Today I’m delighted to feature USA Today bestselling author Sue Watson. Sue has written seventeen novels, and many have been translated into several languages. Sue is now exploring the darker side of life with her thrillers, her latest, The Forever Home, is out on June 4th.
Sue Watson was a TV Producer at the BBC until she wrote her first book and was hooked.
Originally from Manchester, Sue now lives with her family in Worcestershire where much of her day is spent writing – okay, procrastinating. Her hobby is eating cake, while watching diet and exercise programmes from the sofa, a skill she’s perfected after many years of practice.
Over to Sue,
Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
My husband, Nick and I have very different tastes in music, but our karaoke party piece is Sonny and Cher’s, ‘I Got You Babe.’ We are terrible, but apparently hilarious and whenever I hear that song, I just have to sing along, and if ‘Sonny’ is there, then it’s a duet – with feeling!
Madama Butterfly, Act II ‘Un Bel di Vedremo.’ A friend of mine, Bruno Caproni, is an opera singer, and many years ago, he was starring for the first time, in Madame Butterfly at The Opera House in Covent Garden. To my joy he gave me a ticket for one of the best seats in the house. I was so proud of Bruno, and completely enthralled at this story of unrequited love, it touched my heart in a way I hadn’t expected. I was so mesmerised by the beauty of the theatre, the setting, the story and the music, that I didn’t realise until the lights went up, that sitting three seats to my left was Princess Diana! Hearing this aria now takes me straight back to my past, and that magical night. It always makes me cry.
Lana Del Ray Old Money. My daughter Eve, loves Lana Del Ray, and when I used to pick her up from school, she’d play her albums on the way home, and we’d sing along. Eve’s now in her twenties, and living 3 hours away, I miss her so much, but on a long journey, I play Lana and I’m right back there with Eve, singing along.
Janis Ian, Seventeen. We were all seventeen once, and if you don’t know this song, I beg you to listen, because not only is it beautiful, and reflective, it’s just so relatable, and will probably make you cry. I saw Janis Ian a few years ago in concert, I took my best friend and my mum, and we all got so much out of her music and lyrics it was amazing how she transcends the generations, and can tease out the meaning of being a woman.
I’m an old hippie at heart, and if I could live any time anywhere I’d be a beautiful teenager in California in the 70s. A few years ago we spent some time in California, and drove along the Pacific highway, while listening to James Taylor, who for me epitomises that laid back 70’s hippie-folk- pop. His life is narrated in his songs, and my favourite track Fire and Rain, is a beautiful, bittersweet sound that takes me straight back to that stunning, rocky coastal drive.
What 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.
Doughnuts, because …doughnuts.
Hagen Daz salted caramel ice cream, because who needs meditation, when one mouthful of this baby melts that stress away? It’s like a sweet, creamy back rub in a tub!
I can’t live without regular, intense exercise classes (only joking!) I can’t live without Nigella Lawson’s cookery books, because they are pure food porn for the eyes. I spend all day writing psychological thrillers, and dabbling in darkness, so some evenings. I just love to curl up on the sofa and read cookery books. I adore Nigella’s books, because she writes about food so beautifully and vividly – AND she bathes everything in butter, has no respect for calories and is a slut for cream. What’s not to love?
(I’ve just realised, this interview has revealed something rather shameful about me, the first 3 things on my list of ‘things I can’t live without,’ are food, or food related! Okay, so I’ll try and move on to something more sophisticated and author- ish… a literary classic perhaps?)
But then again… there’s Walkers’ Chicken and Thyme crisps … could I honestly live without them? I doubt it. No, no I couldn’t. I need them in order to live, so apologies, but they have to go on the list too, under doughnuts, ice cream, and Nigella.
I wracked my brain and finally thought of something non-edible for the list! Big Brother. I genuinely find it hard to live without the show, and would seriously consider going moving to another country where the programme is still made, like Australia perhaps? My husband says it’s not a good enough reason to leave everything behind, and move to the other side of the world, but I think it’s a very good reason.
Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?
I say this to my daughter often, it’s a Maya Angelou quote, simple but so true – that woman was so damn wise.
‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ Maya Angelou
If you work hard enough for it, it will happen. It might not happen in the way you hope, or expect it to, but it will happen in the right way. Just trust your instincts, and leave the rest to fate, she has your back.
(Also said to my daughter, who, after years of ‘Mumisms’ now rolls her eyes when I open my mouth.)
Anything good is worth waiting for, be patient (this can be applied to everything, from boyfriends to career, to Christmas… and of course, doughnuts bubbling in a deep fat fryer)
Always keep a little bit back for yourself, don’t share everything, and don’t give everything away (this can be applied to creativity, relationships, and a large bag of Chicken and Thyme flavoured crisps)
Don’t try to do the splits.
Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you
As I’m an over sharer, there probably aren’t 5 things that people don’t know about me, but here goes…
My best job EVER was my first one, a cinema usherette. I was still at school, and the envy of my classmates as me and my fellow usherettes saw ALL the new films first! It had its downsides though, I once fell over with my ice cream tray and as I lay in a heap in the dark, a swarm of children stole all the Mini Milks!
I went out with Sean Ryder from The Happy Mondays (in my Rock and Roll years).
Before I became an author, I was a showbiz reporter for The Sun, a Coronation Street tour guide, and a TV producer at the BBC. As great as these jobs were, I now realise I was just biding my time until I started my real job – as an author.
I used to spend every Thursday in a rented hotel room with Terry Wogan (we were actually filming but I thought that would get your attention!)
My gold fish is pansexual.
Tell us 5 things you’d like to do or achieve.
I’d love to speak Polish because most of my thrillers are published there, and I’d love to chat confidently to Polish readers, who are SO lovely. Unfortunately Google translate is proving too unreliable, and while recently attempting to say ‘thank you,’ in Polish, I recently referred to a reader’s ‘nice ass’ #mortified
I’d love to live by the sea in Devon or Cornwall.
My hubby Nick and I have this dream of doing a DIY Breaking Bad Tour. We loved the TV series, and one day hope to visit New Mexico with its open skies and beautiful stark red vistas… just hope we don’t bump into Hector Salamanca head of the cartel?
I’d love to write a crime series, I have an idea for a detective, that just won’t go away.
I love ice skating, and my style has always been to let everyone else sweep passed me, then slam into the walls of the rink, clinging for dear life until I’m rescued. A few years back I decided it was time to stop messing about on the edge and realise my dream, so booked 6 lessons. However, on the first one, I fell on my head, concussed myself and ended up in A & E. With my ice skating career in tatters, I retired early, so Jayne Torville doesn’t need to worry, I won’t be coming for her anytime soon.
Thanks so much for joining me today Sue, I love over sharers – though if we ever met I guess that wouldn’t include your Chicken and Thyme crisps! Your music choices really hit the spot this week. I was actually 17 when Seventeen was released so it certainly struck a chord. The piece from Madama Butterfly is one of my favourites, it makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck! I hadn’t heard of the Lana Del Ray track until it started to play and I realised it was based on the love theme from Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet another firm favourite of mine. I was able to have a lovely nostalgic wallow. Can I ask about the splits – no perhaps not! I’m sure you must have some great gossipy stories to tell from knowing Sean Ryder, being a showbiz reporter and your TV work. I’m sure I could manage a trip to Worcestershire for a gossipy Afternoon Tea? – I can keep secrets! I really hope you get to achieve your dreams, living by the sea would be lovely. Learning Polish sounds hard, though possibly more achievable than the ice skating based on your experiences so far. Good Luck for June and your latest book.
The Forever Home (due 4th June – available to pre-order)
You thought you’d always be safe there… you were wrong.
Carly had thought they’d always live there. The beautiful Cornish cliffside house they’d taken on as a wreck, that Mark had obsessively re-designed and renovated – a project that had made him famous. It was where they’d raised their children, where they’d sat cosily on the sofa watching storms raging over the sea below. It was where they’d promised to keep each other’s secrets…
Until now. Because Mark has fallen in love. With someone he definitely shouldn’t have. Someone who isn’t Carly. And suddenly their family home doesn’t feel like so much of a safe haven.
Carly thinks forever should mean forever though: it’s her home and she’ll stay there. Even the dark family secrets it contains feel like they belong to her. But someone disagrees. And, as threats start to arrive at her front door, it becomes clear, someone will stop at nothing. Because someone wants to demolish every last thing that makes Carly feel safe. Forever.
She’s been waiting her whole life to meet a man like Alex. But he’s been waiting too. And once he has her, he’ll never let her go…
Hannah has done everything to make sure her life is safe and secure. A long way from her unstable childhood growing up in foster care, she’s content with her sweet, little, messy apartment and her satisfying job as a social worker. She quietly worries that, aged 36, she might never fall in love. But otherwise her life is where she wants it to be.
Until, encouraged by her best friend to join a dating app, she meets Alex. He’s irresistibly handsome. He loves the same music as her. The same food as well. They both dream of travelling the world but agree they’d be equally happy escaping to a cottage by the beach in Devon. Both of them would love to own a Labrador one day. It’s like he’s made for her. It’s like he’s too good to be true.
Hannah’s friends aren’t so sure about him. But Hannah thinks he’s perfect.
Which is good. Because Alex knows she’s perfect for him too. In fact, she’s exactly the girl he’s been looking for…
And nothing Hannah’s done to make her life safe will ever be enough.
The Sister in Law
‘You don’t think Jamie and I have secrets, do you? No, we tell each other everything.’ She smiled. ‘Including your dirty little secret. So maybe it’s time to start being nice to me?’
THE WIFE: Clare is ready for a break. It’s been a tough year and now she wants to put her feet up. Arriving at the Italian villa for their summer holiday, she decides it’s high time her husband and his family did some of the work. After all, her husband owes her…
THE HUSBAND: Even though Dan had his head turned by someone else, he’s realised the error of his ways. He’s here now, and he says it’s for keeps. Clare can trust him, can’t she? At least he’ll have his brother there, to keep him in line…
THE BROTHER: Jamie is the prodigal child, back in the family fold again after years of travelling abroad. But when he gets to the villa, he’s not alone. He’s brought a wife, someone none of them have met before.
THE SISTER-IN-LAW: Ella is everything Clare isn’t. Glamorous. Young. Influential. But she knows a secret about Clare. Something that has the power to break the whole family apart.
And there’s someone who will do whatever it takes to make sure that this deep secret never comes to the surface.
The Empty Nest
‘Sometimes we can’t see what’s right in front of us, Kat. Everyone has secrets, even the people we love, the people we live with…’
Kat remembers the days when her only daughter Amy wouldn’t leave her side. Amy was the baby who cried when you walked out of the room, the toddler who was too shy to speak to strangers, the small child who clung to Kat’s legs in the school playground.
But now Amy is grown up, and Amy is gone – to university in a town several hours away. Kat’s house – which once felt too full, too noisy, too busy – is deathly quiet, and Kat awaits the daily phone call to tell her that her beloved daughter is thriving and happy.
Until the day Amy doesn’t call, sending Kat into a panic. Her husband and friends say she’s being paranoid – surely Amy is just out, having fun? But Kat feels sure something is very wrong – she knows her daughter, and she would never just disappear.
As the hours turn into days, her fears are confirmed: Amy is missing. But there are secrets about her daughter that Kat doesn’t know about yet. And the truth about Amy’s whereabouts may be closer to home than Kat could ever imagine…
The Woman Next Door
‘Have you ever had a secret that you couldn’t tell a soul, even the people you love? I have.’
Lucy has a kind and adoring husband, a job she loves as a teacher, and a house on Mulberry Avenue with floaty curtains and the softest bed linen. After her troubled childhood, she knows life will never be perfect, but it’s pretty close.
She’s also got Amber, right next door. They never run out of things to talk about. Even if Amber’s life – with her high-profile job and handsome, wealthy boyfriend – is more glamorous than Lucy’s.
But then Amber starts to hint that her life isn’t all it seems, and when she comes to Lucy, terrified, saying that she’s getting threatening messages, Lucy promises to protect her.
The closer Lucy gets to anyone, the harder it is to keep her past to herself. But Amber’s boyfriend has left her just when she needs him most, and she doesn’t have anyone else.
Lucy knows all too well that people aren’t always what they seem. Sometimes they have secrets. And they’d do anything to keep them. Lucy’s still sure: she can trust her friend… can’t she?
Our Little Lies
Marianne has a life others dream of. A beautiful townhouse on the best street in the neighbourhood. Three bright children who are her pride and joy.
Sometimes her past still hurts: losing her mother, growing up in foster care. But her husband Simon is always there. A successful surgeon, he’s the envy of every woman they’ve ever met. Flowers, gifts, trips to France – nothing is too good for his family.
Then Simon says another woman’s name. The way he lingers on it, Caroline, gives Marianne a shudder of suspicion, but she knows she can’t entertain this flash of paranoia.
In the old days, she’d have distracted herself at work, but Marianne left her glamorous career behind when she got married. She’d speak to a friend, but she’s too busy with her children and besides, Simon doesn’t approve of the few she has left.
It’s almost by accident that Marianne begins to learn more about Caroline. But once she starts, she can’t stop. Because what she finds makes her wonder whether the question she should be asking is not ‘should she be jealous’, but… ‘should she be scared’?
Feel Good Fiction
Love, Lies and Lemon Cake (Love and Lies Book 1)
Love, Lies and Lemon Cake is a hilarious, bittersweet comedy about taking your life back before it’s too late.
Faye Dobson has lost her sparkle. Living on film star fantasies and vague memories of a marriage that once was, she can’t help feeling that life is passing her by. She dreams of being whisked to Paris for dinner, making three wishes at the Trevi fountain and having sex under the stars. But the wrinkles are multiplying, her husband’s passion is for plumbing, and the nearest she’ll get to Rome is a take-away pizza.
So when Faye meets Dan the gorgeous Australian surfer guy working in the local deli she can’t help but wonder what it would be like to see the world. He is blonde, tanned, ten years younger and bakes the most amazing lemon cake. Unlike her husband Dan actually listens to Faye, his smile makes her feel fizzy inside, and when he smiles… Oh. My. God.
But is Faye being silly? What would Dan see in someone like her? Even if he did have feelings for her, could she give up everything to be with him?
Love, Lies and Wedding Cake (Love and Lies Book 2)
Faye is in crisis. You wouldn’t know it, because of the big fat smile on her face, but inside, she’s one step away from nuclear meltdown. And she shouldn’t be. Dan is the man of her dreams. And he’s just asked her to marry him.
But Faye’s been down the marriage road before and it ended up with her having Ryan Gosling fantasies while her ex-husband obsessed about the plumbing. Faye and Dan, on the other hand, have been living their lives to the fullest, travelling around the world, having sex under the stars… They’ve never argued about unrolling socks before putting them in the laundry.
Besides, even if she wanted to say yes, how could she move to the other side of the world? Because marrying Dan would mean living in Australia. Beautiful, warm and a gazillion miles from Faye’s daughter, Emma, a single mum with her own crazy little girl who both need Faye every single day. Leaving them – even for someone who makes her as happy as Dan – simply isn’t an option.
Dan is offering Faye everything she ever wanted. So why does she feel like she’s about to lose it all?
Ella’s Ice Cream Summer (Ice Cream Book 1)
Ella’s life just hit rock-bottom, but can a summer by the sea mend her broken heart? When life gives you lemons… make ice-cream!
Life hasn’t always been easy for single mum Ella, but she has just hit an all-time low; she’s jobless, loveless, very nearly homeless and, to make matters worse, now the owner of a pocket-sized pooch with a better wardrobe than her.
Packing her bags (and a bigger one for the dog), Ella sets off for the seaside town of Appledore in Devon to re-live the magical summers of her youth and claim her portion of the family ice-cream business: a clapped-out ice-cream van and a complicated mess of secrets.
There she meets gorgeous and free-spirited solicitor, Ben, who sees things differently: with a little bit of TLC he has a plan to get the van – and Ella – back up and running in no time.
Curves, Kisses and Chocolate Ice Cream (Ice Cream Book 2)
Dani’s on a mission to get her life back on track by the end of the summer. Running, rowing, aerobics and more, but perhaps all she needs are sweet treats and a second chance?
Ten years ago, Dani fled Appledore with a broken-heart and a suitcase full of shattered dreams. Only now is she brave enough to put her past behind her and return for a summer selling homemade ice cream and getting fit by doing sit-ups by the sea.
But the new-look cafe is filled with old memories of Jude, her teenage sweetheart-turned-sour. She thinks of him every time she swirls warm sauce onto a ‘chocolate-bockaglory’ and even with the help of Chris, her gorgeous personal trainer, the urge to break her diet is everywhere she turns.
When Jude makes an appearance at the cafe on the eve of Dani’s birthday party, history threatens to repeat itself. Is Dani strong enough to say no? And is the love she’s been longing for much closer than she thinks?
We’ll Always Have Paris
Does first love deserve a second chance?
When she was almost seventeen, Rosie Draper locked eyes with a charismatic student called Peter during their first week at art college, changing the course of her life forever. Now, on the cusp of sixty-five and recently widowed, Rosie is slowly coming to terms with a new future. And after a chance encounter with Peter, forty-seven years later, they both begin to wonder ‘what if’ . . .
Told with warmth, wit and humour, We’ll Always Have Paris is a charming, moving and uplifting novel about two people; the choices they make, the lives they lead and the love they share.
Summer Flings and Dancing Dreams
Dance like nobody’s watching. Love like you’ll never get hurt…
Laura Watkin’s heart isn’t broken, she’s just forgotten how to use it.
After years on her own, the highlight of single mum Laura’s week is watching Strictly Come Dancing with a glass of Pinot Grigio and a large helping of imagination.
With her daughter Sophie going travelling, Laura knows the time is right to do something for herself for a change. One disastrous Zumba class later and Laura ends up at the feet (literally) of gorgeous dance instructor Tony Hernandez.
A natural dancer and inspiring teacher, Tony rekindles in Laura a passion she inherited from her ballroom dancer father – and with it comes a dream… to make him proud.
But when Tony enters them to perform at the National Dance Festival, can Laura’s new-found confidence survive the test? And with a once-in-a-lifetime chance to learn Flamenco in Spain, could Laura truly learn to dance like nobody’s watching… and love like she’ll never get hurt?
Younger Thinner Blonder
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to have everything?
Tanya Travis doesn’t have to. As host of TV show ‘The Truth with Tanya Travis,’ she has glamour, luxury, success and a designer kitchen to die for.
However, Tanya’s life of bespoke interiors, Prada handbags and TV awards is not all it seems. Hounded by the press about her life, looks, and body, she has become obsessed with staying young. And when she reads about her partner’s weakness for twenty-something blondes and problems mount up on the show, Tanya’s carefully constructed celebrity life begins to come apart at the seams.
Her only lifeline is ‘Celebrity Spa Trek’ a reality show in the Himalayas ‘Where bad celebrities go good.’ But can clean-freak Tanya cope with no hot water, starvation, heartbreak and the sheer showbiz bitchiness of a celebrity trek through the Himalayas?
Even with her relationship in crisis, cellulite on overdrive and career on the line, Tanya can’t face the thought of prime time exposure with a desperate gaggle of C-List wannabes…but does she have a choice?
A sharp, witty novel about our celebrity obsessed culture from the author of bestselling Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes.
Fat Girls & Fairy Cakes
Can you really make a living from indulging in your dreams?
TV Producer Stella Weston is over worked, overweight and under fire. Having battled uphill for years to balance her career with her family life, she is repaid by being put out to pasture on a religious gardening programme – complete with a nervous vicar, his nymphomaniac wife, and 22 stone Britney wannabe gardener, Gerald.
In the past, comfort has always been found at the bottom of her mixing bowl, but when even the most delicious lemon sponge with zesty frosting cannot save the day, Stella decides enough is enough.
However, finding the courage to quit is sometimes the easy part. Can you really turn a passion into a profession? Does more time at home actually give you a happier family life? Are men truly from Mars or another universe altogether?
Stella has to roll up her sleeves and find out – when the going gets tough, the tough get baking….
Snowflakes, Iced Cakes and Second Chances
Escape to the cosy little village of Appledore for hot chocolate with extra marshmallows and a second chance at love. Can an unexpected offer make Chloe believe in miracles again?
A year after she separated from her husband, Gianni, on Christmas day, Chloe’s heart is finally on the mend as she unpacks the decorations for her first ever festive holiday alone. That is, until the phone rings…
It’s the manager of Gianni’s new seaside restaurant in Appledore, begging for her help. Equally famous for his gold-leaf Christmas puddings and his explosive temper, Gianni has been really stirring up a sensation with the locals – and not in a good way! It’s the last thing she wants to do, but Chloe knows she is the only one that can help.
As pans fly and the temperature in the kitchen rises, Chloe’s calming influence and magic touch might just get critics back on side in time to save the restaurant from sinking like a sad soufflé. But could it also re-light a spark in her realtionship ?
Chloe came to Appledore ready to move on, but when the snow clears, will she finally find the way to back her husband’s heart?
The Christmas Cake Cafe
As the Prosecco chills and Bing Crosby croons, Jen Barker just knows that her long-term boyfriend is about to propose. But instead of a diamond ring nestled in her champagne flute, Jen finds cold flat rejection. Her once perfect life and dreams of a husband and family seem even further from reach.
A working holiday to the Swiss Alps with her younger sister Jody might not be the Christmas Jen had it mind, but it offers her the chance to recharge her batteries and recover from heartbreak.
When Jen meets handsome ski instructor Jon Zutter her hopes for a happy-ever-after seem within her grasp again. Jon is kind and gorgeous and as they bond over Sachetorte at the picturesque Cake Café, Jen thinks he might just be her perfect man. But a relationship with him comes with a catch – and there are some things even cake can’t fix.
As the snow falls and Christmas approaches, could this be the place that restores Jen Barker’s faith in love?
Bella’s Christmas Bake Off
Two best friends. One big lie. The best bake off EVER.
Bella Bradley is the queen of television baking – a national treasure. Her Christmas specials have been topping the ratings for years and her marriage to Peter ‘Silver Fox’ Bradley is the stuff of Hello magazine specials.
But this year things are going to be different.
For Amy Lane, Bella’s best friend from school, life hasn’t held quite the same sparkle. And when Amy’s husband walks out three weeks from Christmas, it seems their lives are further apart than ever.
Amy has watched Bella’s rise to fame fondly, despite the fact Bella was always a terrible cook. But when she realises that Bella’s latest Christmas book is made up entirely of Amy’s mother’s recipes, the gloves are off…
After winning a competition to appear on Bella’s TV show, Amy is going to make sure that for Bella and her viewers, this will definitely be a Christmas to remember…
Snow Angels, Secrets & Christmas Cake
For Tamsin Angel, Christmas is always the biggest and best… chic parties and a little showbiz sparkle are a must. This year though, things aren’t going quite as planned…
With bailiffs suddenly at the door and her husband nowhere to be found, it looks like Christmas just got downsized. Moving into her sister’s flat, she wonders whether things will ever be the same again.
After losing her husband on Christmas Eve, Sam Angel has rebuilt her life around her son Jacob and her new business – The White Angel Bakery. She’s also found herself a very handsome, loving boyfriend, but is struggling to let go of the past.
Thrown together with a sprinkle of Christmas magic, Sam and Tamsin might just learn a little more about each other – and themselves. But when disaster strikes at the bakery, will they be able to save the day in time for Christmas?