A Novel Solution is ‘One to watch’!

Thrilled to discover that, not yet out a month, and already A Novel Solution is grabbing attention.

Dumbstruck to find that The Bookseller magazine, no less – the publication read by publishers, retailers, agents and libraries – has singled it out as ‘One to watch’, praising the ‘warm, knowing humour of Clark’s clever second novel.’ Swoon-worthy praise indeed!

And these are some of the reviews that readers have kindly posted. My thanks to all who took the time to express their views. Please keep them coming. Writers love to hear from their readers:

*

‘It takes quite some skill to not only write humour (with a touch of pathos) but also to write something that becomes such an ‘easy reading’ experience. More that that, something in which the reader can immediately ‘view’ – even hear – the characters and plot coming to life. Sue Clark achieves all this and more.

A Novel Solution (great title!) is an intriguing romp through one woman’s mid-life crisis and her highly creative – if often disastrous – attempts to revive her fortunes.’ – Kindle customer

*

‘I had high hopes of this book. After all I’d really enjoyed Sue Clark’s first novel ‘Note to Boy’… Well, I was NOT disappointed… This is comic crime fiction, the plot is well-handled and I am very much loath to spoil any of the jokes. Suffice to say that many are aimed at writers, would be and published, self- or otherwise.

‘Much funnier than any of the tall bloke with the glasses’s books, this little wonder has more in common with Horowitz’s Magpie Murders than those.’ – Ewan

*

‘This book was so quintessentially English and eccentric, it was a rip-roaring read! Part mid-life angst, part thriller/mystery, all entertainment… The cynical humour that Sue Clark uses throughout the book hits all the right notes, the quick wit of Trish and the pithy put-downs of Amanda had me giggling to myself as I read it.

‘This book does have a serious message within its laughs – as we age, women find it difficult to see their worth and to define their place in a world that is hell-bent on making them more and more invisible. The world should take heed from this book and ignore women ‘of a certain age’ at its peril!’ – Kerry Young

*

I tore through this book. A funny and satirical read about two middle-aged women Trish and Amanda, the former a wannabe writer with a failed marriage, and the latter, a supposed “success” in the literary world, A Novel Solution highlights the plight of Trish as she takes “writing classes” from Amanda to gain some skills to reinvent herself. The characters/voices are well-developed and likeable, including the builder and a metaphysical, surrealish Ivy character too.’ – Ivy Ngeow

Publication day!

It’s here. The day has come and I am beside myself with excitement! A Novel Solution is published today.

Today (19th March) sees the publication of A Novel Solution. First to hit the bookshops is the hardback version – please contact me if you’d like me to sign your copy. I’d be delighted. The e-book is also out today. The paperback is available everywhere to preorder and will reach your hot little hands in June, just in time for that holiday read.

Like my previous comic fiction, Note to Boy (also still available, folks), A Novel Solution combines heart and humour. It’s published by the lovely SRL Publishing.

‘Funny and touching. A Novel Solution is an engaging and uplifting story of a woman’s struggle to sort her life out.’

If you need me, I’ll be celebrating!

The Many Hats of the Modern Novelist

Writing a novel is difficult and demanding, and many fall by the wayside. It’s tough but it’s a process with a clearcut and straightforward goal, right? An obvious beginning and end.

You have an idea. You labour to transfer it onto the page and fashion it into a book – let’s call it My Debut Tome. You struggle to find an agent, publisher – anyone! – who will help you get it out to readers. Eventually you succeed and MDT is published. You do a bit of publicity, heave a sigh of relief, and reward yourself with some time away from the keyboard.

Except, it’s not like that. Not at all. Let me tell you about the multiple literary hats I am currently wearing. My Tome Number Two – that is to say, the comic fiction A Novel Solution – is out in just under three weeks in March. Naturally I – along with my publisher SRL – am pulling out all the stops to get the title in front of as many readers, reviewers and booksellers as possible. That has to be my priority. My biggest bonnet, you could say.

However, at the same time, I can’t neglect My Debut Tome – that is, Note to Boy – since the launch of the new novel offers a great opportunity to promote my first, and find a fresh audience for it. Another hat.

However, qui n’avance pas, recule, as the French say. Those who don’t go forward, fall back. I need to plan ahead, and balance another titfer on top of the other two.                 

As every writer I know finds, before the ink is dry on the last book, people are asking ‘What are you working on now?’ Plus writing is an addiction. Without a text to tinker with, I’m like a vaper craving their next fix, and probably as grumpy. So, I am about 75% through drafting Tome Number Three and hoping to have it in good shape for submission later this year. We’re up to three hats.

However, as you may have noticed, I am also involved in a project with Breakthrough Books to publish short story anthologies. Two volumes have been produced already; the well received and reviewed Taking Liberties and Order & Chaos, both of which include stories from me as well as other established writers. Ideas for short stories are constantly bubbling in my brain, demanding attention. I need to work on them, ready if the call should come for a third anthology. Four hats.                              

All this is in addition to marketing and social media activities, and, if I’m lucky, finding time to read other writers’ books. By now the pile of hats is in danger of toppling.                    

Being a novelist, straightforward and clearcut? I should coco.                                                                                                                           

Out in March. Grab your copy.

Fiction fun in Oxford

It’s free, it’s fun and it’s (mostly) fiction.

The Oxford Indie Book Fair (OxIB) is about to welcome one and all to another day of buying, selling and talking books. This year’s fair promises to be bigger and better than ever before and takes place in Oxford’s historic Examination Rooms on Sunday 26th November.

I’ll be bringing along my comic fiction, Note to Boy, and introducing my latest humorous book, A Novel Solution, which is available to pre-order. Keeping me company will be my very good writer chums, Jason Cobley and Eamon Somers. As well as our own books, we’ll be showcasing the short story anthologies, Taking Liberties and the newly released bestseller, Order & Chaos, which the three of us, along with other established writers, have contributed to.

So, there’ll be lots to see and talk about. And buy of course! Come along, meet the authors, publishers, booksellers and other professionals who make books happen, have some wonderful conversations and find your next great read. Entry is free. See you there!

Spring cleaning

The roses are in full bloom. The sun is shining. And young and older person’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of … spring cleaning. Not the house! Of course not! Rather than going to the bother of dusting the cobwebs from the vacuum cleaner and trying to locate the polish, I decided to spring clean my website instead. That is, ask the lovely Jason* to give it a bit of a facelift.

The result is the pages as you see them now. In addition to more up-to-date pictures (and, sadly, my more up-to-date wrinkles!) and information on my comic novel Note to Boy, two new projects have been added: Taking Liberties, the short story anthology I contributed to, which is just out; and A Novel Solution, the comic fiction I am currently editing with the publisher, to be released in early 2024.

Hope you like the bright new look.

*Jason Harvey of Somefolk did all the hard work.

Why Review?

Why review the books you read? I can think of five gold star reasons.

  1. Reviews matter. They really do. Studies have shown that 95% of consumers read reviews before deciding on a purchase. I’m willing to bet that figure is even higher for books. Think about it. How many times have you bought a book without checking the reviews first?
  2. Reviews increase visibility. They are how readers discover new authors and make sure their favourites are up to scratch. Authors benefit from honest reader feedback. And yes, most of us do read reviews – the good, the bad and the occasional ugly – despite what some writers say.
  3. Success breeds success. I’m talking algorithms here. Not that I pretend to understand this dark art. But it seems common sense to me that reviews influence them. The higher a book’s ranking, the greater the number of reviews (and stars) it has, the more likely it is that readers will find it via the algorithms. And being found by new readers is what turns an unknown work into a chart-topper.
  4. Reviewing is good manners. It seems to me, if you’ve read a book, especially one you enjoyed, it’s only polite to let the author know what you thought about it and spread the word to other readers. Reviews don’t have to be long, editorial analyses – though they are welcome too! A few lines saying what you liked or disliked about a book are fine.
  5. It’s good to take a moment. I review every book I read – with the possible exception of the blockbusters that can manage fine without me. I find it therapeutic to sit and think about what I’ve read, and articulate my response to it while it’s fresh in my mind. It’s like when you’ve watched a film and just have to talk to someone about it. The experience isn’t complete without that pause for reflection. Reviews give you that space.

Obviously, here I’m thinking about my own books: Note to Boy and the anthology Taking Liberties. But not only them. Once you’ve read a book, do please share the experience with other readers on Amazon, Goodreads, booksellers’ websites, or wherever you read and write about books.  

Thank you.

Of Madness and Miniskirts

Farewell, Mary Quant, spirit of the 1960s. I owe you a lot. You brightened up my life as a young teenager and twenty-something with your short skirts, hot pants and sharp haircuts. You were there for me when I left home, started my first job, and when I met my husband. And when I got married, I wore a minidress. Of course.

And, much, much later on, you and others in the fashion industry were the inspiration for my debut novel, Note to Boy.

Not that I’m suggesting Mary Quant was in the least little bit like my main character, Eloise Slaughter. Eloise is an unprincipled, egotistical monster who shamelessly uses everyone she meets on her way up the fashion ladder. And I am very fond of her. What does that say about me? In contrast, Mary Quant was a retail pioneer and visionary who brought affordable style to the high street and changed the face of fashion forever.

People – nosy people – sometimes ask why I chose to write about the madness of Swinging London. How could I not? It was a crazy, creative and colourful time. Britain was the hub of all popular culture, with the rest of the world taking its lead from us for films, music, books and, of course, fashion. And I had the inside track on all of this. During the late 1960s and early 70s, when I was single and carefree, I worked for an American film company, shared a flat near Oxford Circus, bought my clothes in Carnaby Street, and went to the sort of parties where you might bump into a James Bond actor. Glamorous, hey?

Not so glam when you’re living it. I was an underpaid office dogsbody at the film company, the occupant of the flat next door to ours advertised her ‘modelling’ services on a handwritten postcard pinned to the door, and the James Bond actor I met was the Australian one whose name no-one can ever remember.*

Ok, so real-life wasn’t quite so ‘fab’ and ‘trendy’. Nevertheless, those times became a rich source of material for me as a writer of humorous fiction. I wanted to explore celebrity, from the point of view of someone who’d had it and lost it. As I had observed that glamorous lifestyle, and the behaviour that sometimes goes with it, from the sidelines, it was the obvious time and place in which to set Note to Boy.

So, thank you Mary Quant. Thank you for everything.

*Oh, and the James Bond actor? George Lazenby

The Things I Do For Art!

Did you know … ?

…. that gin is actually flavoured vodka? That archaeobotanists use straw from the thatched roofs of old buildings to research ancient heritage grains? That indeed, there is such a job as an archaeobotanist?

These and other gems I discovered on a visit to The Oxford Artisan Distillery (TOAD). Once again, the lovely old barn that is TOAD’s home was the venue for a gin-flavoured hour of information and inebriation. Well, someone’s gotta do it!

All in belated celebration of the publication of Note to Boy which, you may have noticed, features quite a bit of gin tippling.

Tipples, nibbles and giggles were on the agenda, as we listened to our guide Sarah, who provided just the right mix of historical context and (increasingly) hysterical laughter. My thanks to her and the rest of the TOAD crew, and to Sheila, Louise and Michael for their company, and for backing me over the years.

TOAD is well worth a visit if you’re in the Oxford area. While you’re there, don’t miss the picture of our new king, complete with improvised crown, being let into some of secrets of TOAD gin making.

Sarah explains about the copper gin stills and how they are cleaned. (Someone climbs inside!)

A rapt audience learns about base spirit and botanicals – and immediately forgets everything they’re told!

TOAD’s lovely old barn.

The Three Muskgineers! Making the ultimate sacrifice for literature – Louise, Sheila and your author.

Charles III and his improvised crown.