Enjoying the stars and bars of Cheshire

Who’d have thought, when Note to Boy hit the bookshops almost two years ago that I would still be fulfilling some of the gin pledges kindly made when I was crowdfunding the book? Covid and geography have delayed the process but at last we are getting there.

The latest of the book’s generous supporters owed a ‘gin experience’ happens to live with his family in the lovely county of Cheshire. So this weekend we braved the motorways – and an out-of-date but nonetheless insistent satnav – to travel there and enjoy a gin or two with them.

The sacrifices we authors are forced to make!

As if that wasn’t fun enough, just down the road we discovered the wonderful Jodrell Bank.

There, the following day, along with hoards of excited children we explored the new First Light Pavilion and its interactive exhibition, and visited the Space Dome for films and a … let’s call it a lecture, though it was so well presented, I for one didn’t feel I was being force-fed facts. If only science museums had been this exciting when I was young, I might have left school with more of an inkling of how space worked.

I couldn’t help but notice that when it came to asking the audience – ‘Who can explain what a black hole is?” “Can you identify this planet?” – all the hands that went up were children-sized! They were impressively well-informed.

Afterwards we strolled to the Lovell radio telescope, still one of the biggest and most powerful radio telescopes in the world. Seventy-six metres in diameter, amazingly it was constructed back in 1957. You only get to appreciate the size of this monster feat of engineering when you spot the ant-people working underneath it. You may just be able to make them out in my photo.

It may have been much delayed, but delivering my Note to Boy gin-experience responsibilities is proving to be a constant joy. I shall be sad when the last one is done.

Who wants a sneak peek?

Are there any more satisfying words for a novelist to write than ‘The End’? Er, actually, yes. Finishing a book, for me, is an anxious, unsettling time.

Why? For two reasons. One, because the end is never really the end. I’ve yet to meet or read about an author who sits back, after typing those two words, and is totally and utterly satisfied with what they’ve written and wouldn’t want to change – or chop – a single word. It’s a condition of the job, I fear.

And secondly, because it means the words you’ve created in the privacy of your workroom, cleaving them possessively to your chest, will have to start making their way out, blinking shyly, into the big, wide world.

What will the world – that is literary agents, publishers and early readers – make of what you’ve laboured months over? Will they be kind and welcoming?

Be that as it may, I can put it off no longer. I am at that stage with my latest work when I can rightly claim it’s ‘finished’ – for now. And so, dear readers, here’s a brief extract from … let’s call it Novel Number Two.

The title is another thing I’m not yet sure of!

This is how it starts.



I had no business being on a bike really. Not with all the Bordeaux I’d been putting away. I was trying to do the right thing, you see, by leaving the Mini on the drive. This was before I twigged that trying to do the right thing was exactly where I’d been going wrong.

         Not hungover. Not really. Just a bit fuzzy-headed. And I had to go shopping or face yet another banquet of peanut butter from the spoon. My shopping list wasn’t long. White bread and cheap, day-glo lemon curd – in tribute to remembered Sunday teatimes round the fire – seven ready meals, seven family-size packets of posh crisps, and a double pack of cream crackers. As an afterthought, I added a bag of oranges. No sense, I thought, in going down with scurvy on top of everything else.

         Shopping done and scary robot voice on the check-out braved, I set off for home, carrier bags swinging merrily on the handlebars. Don’t remember hitting the pothole but do remember flying through space and seconds later looking up at two strangers, a salty liquid dribbling from my mouth.

In A&E, it wasn’t exactly Code red. Adult female, like it is on the telly. More like, Sit by the broken drinks machine for a few hours, luvvie, until someone shouts a name that approximates to yours.

So I waited, blotting my mouth with toilet paper, until they sent me to X-ray. Then I waited some more, now promoted to a cubicle, until a cheerful Ozzie doctor, who couldn’t have been more of a cliché if he’d had a didgeridoo under one arm and a wallaby under the other, whooshed back the curtain.

‘G’day,’ he said, voice too loud, teeth too white. ‘Had a shufti at your piccies, Pat –’

‘Trith,’ I lisped.

‘Come again? Whatever – upshot is, looks a lot worse than it is. No fractures. Cuts and bruises only. You’ve got off lightly. Except for this,’ he said, digging into the pocket of his scrubs. ‘Pressie for you.’ He dropped something into my palm. ‘Got loosened when you face-planted the old tarmac, I reckon. Don’t thank me. Thank Sally in the Rad Lab. She found it kicking about on the floor. You’re lucky.’

I looked at the little yellow dental crown. It was tiny. Yet, as I poked around in my mouth with my tongue, the gap felt enormous.

 ‘Thankth,’ I said, feeling the blood trickling down my chin.

Here be a monster!

I’m a passable cook. I can knit simple jumpers. I’ve written some scripts and a couple of novels. And … no, that’s about it. Sum total of my skills. So I’m always in awe of those marvellously talented creatures who are brilliant at lots of things.

Such a one is Stevyn Colgan, my writing stable mate at Unbound. Not content with writing both novels and non-fiction – his latest (tenth if I’ve counted right) is a comedy called Cockerings – he’s a marvellous artist, working in several different media, not to mention cook, comedian, podcaster and much more. He’s also probably built a time machine, solved the Northern Ireland protocol problem, and invented a thing that means you can read your phone even when the screen’s in full sun for all I know.

During the pandemic, Stevyn turned his hand to creating monsters. I came face to face with one of his fabulous creations at the very excellent Grayson Perry Art Club Exhibition at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery. The Bristol monster is part of Stevyn’s community lockdown installation, The Monster Zoo, aimed at providing local children with a fun and creative activity, when so many other avenues were closed to them. Grayson Perry liked the idea so much, he put it in his exhibition.

If you’re in the Bristol area, I urge you to go along and see this collection of witty and thought-provoking exhibits, made more poignant because they came about during the worst days of lockdown. Here’s a selection from the eclectic mix.

I’ll stick to my knitting.

Monster escaped from the Zoo, doing its thing in Bristol Museum.

Wipe your feet on this. Much more useful than an actual ticket during lockdown

Dishing out some home truths

Clarks make a new acquaintance

Second Oxford Indie Book Fair was fin-tastic!

Writers, publishers and artists gathered for the second Oxford Indie Book Fair on 2 April, an event that showcases the work of local authors, independent publishers and other artists.

Among the 45 exhibitors was the artist John Buckley, probably best known for creating the Headington Shark, a controversial landmark in Oxford since the 1980s.

I took along Note to Boy and had a great day, introducing Bradley and Eloise to a new audience, and indulging myself talking books and writing with visitors and other exhibitors in the beautiful surroundings of the Wesley Memorial Hall.

Thank you to the organisers for arranging such an enjoyable and successful event.

Oxford Indie Book Fair – so good they ran it twice!

So successful was the first Oxford Indie Book Fair that the organisers have decided to hold another one this year. Like last time, the second fair will be held at the Wesley Memorial Hall, New Inn Hall Street, Oxford, a wonderful venue, on Saturday 2 April, to coincide with the Oxford Literary Festival. Two for the price of one – though the Indie Fair is free!

The previous fair was lively and great fun, packed with books and authors of all kinds. There’ll be free talks and entertainment throughout the day. I’ll be there and, if you’re in the Oxford vicinity, I hope you will be too.

Reviews of Note to Boy

Here’s a selection of reviews of Note to Boy. It’s great to see what readers, writers and bookbloggers make of Eloise and Bradley, and wonderful to know they’ve brought some laughter into people’s lives – as well as a few tears and the odd cringe!

Longer versions of what they have to say may be found on Amazon or Goodreads, or by following the link indicated. You are most welcome!

‘What a unique and entertaining little novel. The volatile, yet affectionate relationship between the two main characters will be one that will stick in my memory for some time … Bradley was a fabulous character. I cheered Bradley on throughout the story. Humorous and poignant in equal measure … charmed me with its delightful characters.’


Note to Boy is a charming, hilarious story about an unlikely friendship that develops between two generations … The book itself is exceptionally well written … perfect for your afternoon on the beach … I highly recommend this clever book to anybody this summer – I’m sure you’ll love it!’Joel Francis, The Gibraltar Magazine

“Clark is a remarkable ventriloquist, alternating from the working-class vernacular of Bradley to the posh theatricality of Eloise with each chapter … The characters are richly drawn, and readers will quickly become invested in the odd couple, as individuals and as friends. The story is a pleasure all the way through. A funny, immersive portrait of an unusual working relationship.” – Kirkus Reviews

“This rib-tickling novel is skilfully written with the lightest touch, which in turn lends its hidden depths even greater poignancy … skip-along pacing and the perfectly-pitched timing of its punchlines, both humorous and moving… in the person of Eloise Slaughter, Sue Clark has created a truly memorable character who, despite considerable flaws, one cannot help warming to … Anyone with an interest in fashion or the swinging 60s will find much to love here but this is also a book that anyone can enjoy …this comes highly recommended, especially for anyone determined to age very badly indeed. So, if you’re looking for something unusual and entertaining while also being both thought-provoking and uplifting why not give this hidden gem a go?”Kindle Customer SB

“A heart-warming, darkly comedic book about friendship in the most unusual of places … I really loved reading Note To Boy, the dialogue between Eloise and Bradley, really did have me laughing to myself and at other times cringing … Characters like Trip, Dazzle, Bruno, Howie and her long running feud with Kristina Krabtree all gave life to the person Eloise was in her youth … As we are coming out of lockdown this book is a perfect reminder that we all need companionship, we all need someone to talk to and share experiences with, that sometimes those friendships are found in the most unlikely of friendships and that sometimes maybe all we need is to answer that advert in your local newsagents.”The Literary Addict, bookblogger.

Note to Boy, this is a book that once you have started you will have to finish.
Nice one Sue Clark! My mum also enjoyed it.
NSS944, a reader

Note to Boy is a cleverly written first novel and explores the developing relationship between two unlikely characters. The first person narrative of each reveals a young man with a troubled background and an ageing former doyen of the superficial cut and thrust of the fashion world. Although written as a comedy it is at the same time a sensitive, convincing and thought provoking exploration of societal issues at opposite ends of the scale. Great fun to read – and there’s no indication of how things pan out until the last page! I look forward to more from Sue Clark!Dr Barry, a reader

The adventures of this ill-assorted pair begin when Bradley realises that Eloise’s stories are something more than the ramblings of a dotty old lady. She has a past, and what a past! Although Bradley has never heard the word ‘amanuensis’, and Eloise cannot remember it, that is what he becomes. His efforts to find out the truth about his employer result in happier times for them both, and along the way, there is plenty of humour, and multiple reveals for the reader to enjoy.Paterson Loarn, blogger

In her beautifully written debut novel, Sue Clark tells a story that will make you laugh a lot and cry a little. She has created two convincing, realistic characters, each of whom is on the point of succumbing to an impossible situation. By introducing Eloise and Bradley, and making them bounce hilariously off each other, she not only saves them both, but also gives them hope for the future. I recommend Note to Boy to book clubs, not only because of its high entertainment value, but also because it bridges the generation gap and presents decades of social history, in a style as light and digestible as a macaroon; or, as Eloise would call it, a ‘Cameroon’.C J Limb, reader and author

This is a gorgeous funny book with brilliant characters. Highly recommended.Zena, reader and author

This comic novel is ideal for chasing away the current COVID blues. At its heart is an odd couple duo who offer a rather striking contrast. Despite the diverging tone of both characters, they both come off as realistic and not caricaturist, and both of them experience an extremely satisfying arc. Although comedy novels can come off as relatively gentle compared to thrillers for example, Note To Boy central mystery steadily raises the stakes, both in the present and in the past. This book provides some ideal real world escapism, and is already being lapped up by the people I have recommended it to. What more can I say than that?Jamie Chipperfield, reader and author

This delightful romp by comedy writer Sue Clark is an engaging, funny, and poignant read. It brings together two unlikely characters in the form of the theatrical and slightly cantankerous old dear, Eloise Slaughter, and the 17-year-old Bradley McCreedy. Note to Boy reminded me a little of Harold and Maud, only in that the two characters are of similar age. But here the comparison ends. With Note to Boy, the dialogue is far funnier and the narrative has a great deal more depth. And as with all great comedy, there is a tenderness and poignancy to both of these well-drawn characters. Sue Clark’s debut is a little gem and will appeal to anyone who enjoys the joy of language – particularly when it has been dragged through a hedge backwards by the book’s elderly protagonist. It would, dare I say it, make a wonderful stage play.Alex Pearl, reader and author

The story is just great, the writer is really skilled! Would be nice to see it as a movie as well! Loved it and looking forward to read more from Sue Clark!BB, a reader

This is a witty, intelligent novel with some laugh out loud, snorting moments as Eloise recounts her life’s misadventures to the rather reluctant ears of Bradley, her assistant/cleaner/life coach. She’s led a colourful life, the toast of Swinging London, at least according to her! This was tremendous fun, and had a hugely redemptive and satisfying ending. – ramblingmads, blogger

I loved this book so much. It was funny, but heartwarming and a lovely tale of two outcasts, one old and one young, finding themselves together and both becoming better people because of it. I thought the style of writing was genius – written exactly how the characters would have written it. The use and misuse of language was very clever and what I thought would be an easy and quick read, quickly drew me in and became compelling reading. Mrs & Mr R Robinson, readers

What could a teenager with an attitude and an elderly woman who is incapable of looking after herself have in common? It doesn’t seem like a lot. Bradley wants the job because he is on a long road to nowhere and helping Eloise could lead to an opportunity. Helping her to write an autobiography of sorts gives him a chance to get to know the woman behind the mood swings, the erratic behaviour and he then sees the eccentric fashion icon with entirely different eyes. I have to say that I didn’t experience this as a read full of comedic moments, but rather one full of poignant realistic moments. However I can absolutely picture this on the screen, and I hope someone sees the potential in this – The Lady in the Van kind of eccentricity coupled with a young man trying to grip the one possible straw that might take him out of his set-in-stone future of violence and deprivation. I really enjoyed this story, perhaps because it was easy to picture both main characters so well.Cheryl M-M’s Book Blog

A hundred authors share their thoughts

Browse in any library or bookshop and you’re almost bound to come across a section devoted to books purporting to tell you how to turn yourself into a successful writer. I know. I’ve read quite a few of them. As you might guess, since you don’t see my name on the Costa Awards list, I didn’t find them particularly helpful.

I’m sorry to say, there is no simple secret to literary success, just as there is no definitive handbook for being a good spouse, partner, or parent. These things are way too complicated for that. But, you can learn something of the ups and downs of literary life by reading about other writers’ experiences.

In 100 Ways to Write a Book, the estimable Alex Pearl has somehow corralled no less than one hundred writers and cajoled them into sharing their thoughts on the craft. And yes, I was hugely chuffed to be asked to be among them. 

Authors from all sorts of backgrounds, from debut writers to award-winning best sellers, give you a peak into their motivations and working methods. 

It’s a fascinating read and will probably do you more good, in terms of inspiration and insight, than no end of ‘how to’ books droning on about mood boards, time lines and writing apps. 

All author proceeds from the book will be donated to PEN International