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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: [http://www.vintagefloraldesign.co.uk ] 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

http://www.tonbridge-school.co.uk/hire/

Random House publishers:

www.randomhouse.com/

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

lcampbell@randomhouse.co.uk

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

http://www.goodybag.org.uk/

Choccywoccydooadah for providing a masterpiece of a cake for auction:

www.choccywoccydoodah.com/

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

http://www.catherinehillphotography.co.uk/

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: www.susanlewis.com

If you are interested in finding out more about Susan’s publishers go to: www.rbooks.co.uk

If you want more information on Breast Cancer Care go to: www.breastcancercare.org.uk or call the free Helpline on 08088006000

To support Steph in her fundraising endeavours please go to: www.justgiving.com/stephanie-harrison6Image