After having reviewed the Soulseer Chronicles trilogy (if you missed them, the links for the reviews are Marked https://wp.me/p1UhOl-1Tt , Cursed https://wp.me/p1UhOl-1TB , and Bound https://wp.me/p1UhOl-1TE), I thought it would be great to finish things off with an interview. Luckily for us, Sue had a day free and came over.
Before we start, let’s just have a reminder of those great covers:
Okay, now here’s the interview:
Hello Sue, and welcome to chez-moi. It’s great to have you here.
Thank you Carlie, it was lovely of you to invite me.
Now you’ve got a coffee, shall we make a start?
This first question is one that I know always interests readers. Where did the idea for the Soulseer Chronicles come from?
This is, I’m afraid, a rather long story! I have always been interested in the supernatural, messages from beyond the grave, ghostly experiences and psychic phenomena, but I’d never attempted to write a ghost story. That was until one morning I saw a piece on breakfast TV about a chap who exposed fake psychics. This gave me the first germ of an idea of perhaps writing something about a woman who was not only a ghost hunter but also exposed fraudsters trying to con the bereaved out of money.
And this was what the novel that eventually became Marked was supposed to be about; a couple of psychic investigators. The main protagonist Lucky de Salle was to be a true psychic who really could see the dead. Of course her gift, or some might say curse, has left her alone and considered a weird freak by her peers with her only real friend being a ghost – until she meets Jamie; a fellow damaged soul. He too can see the dead following a tragic and terrifying event when he lost the young woman he loved. From this point the story was to be about Lucky helping Jamie to come to terms with his own psychic abilities and their adventures as they tracked down and exposed frauds and investigated supernatural occurrences.
That was the novel I was supposed to write, but I had barely managed to get the first thousand or so words typed out when I had a seriously scary nightmare, and when I say scary I mean screaming in my sleep and waking my husband up scary.
In my dream it was dark and I was walking towards the narrow passageway that led to the front of the house where I had lived as a child. Out of the shadows a man dressed like an eighteenth century fop appeared and came walking towards me. He didn’t actually say or do anything that was in the least bit frightening, he didn’t have to, he exuded menace and I just knew if he got close enough he was going to do something terrible to me. Then he smiled showing incredibly white, pointed teeth. In my dream I tried to turn and run, but as is often the way in nightmares I couldn’t move and I think that was probably when the screaming that woke my poor husband started. The next day I wrote probably one of the most important scenes in the book using the man from my nightmare and the character of Henri le Dent, assassin to the daemon court of Lord Baltheza, was born and suddenly my ghost hunter story had become something entirely different.
At first I wasn’t at all sure where it was going, but then as the words poured out it went in a direction neither I nor my poor heroine were expecting. Suddenly Lucky’s world was turned upside down, everyone was lying to her; including Jamie and her best friend Kayla, and everyone wanted something from her, but she had no idea what.
Poor Lucky; she wasn’t having much fun. But guess what? I was having a thoroughly brilliant time. I was getting to create a whole new daemon world, with Guardians, Deathbringers and drakons; a world with two suns and two moons; with scarlet trees and rust coloured grass and home to a violent and cruel court ruled by an equally cruel tyrant.
Yep, I was having a great time and I guess you could say that my nightmare changed my life. If I hadn’t dreamed of a an eighteenth century dandy straight out of A Tale of Two Cities I would never have created the character Henri le Dent, Lucky de Salle would never have visited the Underlands, I wouldn’t have written the novel that became Marked and I would probably still be struggling to get published.
What a great story. It just goes to show that we can get inspiration from so many different things. And I know what you mean about a story idea dramatically changing – it happened to me when I wrote Heart Search: Lost.
Next one. Do you have a favourite character from the trilogy? If so, who is it and why?
That is a difficult one. I love all my characters. My favourites are Pyrites, the drakon, and Kerfuffle and Shenanigans and obviously Lucky herself, but I guess Jamie and Jinx are the ones I adore and if you really pushed me I’d have to say Jinx. I guess because although he is the bringer of death and destruction he’s probably the most vulnerable. He’s funny and witty, but it’s a cover to mask how deep he really is and how doing his job causes him immeasurable heartbreak.
I love Jinx too, especially when he’s being a bit naughty! And I’d love a drakon like Pyrites.
How did you get your book deal with Jo Fletcher Publishing?
I guess if you ask an aspiring author who has been persevering for some time what one of the best feelings in the world is, they would probably say getting any interest at all in one of their works. So when on 31st January 2014 I received an email headed up ‘Submission’ from Jo Fletcher Books, I hardened my heart for a ‘thanks, but no thanks’, and thought well, at least they replied.
It started off in the usual way ‘thanks for your submission. Sorry it’s taken so long’ and I thought here we go. Then to my complete and utter surprise, they asked to see the rest of the book. There was much punching of the air and later that evening the popping of corks. I had jumped the first hurdle – and I am a firm believer in celebrating life’s small victories.
Of course I was excited, but I tried not to get too much so. I had got this far and this was good, but I didn’t want to build up my hopes only to have them dashed. So when an email arrived about three weeks later headed up with my novel’s previous title I was ready for rejection. What I didn’t expect was to be asked if I’d like to come up to meet with the Jo Fletcher of Jo Fletcher Books and editor, Nicola Budd.
I got very excited then – publishers are busy people – they don’t ask you to meetings if they’re not at all interested. So I phoned up, made the appointment and popped another bottle of fizz. Then I got an email from Nicola saying ‘by the way if you can bring any material you might have for the rest of the trilogy or series we’d love to see it’. Trilogy? Series? Gulp!
What followed was ten days of frenzied activity where I wrote the first 8000 words of the second book and a mini synopsis of where I saw books two and three going. The period of ten days that I thought was going to be an unbearable wait now seemed far too short.
So on 3rd April 2014 I travelled up to London a complete bundle of nerves. I was met upstairs by Nicola and it didn’t take long for us to be chatting away about everything but the book. Then Jo arrived and we got down to business. Jo and Nicola had five pages of notes. It started with a paragraph telling me what they liked about my novel. Then four and a half pages of things that they didn’t exactly not like, but felt needed changing.
‘Okay,’ I said and at that point thought they’d say, ‘well, off you trot. Come back when you’ve made the changes and we’ll see what we can do.’ What Jo actually said was, ‘I’d like to offer you a three book deal’.
Oh blimey! A three book deal!!!! I think my mouth must have dropped right open and I’m actually surprised I didn’t fall off the chair.
What a wonderful surprise for you. Something like that is what every writer dreams of!
What are the chances of you writing another book in the Soulseer Chronicles, especially bearing in mind the news imparted in the last chapter of Bound?
As much as I’d like to write another chapter in Lucky’s story I think it’s very unlikely that even if I did it would get published. Being a debut author today is difficult. If no one knows the book is out it won’t get sales and if the people who do read it and like it don’t post reviews on Amazon and Goodreads it won’t get sales. Sadly, although Marked made back it’s advance so far the rest of the series haven’t. I did get good reviews for Marked including a starred review on the Booklist in the States. However, I haven’t given up all hope. Last time I saw Jo she said that you can never tell what will happen – a book can be a really slow burner and then suddenly start selling terribly well, so fingers crossed! Perhaps you’ll get me some new readers!
Actually, I think I already have judging by a couple of comments I’ve received. I really hope you will get some new readers as a result of my reviews. As you said — fingers crossed!
What sort of reaction have you had from other writers since Marked was first published?
Writers on the whole are a friendly lot and most want other authors to succeed; it’s not a competition. I’ve made some good author friends at the conferences. The JFB authors are lovely and very supportive. It’s a bit like one big happy family when we all get together.
I’ve found other authors to be really friendly and supportive too, especially at FantasyCon. That’s one of the reasons I love going there – I meet up with friends that I don’t see between conferences and make new ones too. There’s always someone who’s prepared to offer useful advice too.
So, carrying on, what’s the most exciting thing that’s happened to you since Marked was published?
It must have been my launch party. Quercus had just merged with Hachette and my party was on the roof terrace overlooking the Thames. They used the location in the TV series based on JK Rowling’s Robert Galbraith books in one episode which featured – a book launch party!
That’s an unusual place for a launch party. It must have been amazing!
Yes, it was. Totally unforgettable!
I love the artwork on the three book covers. Did you have any input into the designs?
Not really. I was asked whether I liked them and when I made a comment on the colours used on the cover of Bound they did change it. To be honest I don’t think authors have much of a say, unless they’re a really big name, and to be fair publishers do know what works and what doesn’t. I guess if I had hated one we would have had a “discussion” – fortunately I was very pleased with them all.
That’s good. Now, I was told by one of my author friends that when he first got published, he lost some personal friends, which he found devastating as he never found out why (although he made a couple of guesses). Did anything like that happen to you?
That’s awful to hear. No, it didn’t. I know sometimes people can’t bear someone else to have success, but my friends were all thrilled for me. The way I see it, if a friend isn’t pleased by another friend’s success they’re not really a true friend.
I totally agree with you there.
So, let’s move on to a happier subject. We first met at FantasyCon four or five-years ago. I know what it means to me, but what’s so special about FantasyCon for you?
I love FantasyCon. I went to my first one just for a day in 2011. I’d never been to a conference before, but at a seminar on writing I’d attended I met the lovely Stephen Jones and he said that authors really needed to network. I took him at his word. Believe it or not I am quite shy so in 2012 I volunteered to help out at FantasyCon – my reasoning being that talking to people would be a necessity, and found myself meeting up with Stephen again. I also met Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane as well as Allan Davis and Di Lewis. The following year Di and I manned Newbie Corner at World Fantasy Con in Brighton and that was lovely. I met loads of people. That was also where I had my first conversation with Jo Fletcher. I had already sent her my submission of Marked, but didn’t mention it as I didn’t think it was the time or the place. Little did I know that this first conversation would be one of many!
I never dreamed you were shy — you don’t come across that way. It just goes to show how one can overcome obstacles like that. It takes guts to do what you did. You should be proud of yourself!
I think sometimes you have to push yourself to go outside your comfort zone if you really want to ever succeed.
Yes, you’re right there. It’s something I need to do more of. Anyway, moving on…
I’ve found that the vast majority of fantasy authors prefer to read the same genre — is that also true of you? If so, do you remember which book or series got you hooked on fantasy?
I actually read lots of different genres. Lee Child, Kathy Reichs, Patricia Cornwall, Jonathan Kellerman, which are all mystery, crime or thrillers. I love JK Rowling’s Robert Galbraith novels. In fantasy my favourites are Stephen King and the late great James Herbert, who I got to meet, which was a thrill, he was such a charming man. I am currently reading Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill, which is a great novel. The books that got me hooked on fantasy were the Narnian novels by CS Lewis and actually got me reading.
I must admit I haven’t read all the Narnia books yet, although I keep promising myself that I will, but my TBR (to be read) pile is so big already, I honestly don’t know when I would have time to fit them in.
Apart from me [chuckles], do you have a favourite author or was there one who inspired you to write?
When I met James Herbert I told him, “You are the gentleman who made me want to write horror”. I have a book signed by him wishing me luck in my writing. I bet you weren’t expecting to find out I’m a horror fan/writer.
Nope, definitely not!
So, what are you working on now, Sue? Can you give the readers a bit more than a vague hint?
I have two novels with my agent. Both are totally different from my first series. One is the first of a sword and sorcery series. The second is a supernatural, ghost/psychological novel. I won’t say horror, but it is very dark.
Ooo, both sound like something I’d want on my bookcase. You’ll have to let me know when they’re published, Sue.
I certainly will!
Now, there’s a huge amount of discussion between writers on the pros and cons of self-publishing. Is this something you would consider doing? If so, why? If not, why not?
This is a difficult one. Having been published by a publishing house I would say I have learned a lot I wouldn’t have otherwise and I would still be making really obvious rookie mistakes that no one ever tells you about until you’re edited. If you can’t get a publisher interested in your novel, but are getting positive feedback, and are convinced the only way to go is to self publish then – pay for a professional editor who knows what they’re doing. If you’re self publishing properly it is expensive and there is no way around that unless you know someone who is a professional editor and will do it for free or on the cheap and the same goes for the artwork for your cover. If you really want people to read your work you have to market it. This is very time consuming. I for one haven’t the time. I want to write I don’t want to have to be a salesperson and I know nothing about marketing.
That’s great advice, Sue, and something I always tell new authors who are looking to self-publish. I know exactly what you mean about not wanting to be a salesperson and marketer — it takes so much time out of your day and if you do it properly, there’s little to no time to write. Unless you can afford to pay someone to do the marketing for you, or you have a bunch of friends who will post about your books regularly on social media, you’re basically stuffed! You could split your day between the two, but then you’re only doing half a job on both. Or you ignore the marketing and stick to writing or vice versa. Personally, I’d rather write, but at the same time I want to keep in touch with my followers and I do this by writing my blog.
Precisely my point! I think it’s lovely that you make time for your followers.
Thank you. My followers are very important to me.
So, do you have any rituals before starting to write?
No. I wrote my series while I was still working full-time and I had an hour and a half after my husband left for work and me having to get ready and during that time I wrote. I didn’t have time for rituals. The only thing I would do, and still do, is to read the previous day’s work to get me back into the swing.
I wrote my first book while I was working full-time too!
Right, we’ve spent quite some time getting to know Sue Tingey, the author. Let’s find out a little about Sue Tingey, the woman. I’ll start with an easy one. What gets you up and running in the mornings — tea or coffee?
Coffee – no doubt.
I can’t stand coffee – I’m definitely a tea person!
Do you have any pets? If so, what and how many?
I have twenty-one Koi carp and four Shubunkins. I would dearly love another German Shepherd dog or a cat, but the jury is out on that possibility for the moment. We are shortly moving back to my family home in Torquay (the Koi have already moved) and once we’re settled I guess we’ll make a decision about a dog or cat.
What do you think you’d prefer to get?
We would love another GSD (German Shepherd dog) and I keep watching out on the GSD Elite Rescue page. There are so many beautiful dogs looking for homes and I’d really like to take one off their hands.
I think it’s great that you’d go for a rescue dog. So would I, if I could persuade my other half!
Next one. Do you have any children? If so, what and how many?
No. I’d be a terrible mother.
I doubt that very much. You’re such a warm-hearted, gentle, and caring person — I think you’d make a great mum
Aww, thank you, Carlie.
Carrying on so you can get your blushing under control [laughs]. What is your favourite tipple?
Ah! I know what to get you at FantasyCon now! [chuckles]
What’s your favourite colour?
What a coincidence – that’s mine too!
What star sign are you?
Ah, the same as my daughter, and the sister sign to mine!
So, where’s the best place you’ve been on holiday, and why?
Costa Rica. It is such a beautiful country with amazing wildlife. Sloths, hummingbirds, macaws. The Costa Ricans are also totally committed to the environment and are (I think) the first country to be totally energy self-sufficient.
Wow! I’d heard it was beautiful there, but I didn’t know about Costa Rica being self-sufficient energy-wise.
What car do you drive?
Ah! We are a family of petrol heads. My everyday car is a Smart, not that I drive that much now I’m not having to drive to work. My high days and holidays car is a Ford Focus RS in Ultimate Green. Our main car is my husband’s Ford Tourneo, which is a people carrier and with the seats out is great for our trips back and forth to Torquay carrying all our furniture and books; there are so many books! Then we come to our real baby, which is a blue series 3 E-Type Jaguar. Special provision is being made for the E-Type and Focus for when we move to Torquay.
A complete change of direction here. Do you believe in the ‘spirit world’?
I am slightly conflicted. My sensible head says no, but my heart and experience says yes. Psychic abilities run in my mother’s side of the family and I’ve seen and experienced too many weird things not to believe, but I am very cynical about so-called psychics and I think I’m pretty good at spotting frauds.
Okay. Just for fun, who is your favourite cartoon character and why?
Scooby Do if we’re talking about TV cartoons. If we’re talking about comic books, I used to love Superman and Supergirl.
I was actually talking about TV cartoons — sorry, I should have been clearer. So why is Scooby Do your favourite?
I suppose because it’s so ridiculously funny and it’s always the butler who’s done it! I didn’t like the films so much even though I adored Sarah Michelle Geller in Buffy. What works as silly but funny in a cartoon somehow just becomes silly when real actors are involved.
Finally, [thank goodness for that, says Sue] if you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?
If I could have a superpower I would like the power of mischief making. You know – magically making something mischievous happen to people when they’re getting too serious. Like the shows when they set up jokes on people, but I could just click my fingers and make it happen.
I sensed there was a mischievous side to you and you’ve just confirmed it! [chuckles]
Anyway, thank you for an interesting and fun interview, Sue. You’ve been a fabulous guest.
Not at all, and thank you again for inviting me over for this chat.
You’re very welcome. Now what cake did you want with your coffee?
Chocolate muffin please!
You’re my kind of woman!! [laughs]
Here’s a photo of Sue and a short bio.
Sue Tingey is the author of the fantasy romance series The Soulseer Chronicles and lives with her husband in East Grinstead, West Sussex.
She spent twenty-eight years working for a major bank and, after taking voluntary redundancy in 2001, spent another fourteen or so years working as a practice manager for an arboricultural consultancy. She has now given up the day job to allegedly spend more time with her husband; he however has noticed that an awful lot more writing appears to be going on.
Sue admits that storytelling is her obsession and was thrilled when she was offered a three book deal by Jo Fletcher Books in 2014.
You can learn more about Sue on her website www.suetingey.co.uk or contact on Twitter @SueTingey
For the buy links of the books, just click on the name:
I really hope you’ve enjoyed the reviews and particularly this interview with the fabulous Sue Tingey. If you have any comments or questions for her, please leave them below and she’ll answer them.