What happens when the secrets of your past suddenly become the plot of a best-selling novel?
I don’t think many of us have considered this stomach-twisting possibility, but this is the premise of Suzy England’s debut book, ‘The Weekend’. Wealthy socialite Clark stumbles across a table full of hardcovers at a New York bookstore while waiting to propose to his girlfriend… and quickly realises that the books flying off the shelves into the hands of romance readers everywhere are a detailed, steamy and very identifiable recount of a thrilling affair he had with the author – a weekend he has never been able to forget.
It’s easy to see just from the summary why this story would be a hit, so it doesn’t come as a surprise to learn that ‘The Weekend’ was already an established success in its homeland of Wattpad before it was picked out by editing students at University of Southern Queensland, and then acquired by Black Phoenix Publishing Collective for mainstream publication. It’s a fun and quirky read, alternating between the story’s present day and the novel Clark is reading, and it’s sweet, but it’s also remarkably well-written. Suzy England is considered with her words, often moving the scene along with feeling and dialogue rather than big blocks of prose. This seems especially fitting for a moving novella about a whirlwind romance that takes place almost entirely in one small cabin over a single weekend.
I caught up with Suzy to ask her some questions…
Before we start off, can you share a bit about yourself, your education, work history, writing experience, etc.
According to my mom, my love of writing started in 1st Grade when I penned a poem about a bubble. My teacher loved it! I guess that’s when the seed was planted. It’s funny – I was talking about that poem with my mom recently and she said that when she read my poem for the first time, she didn’t believe that I actually wrote it myself. I don’t remember the exact wording of the poem (and we lost the original when our home burned) but evidently, it was somewhat advanced for a seven-year old’s mind. Imagine being accused of plagiarism by your own mother! LOL!
In 3rd grade, I fell in love with author Judy Blume. I read every one of her books–multiple times with some titles. In 5th grade, I started a writing club. I even had a pen name – Lucky Lemon Lollipop. Sophisticated, huh? I journaled and wrote poetry throughout junior high and high school. I wrote a modern version of Thorton Wilder’s play Our Town during my sophomore year. My English teacher printed copies and used it as a companion piece with the original text for several years. My senior year of high school, I fell in love with Chaucer (if that’s even possible) and wrote my own Canterbury Tale in iambic pentameter. If that doesn’t say nerd writer girl, I don’t know what does.
I entered adulthood–marriage and motherhood–and didn’t write a word for years. Then I found the world of online fanfiction. My first thought: Who are these weirdos who make up stories about existing characters? Within a year of stumbling on various online fandoms, I became a weirdo too! I have written fanfiction off and on for four different fandoms since 2005. Not only has it helped me grow as a writer, but it has also created some of my strongest friendships.
I graduated from college in 1994 with a degree in Education and became an elementary school teacher. I’ve taught 2nd and 3rd grades, and now I teach Physical Education. Best job ever! I get paid to play games with kids all day! I am excited to announce that I’m starting a Creative Writing club at my school this month. I’ll be working with several 2nd graders, coaching them in all areas of writing in preparation for a district competition in the spring.
True story: Back when I was in my last year of college, I went to see a psychic. Now I don’t hold much stock in mystical readings, but a friend begged me to go with her and I thought, why not? Looking back, the psychic predicted a lot of things that have actually come true in my life, with regard to relationships, children, and the like. But the most curious thing she told me was that teaching was not my true calling. She didn’t say exactly what my true calling would be, only that she saw letters and words in my future. Lots and lots of words.
What was the inspiration behind writing The Weekend?
The Weekend actually began life as a very short fanfic which married my love for a certain fandom with a well known novella. It has undergone many rewrites and has featured two very different endings. While most loved my original ending, some readers wished for an alternate ending. So I wrote a different ending, and it was well received for the most part. But I knew in my heart that my original ending was the true ending, so The Weekend will be published with my original ending. My apologies to those who like the alternate ending better. At the end of the day, I have to be true to myself and write the story that’s within me.
What other novels would you compare The Weekend to and have you always been a lover of Romance novels?
The Weekend is my updated retelling of Robert James Waller’s The Bridges of Madison County. That book imprinted on me from my very first reading. And then Clint Eastwood made his beautiful movie with the incomparable Meryl Streep and a haunting soundtrack/score and I fell in love with the story all over again. I find that whenever I’m flipping through television channels and find it playing, I stop whatever I’m doing to watch. I have always loved Romance novels and credit my mom for sharing so many wonderful books with me. And the titles she wouldn’t share? Well I’d just sneak those and read them in secret! (*ahem* every Jackie Collins novel I could smuggle into my room!)
Can you share your writing routine with us? Are you a morning or night writer, paper or pen, plotter or pantser?
I’m a night writer! Well, more of a “late afternoon/early evening writer.” Also, I’m a big “shower writer.” I do some of my very best thinking and compose some of my best dialogue in the shower. As a teacher, I try to get as much writing done in the summer months as possible. I didn’t write much this past summer BUT I did read a ton of books (16 novels!) so I’m gonna call it “research.”
Hate to admit it, but I’m 100% a pantser. Ugh! It can be so painful at times! I wish I could be one of those writers who map everything out in advance, but I’ve just never done it that way. I write exclusively on my laptop but keep a notebook and pen close by to jot down ideas when my computer isn’t handy. I have seven completed works and I haven’t written myself into a corner…yet.
Knowing what you now know, what advice would you give to aspiring writers regarding the writing process and the path to publication?
- Write the stories you want to read. If you love it, others will love it too.
- Edit, edit, and edit some more. And then, when you’re certain your story is perfect, edit it again because I can promise that you missed something.
- If you’re pursuing a traditional publishing path, be careful not to query literary agents too soon. I have queried agents with projects that were not ready when I naively thought they were.
- Join the #WritingCommunity on Twitter! You will connect with authors all over the world who will love you, champion you, and send you hilarious vids/GIFs/memes when you’re having a bad day!
As far as publishing goes, there are so many paths! Never in my wildest dreams would I have guessed that by joining Wattpad back in 2015 I’d be publishing my novella today. The craziest part? My publishing dream came to me, via a DM from a Wattpad reader, asking to submit The Weekend to her Editing and Publishing class at the University of Southern Queensland for a full scale publishing project. I have learned so much on my journey with the incredible USQ students and their wonderful professors, who are also industry professionals and head Black Phoenix Publishing Collective.
Someone said life writes the best stories, and honestly, I think my path to publishing is one of the best.
‘The Weekend’ is available now for pre-order (link to come)! It will be released in eBook and print on 25 November, 2019, from Black Phoenix Publishing Collective. You can find out more about Suzy England at her website, on Facebook, and on Twitter.