I always love it when I get to stay in vicariously with an author I have actually met in real life, so it gives me enormous pleasure to welcome Sue Bentley to Linda’s Book Bag today to stay in with me and tell me about one of her many books.
Staying in with Sue Bentley
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Sue and thank you for agreeing to stay in with me. It’s good to catch up with you again. Last time I saw you you were giving a presentation about your writing for children, so which of your books have you brought along to share this evening?
This evening I’ve brought along my novel We Other to share. I’ve chosen it because it had an interesting journey from inception to publishing and beyond, and because it’s my first book for older readers in quite a while.
It’s a book I’d been planning to write for a long time. I wanted to get my teeth into some complex and ‘in depth’ writing, after concentrating on writing books for children aged 5-9 years (well over 50 books, in all). People might imagine that We Other is a big departure from writing children’s books. But I started out writing for adults, with twelve books and a book of short stories, all published traditionally.That’s a long tale, for another time!
(Ha! I know a bit about that already but as you say – a story for another time!)
So – We Other. It draws on many things, firstly my own love of reading fiction which contains something out of the ordinary. I like books that surprise me, books that remain with me for a long time after I finish reading them. I do like a streak of darkness, even nastiness, too! I’m fascinated by ‘what’s beneath the stone’. I was the sort of child that would turn the stone over to find out. The interesting and unusual still inspires me. I love a little-known fact or strange belief. I think this is a legacy of my love of dark and gritty fairy tales, lesser-known folklore and strange weird events. Truth really is stranger than fiction. Like all writers I collects scraps of ideas like glittering threads, which might inspire a short story, a character, or even an entire book.
(I think authors are like magpies Sue – always collecting items for their writing.)
So, what can we expect from an evening in with We Other then Sue?
We Other is more than a re-working of adult fairy stories. It begins in a contemporary setting, before broadening out and taking many unexpected twists. Hopefully I keep my readers guessing! I find it hard to label this book as just Young Adult or Fantasy – although that’s where it’s generally placed.
(One of the very few things that annoys me about the book world is the need to categorise books and label them. Good writing is good writing as far as I’m concerned! I love so called YA fiction and I’m a very long way away from 18…)
It’s certainly not sword and sorcery, perhaps I’d call it out-of-the-ordinary, an urban tale with a dark heart. Because Jess Morgan, the main character, is eighteen the books has been labelled as YA. Which is fine if it helps a reader locate it in a book shop or on-line. Interestingly though, a large proportion of my reviews have been from adults. Here are some examples:
Goodreads 5 star – Karen Cole – ‘The characterisation in the book is superb, Jess and Caleb are both hugely likeable and have that necessary ‘otherness’ which makes them somehow relatable to anybody who has ever felt they don’t quite fit in. A word here too for Ivy Stark who despite her rather spiky personality became one of my favourite characters, particularly as her full story and reason for her rather detached demeanour becomes apparent.’
Goodreads 5 stars – Yvonne – ‘I absolutely adored this book, it was like a dark faerie tale with a modern twist and mix, blending fantasy with social factors and creating a brilliant and absorbing story.’
(Oh! I know and respect both those reviewers in the blogging world so you must be delighted with their comments Sue.)
Amazon – 5 stars – characters and places so well described – Alan Reville – ‘Thoroughly enjoyable! Wasn’t sure it would be my cup of tea, but the characters and places are so well described I soon found myself getting sucked in. I read it as part of a book club and everyone else enjoyed it as well and although the book is targeted at young adults I would recommend it to readers of all ages (I’m 50!). Just hope I don’t have to wait too long for the sequel.’
(That’s exactly what I meant about categorising books as YA – they are great for us all!)
What else have you brought along this evening Sue and why?
A plate of fairy food – which I brought back from a recent visit to Faery. Be warned! We can look and admire, but we mustn’t eat any of it. Otherwise we’ll become addicted to the taste and drawn into Faery while we attempt (unsuccessfully) to sate our appetites and probably sicken and die. Faery is a dangerous place, full of trickery and traps for the unwary – we enter at our peril. If we could see this enchanted plate of food with ‘true sight’ we’d see it is actually made up of bugs, toadstools and other nasty stuff.
(Crikey! Good thing you said as I was just about to dive in!)
Something we can eat. Some gorgeous and very rich chocolate brownies I made especially for Staying In. Chocolate is my favourite treat, if there are nuts involved even better. These have chopped walnuts for a bit of crunch. I hope you’re not allergic – I’ve brought Vanilla ice cream to go with them.
(That’s more like it. I am most definitely NOT allergic to chocolate. It’s a staple part of my diet!)
I’ve also brought along a book about Victorian Fairy Painting. I bought this book from The Royal Academy of Arts in 1997, after I went to see the exhibition there of the same name. I’ve always loved the work of John Anster Fitzgerald in particular and knew there would be some of his paintings on show. I wasn’t disappointed. Seeing all these wonderful paintings in one place made a huge impression on me, and directly inspired key scenes from We Other.
The book was also the exhibition catalogue, so I was able to relive the experience of seeing the actual painting and devouring details of them at my leisure.
I’d like a closer look at that Sue. In the mean time I think we’ll give Linda’s Book Bag readers a bit more information about We Other. Thanks so much for staying in to tell me more about it. You’ve made me want to put We Other right at the top of my TBR!
Family secrets, changelings, and fairies you never want to meet on a dark night.
Jess Morgan’s life has always been chaotic.
When a startling new reality cannot be denied, it’s clear that everything she believed about herself is a lie. She is linked to a world where humans – ‘hot-bloods’ – are disposable entertainment. Life on a run-down estate – her single mum’s alcoholism and violent boyfriend – become the least of Jess’s worries.
We Other is available for purchase here.
About Sue Bentley
Sue was born in Northamptonshire, UK. Where she still lives. She fell in love with books at an early age and worked for Northamptonshire Libraries for many years.
She writes for children aged 5-9, Teens and Adults. Her worldwide, best-selling Magic Kitten, Magic Puppy, Magic Ponies and Magic Bunny series have been translated into many languages.
We Other is Sue’s first book for teens and adults. Sue says, ‘This book was inspired by my love of traditional fairy tales and UK folklore. It’s an urban thriller with an unusual edge and will keep you guessing. You wouldn’t want to meet the fairies in this book on a dark night!’
Sue is fascinated by the extraordinary within the every day. The darkness that hovers at the edges of the light. There’s usually some element of magic or ‘the hidden’ in her books.
Sue is also an artist. She loves trees, cinema, reading, vintage clothes, dark chocolate, literary festivals, meeting readers, interacting with fans around the world. She enjoys the company of creative people and talking all things books and writing. Her stationery fetish is getting out of hand, as is her library. She says her imagination was always too big. And she was that child in a room full of gauzy wings and pink tutus who was dressed as a bat.