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Sue MacLeod - Author Interview by Tarah, Teen Blogger

Sue MacLeod - author photoAfter I attended Sue MacLeod’s book launch for her new book, Namesake, I wanted to learn more about her experiences with writing the novel and being a writer in general. I was extremely happy to learn that she was willing to be interviewed.

Sue was born in Kingston, Ontario. Her hobbies include reading, photography and decorating. She’s published more than seventy poems (which she has won awards for) and two short stories. She was also Halifax’s first official Poet Laureate. Namesake is her first Young Adult novel, and hopefully not her last!

What books have most influenced your life and why?

So many, each in a different way. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith, was one, when I was in my early teens. It's an autobiographical novel—not the kind I write myself—but something about how she told the story made it clear to me that everyone's story is valuable and worth telling. I think she did it through her use of vivid and precise details, and her obvious love for the characters—even the ones who were seriously flawed people doing all the wrong things.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I don't have any one favourite author, so I'll list a few favourite books and what strikes me about them: Sara Zarr's How to Save a Life (YA) because the character Mandy is one of the most likeable I've ever "met," and the book has lots of heart; Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried (Adult) for having an amazing title (the book opens with a list of things soldiers actually carry into war) and for taking such care with details that you really get a sense of what it's like; Monica Ali's Brick Lane (Adult), again, for getting the details down so well that you fully enter her world (a Bengali neighbourhood in London); and Patrice Kindl's Owl in Love (YA) for a quirky concept (a teenage girl who's part owl) and some laugh-out-loud humour. I loved all these books, but I wouldn't recommend the O'Brien one to everyone; it has some very brutal moments.

How do you get through writer's block? 

Going for a walk. Coming back to it. Going for a walk. Etc. If I'm really stuck (often due to fear that I won't be able to achieve what I hope to) I promise myself to stay with it for just a couple of hours. Or even one hour. That's less daunting than a four-hour chunk of time.

What type of scene do you find the most challenging to put into words?

It's challenging to write a scene where one character knows something the other character doesn't. Or the reader is supposed to realize something that the characters don't yet know. It can be intricate, and tricky to pull off.

What is your favorite part about writing books and the publishing process?

In a way, you get to live more than one life as a writer. That's pretty neat despite the fact that it's only in your head! Hopefully, books bring these other lives to readers too, of course. But the writer goes into that "novel world" for such a long time. 

Did you have an outline for the book? If so, did you ever stray from it?

I had a general idea of how the book would end, who the main characters would be, and some of the major scenes. But it wasn't a full outline, and most of the characters were still vague early on. Crisco became clear sooner than the rest—maybe because her name felt so right to me; and names are important. Another character does something significant near the end of the book that didn't come to me until really late, when I was working on the final manuscript with my editor.

Were there any personal experiences that helped shape your story, Namesake?

Namesake - book cover

Yes, when I was in my teens I travelled back in time to—no, just kidding! When I was in my early 20s I was, briefly, in a bad marriage. I loved my husband, but he was a bully at times, especially (but not only) when he drank. So I remember what it's like to live on eggshells, not knowing what to expect; and not wanting your friends to see what's happening. That helped me shape things about Jane's life with her mother. (I should point out, for the record: that husband was not my daughter's father, who is a totally nice guy!)

Thank you, Sue, for allowing me to interview you. It was a great experience that I’ll never forget. I can’t wait to read your future work!      


Teen Blogger                   


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