Sue Teddern is the author of Annie Stanley All at Sea. Her latest novel, The Pre-Loved Club, was published in paperback by Pan Macmillan on 2 February 2023.
Sue kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about The Pre-Loved Club. What inspired it?
It was inspired by soloparentpals.com, a comedy-drama serial I wrote for BBC Radio 4 a few years ago, about two single parents at opposite ends of the country, who meet in an online support forum. I always felt that there was much more story to relate about their lives, their ex’s, their kids, their jobs, their friends. So, for the novel, I relocated it to Brighton & Hove, where I live, with Gemma and Ned living at opposite ends of the same city; they meet at a support group in a room above a pub. Gemma is spikey, sparky and cup-half-empty. Ned is trusting, guileless and cup-half-full. They become friends, after a bad start, and help each other to move on. But maybe there’s more to their friendship than they think…
2. Has your scriptwriting experience been helpful when it comes to writing novels?
Storytelling is storytelling. Much of the work is the same: finding the through-line; creating believable characters and establishing their world; building a solid structure. Scriptwriting is all about dialogue so I feel very much at home with that. But I needed to be encouraged by my brilliant editor Sam Humphreys to dig deeper with thoughts and feelings, because scripts tend to do this in a much more visual way, or via a narration. Scriptwriting definitely gave me the confidence to write my first novel.
3. What advice would you give to new writers?
I admire writers who have no plan when they sit down to write. That would terrify me! What if I never find out where I’m heading or how I’ll get there? So my advice would be to plan-plan-plan, but also to be flexible. Think of it as a satnav route: you’re starting in Manchester, with London as your destination. And it’s essential that you get there. But you can take any number of detours along the way, if they offer interesting adventures.
4. You can live in one fictional world. Which one would you choose?
The fictional worlds of my childhood are so much more visceral than those I encountered as an adult. I’m torn between Laura Ingalls Wilder’s prairies and backwoods in her wonderful Little House series, and the 1930s London of Ballet Shoes, by Noel Streatfield.
5. Is there a book you’d wish you’d written?
I honestly don’t think there is. I write what I write and nobody can write it better than me. And the writers I admire (David Nicholls, Maggie O’Farrell, Anne Tyler, Katherine Heiny, Clare Chambers) write what they write better than anyone else. That’s what’s so lovely about books. So many voices, viewpoints and narratives, and every one of them utterly unique and special.
6. What is it you love the most about writing?
I love creating quirky, flawed characters, giving them an emotional hinterland that isn’t always obvious. I love it when two unrelated plots find each other and link up in ways I hadn’t expected. I love writing something that makes me laugh. The daily slog of the process can be overwhelming so I also love writing ‘The End’ when I finish my first draft.
About the Book
Ned is in IKEA with his wife, Tanya, when she breaks the news that their marriage is over.
For Gemma, it’s when she opens the glove compartment of her husband’s car to find a pair of women’s sunglasses that aren’t hers.
When Ned and Gemma meet at a support group for single parents, they don’t exactly hit it off. Ned thinks Gemma is rude and unsympathetic; Gemma thinks Ned is entitled and self-pitying.
But as they’ve both learned from bitter experience, life is full of surprises. And maybe they have more in common than they think . . .
You can buy a copy of The Pre-Loved Club here.
You can buy a copy of Annie Stanley All at Sea here.
(This is an affiliate link so I may make a small amount of money if you buy through it. You can also buy a copy of the books from your local independent bookshop).
One Comment Add yours
I have this on my Kindle. Really must get to it. I loved Annie Stanley All at Sea.