This is a tough one. I have been nominated by the lovely writer Vivienne Tuffnell over at zen and the art of tightropewalking (whose novel Away With the Fairies I am currently reading and enjoying very much) for A Very British Blog Tour something I would not normally get involved in.
There are three reasons for this:
1) I always find it hard to nominate people to continue the tour – it feels like sending someone a chain letter, albeit a benign one.
2) I rarely think of myself as British, or of any nationality, unless I am filling in an official form of some kind. I like the idea of being ‘European’ and embrace the possibility of one day having the time and money to travel across the continent. Being ‘British’ at the moment sometimes seems parochial and occasionally I feel as if I am being knitted together with people who have a very different and potentially less inclusive view of Britishness than I do. It is hypocritical I realise. But then so is shouting for many of our Olympic medalists if you vote for UKIP…
3) Why would anyone want to know this stuff about me? For the same reason I want to know about them, I suppose.
So why this one? Well it is one that involves a discussion of my writing life (via the terrific Roz Morris at Nail your Novel ) and I am, now, a writer. I earn money by it and am published so it would be good to let people know I am here and what I am all about. A couple of the questions seem to directly refer to my current non-fiction writing on something I consider an important topic, and I also thought it would do me good to enjoy my ‘Britishness’ for a moment. In a house full of people who consider themselves (rightly) to be a little bit Irish, I have no such claim. If I am not British, then what am I? Embrace it girl – even with the government we have it isn’t all bad…
So here goes…..
A: I was born and brought up in North London and always considered myself a Londoner through and through. My family tree shows decades of poverty-stricken existence in Clerkenwell on both stems. However, others have done more detailed research and it seems that on both sides I have ancestors from the South West, which is where I live now (on the Somerset/Devon border). Perhaps I have been heading home all my life…
Given the chance though I would be up in the Lake District. No question.
Q Have you always lived and worked in Britain or are you based elsewhere?
A: Always Britain. I do wish I had traveled and worked abroad when I was younger though. I don’t think you can really understand your own nationality until you have lived away from it.
Q Have you highlighted or showcased any particular part of Britain in your books, a town, a city, a county, a monument, well-known place or event?
A: I write about The Lake District in my poetry, and my non-fiction is set wherever the research takes me. However, I feel drawn to use London as a backdrop to my fiction. I love the city and feel really ‘alive’ when I go back.
Q: There is an illusion – or myth if you wish - about British people that I would like to discuss. Many see Brits as ‘stiff upper lip’. Is this correct?
A: I am currently writing a social history book entitled Shell-Shocked Britain about the impact of WW1 on the mental and emotional health of the nation. My great uncle was deeply affected about one of the air raids on London in 1917 but could never talk about it. In 1922 he murdered his ex-girlfriend and then turned the cut-throat razor on himself. That event too was hushed up, only to be discovered when I was undertaking some family history research. Decades of repressed emotion explain the mental health issues many of the family experienced over the century. It was a shocking time, and I think people need to discuss pain in order to deal with it. It comes out in ways we don’t expect.
Q: Do any of the characters in your book carry the ‘stiff upper lip’ or are they all British Bulldog and unique in their own way?
A: I don’t really like either the ‘stiff upper lip’ or ‘British Bulldog’ attitudes. But in my jolly crime novel Lavender Larceny (to be published this year) the characters are two elderly ladies, one of whom shows a very feisty and undoubtedly British character!
A: Dandelions and Bad Hair Days is very important to me as it is an anthology of pieces written by people who have experienced mental health issues. There is poetry and prose and some wonderfully lyrical writing which is inspiring and often full of hope. All profits go to mental health charities.
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: Shell Shocked Britain for Pen and Sword Social History mentioned above and an anthology of ghost stories that I have written over the years. They are traditional ’round the fire on a stormy night’ M.R. James inspired creepies. I hope! And Lavender Larceny, which is on the third edit. One day it will be ready…
Q: How do you spend your leisure time?
A: I muddle about a lot and the time just goes. Beating my brother at Bejewelled Blitz and my son at Scrabble on Facebook….. Seriously, I read a great deal. I have loved the poet John Keats since my early teens and read and re-read his work as a source of inspiration and to calm me when times are tough. I also read LOTS of fiction; I find it is a great way to improve my own writing.
Q Do you write for a local audience or a global audience?
A: I write because I love it and I hope others will enjoy it. I hope it is accessible to anyone, anywhere and I do have readers coming to my blog from all over the world, which is really gratifying. Thanks everyone :-)
Q: Can you provide links to your works?
A: Dandelions and Bad Hair Days has its own website at www.dandelionsandbadhairdays.wordpress.com and is available through Amazon and all good bookshops. For details of all my current projects I have my own website at www.suziegrogan.co.uk.
Q: Who’s next?
This is the toughie. I don’t know if this is their kind of thing but I do know they are all a terrific read and have very different approaches to ‘British’ writing…. Give them a look.
Sarah Cruickshank at A life more lived
Essie Fox at The Virtual Victorian
Lorna Fergusson over at Literascribe