Find Out Friday: Sue Moorcroft
1/27/2012 9:28:33 AM
As we cheer at the imminent arrival of February, I am exceedingly (adverb) happy to welcome award winning author for Choc Lit, creative writer tutor and competition judge, Sue Moorcroft.
Good Friday morning, Sue. What have you put aside to answer these questions?
Finishing my WIP, Dream a Little Dream! (Don’t tell anyone on the Choc Lit team …) It’s due in on the 31st and I’m putting the last loving polish on it. Of course, that’s prior to the editing process. Dream a Little Dream is a Middledip book, like Starting Over and All That Mullarkey.
You are one of the busiest people I know. How many ‘hats’ do you wear and how do you divide your time between your roles?
I almost don’t know where to begin this answer. But here are some of the things I do:
- write novels for Choc Lit
- two columns a month for Writers’ Forum
- judge and critiquing for Writers’ Forum
- judge for Writers’ News
- judge various other competitions as people offer the work
- write serials for magazines
- write short stories for magazines (has taken a back seat, lately, I’m afraid)
- carry out some tasks for the Romantic Novelists Association, following my eight-year term as a committee member
- a few things for National Short Story Week, as I’m on the steering committee
- tutor for the London School of Journalism
- workshops for various libraries or writing groups, as opportunities arise
- review books for various organisations on an occasional basis
- write a Formula 1 column for Girlracer.co.uk after each F1 race
- do the admin etc that arises from being one’s own boss
- and all the promo that arises from being a writer and wishing books to sell
- and all the social media that helps with promo/research/human interaction
- and all the research that my novelist’s nosy little heart demands
I suppose I apportion time according to deadlines. But if I can’t get on with my novels, I get grumpy, grumpy, GRUMPY! So I end up working a lot of weekends etc, especially if I’m behind with competition entries or student assignments. I used to deal with students and comp entries in the morning and write in the afternoon but I’ve changed things around a bit and tend to have whole days on one or the other.
As a child, what were your favourite books? What made them special?
I loved Enid Blyton books, particularly the Famous Five and the Secret Seven. I just devoured them. Also books about dancing, ponies and circuses. And dogs, but they sometimes made me cry. I began on adult novels (Nevil Shute, Alistair McLean) quite early in life – aged about eight or nine, I think. My dad used to vet what I was reading. (‘Lolita? Not that one, darling …’)
Who inspired you to write?
Did anyone? I don’t know. I feel it’s a compulsion rather than an inspiration. A voracious reader and a daydreamer, I suppose the natural thing was to write down stories that wandered around in my head.
Also, I had an absolutely horrible teacher in my last year of primary school, the kind who held the whole class terrified whilst he indulged in Tazmanian Devil type tantrums. But he told me I could write and said that one day there would be novels on the shelf with ‘Sue Moorcroft’ on the spine. He’s long gone, now, otherwise I could tell him that he was right. And that he was a nasty little worm who shouldn’t have been allowed near children.
At what point and how did you become involved with the Romantic Novelists Association?
I believe it was around 1999. I was with the short story agency, Midland Exposure, and at one of their parties I met an RNA member who told me all about the association and this marvellous-sounding thing called the New Writers’ Scheme. Within weeks, I saw that Marina Oliver, the then chairman, I think, was speaking at a local library. I went to the event and my mobile phone went off asMarina was speaking, so I had the ideal excuse to go up at the end and apologise for being so rude. She’s a lovely person, so put me at me ease, and I asked her all about the RNA. I don’t remember where I got the application form from, but I joined straight away and my membership has never lapsed.
Last year saw you take on the role of New Writers’ Scheme Agony Aunt. How did this come about and how is it going?
I pinched the idea from the Romance Writers of Australia, frankly! They have an agony aunt in their in-house mag, and I thought it would be a good idea, so offered. Anyone in the RNA can send me questions, not just NWS members. I’m kind of hosting the page, rather than setting myself up as the World Authority on Everything, and am procuring replies from other writers or industry professionals, where required.
Tell me about your role as a reader for the RNA.
I feel that the RNA NWS helped me so much (the wonderful Margaret James was the NWS Co-ordinator, then, and was an enormous help and support to me. And still is!) that it’s only right I put something back. From my judging/tutoring work, it seems that I have the facility to be objective about a manuscript and feed back in such a way that the writer can improve. So I do.
You are also a competition judge. What criteria do you follow when judging?
It depends what I’m judging and for whom. The organisation in question may well tell me what they’re looking for. I have to be objective and not reject, say, a sci fi story because I don’t care for sci fi, personally, of course. Though I can only use my judgement, I try to be fair. The bulk of my judging comes through Writers’ Forum and the editor and I have a view in common—the story is important. So beautiful pieces of writing with no plot do not fare well.
Do you use the same criteria as a reader for the RNA?
Not really. The function isn’t the same. For the RNA I’m trying to feed back to the writer areas in which I feel improvement can be made, and perhaps how. I’m not taking a hundred stories, making up a shortlist then choosing first, second and third. As an RNA reader I try and be realistic but encouraging—it has more in common with being a tutor than a judge. I have been in the New Writer’s shoes (and still am, every time I’m edited) and so I try and make truths palatable. I acknowledge that the writer might hate me for saying something, but I say it, and tell them why. I have twin strands of thought: publishing is a hard, competitive business, so you’re going to have to learn to take feedback; but if I can work hard and persist until my books are on the shelves, so can you. Those thoughts are behind every critique I write.
What is it that makes you want to teach the craft of writing?
OK, not just money. But, in a career as up and down as writing, it does help to have a bit of money you can rely on each month (to pay your son’s rent at uni …). As someone who didn’t like school or being taught, I’m kind of surprised that I do like being a tutor. I think it comes down to that thing about having a facility to feed back to people. Some people call this being opinionated!
2011 was the year when I moved into the writing world, having lived on the outskirts for a while. I have found the residents to be friendly, supportive and nurturing. There is no jealousy. I think about this a lot – too much probably – but in other competitive markets, someone is always ready to gossip about you or put you down. What is it that makes the people in the writing world different?
Gosh. No idea. It may just be the RNA that’s mega-supportive and foster a ‘can do’ attitude? I certainly hear/read mean and bitchy remarks from writers in other areas, once in a while. But I, too, have met mainly with nurturing and encouragement from those who seem genuinely to want me to succeed. Maybe there’s some nice people and some not-so-nice in every creative industry?
What was the most important piece of advice you have been given, writerly or otherwise?
Don’t make enemies.
What is your favourite film and why? (It doesn’t have to be a romance.)
About thirty have just flipped through my head! I’ll say National Lampoon’s Animal House, with the late, great John Belushi, simply because I associate it with a happy, fun time in my life, and because it contains one of the funniest lines I ever heard.
And what sort of music do you enjoy?
A wide variety. I love music with excellent lyrics, such as written by Newton Faulkner, Frank Turner and Regina Spektor. It can distract me from my own writing, though, as I listen and realise that their words are better than mine. Here are a few more of my most adored artists, throughout my life: David Bowie, Elton John, Gnidrolog, Dory Previn, Ian Dury, Leonard Cohen, Damien Rice, James Taylor, Neil Young, Andy Fairweather Low, the Beatles (both as a group and individual members), Queen, Sting, Beautiful South. There are loads more. I sometimes have classical music playing when I write. If I can’t tell you what I’ve been listening to, I’m pleased. It means I’ve been ‘in the zone’ and submerged in my story.
If you have any spare time, what is it you like to do?
Read. Watch Formula 1 (I am a self-confessed Formula 1 bore). Walk. Zumba. Yoga. Hang out with my friends. Read some more. Travel.
All right or alright?
All right. Alright seems alwrong, to me.
What do you have lined up for 2012?
Dream a Little Dream is scheduled for November publication. My backlist Choc Lit books come out in theUS in May. The new Formula 1 season begins in March. And I’ll just keep on doing everything I did in 2011, I suspect!
Sue Moorcroft writes romantic novels of dauntless heroines and irresistible heroes for Choc Lit. Combining that 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. Her latest book, Love & Freedom, won the Best Romantic Read Award 2011 at the Festival of Romance. She’s a Katie Fforde Bursary Award winner.
Check out her website www.suemoorcroft.com and her blog at http://suemoorcroft.wordpress.com/ for news and writing tips. You’re welcome to befriend Sue on Facebook or Follow Sue on Twitter.
All of Sue’s Choc Lit novels and Love Writing are available as paperbacks and eBooks. Her early stuff is available in eBook format.
Sue – thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions – they are not the first and they will not be the last, I’m sure.
The next FoF is on February 10th with another multi-tasking, ultra-busy author, Kate Allan.
1/28/2012 8:20:05 AM
For everyone who’s curious about the funny line in Animal House, it’s not X-rated, and I’ve already told Henri, back channel:
One of the Barbie doll girls says, of John Belushi, ‘That boy is a P-I-G pig.’ John Belushi says, ‘What am I now?’ Scarfs up an entire meringue, chews it up, blows out his cheeks and slaps them so the meringue erupts all over everyone and explains, ‘I’m a zit.’
1/27/2012 9:44:09 PM
I laughed out loud when Laura asked Sue what she did in her spare time.
That list of commitments made my jaw drop… Uber Multi-Tasker!
1/27/2012 7:47:43 PM
I loved the simple questions with the simple answers! I found it really interesting and unique.
I aspire to be like my mum, or at least one book, so this has really helped.
Thank you Sue and Mum.
Laura E. James:
1/27/2012 6:57:53 PM
Sue Moorcroft Interview.
You’re all very kind and thank you for your lovely compliments about my questions. They stem from a basic nosiness. Sue – like Henri, I am wondering what the funny line from Animal House is. I’ve tried to Google it, but it throws up many lines I should know through osmosis, as my brother watched it many times in our youth, although I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in the right order. Ahh – the wonders of rewind on the old VCR’s.
1/27/2012 6:44:27 PM
Great questions Laura and really enjoyable answers from Sue. What more can I say? Fab!
1/27/2012 5:33:56 PM
Find Out Friday.
Thank you, everyone, for your kind comments. I really enjoyed doing Laura’s interview, because she found some questions to ask that were interesting and fresh. Oh! Just realised! I left ‘doing interviews’ off my list! Have a happy weekend, everyone.
1/27/2012 5:15:20 PM
Interview with Sue Moorcroft.
Laura -I really enjoyed reading this-great questions!
Sue – it’s interesting to find out more about your work (how do you do it all by the way?!) and everything you do for the RNA. Best of luck with finishing your WIP.
1/27/2012 4:01:30 PM
The funniest line.
Lovely interview, Sue, and I honestly didn’t know you had that many hats. A few, yes, but not THAT many! I’m also a great fan of the film “Animal House”, and can watch it again and again, but that funniest line, please tell me what it is as I don’t remember it word for word. Or if it’s not suitable to mention in public (very likely where “Animal House” is concerned), please email me privately. Hx
Laura E. James:
1/27/2012 3:10:08 PM
Thank you everyone, for your lovely comments. Sue is a great interviewee and she never fails to bring a smile to my face. Glad you enjoyed the piece.
I think we could all use a cup of coffee now!
1/27/2012 3:07:08 PM
And I thought you were the busy one Laura!
1/27/2012 1:46:29 PM
Interview with Sue.
Another fab interview, Laura. I can’t believe how many different hats Sue wears. What an exhaustive list! Thanks for giving us such an interesting & inspiring insight into your life, Sue. A fascinating read x
1/27/2012 12:56:39 PM
I’m also exhausted reading about Sue’s action-packed timetable. Wow – won’t moan about being busy any more, honest.
Interesting questions, Laura. Loved ‘All That Mullarky’ but I haven’t read ‘Starting Over’ yet, will Kindle it soon as I’ve finished the new P.D James.
1/27/2012 11:32:52 AM
What a fantastic insight to an extremely busy and successful author. It tires me out just reading what you do, Sue! Do you know what sleep is? You must try it sometime
Seriously, though, a lovely overview of what it takes to be successful. And very heartwarming to hear that you give back so much.
Oh, and some fantastic questions posed, Laura! A great read.