Sue Teddern’s debut novel, Annie Stanley All at Sea, was published by Mantle on 8 July 2021.
Sue kindly answered a few of my questions.
1.Tell us a little about Annie Stanley all at Sea.
Annie Stanley is an unemployed teacher who is taking time out from work, relationships and responsibility. When her father dies, she leaves her comfort zone to embark on a journey around the sea areas of the Shipping Forecast with his ashes. Along the way, she meets up with old friends and lovers, re-connects with family (both close and extended) and tries to sort out her life. It sounds serious, as I describe it here, but I’d like to think it’s funny and quirky too. Annie is annoying but, I hope, ultimately endearing.
2. What inspired the book?
It’s an idea I’d had for a long time so I honestly can’t recall how it came to me. I don’t share Annie Stanley’s late father’s love of the Shipping Forecast but I do often listen to it early in the morning, if I’m awake. I love creating flawed characters like Annie, who don’t see the mistakes they’ve made until it’s (nearly!) too late.
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
A bit of both. I always know the journeys my characters will take; both literally and emotionally, in Annie’s case. And I usually know the ending. Some elements remain fluid until I get to them. For example, I had no idea that Hilary (Annie’s ex-boyfriend’s godmother) would become such an important character. She just forced her way in and I’m glad she did because people have really taken to her.
4. Is there anything about the process of publishing a book that surprised you?
I always knew books took much longer to write than radio and TV scripts. That didn’t surprise me. But when I look at a shelf of novels in a bookshop, I find it incomprehensible that all those writers had to sit in a chair at a desk – even on days when they didn’t feel like it – and write all those words, day after day after day. It still amazes me, even though I’ve done it myself now … twice!
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
I have occasional bursts of sewing patchwork and knitting; I’m a better knitter than Annie. I love to cook, which is why food always features in my writing. I enjoy walking and hope to get away from that chair and desk in the coming months and ‘do’ more of the South Downs, which is practically on my doorstep.
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, which book would it be?
I tend not to re-read books. I tried it recently with a novel I’d loved in my 20s and didn’t get past page 10. I mostly read books by women authors which is why it’s a bit of a surprise that I’d probably nominate The Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton.
7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done, what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
The question I’ve never been asked is: does Annie finish knitting her blanket? I only realised, after the book was published, that I’d not given this sub-sub-sub plot a conclusion. The answer is: yes … but it’s probably a bit of a dog’s dinner because she’s used too many different types of wool.
You can read my review of Annie Stanley All at Sea here.
About the Book
Sometimes the end is only the beginning . . .
Annie is single, unemployed and just a bit stuck when her beloved father dies unexpectedly. Furious at his partner’s plans to scatter his ashes somewhere of no emotional significance, Annie seizes the urn and, on a whim, decides to take it on a tour of the thirty-one sea areas that make up the shipping forecast, which her father loved listening to, despite living in landlocked St Albans. Travelling around the coastline of Britain searching for the perfect place to say goodbye, she starts to wonder if it might be time to rethink some of the relationships in her life – but is it too late for second chances?
About the Author
Sue Teddern has been a window dresser, a secretary, a feature writer and a university lecturer. She has over twenty years’ scriptwriting experience from episodes of Birds of a Feather for TV and Cooking in a Bedsitter for radio. Annie Stanley, All At Sea is her first novel. She is married and lives in Hove.