Hi Stefan, thank you for inviting me to be interviewed.
Who is Sue Tingey? That is actually rather a deep question and I’m probably the last person you should ask, but I’ll have a go at giving a sensible and possibly truthful reply:
I’m a book and animal lover. Married with no pets at the moment except for some Koi carp. I’m slightly obsessive about things that matter and couldn’t really give a damn about things that don’t (though this has taken years to perfect – I used to be a natural born worrier). I love horror films but only if viewed from behind a cushion or, if no cushion available, from between my fingers. I hate animal films because I spend the whole hour and a half sobbing. I put it down to being traumatised by Disney’s Old Yella when I was a child. As for Marley and Me – don’t even go there.
Your debut novel, Marked, will be published by Jo Fletcher Books. It looks rather fabulous: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?
Thank you kind sir. Marked is the first book of the Soulseer Chronicles and is about Lucky de Salle, a young woman who, for as long as she can remember, has been able to converse with the dead. Even her best – and only – friend Kayla is a ghost. The book starts when Lucky reluctantly returns to her old school, from which she was expelled fifteen years earlier, to help with a haunting brought about by three boarders playing with a Ouija board. As it happens her instincts are correct: ghosts are the least of her worries – the schoolgirls have called up a daemon and he has a message for Kayla. From this point on Lucky finds that no one she meets is who they say they are and even her best friend has been keeping secrets. Soon she’s caught up in the political intrigues of a world she never knew existed, and her already weird life gets weirder by the moment.
What inspired you to write the novel and series? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?
I’ll answer your second question first if I may. I get my ideas from all sorts of different things; a line from a song, a picture in a newspaper, an item on TV, basically anything that interests me and then the “what if?” syndrome kicks in.
With Marked I was watching breakfast TV while I was getting ready for work one morning and a chap came on talking about his forthcoming exposé on fake psychics. I’ve always been interested in that sort of thing and I thought what a good idea for a character – a woman who really does see the dead, but instead of giving messages from beyond, what if she actually exposes people who prey on the vulnerable? I started to play with the idea and would have written a completely different book except – I had a dream. Well, actually a nightmare, and it changed everything.
In the dream I had been transported back to my childhood home. It was getting dark, and as I walked towards the narrow passageway leading to the front of the house, a man appeared out of the gloom. He could have been straight out of A Tale of Two Cities. He wore a tight-fitting jacket with wide tapering lapels, breeches, a cravat and a tall top hat, he even had a beauty spot on his upper lip.
He didn’t look scary, but evil radiated off of him in waves and, when he smiled showing very white pointed teeth, I just knew that if he got close enough to touch me I was in serious trouble.
I tried to turn and run, but it was one of those nightmares where you suddenly become completely unable to move and there’s not a thing you can do about it however hard you struggle to break free. In my dream, I knew my brother was sitting in the room right next to where I was standing, so I tried to call his name, but all that came out was a gasping whisper. And all the time the man drew closer and closer.
It was then that I woke up with a start to find my husband gently tapping me on the arm and saying, ‘Wake up, it’s only a dream, it’s only a dream.’ I had apparently woken him up shouting out my late brother’s name.
In the morning I jotted down everything I could remember about the man from my dream. One of the nastier characters in the book was born from my scribbled notes, and it is he who Lucky meets when she visits the school in chapter one.
How were you introduced to genre fiction?
It all started when I wasn’t much more than four or five. My father was heavily into films and wrote some articles for magazines and cinema annuals. He used to get horror magazines from America full of pictures of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff as Dracula, the Mummy and Frankenstein. I couldn’t read at the time, but I loved flicking through those magazines. Then he started to read me The Magician’s Nephew each night when he put me to bed, and I was hooked. Horror, fantasy and the paranormal – I loved them all.
How do you like being a writer and working within the publishing industry?
I love writing, it’s my passion, so someone liking my book enough to publish it is fantastic. I must admit, publishing and the whole process of getting into print isn’t quite what I imagined, but then again it’s probably different for every writer. I’m a bit odd as I like deadlines and knowing what’s expected of me and what I can expect and when. So far I’m enjoying it very much.
Do you have any specific working, writing, or researching practices?
I write every weekday morning between 7 a.m. and 8.30 a.m. when I’m all alone in the house before I get ready for work. I aim for at least 1000 words a day and usually achieve it, but if I get more than 700 words down I’m happy. Below that – well, then I’m not.
As for research – that’s a lot easier than when I first started writing. Then I used to either pore over books that I already had on the subject or went to the library. Needless to say I used to have a hell of a lot of books on the occult and the supernatural.
When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?
English language was the only subject I was any good at – and even then it was only the short story writing side of the subject. I wrote my first full length novel in 1990. At the time I didn’t have the faintest idea what I was doing or what to do with the novel once I’d finished it. So once I had typed “the end” on the last page I sent it off to Headline, the then-publisher of my hero Stephen King. Of course it was returned (even though I hadn’t enclosed a stamped addressed envelope) with a handwritten card, which said something along the lines of ‘we enjoyed it, thought it was well written but sadly it isn’t for us.’ They went on to say I should get myself a literary agent. I thought they were being kind and the manuscript remains hidden away in the bottom of my wardrobe – if only I knew then what I do now! This leads on to a big piece of advice to anyone out there trying to get a book deal: even if you get a thanks but no thanks, if you are given any advice at all from the professionals, follow up on it, don’t just give up.
What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?
Horror, Fantasy, SciFi and the Paranormal went through a very bad period at one time where it was completely out of fashion. I don’t know why because I never stopped reading it. One famous author I heard speak at an event said that being placed in the horror section by his publisher was nearly the end of his career when, a few years later, the bottom dropped out of the genre. Today we are going through a better period. Readers are less dismissive of the genre. Harry Potter, amongst others, hooked youngsters, and Game of Thrones has a lot of people, who would never have admitted to being interested in fantasy, watching the TV series and buying the books. As for my efforts – I just hope people enjoy them.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline, and what are you working on at the moment?
The second book in The Soulseer Chronicles, Cursed, is currently with my editor, and I’m just finishing off the third book, Bound. I have written the first book in a completely different series.
What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?
I’m reading a book called Evil Spirits, which is a book about the life of Oliver Reed, and I’ve just started The Silver Bough by Lisa Tuttle, which was a Christmas Gift from my publisher, Jo Fletcher Books.
What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?
There’s probably quite a lot! I do collect crystals and crystal balls. I love the look and feel of them as some are so very tactile. I also collect tarot cards and other divining/fortune telling cards; partly because I’m interested, but also because the artwork on some of them is so stunning. And before you ask – no I can’t tell fortunes and wouldn’t even try. There is a reason for that, but it would take far too long to explain.
What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?
I’m looking forward to my launch for Marked at the beginning of June, and the release of my second book Cursed in February 2016. Then there’ll be Nine Worlds in August, which I’ve never been to before, so I’m really looking forward to that. I’m also heading to FantasyCon in October, which I really love. And on a more personal level, I’m going on holiday for the first time since 2004, which is a real treat. Never fear – despite the pathetic weight allowance I will be taking my laptop. Nineteen days without being able to write would drive me mad and I’m quite sure my other half would consider throwing me overboard!