In Conversation With; Isabelle Sudron

Moving forwards, to make sure that this isn’t just a blog full of me blathering about my own work and to provide a wider perspective on the weird and wonderful world of writing I will be pestering various literary types into answering some questions for the delight and betterment of all.

First up; Isabelle Sudron, a young lady that I met at University who, in an apparent contravention of the laws of physics, has a smile bigger than her whole head. Please take the time to check out her undeniably snazzy website HERE or indeed HERE before reading our hard-hitting expose on the life of an aspiring children’s author.


Writing Strange Give us a little background on yourself. What was the moment it clicked that you’re a writer and what are your ambitions moving forwards?

Isabelle Sudron I’ve always written stories and poems but I never really considered myself a writer. I felt silly calling myself a writer when I mostly just sit in a room alone, type some words, delete said words, and start again. Then, somewhere along the line, my definition of a ‘good day’ became measured by how much writing I got done. That’s when I thought, ‘I guess I’m a writer now!’
And, in terms of my ambitions, I’d just like to write for a living everyday – that’s the dream!

WS What are you working on at the moment, how far along are you?

IS I recently finished writing my first children’s book, Olive in the Heights, and it’s now in the hands of a number of lovely beta readers. So, right now, I’m waiting in fear for feedback. The next step is making a few final tweaks to my manuscript (I hope) and then harassing literary agents across the land!

WS What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far in your career and how did you do it?

IS A few years ago, I quit my job, moved back home and took an unpaid internship to get some experience in storytelling. My employer was a nightmare – think Miss Trunchbull meets administration – and at the end of two months of hard work, she assured me that I wouldn’t make it as a writer. So, I was unemployed, inexperienced and apparently talentless too. I felt pretty low and I spent a long time struggling to decide whether to prove ol’ Trunchbull wrong or throw in the towel. There was lots of soul searching, feeling sorry for myself and comfort eating. But, eventually, I decided I had nothing to lose. I got myself a part-time job and I focused all my spare time on writing a book.
Although that felt like a pretty rough milestone in my career, it’s probably also what kickstarted it. Thank goodness for the real-life Trunchbulls, eh?

WS When and how did you decide to produce work for a younger audience, do you have any particular influences?

IS As a reader, I don’t think I’ve ever really grown out of children’s books. I love the fact that anything and everything can happen, characters can be eccentric and plots can be so random. And as a writer, I love the fact that children are willing to suspend their disbelief for a great story. I feel like that creates so many more possibilities for writing. My main influence has to be Philip Ridley, he is my absolute writing Yoda! His books have eccentric characters and unusual plots, all while being set in average neighbourhoods that lots of kids actually live in. I still read his books when I need a bit of inspiration (and sometimes just for fun too).

WS Is there anything you’ve learned in the course of your efforts that you think of as being particularly useful to people in a similar position?

IS For me, planning is essential. Yes, it can be boring and frustrating, but it shaves so many hours off editing. The most useful resource I’ve found, in terms of story planning, is Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat and his ‘beat sheets’. Although they’re intended for screenwriters, I’ve still found them really useful. Another important thing I’ve learnt is that you don’t necessarily need to be a good writer to be a good storyteller. In the words of Elmore Leonard, “Write the book the way it should be written, then give it to somebody to put in the commas and shit.”

WS And just to be mean, what are your three favourite pieces of writing?

IS That is such a difficult question! I’d have to go for:
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion and
Mighty Fizz Chilla by Philip Ridley.
I like books where you really get to see the characters grow and these three books do just that!


Author Interview; James Rice

One of my several guises is as an arts and culture critic based in Liverpool. It’s a really fascinating context to work in and has lead me into several very cool situations, not the least the opportunity, through the always awesome Double Negative magazine with whom I’ve had the pleasure to work quite a bit, to interview a local author whose debut novel had very recently been published. James Rice’s book, Alice and the Fly had been picked up by Hodder & Staughton and in the midst of a national publicity tour, we sat over a pint of Guinness and talked writing. The main thing I took from the conversation is the conviction that, contrary to what I’d previously thought, the things I’d always dreamed of doing were actually possible rather than some kind of compelling illusion. It may sound a little cheesy but its no exaggeration to say that the conversation we had that night has set me on the path to where I am now. The following is an excerpt of the article, written by yours truly, that was published as a result;

“Writers are just people, they’re not unicorns”: An Evening With James Rice

James Rice

Ahead of the Writing on the Wall launch tonight, Jack Roe meets their Pulp Idol 2010 winner and author James Rice: discussing his dark debut novel Alice and the Fly, new found success and how writers are certainly not unicorns…

Taking my seat in the crowded upstairs of LEAF, Bold Street, I find myself a little confused. I stumbled across the event I am currently attending, a book launch, whilst trawling through the cultural listings for Liverpool in January. What confuses me, for the initial launch of a local author’s debut novel, is the sheer volume of people in the room. Photographs cannot be framed comfortably, drink orders cannot be heard, chairs are at a premium and the trays of hors d’oeuvres being floated by the smiling wait staff are having a terrible time trying to make the rounds. I begin to wonder who exactly it is I’m dealing with. By the end of the evening representatives from Hodder and Stoughton publishing house and the Liverpool based literary organisation Writing on the Wall, as well as the author himself, have gone to some lengths to explain.

James Rice, 27, is a Creative Writing MA graduate from Liverpool John Moore’s University, born and raised in Maghull and currently employed at the Waterstone’s in Southport. This is what I am told. He is also the wide-eyed, humble and beamingly proud author of Alice and the Fly, a book that I will not tell you anything about, except to suggest that you seek it out and read it as a refreshingly dark and hugely entertaining antithesis to the rash of teen-narrated novels and films of the last few years.

“I completely failed to avoid being thoroughly charmed and impressed”

A planned attempt to talk to James on the night, to try and get a better sense of who he is and how the book came to be, was scuppered by a long line of people waiting for a signature and a potential photo, whatever his standing in the wider community, in this time and place James Rice is a bona-fide literary celebrity.

We agreed to meet up at another point where, dictaphone in hand and wearing my most pointedly professional expression, I completely failed to avoid being thoroughly charmed and impressed in my quest to gain some information on what exactly the process of writing and publishing a novel entails.

For the full article, either click the headline up there, or right here, and remember that aside from talent and conviction these things, as I’m learning more and more, take time.