Sue Whiting – Interview with CKT

Sue Whiting

Q. How long does it take from the first idea to having your story ready to submit to publishers?

How long is a piece of string? This varies enormously. In brief: it usually takes me a very long time. For Get a Grip, Cooper Jones,  I think I had the initial idea in mid 2004. I let this idea simmer in my brain for several months, and started collecting other ideas to add to and build upon the original one. I probably didn’t put pen to paper until some time in 2005. I wrote numerous drafts until it was accepted for publication in about 2009. Then the real work began! You need a lot of patience to be a writer.

Q. How many rejections did you receive before you were accepted?

Don’t know the exact amount, but I know it was a heck of a lot! And even after that first acceptance, there were many more rejections between those lovely yeses. Rejection is a part of publishing. You have to cop it on the chin and not let it get in the way of your dreams. Determination and persistence are essential personality traits, me thinks.

Q. Do you decide what’s going to happen in your story or do your characters tell you?

Initially, I am the boss of my characters – the sergeant major, directing the way. However, once I start to write, those pesky characters tend to take over and send me to places that I never imagined. They are so full of surprises and I love this part of the writing process! Sometimes though, I try to be the boss for too long and I try to force the characters to do my bidding – this nearly always ends in disaster. In fact, one of the reasons Cooper Jones took so long to write was that I was stubbornly refusing to listen to Cooper for a while. Once I did listen though and discovered what was really bothering him, the issues that were troubling me with the story vanished, and everything fell in to place. If only I listened sooner!

Q. What’s the best way you’ve found to get your name out there?

Web pages, social media, facebook, twitter, blogs, YouTube clips and videos, school visits, festivals, launches, interviews, signings, workshops, networking – the list goes on: there are numerous ways to promote yourself and your book. But truly, from my experience as an author and even more so as an editor, the best way to get your “name” out there is to write a really good book. So my general advice here is to devote most of your time to developing your craft – it will be worth it in the end.

Q. How many hours do you spend writing each week?

I write every day (well, almost every day, anyway). Sometimes it is only for about half an hour on the train on the way to work, on the weekend and days off it could be for several hours a day. To me it’s not the number of hours that’s important, it’s having the discipline to make writing part of my daily routine. Writing daily has helped my writing enormously. If for whatever reason I haven’t worked on my current manuscript, I feel bereft, and because writing has become part of my routine, I find that the words tend to flow more naturally.

Q. If you could be any character from any book for a day who would you be and why?

This is a hard one, because most of the characters I really like are very flawed and have terrible lives – so I certainly wouldn’t want to be them, even for a day! One of my favourite books of all time is To Kill a Mockingbird  by Harper Lee, so I wouldn’t mind being either Atticus for his integrity and optimism or Scout for her pluck and good heart. If I could be one of my own characters, I think I’d like to be Sasha from A Strange Little Monster  and the brand-new sequel, A Strange Little Monster and the Swamp Goblin,  because she is sweet yet strong and true to herself.

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