Today I welcome back fellow Crooked Cat author, Sue Barnard as we chat about this and that. We have a few things in common, I see, for I, too, was adopted (for a different reason); and the bulk of my family also lives in Australia. I’m sorry we’re not going to meet again at our publisher’s get-together this year, Sue. Have a great time, all of you!
Sue – you’re a lady after my own heart: I too was a full-time parent, for twenty-odd years. How much did your family teach you, I wonder, and how many children / grandchildren do you have?
I have two grown-up sons. No grandchildren as yet (at least, none that I know about!), but I am a great-aunt, several times over. More about that later.
Being a parent taught me that it’s people, not possessions, that really matter. Before I had children I used to fret over trivial stuff, such as if a book got damaged or a favourite cup got broken. It didn’t take me long to see the error of my ways. Objects are replaceable – people are not. Now, if something goes wrong, I ask myself: “Does it matter?” In at least ninety per cent of cases, the answer is “No.”
Please give us a little of your background, which you say is stranger than fiction?
It’s a very long story, and would probably fill another book just on its own, but briefly: I was adopted as a baby, was brought up as an only child, and had lost both my parents before I was forty. Then, a few years later, quite out of the blue, my birth family turned up. Suddenly I had a mother, a stepfather, siblings, cousins, and nephews & nieces. Some of those siblings were already grandparents, which turned me into a ready-made great-aunt.
A few months ago I wrote a blog post about one particular episode of the story. You can read it HERE. What a wonderful story, Sue!
One of your sons has given you the label “professionally weird”. Would you care to elaborate?
Some years ago (for reasons which I won’t trouble you with here), I became involved with composing questions for BBC Radio Four’s fiendishly difficult Round Britain Quiz. This is the radio equivalent of BBC TV’s Only Connect, and both require a particularly warped (or weird) type of brain – both to answer the questions and to set them. I received a modest fee for the questions I supplied – I was being paid for being weird. Hence: “professionally weird.” It was quite a while ago, but somehow the label has stuck.
You’re quite a linguist. How have your languages helped you, and do you use them much these days?
I’m sure it’s accidental, but several of the books I’ve edited recently have included foreign words or phrases – it helps to know if these have been used correctly. And understanding even just a little of the local lingo certainly helps when travelling, even if it’s just being able to decode a menu or a road sign!
I am in the middle of reading your delightful romance “Nice Girls Don’t”. A great light summer read. Different from “The Ghostly Father”, although both are love stories. I can see myself becoming a fan of yours. What’s next in the pipeline?
It’s very kind of you to say so! As you know, The Ghostly Father is based on Shakespeare’s
Romeo & Juliet. For my next book (The Unkindest Cut of All, due out in June) I’m returning to the works of the Bard. The story is a murder mystery set during an am-dram production of Julius Caesar – but (apart from making the Soothsayer female) I haven’t messed about with the plot this time!
You are a much-appreciated editor at Crooked Cat. Which do you prefer – editing or writing books… or poetry?
That’s a difficult one to answer, as I’m not really comparing like with like. I love being creative, but it’s also very satisfying being able to help other writers.
Have you travelled? Which is your favourite place?
I’ve been fortunate enough, over the years, to have visited all five continents. I don’t have a particular favourite, but I’ll share a few photos from my many and varied travels.
And, if there were no boundaries, what would you like to do / be / have?
Most of my family are in Australia, and I’d love to be able to visit them more often – and be able to afford to fly there in comfort, rather than having to endure hours on end in cattle-class.
And I love food and travel. So if someone offered me an all-expenses-paid job as a restaurant critic and/or a travel writer, I think I’d be very tempted!
I know the feeling, Sue, as all my grandchildren live in Australia. Although most of them are now of an age where they travel by themselves. But isn’t it amazing how the hours fly by when you have a good book to read!