Sunday Sojourn (two) – with Sue Barnard
Welcome back to the blog, Sue, tell me about your current project.
I’ve just returned to a poetry project which has been on the go for (literally) years. I’m working on a collection of limericks based on the works of Shakespeare. Yes, that’s how crazy I am.
Wow, sounds a great idea! (And as an aside, having read one of them, they’re going to be very good!) In your fiction, do you use real or imagined settings? Or both? If both, which do you prefer?
Both. The main action of The Ghostly Father is set in Venice, Verona and Mantua, and whilst I tried to keep it generally authentic, I did take one or two liberties with specific scenes. My other two novels (Nice Girls Don’t and The Unkindest Cut of All) are both set in fictional English towns, although one scene in Nice Girls Don’t takes place in a real (though unnamed) location in northern France.
Which do I prefer? Both. Sometimes it’s good to have a real setting in mind when I’m writing, but on other occasions it’s better not to feel constrained; it allows me to be more inventive.
If you could have written the back catalogue, or even just one novel, or any other writer, who would it be, and why?
Oh gosh. There are so many. But if I had to narrow it down to just one, I think it would have to be the late, great Terry Pratchett. Such great writing, so many truths, so much humour. It breaks my heart to think that there will now be no more from the same pen.
I loved The Ghostly Father – if you could change the ending of another famous book or play, which would you choose, and how would you alter things?
Thank you – it’s very kind of you to say so! (SPOILER ALERT) Can I choose two? I’d prevent Bill Sikes from killing Nancy in Oliver Twist, and I’d find a way of saving Tess of the D’Urbervilles from the hangman’s noose.
Did you find it easier or harder working with somebody else’s characters in The Ghostly Father? Would you do it again, and if so, is there a particular fictional character you’d like to work with?
It was easier than pulling ideas out of the air, because I already had a pre-assembled cast of characters, and I had to make sure they stayed true to their original nature. Having said that, it was also very satisfying to take some of the characters who, in the play, scarcely step out of the shadows, and develop their personalities more deeply.
You edited my novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London – how do you find the editing process? Do you sometimes struggle to switch off your editor’s brain when reading published fiction?
I love being an editor; it’s very satisfying helping other writers achieve their dream. I’ve often compared the process to polishing a precious stone – smoothing off any rough edges and allowing the gem to shine in all its glory.
I don’t think I ever switch off my editor’s brain. But then, I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t switched on. I am – and have always been – a terminal pedant.
Has editing somebody else’s work ever helped you spot something to improve in your own work?
Yes. Having compiled a check-list of things to look out for when editing a manuscript, I have to be extra-careful to avoid them myself. I don’t always manage it – but then, isn’t that why we have editors?
Thanks for joining me, Sue!