INTERVIEW

June 2014

SUE WATSON

Sue Watson’s latest novel Love, Lies and Lemon Cake is out this month. She is also the author of Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes and Younger, Thinner, Blonder and has worked as a journalist and TV producer. (Interview by Jade Craddock)

Return to interview list

  1. 1. Tell us about your new novel, Love, Lies and Lemon Cake?

    I’m really excited about this novel because Faye, my heroine, is someone every woman can relate to. She’s living a very ordinary life, safely married with a job, and a child she knows exactly what she will be doing ten years from now. But Faye has dreams and they keep her awake at night – she wants to leave the armchair and another night of telly to experience the thrill of passion-filled kisses and sex under the stars. She wants to see the world and leave her own small world behind, but when she meets a gorgeous, younger man who might just help her do that Faye has to decide what she really wants... before it’s too late.

  2. 2. How would you describe your heroine Faye?

    She’s kind, funny and bright with a lot of enthusiasm for life. She feels buried and insignificant and her shyness means she talks too much and says the wrong thing when she’s nervous, which is both mortifying and hilarious. She’s also has a ‘living list’ of all the things she wants to see and do in life, which I think deep down we all do – even if it’s not actually written down. I love Faye and currently she’s the favourite of all my ‘leading ladies’ – because I reckon there’s a little bit of Faye in all of us.

  3. 3. How was the experience of writing this novel?

    It’s a great question because I feel this novel took me further than my previous ones in terms of my ‘immersion’. It sounds a bit bonkers, but I had to keep reminding myself it wasn’t real because I became so involved with the characters and the situation and at times felt like I was living a double life. The ‘hero’ Dan is Australian and when I hear an Australian accent now I think of him, and miss him like he really has been part of my life. When I’ve finished writing, I miss all the characters from my books... but Dan, he was special, with his firm thighs... taut tummy, bronzed biceps... I’ll stop now.

  4. 4. How much of you is there in this book?

    I think there’s quite a bit of me in this book. I really feel for Faye and the situation she’s in and however happily married you might be (which I am) there are times when we all wish we could just leave, get on a plane and go somewhere else... don’t we? Oh – it’s just me then? :)

  5. 5. This is your third book, how has the writing process/experience changed?

    I’m now with a different publisher and editor so on a practical level the writing/deadline/marketing process has changed immensely and been good for me as a writer. As for the more personal I feel this book contains a little bit of my heart.

  6. 6. You’ve recently signed a three-book deal with Bookouture, how did the deal come about and what’s been the highlight so far?

    It’s been a wonderful experience. I spotted Bookouture’s website at about 11pm one evening sitting in bed with my Kindle Fire and just knew it was everything I had been looking for. I was so excited I woke my husband up at midnight to show him – I wanted to talk about it but, not surprisingly he didn’t. I couldn’t sleep and first thing the next morning I wrote to Bookouture sending my idea for Love, Lies and Lemon Cake that I’d been percolating for a while. MD and Bookouture publisher Oliver Rhodes got back to me within the hour to say he was interested and I held my breath while he read the synopsis and first few chapters of the unfinished Love, Lies and Lemon Cake. Within a couple of days he called me to offer a three-book deal which was the highlight - until recently when he sent me the cover for the book which I just love and has to be my current highlight. I’m already excited to see what Bookouture produce for my next cover.

  7. 7. Have you begun to think about what books 2 and 3 will be about?

    I’m writing Book 2 now, it’s about two women, sisters, with different lives... that’s all I can say at the moment, and I’m sure it won’t be too long before it’s finished and out there.

  8. 8. What do you hope your books offer readers?

    Escape, fun, romance, passion. And in the case of Love, Lies and Lemon Cake, I hope it gives readers the chance to live through a truly wonderful, life-changing summer – without leaving their sunloungers.

  9. 9. What has writing given you and what would you be doing now if you weren’t an author?

    Writing gives me the chance to live other lives, chase my own dreams, try them out in my head and realise them in a book. I can’t help but take on the feelings of my heroine as I write and so can be prettier, funnier, younger and thinner. I was a journalist then a TV producer before I started writing so I’d probably still be working in TV, which was a wonderful career, but not as spectacular and all-consuming as writing. What kind of job allows you to spend all day with a gorgeous man on a sun-kissed beach and your husband doesn’t even mind?

  10. 10. Your heroine Faye dreams of being whisked to Paris for dinner, making three wishes at the Trevi fountain and having sex under the stars, what is your one dream?

    My dream is to do all the above – with Ryan Gosling.

Interview by Lisa O’Meara - November 2011 
  1. 1. What inspired you to write Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes?

    Well they say ‘write what you know...’ and I know an awful lot about working in TV and baking cakes. There had always been a novel inside me itching to get out because when I came to sit and write it I realised I’d made lots of mental and paper notes which I could use. Stuff I’d overheard people saying at work and conversations I’d had with friends and family were all cued up just waiting to be in Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes. Then several years ago, when I was struggling to cope with work and motherhood, a friend said her dream was to give up work and stay at home looking after her children and baking cakes all day. This sounded lovely and I believe that’s when the seed for the novel was planted and the shape began to form.

  2. 2. What do you think it is about Stella that will appeal to readers?

    Any woman who has had children, a marriage and held down a job will relate to what’s happening in Stella’s life. It must be biological, but most women give so much all the time that you’re not giving 100 per cent to anyone or anything ... not to mention, you have absolutely nothing left for yourself. Stella is like most of us, she’s attempting to live her life as best she can but is disappointed with how things have turned out. She’s funny and feisty and kind – but like the rest of us Stella is flawed and sometimes fails which can be funny at times ... but also quite sad. Her constant struggle to be a good mum, a driven career woman, a foxy chick for her husband and a good friend is something I think we can all relate to. What we forget is that we’re only human and it’s ok to save your sanity by taking your foot off the accelerator and allowing yourself to ‘fail’ sometimes.

  3. 3. You include some detailed recipes of Stella’s at the end of the book. Do you enjoy baking and where did you source your recipes?

    I LOVE baking and I’m currently spending a great deal of time in my kitchen creating fairy cakes by the million! I’m doing book signings and talks at Waterstones throughout the country. I’m live and unplugged and the ‘tour bus’ is filled with my homemade fairy cakes to give away at all the venues (to see my ‘gig’ dates check out my blog). All the recipes in the book are my own original ‘designs’ created by Stella (and me!) and inspired by the various glamorous fairy cake orders in the novel. From the cheeky Chocolate Chilli Cha C (from the Strictly Come Dancing collection) to Inebriated Christmas Tarts, I have created and tested ... and tested again... and again. It was all for my readers in the name of research (honest!) but now can’t fit into any of my clothes!

  4. 4. Did your work as a television producer help you when writing your book, and developing the character of Stella?

    I was a TV producer with the BBC for more than 10 years and during that time I worked on kitchen makeovers, garden takeovers and lots of lovely chat shows involving various red sofas and a celebrity. Though none of the actual events in the novel happened in real life – I took a great deal from my experiences in TV and changed them slightly here and there. My friends who work in TV say it’s ‘scarily’ believable and realistic – from the people to the programs – which I’m delighted about. The TV background was essential to Stella’s character because it’s a very driven, age-obsessed back-biting world – which also happens to be the best job with the most wonderful characters. It’s this leap from daytime glamour and glitz to home time and traffic queues and fish fingers for tea that causes Stella’s permanent dilemma about her career and her real life. She is defined by the crazy, unreal world she inhabits by day and when she’s sent away to shoot programs for weeks on end her doubts about herself as a wife and mother increase tenfold. It’s this dual life that she fears may eventually crash around her and when something devastating happens that is out of her control she knows it’s up to her to change her life - and herself.

  5. 5. What was your path to getting published?

    It was a rocky, winding, yellow brick road to being published which I have detailed on my own blog (it’s soo long I wouldn’t be rude enough to take up all your blog space). However, the edited version is that I was lucky and found an agent relatively early on (well about 100 agents into my mailout). She loved my work and offered it to the top ten publishers who, having shown initial interest, slowly and very painfully rejected the Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes one by one. I was devastated because this meant so much to me and we (my agent and I) were convinced that the book would be snapped up. After the final rejection I licked my wounds and told myself that at least I had an agent who would guide me through the publishing maelstrom with book two.... then she dumped me by email! About a year later I took out the MS (it was too painful to look at after all the rejections) and read it. I was surprised to discover that I still loved the book and wanted to share the characters and their lives with the world. I really believed in Stella, and Al and Lizzie and wanted them to breathe – so sent it out to several more publishers – some more rejections and also some positive feedback. Eventually I went with Rickshaw, a new, ambitious young publisher.

  6. 6. What have you learnt about the publishing industry since you became a published author?

    I have learnt that it’s harder to get published than it is to actually write the book. I’ve also learnt (certainly from my own perspective) that publishing can be an agonisingly slow process. I worked as a live producer and as such we turned around programs from idea to realisation within weeks sometimes. However it can take years to write a book many months to edit then another year (in my case) to actually have the book published.

  7. 7. What have you learnt about yourself since becoming an author?

    That’s an interesting one ... and relating to the last answer I’d say I’m impatient. I’ve always considered myself to be very laidback, which I am generally. However, where the book is concerned I am completely obsessed and as a mum of one I feel like I’ve almost given birth to my second child! It sounds incredibly over the top and dramatic but it has made me realise how important this whole ‘author’ thing is to me and I pester my publisher for figures and am constantly checking the Amazon figures. I’ve given up every weekend until Christmas to do signings at Waterstones because this means so much to me and it’s surprised me how I have become so passionate about my work. I have also learnt to trust my own instincts – I really believed in Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes when it seemed no one else did. I could easily have pushed it back in the drawer and moved on to something else but I just knew it was publishable so fought for it.

  8. 8. Which books and authors have had the biggest impact on your life?

    Like most authors I read a great deal and enjoy a really diverse selection of writing. I enjoy the US writer Jen Lancaster because she’s very funny and honest - she can make me laugh about stuff and get it all into perspective. In Such a Pretty Fat, she takes on an exercise regime and healthy eating program and it is funny and at the same time brutally honest writing about an issue close to my own heart. She is also deeply obsessed with reality TV and eating and watching TV when she should be writing (I sooo relate to that!) I also enjoy Marian Keyes' writing because I think she can combine hilarity with heartbreak, which is something I try to do in my writing. I am from the north of England and I think there’s definitely a darker humour in that part of the world. I’m currently reading A Kind of Intimacy by Jenn Ashworth, (a fellow Northerner) and it’s both profoundly moving and funny at the same time – clever writing.

  9. 9. What message do you hope readers will take from your book?

    I once had a friend who sadly now lives overseas and I don’t see him much, but he could make me laugh in the most awful situations. However down or worried I was about something he would always see the funny side and get life into perspective for me. I would like to be like my friend to the readers and show them that they’re not alone in their ageing, weight gain, disappointments and life’s betrayals. I want them to know that we’re all in this together and there are some things that make us really sad, but it’s never too late to make the best of things ... and laugh about it.

  10. 10. What are you working on now?

    I’m three-quarters way through my second book – working title is The Terrible Truth About Tanya Travis. It’s a tale set in Manchester and Nepal and reveals the story of a TV talk show host with a dark secret. It’s a different book to Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes but still has the same recipe of humour and heartbreak with a few surprises thrown in.

  11. 11. What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

    From my own experience I would have to say the best advice I can give is ‘don’t give up’. If you really believe in your MS but the rest of the world doesn’t then perhaps it’s they who are wrong and you are right? Keep going – it may need some editing here and there but if your writing has potential then stick with it and just keep sending it out. For someone to show some interest they have to see your work so just make sure it’s out there. Believe in yourself and your writing - if you don’t believe yourself how can you expect anyone else to?

Back to top