Sunday 13 June 2021

Guest Post With Sue McDonagh
This week I welcome back to the blog my very good friend, Sue McDonagh. We first met in a writing class in Cowbridge when we were attempting to write our first novels and have been writing buddies ever since. Her fourth novel - yes, book number four! - will be published by Choc Lit at the end of the month on June 29th. I asked Sue to join me on the blog and tell us all about her new novel, 
Summer of Hopes and Dreams.

Welcome, Sue. Over to you!

Summer of Hopes and Dreams is book four in the Art 
Café series.
I so enjoyed writing Beryl, the forthright, retired neighbour in my second novel, Meet Me at the Art Café, and the idea of writing an older character as the heroine appealed to me increasingly. I just needed to find a storyline. I listened to my friends as they discussed the issues of parenting their own parents along with their now-adult children, and I itched to commit their stories to paper, but how? My novels seem to grow from those tiny, unpretentious seeds, gathering pace and characters almost without my help, and gradually, a story began to take shape.

On the whole, it still seems that women take on the main role of nurturing and caring for their families, and I knew that main character Rosie felt redundant to her adult offspring, and was sadly no longer required as carer to her mother. Caught in the limbo of being too young to retire, but apparently too old to re-train, and having lost confidence in herself, I knew something momentous would have to jolt her out of her downward mental spiral.

I’m not going to give away any spoilers here; you’ll have to read for yourself what that something was! As in my previous novels, several of Rosie’s experiences were plucked from my own past, and as I wrote the entire novel in lockdown, those memories came in very handy.

I’d intended Escape to the Art Café to be the last of the Art Café series, but when I began to write Summer of Hopes and Dreams, I found myself missing the original cast terribly. Following several abortive attempts to get book four past the first few chapters, I finally realised that I needed to include The Art Café, at the very least, to give myself a sphere of reference.

The story fell into place at last. It was as if I’d met my mates in a café and was having a good natter, it felt so natural. Of course, it wasn’t plain sailing as I’ve set Summer of Hopes and Dreams slightly earlier than Escape to the Art Café, and ended it later, which meant that my timeline, always my bête noir, was sketchy, to say the least. Thank goodness for the eagle eye of my editor, who stood over me with a whip while I pummelled it into submission.

Also evident in this novel are young children, in the shape of seven-year-old Jack and five-year-old Lily, who present Rosie with the added dilemma of the prospect of parenting another family just when she thought that was all done with. I do love writing children, and observing my own grandchildren has been a fertile basis for honing my young characters. I also enjoy how children alter the dynamic of our relationships, how we often resort to forms of spoken shorthand to avoid saying something aloud, and how we think they’re not listening when in fact, they’ve already got us completely worked out. They’re a joy, and I really do hope that I capture at least some of their charm and mischief.

I can’t end this blog without talking about the baddies. The editor for my first novel, Summer at the Art Café, told me that I’d committed the rookie error of painting my baddie so black that he had no redeeming features and so why on earth had Lucy ever married him? Since then, I’ve come to realise that, (with exceptions, of course – none of my characters actually murder anyone – yet –) people tend not to be bad all the way through, that there are reasons why people seem sometimes so hateful. I’ve tried to ensure that my baddies are more three-dimensional now, and that in turn makes them more satisfying to write – and hopefully, to read. I’d be delighted if you let me know! Thanks so much for reading, and I do hope you enjoy Summer of Hopes and Dreams. X 

I inspired myself to carry on wet felting after writing about how my main character continues with it after a long break. This is one of my pieces, inspired by the local countryside.

Thank you, Sue. I can't wait to read your new novel and wish you lots of sales. If your first three books are anything to go by, I know we're all in for a treat. Good luck! 


Can 'Dozy Rosie' spice up her life and prove she's not boring?

Rosie Bunting has spent her life caring for others, often at the expense of her own hopes and dreams. But when she overhears someone describing her as 'boring', she decides it's time for a change. Little does she realise that the outdoor pursuits weekend brochure handed to her as the local Art Cafe will kick start a summer that will see her abseiling down a Welsh cliff face in 'eye-watering' leggings, rediscovering her artistic side and unexpectedly inheriting an old fire-engine. It also involves meeting hunky outdoor instructor, Gareth Merwyn-Jones although he'd never be interested in Dozy Rosie Bunting... would he?

One thing's for certain: Rosie's path to achieving her hopes and dreams might not be smooth, but it's definitely not boring.

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Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed finding out about Rosie and why Sue was keen to write about an older character. Writers, have you done this? Readers, what books have you enjoyed with an older main character? I'd love it if you left a comment. Thanks.

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBaynham and on my Jan Baynham Writer facebook page.