Sue Featherstone is a former journalist and public relations practitioner turned academic, with a new book coming out. I had a chance to talk with her about writing, her blog, and her background.
Tell me about A Falling Friend and A Forsaken Friend.
Character-driven contemporary women’s fiction, more diva lit than chick lit, that follows the lives of best friends Teri Meyer and Lee Harper as they navigate the ups-and-downs of their friendship whilst also juggling men, careers and family.
What is it like to write a book with a long time friend?
Great fun! We started writing together 13 years ago – the first two books were how-to practical journalism text books – but we actually met when my youngest daughter was about seven months old. She’s now 28 – so a long, long time ago.
I’d taken maternity leave from my job as internal communications manager for a UK utility company and, returning to work, wanted to reduce my hours. At the time, Susan was living in Wales but wanted to return to Yorkshire. Her boyfriend, now her husband, knew me and knew I was looking for a job-share partner so he set up a meeting. We clicked straight away and, when we both moved on to pursue different ambitions five years later, kept in touch.
Both of us ended up studying English Literature as mature students, before re-inventing ourselves as university lecturers. I taught journalism at Sheffield Hallam University, where I was inaugural course leader of the BA Journalism programme, and Susan ran the masters journalism course at Leeds Trinity University.
In those days, degrees in journalism were still a relatively new discipline in the UK and the range of practical text books was fairly limited. Both Susan and I felt there was nothing that quite met the needs of our students so we sent a proposal to four publishers. By the end of the afternoon we’d had two expressions of interest.
That first proposal became Newspaper Journalism: A Practical Introduction and was followed by Feature Writing: A Practical Introduction. Both books are still on the reading lists of a number of UK and US universities.
That’s when we turned to fiction: but, oh, it was so much harder to make things up than to write factually.
The two text books each took a year to write whilst our first novel A Falling Friend took eight years. Initially, it was supposed to be a standalone book but so many readers asked what happened next that we decided to find out.
A Forsaken Friend took two years to complete (it’s published on March 21). A Forgiven Friend, the final installment in our Friends trilogy, should (fingers and toes crossed) be finished this summer.
The story in all three books is told from the point of view of two different characters, Teri Meyer and Lee Harper – best friends, whose relationship becomes a bit strained when Teri loses her job as a university academic and Lee falls in love with Teri’s ex-husband. Each of the women has a different, sometimes conflicting, perspective on events, which can cause tensions…
Susan writes from Teri’s POV and I write Lee’s side of the story. Although we always have a clear outline of where the plot is going and where the characters should end up, Teri and Lee frequently spring surprises. I love it when an email from Susan pings into the inbox and I read her latest chapter and think: ‘Oh, I didn’t expect that!’
You’ve got a successful book review blog. What’s your secret?
It’s kind of you to describe Book Lovers’ Booklist as successful: we started it because, as writers, we felt we needed an online presence and, because we love reading and writing, a book review website seemed a sensible option.
It’s now almost two years old and the blog has expanded to cover news and views as well as author Q&As. In addition, we’re now about to launch a new A Day in the Life of a Blogger feature.
We enjoy blogging and interacting with other writers and bloggers and sharing our bookish opinions with readers. It’s so rewarding when someone leaves a comment saying they’ve enjoyed a review or that they’ve bought a book on our recommendation and loved it.
What’s our secret? We try and follow the rules we learned as journalists: say it once, say it well and move on. Avoid personal pronouns as much as possible – so don’t write ‘I think…I feel…in my opinion…’ Your byline is attached to the review so readers know these are your thoughts, opinions, feelings etc. Always support opinions with hard facts. And PROOFREAD!
Also avoid screamers or explanation marks as much as possible!!!
Which authors that you’ve interviewed really stand out?
All of them have been different and all have been interesting. I’m always amazed by the generosity with which they share their little quirks and foibles. For instance, River Dance gives YA author Rebecca Carpenter goosebumps; crime writer Sheryl Browne once floated away when she was deep sea diving because she’s so tiny there wasn’t enough ballast to hold her; and romantic novelist Kate Blackadder used to be a terrible nail biter, who, as a child, once seriously contemplated chewing the nails of her sleeping sister.
What are you writing now?
At the moment, I’ve just started chapter 5a of A Forgiven Friend, the final book in our Friends trilogy. We use a chapter 1/chapter 1a numbering system when the book is in draft form so we can keep track of the alternating voices. (When we’re finished Susan has the thankless task of re-numbering the chapters sequentially.) In chapter 1 – Teri begins all guns blazing, to which usually Lee responds in chapter 1a, attempting to put out the fires started by Teri, filling in gaps and moving the story on. Teri comes back with chapter 2, again responding to whatever cliff hanger Lee has left dangling. Chapter 2a picks up Lee’s version of events and leaves another end-of-chapter what happens next?
And so on and so on.
The two women have been friends since their teens and are a classic case of opposites attracting. Teri is vivacious, attractive, a little bit naughty and thoroughly selfish and self-centred. Lee is pretty in an under-stated sort of way, serious and career-focused with a warm and loving family. She’d really like to be a little more daring and, just sometimes, wishes she could, like Teri, snap her fingers at other people. Teri, on the other hand, envies Lee’s stability and common sense.
Somehow, they make each other laugh and whatever else happens to them: they always have each other’s back.
It’s great fun writing about them.
Sue Featherstone’s career started in local newspapers before switching to PR to become internal communications manager with a large utility company.
She completed a degree in English Literature as a mature student and subsequently moved into higher education, teaching journalism to undergraduate students at Sheffield Hallam University.
At the beginning of 2017, Sue left Sheffield Hallam to focus on her writing.
Together with her friend and writing partner Susan Pape, she has written two successful journalism text books – Newspaper Journalism: A Practical Introduction; and Feature Writing: A Practical Introduction.
Their first novel, A Falling Friend, was published by Lakewater Press in 2016 and a sequel A Forsaken Friend is published on March 21, 2018. The final book in their Friends trilogy will follow next year.
They now write about books at https://bookloversbooklist.com/
|Back to All Systems Down|