I'm delighted to share with you an interview with Sue Russell, author of novels including A Vision of Locusts and The Healing Knife.
First, a bit about her most recent book, The Healing Knife. I raced through this book with its many twists and surprises, particularly the gripping tension of the first half.
Heart surgeon Rachel Keyte is focused and determined to excel in her career while saving as many lives as possible. Everything changes after a fateful operation on a teenage boy, whose mother holds Rachel responsible for the outcome. What follows is an unexpected sequence of events that uproots her life and forces her to face some uncomfortable truths.
This novel explores themes of revenge, empathy, faith and healing, told in the voice of a compelling protagonist.
Now, over to the interview. Let's meet the author!
Hi, Sue, thanks for joining me for this interview! You're an established author who has been publishing books for many years now, but when did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?
I wanted to be a writer when I was very young. I made stories up all the time. At 12 or 13 it was a settled ambition and I had a few rejection slips even then. As I got older and possibly wiser I realised it would probably not pay the bills. But the desire was always there and resulted in a few different attempts until - at almost age 50 - some friends goaded me into starting that adult novel. That was Leviathan with a Fish-hook. The rest is history.
Are there any recurring motifs that crop up in your writing?
Possibly the need to be connected with God, to rely on him and not oneself. At the outset I was almost certainly teaching myself this necessary truth - now it's more my characters, often strong and self-reliant, who need to learn or relearn it.
What does a writing session look like for you?
I have no routine. Once in the zone and with the story flowing I just go for it until something makes me stop. I am privileged to be in a position to work this way - night or day, early and late; and then not at all until the next time! In the UK I have a study where I work; in France it's a small pink desk under the stairs.
In The Healing Knife, your protagonist is a heart surgeon, and you portray her medical career convincingly. How did you go about research for this book?
Research is so easy these days. I read books ordered from the internet, google questions, read articles. I write about things that interest me and with The Healing Knife I became fascinated by the subject so got to know a lot of stuff that doesn't appear in the story.
How did you find writing about the strong, career-focused and (by her own admission) unempathetic character of Rachel Keyte?
I came to know Rachel very well long before writing a word. Knowing her story from the outset - which of course the reader doesn't, not till later - fed in to how she thought, spoke and acted. I enjoyed writing about someone who is nothing like me!
I really enjoyed the evocative descriptions of rural France, somewhere you have connections with. Did your own experience inspire you?
Writing the part set in France was an absolute dream. Little or no research was needed - I drew on my own experience and it was a labour of love: almost you might say a small tribute to my adopted country.
What has it been like, launching a new book in lockdown?
Lockdown launching has been hard. Two physical launches had to be cancelled. I've tried to keep the book in the public eye on social media (without overdoing it, I hope). I've solicited reviews and read and reviewed the works of other writers as a quid pro quo, honour bound. I've occasionally encouraged my publisher to tweet notable successes.
Can you tell us anything about your next project?
My next project is editing book eight, called The Thorn of Truth, with my copy-editor ready for publication next May. It sort of follows on from The Healing Knife, with characters coming through and the same setting, but with a different theme and a new protagonist, a female barrister. After that I have ideas - but the future is unclear, and I 'll leave it in God's hands.
Many people have used lockdown to get creative and explore writing. What advice would you give them?
If you have time and the wish, go for it, whatever it is, and see where it leads you.