~ Interview by Melina Kantor
What a pleasure it is to have author Sue Margolis visiting the blog today!
Q: According to your Web site, you were nearly forty before you had the confidence to start writing. What inspired you to write your first novel?
A: I think I’d always been a writer at heart and hitting forty was a real watershed for me. It was a case of now or never. At that stage I didn’t even have my own computer. I remember sitting down at my son’s desktop one morning, after he’d left for school and writing the first few paragraphs of what was to become my first novel -Neurotica.
Q: How, if at all, has your background as a reporter for the BBC influenced your fiction writing?
A: I’m not sure that it influenced the actual writing, but during my years as a reporter I met and interviewed so many people – often with strange/weird stories to tell – and some of those characters have been incorporated into my novels.
Q: It’s amazing that you’ve never suffered from writer’s block! Why do you think this is? What keeps your ideas flowing? (It seems maybe your cat has some magical idea sparking powers?)
A: I’m pretty sure that writer’s block is based on fear… essentially the fear that whatever you write will be rubbished and ridiculed and you will fail. As a kid I was a complete dud at school. Every year I came bottom of the class. I’d experienced failure very early on and although it’s haunted me all my life, at the same time – in a weird way – it’s helped me. I knew what it felt like to come last and so I stopped being scared – I’d been there and survived. It meant that I was able to take on challenges that scare more successful people.
Q: By the way, it’s hard to believe that you worry about losing your ability to make people laugh! Your books are hilarious! Is humor something you have to work at, or does it come naturally?
A: The humor comes naturally. I have to work at polishing individual comic set-ups to make them funnier, but essentially humor is part of who I am. I guess that what worries me is waking up one day and discovering I’ve had a personality transplant!
Q: What do you think of the term “chick lit?” Do you consider your books chick lit?
A: I write romantic comedies, so would never get on my high horse and complain about my books being described as ‘chick lit’. On the other hand there is one thing that annoys me about most chick lit novels: the heroines are always pretty stupid and ditzy and make ridiculous decisions about how to conduct their lives. Bridget Jones is the prime example. I know it’s all in good fun and maybe I’m being overly critical, but I’m not sure that the Bridget Jones and Shopaholic books have done much to help the way the world looks at women. I have always made my heroines strong, capable women. Comedy-wise they tend to be the sane, ‘straight men’. The humor comes from the mad cast of characters that surrounds them. So in that sense my novels aren’t typical chick-lit.
Q: What advice do you have for the not yet published members of our chapter?
A: Keep going, keep taking the writing classes, but most important of all, keep reading. One of the things I advise all aspiring writers to do is get hold of a selection of books in the genre that inspires them. Read the books once for enjoyment. Afterwards re-read, but his time with a note-pad and pen. Make notes on structure, plot, character development. Study the dialogue. If the book isn’t very good, try to work out why. How would you improve it? You may need to go through the books several times, but it’s a great way to start learning the novelist’s craft.
Thank you so much for being here today! 🙂
Before becoming a novelist Sue Margolis worked for fifteen years as a reporter for BBC radio. She is married with three grown up children and lives in London with her husband and a cat called Alan.