Debut children’s author Susan Noon recently popped in to Authoramp HQ for a cup of tea and a chat… we got her to answer some questions about herself and her debut book ‘Creaking Doors’, in a nice way, and she was happy to answer them for us 🙂
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always been a keen writer, producing my first book at age 7, which included rather primitive thickly painted illustrations. I moved to Pennsylvania, USA in my late teens, where I enrolled at the local Community College of Allegheny. I took a course in journalism and photography. I had my first ‘serious’ attempt at writing when I was asked to cover extra-curricular activities. This included interviewing staff and students. I was also given the opportunity to learn more about Ernest Hemmingway and American authors.
How long does it take you to write a book?
It can vary dramatically. I took around 6 months to write Creaking Doors and Illandzia’s Pen. Other books I’ve been working on have taken longer. Daze, which is more of a teen novel, took over a year and I still keep changing the ending! The book I’ve been working on for the longest is Cross-bones and Cauldrons, I truly love this book and have been holding onto it for three years. I’ve held back as I feel it could do with some quality illustrations to enhance it.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
My work schedule is quite pressured, with the demands of three children, work, cycling and fund-raising. I slot in writing as often as I can. The best time for me to write is in the evening or weekends. Occasionally there’s the necessity to spend concentrated time writing, especially when concluding a book or editing.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I sometimes incorporate a few rhymes into my stories. I have no idea how I developed this habit, although it might be genetic. My grandfather was a published poet and had a passion for the written word. Also, having three children aged 15, 13 and 6, allows me the perfect opportunity to observe their little quirks, behaviour and lingo, which sometime translates into my writing.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
I was fortunate to have a very colourful childhood, regularly changing schools and living abroad. Our family moved to Marshside, Chislet in Canterbury when I was thirteen. The house we lived in was said to be haunted. My family all had unexplainable incidents that occurred during the eight years we lived there, which possibly sparked an intrigue into the paranormal and influenced my writing. Authors who have inspired me and influenced my desire to write include Anne Rice, particularly her vampire Chronicles, Interview with the Vampire, and also Weaveworld by Clive Barker, which I see as enormously imaginative books. I also derive great pleasure in reading classical literature: Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy, Brighton Rock by Graham Greene, the Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemmingway to name a few.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
My first serious attempt at writing was at the age of 29. Although, I had started writing books in my early twenties, I lacked the dedication to complete anything. I completed Daze at 32, but have since changed the ending.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I like cycling and get out as often as I can, making a point of signing up for charity events. The most tasking was 450km in 5 days across Beijing, China, three years ago. It was for a charity headed by Professor Winston. The funds raised were for cancer research and babies born with genetically inherited illnesses. I’ve also enjoyed taking part in the ‘London to Brighton’ for the British Heart Foundation, and Children’s hospices. I also work as a gardener four days a week (that’s how I raise my charity sponsorship money). I also enjoy playing the piano; composing my own music by ear. I wrote two pieces for a school concert playing to an audience of 200 for our local retirement home. I got a standing ovation, but wonder whether they had their hearing aids switched off! I also love going to see the latest block-buster with my children at our very old fashioned local cinema.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
So far, I’ve written 4 books. My favourite is Cross-bones and Cauldrons, which I’ve been holding onto for years. I think the storyline is unique, and needs to be backed up with illustrations.
Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Make a habit of making mental and written observations when you see something interesting. Make note of peoples’ mannerisms (without staring – that doesn’t go down very well!). I think it’s all too easy to be heavily influenced by other writers, which can be a good thing but it’s important to develop your own style.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Not yet, but I hope to with the help of Kris Barnes and Authoramp.
What do you think makes a good story?
It needs to be well written, have a unique quality about it and include suspense. The lead character(s) needs to be someone you can connect or sympathise with. Injecting an unusual scenario and embellishing with colourful detail puts the reader in the picture and makes a book harder to put down. I like to be really engaged with the lead character(s) and care about what will happen to them.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
A musician, an Author or a Marine-Biologist (although I wasn’t very good at science!).