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Discovering the author: Susan Lewis April 29, 2012

Filed under: Writing — leatierney @ 9:01 am
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Q. So, how did you get started in writing?

A. My Dad was passionate about both reading and writing. My Dad was writing and trying to get published while I was growing up. I was working at Thames Television on The Bill as a production assistant. I went and enquired as to what I would need to do to be able to become a producer and the answer I received was “you need to write”. It wasn’t instant success as my first book was never published. I wrote a children’s book that went horribly wrong when it came to being published but was a fantastic learning experience: it was all part of the process of becoming a writer. Sometimes I feel that my best writing almost happens in spite of me rather than because of me. Eventually an agent asked if I would like to meet: so I went and bought myself a hat. I met the agent and then – I took my hat off – and started to write. I usually start with an idea of what the story is going to be and see where it takes me: I like the characters to tell me where they would like to go. I realise I speak about them as if they have their own life which comes across a bit odd.

Q. So what does Susan Lewis like to read?

A. Jodi Picoult, Susan Harwich. I’ll happily purchase a book by what I’ve read in the blurb. My thoughts about the kindle is that you don’t get that same experience: you can’t see a cover or who the author is so I have been known to read something and not know who it is I’ve been reading!  I’ve taken inspiration from the Poisonwood Bible and Sweet Francais. The latter was actually the inspiration for my novel The French Affair.

Q. So how did your family react to your memoirs?

A.  Well, the two main characters – my Mum and Dad- had already passed by then but my brother has chosen not read it at all. I think he would really feel the loss at the end of Just One More Day.

Q. In the second of your memoirs you have written from the male perspective – how hard was this for you?

A. I was fortunate that I got to know my Dad for a lot longer. As Dad wrote so much, an awful lot of what is in the book he really wrote himself: I just adapted it to fit into my writing. Dad did his best to keep us all together at a time when men would have fielded children out to aunts and grandparents. Writing from his perspective made me relive everything that I had put my dad through after Mum died: He really didn’t know what to do with such a hellish teenage girl. In fact, when I asked Steph to read it I actually said “I hope you still like me after reading it”. I am now a supporter of Winston’s Wish as they help support in times of child bereavement: who knows how things would have turned out if they had been around when I lost Mum.

When a member of the audience introduces themselves as a member of Sevenoaks writing group Susan very affably offers to “come along to your writers group sometime, for a chat, if you would like?” She then goes on to display how down to earth she is by saying that as she had gotten older she doesn’t hold ideas and details in her head like she used to. She tells us how she ran a competition on Face book for the winner to get their name used as a character’s name in one of her texts. Susan tells us how she had completely forgotten about this until the winner contacted her: there had been a vital component of the novel missing until this woman got in touch and then her character led the novel along. Susan explains how writing, for her, is much like being a sort of medium as she is taken over by the characters. When Susan wrote in her mother’s “voice” she felt as though her mother had taken hold of her fingers and had written those parts herself.

Steph then gave Susan a much earned break by announcing the start of the raffle and auction. There were some truly outstanding prizes on offer including a Jimmy Choo handbag donated by the author herself, a Chamilia bracelet with a B.C.C charm, a basket of goodies from Maisy K, A photo shoot with Catherine Hill Photography, a set of GHD straighteners and a voucher for a cut and blow dry with Matthew Cross, a one hour full body massage in the comfort of the winner’s own home, a mini car donated by Mini, a Pink Pandora Bracelet and an Amber Necklace. Overall this event raised approximately £3000 for Breast Cancer Care: a hugely successful event – congratulations to all involved!

Susan’s 28th novel No Child of Mine will be released on July 5th.


In Conversation with Susan Lewis in aid of Breast Cancer Care April 27, 2012

Apologies for the delayed post loyal readers, I know I promised I would post my coverage of this event on Sunday but I was whisked away for a lovely short break (more on this later).

On Friday 20th April I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the above mentioned event. As many of you know, my sense of direction leaves somewhat to be desired so I was not relishing trying to find the venue hosting this event. Luckily for me, one of the contributors to the fundraising raffle was kind enough to suggest we car share and go along together: unluckily for her the beautiful arrangement she had prepared for the auction [see here for examples of her work: [ ] did not survive the emergency braking she had to do when a kamikaze cat leapt in front of her car up the narrow country lane which I live. The cat survived though so – technically – she’s a hero; well done Gwenda at the Vintage Floral Design Company.

Entering the car park of Tonbridge School several minutes later than planned we were both rather in awe of the grandeur of the venue: Tonbridge School is distinctly unlike any school I’ve ever been to – excellent choice of venue Steph and congratulations to you for being able to secure it for your event. Following the sign posts (a school with sign posts in the grounds?!) we found the E.M Forster theatre and the huge crowd that had gathered to learn a little bit more about the author Susan Lewis and to help raise funds for Breast Cancer Care. Trays and trays of canapés and gorgeous pink ribbon cupcakes were laid out for guests to enjoy; along with glasses of champagne. Waiting in the reception I had a good look round at all the other guests; male, female, young and old were all gathered and then I spotted the author herself. I was immediately struck by how glamorous Susan looked and how down to earth her demeanour was.

Guests were all then guided to the auditorium for the evening’s presentation, question and answer session; and the much anticipated raffle and auction.  The evening kicked off with a brief overview of the need for charities such as Breast Cancer Care. The aim of this organisation is to get the best possible support and information for anyone affected by cancer. It was also strongly emphasised that this charity is not just for women: two out of every twenty people diagnosed with Breast Cancer are, in fact, men.  An acknowledgement of thanks was given to:

Tonbridge School for kindly hosting the event

Random House publishers:

PR Louise Page for introducing Steph and Susan to one another and for always being a support to Steph in planning such events:

Amanda Watters at the Goody Bag Company for providing the goody bags for guests:

Choccywoccydooadah for providing a masterpiece of a cake for auction:

Catherine Glazebrook for being a photographer with a smile and for auctioning her services:

Louise Hudson for providing the cupcakes – even though she was called by accident

The Pink Power Ladies for being a team and for being true friends at the same time

Lynn, Lisa and Chloe at Breast Cancer Care for not being driven absolutely mad by constant calls about event planning.

The evening progressed smoothly into the “In Conversation with” and to help you all get to know the author a bit better I have tried to transcribe as much of the Q&A as possible for you: as this is fairly lengthy it will be included in a second post. It’s great to get to know the author behind the books and a really enjoyable evening was had by all.


In Conversation About April 16, 2012

Filed under: Being unfit — leatierney @ 6:27 pm
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Steph Harrison is a Sevenoaks, Kent, resident whose mission in life is to organise events that raise awareness of and funds for, Breast Cancer Care. Steph very kindly agreed to meet with me and answer a few questions relating to her up and coming event “In Conversation With” and book signing event with Sunday Times bestselling author Susan Lewis in aid of Breast Cancer Care. Susan is the writer of twenty seven novels and two volumes of the memoir: Just One More Day and One Day At A Time. Steph has also very kindly brought along a lovely goody bag for me (I LOVE presents!).

Here is a little bit of my conversation with the organiser of “In Conversation With”.

Q: I already know a little bit about your motivation in fundraising for Breast Cancer Care but I think it’s important for my readers to understand the background behind this if you wouldn’t mind?

A: No, not at all. My reason behind supporting Breast Cancer Care is that the charity were such a support to me when I was diagnosed [Steph is back fighting fit now, thankfully] and I found that there was no other organisation like them in terms of the provision of information and support after diagnosis. I truly felt that they cared for me and they were always at the other end of a phone when I needed them. My first event that I organised was my way of thanking them and giving back after their support; after that I just felt that their message was one that needed to be delivered. I’ve found that Breast Cancer Care is as focused as I am on the importance of early detection and self checking [Steph shows me that my goody bag also contains a copy of Breast Cancer Care’s Health Booklet].

Q:  May I ask what your fundraising hopes are for this event?

A: Absolutely, our fundraising objective for this event is over £3000. So far we’ve raised around £2000 with this event just with the ticket sales: there are still more tickets on offer and we’re hoping to raise the rest of the funds on the night through the auction and raffle.

Q: It sounds like you have an achievable aim, so how are Breast Cancer Care supporting you in this event?

A: As always Breast Cancer Care will be there in the background: they will send representatives to support us on the night, provide us with literature for the goody bags and they’re always on the other end of the phone if I need fundraising inspiration [something I know Steph is virtually never short of]. I may not have cancer anymore but they are still there for me. I genuinely feel that the team at Breast Cancer Care have become true friends for life!

Q: So, tell us, how exactly did you end up in collaboration with bestselling author Susan Lewis?

A: Well, following some of my previous events, Susan’s PR officer sent me a copy of Just One More Day: the perfect introduction to Susan’s writing. I was so moved by her portrayal of a family torn apart by cancer that I had to write to her and tell her how it had affected me. We then started up a correspondence and realised how fantastic it would be if we could organise and event together. This is my first event working with Susan as we organised one last year but I was taken ill so had to postpone so I am really excited about this one.

Q: It all sounds very exciting, how easy has it been to organise an event on this scale: it’s not exactly low profile?

A: [Laughs] Do you know, I’ve actually found this one pretty easy to organise. I’m lucky enough to now have a supporting team behind me: Ann, Karen, Vanessa and Erica – The Pink Power Girls have been fantastic. We’re currently one team member short as one of the ladies is undergoing chemotherapy: she’s desperate to be there on the night supporting us though. That’s what makes organising these events so amazing: these people are such an inspiration! They’ve all got their own personal battles to fight and yet they all want to do what they can towards these events. To be honest, the biggest obstacle we’ve had has been finding a suitable venue to hold the event. Thanks to the previous events I’ve organised I’ve made some pretty good relationships with some really generous businesses: the food and prizes for the night have all been donated. The only things left on my to do list are to pick up the cake and the glasses and setting up Friday evening; otherwise we’ve got everything covered!

Q: So what can attendees expect on the night?

A: Well, the guests will all receive a goody bag on arrival at the champagne and canapés reception. The evening will then kick off with the “In Conversation With” which will lead into a question and answer session, then there is due to be a performance by the fantastic Amy Coulshaw, the raffle and auction and then Susan will start the book signing. Plus they get to see me: all that for £20, what a bargain!

Q: [Laughs] well of course! So, tell me, what will you be doing once this event is over: a bit of rest and relaxation?

A: Probably collapsing! No, I’m kidding, although it does take a lot out of me; the events give me such a buzz. It usually takes a few days to recuperate afterwards. Although I’ve not allowed myself so much time to rest after this one as I’m driving up to Liverpool the next day to see the Royal Deluxe.

Q: I think I would be more inclined to rest for a few days myself. Dare I ask if you have more upcoming events in the pipeline?

A: As always! Yes we have the Breast Cancer Care Benefit Concert being held at Sevenoaks School on the 6th July. There are currently four acts due to be performing including: The Find, Sarah Lillie, Amy Coulshaw and one act tbc. All of the acts are all fresh, new and (as yet) unsigned: very talented people looking to get a break. The concert will also be a part of the Sevenoaks festival. Around June/August time we will be holding the annual Strawberry Tea. This is a Breast Cancer Care initiative which involves getting cakes, tea and lovely ladies together to raise funds and awareness.

I am very much looking forward to attending the event next Friday 20th April at Tonbridge School and hope to see many of you there! For those of you that really want to be there but are unable to attend this time I will be posting an update of how the night went next Sunday. For those of you interested in attending please leave a comment in the box below and I will provide more details.

If you are interested in finding out more about Susan Lewis go to:

If you are interested in finding out more about Susan’s publishers go to:

If you want more information on Breast Cancer Care go to: or call the free Helpline on 08088006000

To support Steph in her fundraising endeavours please go to:


Somebody Do Something Funny April 11, 2012

One of the hazards of writing a purely comedy inspired blog is that sometimes the funny all dries up. I realise, given the content of my previous posts and my ability to attract slapstick like a moth to a flame, that seems impossible but I really am currently sitting here wailing “somebody do something funny!” How is it that I haven’t done anything absurdly stupid in a while? Have I learnt caution? Doubtful. Something is wrong in the universe Watson and I’m determined to sniff out the “fishy” by Jove! Perhaps what I should do whilst I await my next calamity is go out and make funny happen to myself or others. Which of the following would generate the most comedy value:

1)      Whilst driving my Dad to a Dr’s appointment I do my best rally car driver impression: driving at high velocity round precarious bends yelling “Yee HAW” whilst Dad’s knuckles turn white with the vice like grip of the dash board. Dad does his best impression of “The Scream” – he’s hoarse from, well, all the screaming – then faints in pure terror.

2)      I decide to take my dear little bumper car through the car wash: sounds innocuous enough but, you forget, dear readers I am due a little mishap. Things that could go wrong/comedy gold on offer at the car wash (and the reason I have always been too scared to go through one) are as follows –

  1. My recently “Auto Glass-ed” window pops again causing me to weep and wail like a banshee and make me incapable of  moving my car: the nice boys in the petrol garage have to come and move it for me muttering “I thought women liked fairy sounds” and proclaiming that this would never happen to a male driver
  2. My roof is torn away from the body of the car exposing my head to the big washer thingies. My hair gets tangled up in said washy thingies and is torn from my head. Or: my head won’t give up my hair and my head is pulled from my body. The end.
  3. The car wash fills with limitless water and then breaks down. I have to live in said car wash for all eternity. I evolve to an amphibious life: I now have webbed feet and scales.

3)      I go for a smaller, noisier target: I throw large sticks so accurately that they get wedged in the spokes of the bikes that small children are riding up and down the street on. They are pretending to be motorbikes. Broom, Broom indeed children.

4)      I get arrested for what the police term “manslaughter” when one of the kiddies is killed. I then:

  1. Plead diminished responsibility – “my blog followers made me do it, your honour”– they believe that I am psychologically disturbed and lead me to my padded cell in a straight jacket
  2. Am sentenced to a life living in a car wash (see point 2. A)
  3. Am sent to prison where I acquire a questionable room mate…
  4. Am found not guilty: clearly children pretending to be a motorcycle is a fraudulent act therefore I was simply doing my civic duty. I will then get a magazine deal to sell my story “I just did what anyone would have done” and rise to stardom overnight

Vote now!


Bus Rage Part 2: A Case Study April 8, 2012

Further to my post entitled “Bus Rage Part1: A Profile of the Syndrome” I shall now continue with the second installment: putting the profile into perspective by means of a case study. Case study subject was, invariably, lucky. old. me.

Two nights ago I left work at 5.40 pm knowing I was likely to have already missed the closest bus to my actual finish time so I wasn’t in any great hurry – until I turned the corner of the street and saw my bus coming down the high street – running really isn’t my thing (those of you that haven’t read “My Boyfriend Thinks I’m Fat” please do so now) and yet the thought of being stood waiting for the next bus for an indefinite length of time forced me to commence an attempt at a run. I watched the bus stop as I ran (slow mo) down the high street towards it and I then watched as it closed its doors and started to drive off. But no, I’d already run this far I was NOT going to miss it, and then, hurrah; the traffic lights at the end of the road turned red as the bus pulled up to them so I continued my panting – flailing run (I definitely was not a gazelle in a past life) right up to where the bus had stopped at the traffic lights and knocked on the bus door (no need: the driver had clearly already seen me)…unfortunately this was not the end of my plight as, when he looked at me the bus driver merely shook his head and refused to let me on his bus.

So there I stood; gasping for breath in the freezing night air fit to collapse from the running, and there he sat in his nice warm bus for several minutes while he waited for the traffic lights to change. As I walked back up the street to the bus stop I must have seemed like I had developed Tourettes Syndrome; cursing and swearing to myself as I was. I then had the pleasure of waiting over twenty minutes in the cold for the next bus, at risk of losing a hand because I left my gloves in my locker at work. Excellent.

The following night I was determined not to get caught out again and so left work five minutes earlier than on the previous night: no need for running that way I’d be in perfect time for their perfectly made up time table. And yet once more as I turned the corner I found myself lurching and flailing towards the bus stop. Thankfully there were a lot of passengers getting on at that stop that evening so he only just got the doors closed as I got there. He reopened the doors for me and took my ticket then looked at me and said “that was lucky”. This was the same bus driver that had refused me getting onto the bus the previous night. And I was still M.A.D. really mad. My response verged on the hysterical and there were definitely symptoms of bus rage apparent “LUCKY?! LUCKY?!” definitely tending towards the hysterical, does this man have a death wish, I mean, REALLY! Lucky indeed, privileged in fact to have obtained the service for which I pay considerable sums of money each week. My response? “Oh yes, very lucky…Not like last night though” accompanied by a not subtle at all “death stare” which earned me the explanation of: “Well I could have lost my job for letting you on” I believe I snatched my ticket and snarled at him while stomping my feet as the red mist came down. Lost your job? Listen, losing your job is the least of your worries given the slow a painful death I had planned for you, I can assure you!

Bus rage is not simply limited to buses though, dear readers, it is also transferrable to every other method of transport but most especially the dreaded Public Transport.


In Defence of Samantha Brick April 4, 2012

Filed under: Being unfit — leatierney @ 7:33 pm
Tags: , , ,

There are few people currently oblivious to the current Twitter – storm being whipped up by Samantha Brick and the Daily Mail. If you haven’t a clue what on earth I’m on about

1. Where have you been?

2. I have kindly provided the links for you:

In fairness to Ms Brick I feel a little bit sorry for her: she’s probably sacrificed a whole lot of female (come to think of it, even male) friendships through her article. There are few people that will trust her intentions now as all are likely to assume that she wishes to get something out of them. So, as I am feeling a little bit of sympathy for her I have decided to write something to counter all the hate mail and threats she has been receiving because, lets face it, whilst she may have gone about it all the wrong way, she has actually (a little inadvertently) done something positive with her article:

  1. Women once more stand united: the return of sisterly solidarity has occurred over the past few days. Unfortunately, Ms Brick, these women are not united with you. No it isn’t out of jealousy: nobody minds if you’re pretty or not I think you’ll find. The fact that you have distinguished yourself as separate from other women and placed yourself as their competitor rather than supporting the advancement of other women is what they are upset about. No woman is going to clap their hands with glee at being told “this is what you’re doing all wrong, and this is what I’m doing so right”. What the women have united against is a common villain I’m afraid and, as per, a woman has been set up to take that place as villain. The only positive to this is that:
  2. The stereotypical portrait of a villain has been altered significantly: evidently you are an empowered woman who doesn’t wish to skirt controversy by being meek and mild (good) however, instigating women criticising other women (bad) is far less admirable. Women have been portrayed as villains for far too long in fairytales and, yes, Samantha, it is indeed time that people stopped portraying the villainess as an ugly old hag with warts on her nose. The unfortunate part about you being the villain of the piece is that people aren’t questioning why you have been allowed to advance your own career goals based upon what you look like: why aren’t these men being held to account?
  3. The Social Media storm created by your article has given other women an opportunity to express themselves and their concerns: bringing women’s issues to the forefront of discussion. What I would like to suggest here is that we all get a little perspective on these women’s issues. If you aren’t aware of it readers there was a very important article posted recently about sixteen year old Amina Filali. If you haven’t seen this article yet, you should click here:  Amina was sixteen but experienced a horrific ordeal at the hands of men: she was raped and then ordered by the Moroccan courts to marry her abuser. Amina couldn’t live under these circumstances and took her own life: this is a much more valuable insight into the Women’s Rights Movement as it stands internationally. There has been a reform in Morocco of women’s rights known as Moudawana:

“The moudawana was created to give more rights to women, but it isn’t the answer to all women’s problems” said Jazouani

Do you see how this transfers to your article Ms Brick? It isn’t just the change in law that needs to take place: Ms Pankhurst only started the ball rolling for us with her cries of “votes for women” the idea, much like with the moudawana, was that women would continue to carry the baton after she was gone. This is about the need for a change in attitudes. The women that have reacted so strongly to your article, you may actually consider, are not suffering from the green eyed monster but are struggling with the inequity of it all. The female rights movement had come an awfully long way in trying to reverse the stereotypes that you not only pander to and endorse but you revel in these stereotypes because you feel a benefit from it. Whilst this is fantastic publicity for debates on female rights obviously you got the rougher end of the deal on this one: your article really did have all the subtlety of, well, a brick in the face. Plus, if you really want to endorse the stereotyping of women, then you’re doing it all wrong: you’re supposed to just sit quietly looking pretty. You made yourself a pawn in the Daily Mail “Women Beware Women” campaign.

4. Employers will now love you. Obviously. Productivity in the work place just went up ten fold. Why? Because the office romance just died Ms Brick and you killed it. No woman is going to want to put herself in your shoes: look at what you have experienced. And no man is now going to run the risk of being “Bricked”: sexism in the workplace will once more come under close scrutiny.

So, to close my argument (for now) and open the floor for discussion I will just say that every woman, every human being wants to be valued on their merits and seen for WHO they are: I want to get a promotion or a job offer because I am the best not simply because I reached a glass ceiling and was prepared to flash a bit of leg. And yes, I am aware that there are plenty of organisations where “looking the part” is essential (do men feel the same pressures of this I wonder?) but why do we need to substantiate this inequity by pandering to it? Why do we have to resign ourselves to living up to someone else’s idealised notion of beauty? Ms Brick, are you of the nature that if you can’t beat them join them? It certainly seems that way. How about, if at first you don’t succeed, try then try again?


Bus Rage: Part 1 April 1, 2012

Filed under: Being unfit — leatierney @ 10:43 am

There is an excellent reason for people choking up the roads and the atmosphere with their cars and their respective world destroying fumes: Bus Rage Syndrome. Now, this illness, and I shall call it an illness – because the triggers for such instances are such that they cause such an intense level of distress to one’s psychological well being that one temporarily (not so temporarily if you bear grudges) becomes slightly unbalanced (read: homicidal). What I am referring to is likely to be a situation you are familiar with being placed into – against your will – and I suspect you will recognise some of the symptoms.


Bus Timetables – the layout of the timetable itself and its incomprehensible symbols and logic, the inability of bus company to inform of changes to said time table, the inability of bus drivers to stick to said time table which leads us to;

Bus drivers –  their demeanour is either a, far too overtly cheery for the pre work bus ride or b, they are cantankerous and, in some cases, plain old rude, as mentioned previously they appear to be unable to maintain any sort of regimented time table, they have a fictional time table of their own which they anticipate you will figure out and adhere to, the inability to wait for anyone to sit down before they use an excessive amount of accelerator and then stamp on the brakes so that you weave and lurch like a drunkard (note to self: do not attempt a bus journey hung over) hoping not to land in the lap of the pervy over middle aged man that tries to make conversation with you at the bus stop instead grabbing the boob of an older lady that shrugs you off as “the youth of today” and eventually headbutting the hand rail and collapsing in a heap on the floor where you shall remain for the rest of the journey (what IS that smell?)

Bus stops – the illogical placement of these fixtures so that you still need to walk a considerable distance in the pouring rain in non waterproof shoes with no umbrella because the wind turned it inside out as soon as you stepped off of the bus, the fact that most bus stops now are literally just a post with no information on it: no details of which buses stop here and what the bus times are (because they are made up), there no longer appears to be any need for the great British public to have somewhere to sit out of the rain/wind/Siberian temperatures/snow and wait for an eternity for the next bus. Which leads us into the so called “Park and Ride”;

Park and Ride facilities – drive for miles to get a bus because the town wasn’t made big enough for anyone to actually park in it oh and I hope you brought your ice skates because we made sure the surface was multi use: any sign of frost and you’ll be sliding all over the place. And if there’s snow, well you can forget walking and just crawl to the bus from your car. Oh and feel free to guess where the spaces are because we haven’t factored in your need to see the lines to bay park.

Buses as vehicles – they make screechy noises when you are trying to have a little pre work nap (because you had to get up so very early to ensure you actually caught one of these miracle buses in time to attend work), they smell like urine and faeces which always brings good cheer to the pre work journey and the heating is never sufficient for having been stood out in the rain/wind/Siberian temperatures/snow for an indeterminable amount of time.


Symptoms can vary from case to case and vary in intensity and expression but can include any number of the following:

Homicidal thoughts, steam coming out of ears, the silent “death stare”, stamping of feet, rocking backwards and forwards (although this can also just be an attempt at not turning into a living ice sculpture), muttering under one’s breath, screaming a stream of incomprehensible obscenities (which the other passengers politely overlook and refuse to make eye contact with you ever again, and they’re definitely not sitting next to you on the next journey), snarling, snapping, maniacal laughing

[the above list is not limited to just these behaviours alone, there are many more]