Today I have author Susan Roebuck with me. Sue sprang to fame over a year ago with the publication of Perfect Score. Now she’s joined the Etopia Press stable with her latest book, Hewhay Hall, which was published today.
Steve: Welcome, Sue, and thank you for fitting me in to your busy schedule. I guess with a new book coming out you are worked off your feet?
Sue: Hi Steve. Thank you so much for letting me visit you again. Yes, a book launch, as you know, is hard work, just trying to get the word out without being a pain in the you-know-what.
Steve: Hewhay Hall is something quite different to Perfect Score, isn’t it? Can you first of all tell us what drove you to write a gay love story for your first novel?
Sue: Well, I think I can answer both questions at the same time. I don’t think the basics of either book are all that different. That’s probably going to sound strange when you think that Perfect Score is a story of two gay men and set in the States in the 1960s, while Hewhay Hall is not a romance (it’s a dark thriller/horror) and it’s set in contemporary England. However, in both books, I maintain my writing voice; both have the elements of suspense, and I hope I convey the same depth of character that I had in Perfect Score. To show you what I mean, this is what reviewer Lena Grey from QMO books said(http://www.qmobooks.com/index.php/component/content/article/7169-perfect-score) about one of the protagonists of Perfect Score: “Sam influenced me the most. Life knocked him down so much that anyone of lesser moral quality would have given up, but not Sam. Not only did he overcome disparity, he rose like the Phoenix from the ashes. Sam was an amazing combination of strength, intelligence, gentleness and forthrightness; in the face of injustice, whether for a person or an animal, Sam was there… ready to do battle.”
Not only did she reach the core of Sam’s character but she also identified the theme: “The weak are far stronger than is apparent”.
And I think both these aspects show up in both my books.
Steve: And you weren’t tempted to carry on in the same genre, then? Will Perfect Score be your first and last gay story?
Sue: No. I never set out to be an m/m writer. I’m a bit of a chameleon and I think I might be able to write in all kinds of genres. I also read an awful lot of different genres so that probably helps. But I don’t say I’ll never write another m/m. I have a little niggle to write one set in Victorian London. So that might be a future book.
Steve: So, Hewhay Hall. Tell us something about it.
Sue: It’s all about the plight of the unsung hero. Those people behind the scenes who fight for what they believe to be right but never get any recognition for their brave acts. Until they die. And then they go to heaven. Right? Right. Except they don’t in “Hewhay Hall” because something is stopping them half-way along in their journey. Something evil. Something certain people call, The Prince of Envy. And the question is, can Jude Elliot, a below-the-knee amputee, release thousands of weakened and feeble – albeit feisty and courageous – inmates from Slater’s house of horrors?
Slater being the Prince of Envy.
Steve: Did you have it all in your head or did you have to research?
Sue: I had to research the fireman’s part – finding out the main character’s routine, the firemen’s hierarchy, the procedure they have to go through when there’s a bomb explosion. That kind of thing. I hope I’ve researched enough to represent the service, but the rest comes from pure imagination (and nightmares).
Steve: I love the cover. Who did that and how did it come about, you must have had some input?
Sue: Etopia Press produce the most amazing covers. And they’re so ready to listen to the authors. I described exactly what I wanted and what I didn’t want. Then wonderful Annie Melton and artist, Amanda Kelsey, produced the most perfect cover I could have imagined.
Steve: I know I’m dying to read Hewhay Hall (I’ve already bought it) but maybe my followers need convincing. They are hardened horror fans, so what can you say to persuade them?
Sue: This is maniacal demonic possession at its most cruel because the victims are fully aware of what’s going on. The Prince of Envy delights in torturing courageous souls because they suffer more keenly and their fear is so much tastier than mere ordinary mortals’. He (or she because it’s sometimes difficult to know) reels them in using their sexual fantasies (yes, even unsung heroes have them) as bait for eternity.
Steve: I know you are a very caring person. Are there any messages or themes in the story?
Sue: Thank you! I hope I am – caring, that is. The themes in my books do seem to run along the same old lines: stand by what you believe to be right and don’t let the “Big Boys” get you. Because they will if they can. In Perfect Score, it was the giant pharmaceutical company; in Hewhay Hall it’s a powerful demon straight out of hell; and in my next novel, it’ll be the greed of the super-powers. And greed makes people cruel.
Steve: So, after two quite different books, what’s next in the pipeline?
Sue: It’s called (at the moment), When the Moon Fails and it’s about fishermen. One is a feisty girl from Norfolk UK; another is a hunky but traumatised crab fisherman from Alaska USA. They converge on Portugal for their own reasons. It’s not a romance because they never meet up (I haven’t finished the novel yet, so jury’s still out on that aspect). Although they don’t realize they’re doing it together, they fight for the rights of the population of a unique Portuguese fishing village that is in danger of being used as a “cover” for a rather nasty joint US/UK project.
Steve: Can we have a little excerpt from Hewhay Hall? And please tell us where we can buy it.
Sue: Thank you! Here’s an excerpt:
Jude stared down the hill at the glint on the water and then across to the fields baked hard by weeks of sun. He’d followed the directions to the letter, so this was the right place. But where was Hewhay Hall?
A row of swallows balanced on a wire stretching overhead, each facing the same way as Jude, who rested against a five-bar gate. They too seemed to be eyeing the fallen tree trunks that littered the overgrown path down the rocky hillside. They were lucky—they could fly, but Jude had to hobble.
The air moved on the other side of the marshland. He didn’t imagine it. A definite ripple, the kind that alters your vision when a migraine’s about to start. Although the shift was fleeting, he had the idea something was down there after all, very faint and hard to describe. The outline of a building? Or maybe just heat haze. Whatever, he’d come this far—he’d go and investigate.
The latch and hinges on the gate were so rusted, Jude couldn’t open it. Nothing for it, then, but to climb over. He propped his crutches against the wooden bars, placed his hands on the top, and hauled himself up so his right leg got a footing on a lower rung. Now he could sit on the top. He bent down, picked up what was left of his other leg, and maneuvered it over until he straddled the gate. It creaked under his weight. As he swung his right leg over, he teetered, tried to grab the top bar but lost his balance and fell headlong into a bramble patch.
Prickles stabbed him as he lay on his back, his whirling gaze locked on a wiggly jet trail in the cloudless sky. Once the world righted itself, he pushed himself up on his elbows and extracted some of the more painful brambles before rolling onto his right knee. His bum in the air, he hoped no one was looking and that he retained a shred of dignity as he balanced on his right leg and wobbled his way upright. As he tried to stand, his knee locked. He was a second away from landing back on the ground but he grabbed an oak tree trunk for support.
Bloody hell. Wasn’t it about time they gave him a prosthesis? He bent to rub his stump, still raw after all this time. Why wasn’t he healing?
Steve: Thanks again, Sue. And good luck. Before you go, just remind everyone where they can find you.
Sue: Thank you Steve! You can find me on my blog: www.susanroebuck.com
Buy Hewhay Hall on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Hewhay-Hall-ebook/dp/B007VLAR40