white wine. Thank you.
How is your F1 season going?
Hmm. It was going better when the McLarens were doing well. My dream result for any race is Jenson Button followed home by Lewis Hamilton and that’s just not happening. It’s an interesting season, though, with lots of the unexpected, which always excites me. As you’ve given me such an opening for shameless self-promotion … you can read some of my Girlracer columns from the 2012 season here.
You are one of the busiest writers on the planet – what fuels you?
The desire for success. A wish to be professional and hit deadlines. A bank account that needs constant injections of money. The desire not to have to go back to doing ‘a proper job’ to earn that money. A worry that if something’s offered to me and I say ‘no’ I might regret it.
What techniques do you employ to manage your time?
I try and stay off a game called ‘Jewels Rock’ on Facebook …
I measure the success of my day in terms of productivity – have I done anything that has earned money? If it’s not money, is there some other value, such as promo or networking? Promo and networking are important but they can’t be allowed to take over my job as a writer. I often segment my day – work with students/competition entrants in the morning, leaving me free to write in the afternoons. I acknowledge that things that give me pleasure, such as Zumba and yoga and the quick cuppa I snatch with my gym bunny friends afterwards, have the potential to increase my productivity by making me happier. I love Facebook and Twitter but see that they can be time sucks, so I have a bit of a routine, only going on for short times and at certain times. (Mainly.) (Sometimes.) (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)
You’ve chosen narcolepsy as a subject for a romance novel in your new book, Dream A Little Dream. What was the thinking behind this? Why were you drawn to this particular condition?
It was whimsical. I was talking to an online friend about titles. Further down the email he commented on some other matter with, ‘Life’s not a dream’. And I said, ‘Dream – that would be a good word to include in one of my titles.’ I knew Dominic Christy would have a condition that he felt reflexology would be unable to help him with (Liza Reece was already a reflexologist as she was a secondary character in All That Mullarkey) and the idea of narcolepsy came to me by association. We’re all familiar with sleep-time dreams (which people with the rare sleep disorder narcolepsy can experience in a particularly vivid form) but we also use the word to refer to goals and aspirations. Both definitions power my book. I became a research junkie on the subject of narcolepsy and can’t quite leave it alone, even now.
What research was involved?
Lots. I began by reading websites and books. I realised that I was reading the same fairly superficial information there and moved on to message boards, where real people with narcolepsy discussed their issues. But I still didn’t feel that I was getting under the skin of a person with narcolepsy so I joined the Narcolepsy UK website message board and asked for someone to help me. I said that my hero was called Dominic Christy, was in his thirties and had narcolepsy. Amongst several replies from people of the wrong gender or age was one that began, ‘I had to write to you because my name is Dominic, I’m in my thirties and have narcolepsy …’ The Real Dominic became my major source of research. He told me early on that he was on board if I told it as it is, as he was pretty sick of stand-up comedians using the disability as a butt to their jokes, and I was happy to comply. As I’ve got to know The Real Dominic I’ve realised how absolutely unfunny narcolepsy can be. His commitment to my project was amazing, considering he has a busy and responsible full time job as well as all the other usual trappings of life to deal with. If he ever covered his eyes and groaned when he saw my e-mails with ‘Quick question …’ in the subject line, he never let me know.
We’re told everybody dreams, even though we don’t always remember. How vividly do you recall your dreams and are they in colour?
Sometimes very vividly, but only in snatches. I’ve never been able to work out if my dreams are in colour or whether I just paint colour in when I’m recalling them. I’m subject to nightmares, which may be a reason why I don’t like reading or watching anything scary – it comes back get me that night!
Have your dreams resolved waking problems or plots?
Not really. I have dreamed about something I’m writing but haven’t been able to recall it in a cogent form.
What are your future dreams and aspirations?
I’d like to sell my novels in greater numbers (and, therefore, be free to spend more time on Zumba and yoga, writing conferences and the associated social stuff). I’d like to travel more, be able to afford first class tickets routinely. And own a helicopter. And a house in Malta. (No harm in dreaming big, is there?)
How did you get into judging and teaching creative writing?
That work seems to come and find me. I rarely pitch for it and have no formal teacher training. I think that I’m a natural communicator (even when people don’t necessarily wish me to share with them) and have little trouble forming opinions (ditto). At a couple of writerly events people asked me stuff – mainly how to sell short stories, in those days, I think. My responses were overheard, became discussions, and I was asked to contribute to panels. Then someone asked me to teach a distance-learning course, then someone else asked me to teach at a residential course. I receive offers frequently. It just happened. It rarely occurs to me that I can’t do these things but I do tell whoever employs me that I don’t have qualifications, just a body of work and the ability to critique.
How much are you looking forward to teaching in Umbria?
LOTS! That work I did kind of pitch for. A friend posted on a forum saying that she knew someone who was putting on residential writing courses and asked for people to give their feedback on what they felt worked or didn’t. I provided feedback and added, ‘And if your contact’s looking for a tutor, do remember me.’ But, as my friend is dyslexic, I honestly thought the courses were in Cumbria. When Arte Umbria contacted me and gave me their URL and I saw their fabulous Italian estate with a country house, a pool, and all those gorgeous walks, I was astounded. And signed up as soon as I was asked to.
Now for a quick-fire round:
Silverstone or Brands Hatch?
Silverstone. Mainly because I’ve never been to Brands Hatch.
Senna or Schumacher?
Which Senna, Ayrton or Bruno? Which Schumacher, Michael or Ralf? Senna, anyway, because I’ve never been much of a Schumacher fan, although I’ve enjoyed Michael more in his comeback career than I did first time around.
Foggy or Rossi?
Foggy. I used to work at Motor Cycle News when he was a big star and drew on his looks a little bit for Justin in All That Mullarkey. But I have huge respect for Valentino Rossi.
Monday, Monday or California Dreaming?
Lean or broad?
Leanish, but with muscles.
Home or away?
Depends where away is, but if it’s somewhere nice (and warm), away.
Solid sleep or power naps?
Solid sleep. Power naps tend to disrupt my solid sleep.
Fantasy world or real world?
Fantasy. Real is too painful, sometimes.
Thank you so much for dropping by today, Sue, and for answering these questions and all the other questions The Romaniacs have thrown at you over the last few months.
You’ve been a dream guest.
🙂 Thank you. You’re all lovely and I look forward to lifting a few glasses with you again soon.
Sue Moorcroft writes romantic novels of dauntless heroines and irresistible heroes for Choc Lit. Her last book, Love & Freedom, won the Best Romantic Read Award 2011 at the Festival of Romance and Dream a Little Dream is out now.
Combining writing success with her experience as a creative writing tutor, she’s written a ‘how to’ book, Love Writing – How to Make Money From Writing Romantic and Erotic Fiction (Accent Press). Sue also writes short stories, serials, articles and courses and is the head judge for Writers’ Forum fiction competition. She’s a Katie Fforde Bursary Award winner.