Hi Susan – and thank you so much for inviting me to visit your blog today.
Q1. When did your first story appear in People’s Friend?
Suzanne. My first People’s Friend story appeared in the issue dated 6th October 2010. As I’m sure you can imagine, I was thrilled – especially as a lot of luck was involved in that first acceptance.
I don’t generally enter writing competitions, but a series of editor interviews appeared in Writers’ Forum – these were written by Sue Moorcroft and were each accompanied by a competition, with the winning entries being published in the relevant magazines. I felt The People’s Friend competition was too good to miss – not because I expected to win, but because each entrant could request a critique from Sue.
My entry, The Baby of the Family, made it to the final ten – which was a lovely shock. As a result, I was invited to submit future stories directly to Shirley Blair – and my next submission, Home Comforts, was accepted. Shortly after that, Baby was also accepted.
Q2. Did you send many in to them before you had your first acceptance?
Suzanne. I’d been writing off and on since I was 16 and, while I’d mainly concentrated on writing novels, I did have the odd attempt at a short story. I’ve always been fond of The People’s Friend – it was always my gran’s favourite magazine and she’d introduced me to it when I was a child – so it seemed natural to submit some of my stories to them. My first People’s Friend submission was in 1994 – and I continued to send them a story or two most years until they accepted Home Comforts for publication.
Q3. I know you write pocket novels. Roughly, how long does it take to write one?
Suzanne. I fit my writing in around my family and a day job, so my writing time’s limited. It usually takes me around three months to write a People’s Friend pocket novel from idea to submission.
It takes me a while to write my way into a story, so the beginning is always slower than the middle and the end – and there don’t seem to be any exceptions to this, even if I already know the setting and who’s involved.
The pocket novel I’m working on at the moment is the last in a trilogy (Kinbrae Kisses) about the McGregor brothers. The setting was already there, so you’d think it would have been a faster start – but it wasn’t.
Q4. How far in advance do you send a seasonal story for example, I know you like stories with snow scenes.
Suzanne. I do like snow scenes very much. I think they’re handy for writers, as they can force characters to stay together in one place.
For seasonal stories, I try to submit at least three months in advance. I’d like to work further in advance, but I never seem to get organised in time.
When I post out a seasonal story, I always write a note on the envelope to highlight that the submission is time sensitive.
Q5. How many characters would you say was enough for a people’s friend story?
Suzanne. Three or four named characters are probably more than enough for most short stories. As with all things, there will be exceptions and more characters will sometimes work their way in, but I try to keep characters to the minimum absolutely necessary for the story.
Q6. When you visited People’s Friend headquarters recently, what was it like to meet the people who say ‘yes’ to so many of your stories.
Suzanne. Meeting the editors at The People’s Friend was fantastic. They were all so welcoming and every bit as lovely in real life as they’ve always seemed. I so appreciate that the editors I’ve worked with, Shirley Blair and Tracey Steel, took time out of their busy schedules to speak to me. I still can’t believe I was lucky enough to be invited to visit.
Newly available for Kindle:
It Had To Be You – originally published as a People’s Friend Pocket Novel.
The Housewarming & Other Stories – a second collection of 12 short stories, all previously published in The People’s Friend.
Published in Large Print on 1st April – available in libraries soon:
Your Secret Smile
The second McGregor Brothers Pocket Novel will be on the shelves in newsagents and supermarkets in May.
Facebook writer page: https://www.facebook.com/suzannerossjoneswriting
Thank you Suzanne for popping by for a chat, and great to know that you have more stories in the pipeline.
More from People’s Friend writers soon.