Wednesday 7 November 2012

The Write Way with Sue Moorcroft

Image provided by the author
Your new book ‘Dream A Little Dream’ is published today. Congratulations! How are you planning to spend publication day? 
What a good question! I’ll spend quite a bit of it at my computer, talking about the book on Twitter and Facebook and my blog. At lunchtime, I’ll go to my yoga class and then have a quick lunch with my gym bunny buddies – I’ll probably buy them cakes. This evening, I shall have to open something sparkly (wine, not diamonds …) Pity my brother isn’t living in this country because it’s his birthday and we could have partied together.
Can you tell my readers a little bit about ‘Dream A Little Dream’?
The word ‘dream’ can refer to our daydreams, sleeping dreams or our aspirations. All of those definitions drive Dream A Little Dream. Dominic Christy has been diagnosed with the rare sleep disorder, narcolepsy, a condition that includes exceptionally vivid dreams, waking dreams and uncontrolled sleep. He’s had to give up his dream job as an air traffic controller, his relationship ended at about the same time as he got his diagnosis, and he needs a new dream. Liza Reece, who readers may have met already as the sister of Cleo in All That Mullarkey, has had a rough year – although I left her all loved up with Adam, that’s gone wrong – and is busy creating a dream of her own. Unfortunately, if Dominic realises his dream then Liza can’t and if Liza realises her dream then Dominic can’t.
This is your fifth book now with the independent publisher Choc Lit. What can you tell me about Choc Lit that makes you love working with them so much?
They’re great. I feel as if my work matters to them and that I matter to them. They punch above their weight in terms of distribution and winning awards and they’re full of good promo ideas. They’re willing to listen to my promo ideas, too. I feel we’re all on the same team.
‘Love & Freedom’ won the Best Romantic Read Award in 2011 at the Festival of Romance. How did you feel when you found out?
Wow, that was one of those moments. I had already signed up to attend the Festival of Romance and its awards night when I learned I’d been shortlisted. That was a great moment but, looking at the other writers on the list, I honestly didn’t think I stood a chance. I was eating my dinner at the awards evening when they began to call for the shortlistees and had to be told to shut up and take my place in the line up. There were lots of photos being taken and, belatedly, I realised that I would have been better spending my time doing something with my mad hair, rather than gossiping over dinner. But, oh well, it wouldn’t be me who won … Then the organiser opened the envelope and said, ‘And it’s Sue Moorcroft for Love & Freedom’ and I just stood there. The next person in the line had to nudge me and say, ‘Go on!’ before I went up to accept my award (a very pretty piece of crystal). I hadn’t prepared a speech but managed to remember to thank everyone (I think) and my publisher was there so she got up to give me a hug, and lots of my friends were there to bounce around and cheer and it was absolutely amazing. When I got back to my table, the waiter had brought my dessert and the ice cream was melting over the cake, so I ate the cake before I texted anybody with the news. There were more photos and people coming up to me and it all just passed in a blur (the cake was good, though) but I do remember going into the bar and singing with friends until the early hours.
Do you find the writing gets harder or easier with each new book you write?
It varies from book to book. Dream a Little Dream was an amazing book. It took on a life of its own and the research into narcolepsy really helped shape it. I sometimes felt the book was controlling me, rather than the other way around – as if I’d taken a dragon for a walk and it had soared off into the sky with me clinging to the lead.
I like beginning a new book because nothing’s gone wrong yet! Halfway through is my sticking point.
What kind of research did you need to do in order to write ‘Dream A Little Dream’?
How long have you got? First and foremost: narcolepsy. It’s a rare, complex, frustrating and fantastical disability. I gave it to Dominic Christy for a pretty whimsical reason and then found it hard to get all the information I needed. I kept reading the same superficial stuff, so I went onto the message board of Narcolepsy UK, outlined my project and asked if anyone would help me understand what narcolepsy is really like. I said my hero was called Dominic, was in his thirties and suffered from narcolepsy. Amongst several replies was one from a guy who said, ‘My name’s Dominic, I’m in my thirties and suffer from narcolepsy …’ He began by helping me via e-mail but then we started meeting up and he was unstinting with his time and insight. He also read the manuscript twice and answered a lot more e-mails. I think it’s safe to say that without him, the book couldn’t have been written.
Liza is a reflexologist, so I had a lot of fun researching that (and fish pedicures, as an aside); a friend wangled me a trip into the air traffic control tower at Stansted; and another taught me how to drive their river cruiser. I always enjoy research, but Dream A Little Dream was exceptional.
Do you plot each book out before you write it or do you just let the story unfold as you go along?
Somewhere in between. I like to know what the book’s about and something of the conflicts and quests that hero and heroine have. I do a lot of character work in longhand scribble and look at each character not in isolation but from various points of view. For example, Liza will have a different view of Dominic to the views held by his cousin Miranda or his old friend Kenny. I get interested in how the hero and heroine will conflict with one another; what draws them together and what keeps them apart. The story begins to show itself to me and after a while I start to write it because I have that feeling that if I don’t get something down soon, some of those ideas will drain away. When I’m writing a book I feel like one of those people who keep plates spinning on sticks – dashing around and feeling anxious.
Do you edit as you go along or do you wait until the first draft is finished?
Again, somewhere in between. I usually read and edit my last day’s output and then carry on writing from there. I try not to edit any more than that before the first draft is written, because I find I’m marking time. Editing is much preferable to writing the first draft, to me.
When do you find is the best time for you to write during the day?
Afternoon. I frequently spend the mornings working with students or on competitions and then write in the afternoon.
Do you have a daily word target you aim for each day?
Yes, it’s 1000 words – but I prefer to write more so it’s more of a minimum than a target. Of course, sometimes, I’m not writing as such; I’m doing research or editing, so the target isn’t relevant.
Which authors inspired you while growing up?
Nevil Shute was a huge inspiration. He was one of the first adult authors I read – I was about ten – and I was just blown away. His stuff is dated now, understandably as he died in 1960, but I still love reading it. There were other authors who wrote kind of adventurous stuff, such as Alistair McLean and Douglas Reeman, then lots of authors of romantic fiction, such as Georgette Heyer and Kathleen Woodiwiss. When I was really young I read a lot of Enid Blyton, Monica Edwards, Monica Dickens and Elinor M Brent-Dyer. Whatever age I was, I read a lot.
I understand that you are a writing tutor too as well as a judge for Writer’s Forum Magazine. How do you fit it all in?
I work quite a lot of hours, about fifty or sixty a week. Dividing each day into two seems to work well. I’ve tried dividing the week up, instead, so I have a day with students and competition entrants then a day’s writing, but it’s not so productive. I don’t get as much writing done in one whole day as I do in two half days. I think I’m helped by being able to type rapidly, too.
Do you have any advice for aspiring and unpublished authors?
Educate yourself, via writing books and magazines, conferences and talks. Seek the company of other writers, again at conferences and talks but also writing groups and on-line communities. Don’t give up – I truly believe that the name for a writer who doesn’t give up is ‘published’. And, I suppose, they could always read my ‘how to’ book, Love Writing!
Thank you Sue for such fabulous and inspiring answers.
Thanks for inviting me to guest on your blog. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.
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 new 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. Check out her website and her blog at for news and writing tips. You’re welcome to befriend Sue on Facebook or Follow Sue on Twitter.
Image provided by the author


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