When did you first consider yourself a professional writer?
I think I only gradually allowed myself to think of myself that way. I could have argued that when I received my first fee for a short story (The People’s Friend, 1996), I was a professional but I was definitely in the ‘… but really a fraud’ state of mind for some time. This may be because I knew novelists, some of whom were massive bestsellers. That made me feel like a teeny weeny fish in the world’s biggest ocean. The first time I put ‘Writer’ as my occupation was a few years later.
How has your background, lived in different parts of the world, influenced your writing?
Being an army kid has definitely made me the person I am – self-sufficient and happy to travel. It also instilled in me a love of Malta, and I’ve used it as the setting for books, short stories and serials. If I can’t go myself, I can at least send characters! I don’t remember living in Cyprus or Germany but I have visited the latter as an adult and so have used it as a setting, also.
Which books/author influenced you the most as a child?
Enid Blyton. Not an original answer but a true one. I loved the Famous Five, Secret Seven, Mallory Towers, the Adventures series etc. I wanted to be with those children and I was a bookworm. There are plenty of others, though – Elinor M Brent-Dyer, Monica Edwards, Monica Dickens et al. By the time I was nine I was reading adult novels such as Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute. The last of these is my favourite book, ever.
How would you describe your stories in one sentence?
Women’s contemporary fiction with sometimes unexpected themes.
You run creative writing classes in Umbria, what do you, as the tutor take away from these retreats?
About 5lbs on my waist. I love the company of writers, talking about writing, hot weather and eating and drinking, so it’s a heaven-made match for me. I always learn from those I’m working with, too.
Who, or what, had the greatest influence on your decision to be a writer?
It’s more of a compulsion than a decision. It’s what I always wanted to do. It took me a while to find a way to make it work, partly through failings in myself and partly through failings in the education system, but I was lucky enough to get the support I needed, in the end. I should also mention my last teacher at primary school. He was a Tasmanian Devil, very shouty, throwing things around, ritually humiliating kids and making them scared to go to school. But he told me I could write and that one day there would be books on the shelf with ‘Sue Moorcroft’ on the spine. It’s not the main reason I write under my maiden name, but it’s one of them.
Is there one book on your shelf that is your absolute keeper and why?
As already mentioned, A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute. It was one of my earliest adult reads; my dad loved it, too, so we used to discuss it a lot; the epic love story between Jean and Joe just grabbed me by the heart. That their love triumphed in spite of war, cruelty and disaster transported me to a new emotional place, one that I’ve never entirely left.
Are you a plotter or an organic writer?
A plotter, but a messy one. I often describe myself more as a composter. Once I decide on the idea behind a novel I write extensive character bios, including what one character feels about another. Characters aren’t born on page 1 and I thoroughly explore their back stories. I like to know the characters’ goals and conflicts, and if I can make the conflicts of one affect the goals of another, or them share a goal that only one can achieve, then I feel I have the beginning of a plot. I explore certain aspects of what I’m going to write about in plans on large pieces of paper. Somewhere in this process I get the urge to begin, so I do.
You have written many short stories, are they easier or harder to write than a full length novel?
Writing a short story has many advantages. It’s short. It can be written in between other tasks or used as light relief. It can keep the bank account topped up. It can be used as a promotion tool for my novels if the magazine in question will also print my book covers. Having short stories published keeps my name out there.
A short story is like a single painting on a wall of an art gallery, with a bright light shining on it. Craft is laid bare and the idea has not only to be strong enough, but to be executable in few words with a small cast. Characters have to be made to feel real in a few pages. One idea will not sustain a year’s work, as it can in a novel. Every short story demands a new idea, a point to be made. These are not disadvantages so much as things of which to be aware. I haven’t really answered your question because I don’t think that short stories are easier or harder than novels. They’re shorter, and they’re different.
What is next for Sue Moorcroft?
My agent has in her hands my latest manuscript, The Truth About Ava, which is a novel set at Christmas in London. Ava doesn’t like Christmas. Her business as a couture milliner is not going well and her ex-boyfriend is threatening her with revenge porn. Sam’s the head of a successful communications agency. His mother has cancer and he’s trying to give her Christmas, never having given anybody Christmas before. I loved writing this novel (and rewriting it a few times) and there’s a viral marketing campaign as part of the plot, of which I’m proud. It doesn’t make things easy for either Sam or Ava, though.
I’ve also sold a couple of stories to My Weekly recently and soon I will be off to teach creative writing in Umbria once more.
Award winning author Sue Moorcroft writes contemporary women’s fiction with occasionally unexpected themes. The Wedding Proposal, Dream a Little Dream and Is this Love? were all nominated for Readers’ Best Romantic Read Awards. Love & Freedom won the Best Romantic Read Award 2011 and Dream a Little Dream was nominated for a RoNA in 2013. Sue’s a Katie Fforde Bursary Award winner, a past vice chair of the RNA and editor of its two anthologies. Sue also writes short stories, serials, articles, writing ‘how to’ and is a creative writing tutor.