A natter with Susan Hunter
Where do your ideas come from?
I would love to say that an entire novel falls fully formed into a Word document in the writer part of my brain. But it doesn’t. Ever.
A lot of writers seem to start with the premise: what if? And it’s a great way to get to the core of a story pretty quickly, but it never seems to happen to me quite like that. I see a scene, maybe a couple of scenes, and I write them. Then I play the ‘what if?’ game. In Black by Rose I pictured a robbery from a cash machine inside an empty Turkish tea room. And I pictured another robbery, this time an armed robbery of a cash van outside a supermarket. I wove the story around those two scenes and the whole thing grew from there.
I ‘saw’ a woman’s face beneath the river in a village called Woodlesford, and I wondered how the hell she got there, and who did this terrible thing to her. I also saw a naked woman sitting alone in a dark kitchen as two burglars broke into her house. She reached for a shotgun. Out of those two scenes grew Ledston Luck.
Do you work to an outline or a plot, or do you prefer to see where an idea takes you?
This is a bit of a continuation from above. I’ve always been a pantster – choosing a subject and just plugging away at it until a story is born. But I do make some notes. In Ledston Luck the story had more or less died at about 30k words. So I stopped staring at the keyboard and took out my pencil and paper. I worked out where I wanted the story to end up, and crafted a series of scenes to take me there. I’d turned a marathon into a sprint, and the book was finished in just a few weeks. So the best answer I can give is – a bit of both.
How long does it take you to write a book?
I began The Third Rule in 2004. In 2005 or thereabouts, I took a break and began writing scripts with a friend of mine. We did quite well, but not well enough unfortunately. I was back on the book in 2012 and finished it at the beginning of 2013. So all in all, The Third Rule took me the best part of three years to write, though it suffered from that break right in the middle and it took me a long time to get the ‘feeling’ for it back.
Contrast that with Black by Rose. That story was conceived, written, and published within six months. But I’ll never do that again, it damned near killed me! I went to work, or was writing; I hardly ever left the house, and I worked each day until I dropped.
I guess I find it most comfortable when I write a book a year, maybe with a short story or novella thrown in too.
What is the hardest thing about writing a book?
I’m presuming you mean what’s the hardest part of the whole ensemble of being an indie author? I love writing, I live to write. Even when I’m stuck on a plot point and there’s just nothing happening inside the grey mush of my so-called brain, I still love it. But marketing? Hate it. I’ve never been very good at pushing myself forward. I suspect like many writers, I’m the grey man in the back of the room hiding behind a pint, watching. I’m not a natural people person, that’s why I write, leave the acting and the boasting to those who enjoy it. But you get nowhere fast if you don’t attempt to do some. And so recently, I’ve taken it upon myself to get my arse in gear and mix a little, chat a little, and sell a little. And I’m actually quite enjoying it.
After seven books and two short stories, after 4 hours’ of television scripts, I still crap myself every time I release a book. Even as I’m writing it, I often wonder if it’s any good, and it’s not until I get feedback from my chosen readers do I relax, and know it’s going to be alright, that the story has legs. I suppose if I ever wrote with total confidence, the book would be naff; perhaps it’s that fear of writing a dud that keeps things a little sharper?
What’s the easiest thing about writing?
First draft writing.
If you’re lucky enough to ever find the groove, to sink into it, to know where the story is going, to know how the character is feeling, then there is nothing so easy as writing. It flows and it sweeps you along with it; it’s like a toboggan ride in that you’re in full control of a fired bullet, and it’s scary and it’s exhilarating and wonderful all at the same time.
Is Ledston Luck a standalone or part of a series?
The short answer is both. It’s book four in the CSI Eddie Collins series. That means there are three good-sized books before this one, and in those books things have happened to him to shape him, to make him who he is today. And that’s not all; there are some characters in the previous books who, like Eddie, appear in this one too. They each have their own bits of backstory that you’ll be unaware of if you don’t pick those books up and read them. So you might read Ledston Luck and wonder how the hell Eddie got to be such an abrasive character. Some people have already said they feel they missed out, and are right now going back over the earlier books to find out.
But, you don’t have to. You can accept that Eddie is how he is. You can accept that the minor characters are who they are, and you can pick up Ledston Luck and just read it as a standalone. Its story isn’t linked to the previous books so you can read it and enjoy it for what it is – and many people already have. Go look at the reviews if you don’t believe me.
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
I’ve tried to make this as easy for people as I can. I have a Facebook Page, and so does Eddie Collins. I have a website that features an occasional blog, and I’ve just initiated a mailing list where you can keep up to date with all the news and gossip. You can even join my Inner Circle and become one of the first to read any new novels or short stories I write.
Another interview that I really enjoyed!
Please find Susan on Facebook on the Crime Fiction Addict page, well worth a visit.