Saturday, 22 February 2014

Say hello to the lovely Susan Buchanan

My Photo
Today, I welcome Susan Buchanan or Sooz, as she prefers, to my blog.

I have known Sooz for quite a while and respect her a LOT for her writing and they way she markets herself via social media. Luckily, she agreed to be interviewed by me... so ENJOY! :) 

1) Firstly, how did your first novel come about? Was it planned or did it just happen?

No, it was planned. It would be very difficult for a novel with 12 main characters to ‘just come about’! I have, however, learned to plan more succinctly since the first novel, but with so many characters, I had several pages of Word with timelines and character info, otherwise I would definitely have tripped myself up!

2) I have read “Sign of the Times” and I enjoyed it a lot - this was my review, 4 stars. What do you think? Is it fair?

Sign of the Times
“This book is almost like a collection of short stories that are linked from one to the next by a certain character. It is imaginative, original and captivating... It made me read on! The author has used her wealth of knowledge to create a range of characters and personalities that could symbolise "the sign of the times".

At times, I felt the characters were too stereotypical and I did wonder if people are actually like that (I obviously lead a sheltered life). But, I loved her use of languages, and cultures, to define certain aspects of the characters' nationality.

In the end, the plot lines fit together to form the masterpiece puzzle, and for me, it was ended on a very satisfactory note.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story, and would recommend if you enjoy books with a range of characters, and movies such as ‘Love Actually’.” May, 2013

I think 4 stars is fair and yes, although I am not a fan of short stories particularly, I guess Sign of the Times could be viewed sort of as such, but not entirely, as each of the character chapters is not self-contained, since all the threads come together in the final two chapters. 

I do, however, like and agree with the analogy that they are linked from one chapter to the next by a certain character.  And it’s certainly true that the characters are diverse, but then, I did do a lot of research into the traits of the various zodiac signs.

Regarding stereotypical characters, the only ones who I can say were stereotypical and intentionally so - I think I even wrote that in the novel - were the Italians. I’d be curious to know what led you to write ‘I obviously lead a sheltered life’ as that suggests that some characters were outlandish rather than stereotypical!

Language and exposing different cultures comes naturally, given my background of extensive travelling and since I’m a linguist. I particularly like your comparison to Love Actually, as it’s one of my favourite films and I must tell you you’re not the first person to  have said that, which can only be a good thing.

3) Do you think relationships define people? For example, I was never the type to be in and out of relationships, but some of my friends had a different one each week. I admit that I wonder what it is like to be like that, which is why your book got me curious - I have been with my husband since I was 19!

Not that I’m a guru or anything! I kind of feel like an expert witness being put on the stand in a court of Law here! (Oops... I did study Law at uni! Ha ha) I don’t think relationships define people.  I think you can be a different person, behave differently and lead a different life, depending on if you are in a relationship and with whom.  Not everyone bed-hops in Sign of the Times, but temptation is put in the path of some - a few succumb, others resist. And even those who cheat tend to be in long-term relationships, but circumstances have led them to go off the rails, except for Lucy. She’s just bad!

4) What do you enjoy more from writing? Escapism or creativity burst? Why? 

Ooh, that’s a hard one. I suppose I enjoy escapism most in reading. I love when I come up with the idea for a book and then think what characters I need and what their dilemmas have to be, their character traits and then I start to paint them. Yes, creativity burst I suppose. I love when I come up with new details, scenes, life-changing events for characters.

5) What about the editing process? Fun or hardship? 

Sometimes bleurgh, sometimes enthralling. I love when you refine your work, or you haven’t looked at it for a while and can be more objective, as you've put some distance between it and yourself. I was like that with What If, as I hadn't written any of it for 7 months. I tend to put XXX for words that I know I will probably want to change, or where I am at a loss for words at the time of writing, so when I edit, I get to spend more time and choose the exact word I need and that is very satisfying.

6) Do you think social media is important? If so, how do you prioritise your time? 

Yes and badly! The thing is with a young baby, you can do social media when she’s awake for a few minutes at a time, but you can’t sit down and write.  So I tend to do more social media, but not enough writing - very bad! I’ve been doing a Valentine’s promotion since 1st February - it will run for just over three weeks and that has involved a lot of social media interaction, Twitter, Facebook and a lot of blogging. I’m getting results, but sometimes you have to wonder if they are on a par with the effort put in!! (I know what you're saying...)

7) What is the most important thing you have learnt, as an author, since you published your first book?

Write the next book, and the one after that

8) Can you give any tips on how to use a blog successfully? I have followed and seen your blog posts and I think they are great! :0)

Thanks for the compliment! I’m definitely no expert on this, but vary your topics, don’t use your blog only as an outlet for your writing, chop and change things every so often. Before I had baby Antonia I had got into the routine of interviewing an author every second Friday and having a book review every alternate Friday. I haven’t been able to keep up with that, so have since welcomed cover reveals, excerpts and other author related posts from my peers on the blog.

I’ve also written quite a lot of posts about books in general, which have been really well received. I always seem to have new blog followers after those go out. I used to blog every day about my writing, but I was spending more time blogging and less time writing. I also use the blog to publicise events and promotions I have coming up. As I said February has been labour-intensive. The next event will be a 2nd birthday party for Sign of the Times mid-March.  I also think it’s invaluable to build your relationships with other bloggers and reviewers. And, most of all, in my case, I just let my personality shine through. I am, what e we term in Scotland, a blether!

9) What is your current project? Are you giving yourself deadlines, or are you just seeing where it goes?

My fourth novel, What If should be released in the summer. It’s the story of a mid-forties man, a bit of a lad, who wakes up one day and realises his life isn’t enough anymore. He has also had a rather startling epiphany. This leads him to trawl through his relationship history and his life in general and he constantly asks himself What if? It’s all about his choices in the past and how they affect his future.
I did give myself a deadline, well, three actually. The first two are very scary and probably highly unachievable, given all of my commitments this year. However, the third I should manage!

10) Can you name a children’s and adult author you admire and why? What is the best book they have written and why did you enjoy it?

Children’s author - Julia Donaldson. I love her books and have bought them all for my nephews. I can’t see past The Gruffalo - it was so different and I loved that the big scary gruffalo was scared by the mouse’s shadow! I have to be sneaky here, though, and add A A Milne, too, as shockingly I had never read Winnie the Pooh  - I am reading it at the moment as we are watching Winnie the Pooh movies a lot, as baby Antonia loves them. I love how A A Milne gets Tigger down from the tree by turning the page 90 degrees. Love the whole way it’s narrated. 

(Check out this Gruffalo made by a parent, Jane Watson... read about it)

Adult author -hmm, harder, Maeve Binchy inspired me, years ago. Now I suppose I admire writers like Carlos Ruiz Zafón and his vivid depiction of Barcelona in his The Shadow of the Wind series. He makes his characters come alive and I devour his books.

11) What do you prefer to read – eBook, paper or either? Why?

I read both and it depends on the circumstances. I tend to read 3 books at a time, one in ebook (currently Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding - the new Bridget Jones novel), a paperback - Sophie Hannah’s psychological thriller The Carrier, and Emily Barr’s The Sisterhood, also in paperback. 

The reason I need three books is because I like reading my Kindle when I am having my breakfast - no need to try and hold down the book with heavy items like paperweights on either side! Also if I go out to restaurants and am waiting on friends to arrive, I read my Kindle then, and of course if I am on a train, in the dental surgery waiting area, etc, the Kindle fits in my bag easily. 

Paperbacks are for reading whilst drinking coffee in the morning, if I am not working already and for last thing at night when I am in bed. And the reason for the second paperback, in this case, Emily Barr’s, is because I need a book to read in the bath. I only take charity shop books in the bath, in case I get them wet!

12) And the twelfth question (12 signs after all)… where can we find you? Blogs, twitter, etc…

Thanks for having me!

An absolute pleasure... :)


  1. A lovely interview. So nice to 'meet' Susan. I shall have to put Sign of the Times on my to buy list! It's always interesting to hear how other writers manage their time with busy jobs, children etc, and nice too to meet another linguist here! I also read both e-books and paperbacks concurrently for exactly the same reasons, except I don't need a third as I don't have a bath…you can't read in the shower!

  2. thanks for the opportunity to appear on your blog, Vanessa and thanks, Val, for your kind comments. I do hope you enjoy Sign of the Times when you get time to read it. Apart from water running into your eyes, there must be a way of managing to read in the shower...shower cap for the Kindle?!

  3. I can't believe it took me so long to start doing these... it is a lot of fun! Next one out on Wednesday :)

  4. And they're nice to read, too, V! Nice one, ladies x