Author Name: Sue Hewitt
Twitter Handle: @sue9631
Title of Novel: The Cunning Woman’s Cup
Q1. How long have you been writing? And what was the first thing you can remember writing?
I remember writing a poem about the sea, when I was about 8 or 9 years old. I’ve written sporadically since then, but never with any hope or intention of being published. Latterly, I have been a member of a couple of writer’s groups and have found the company of other aspiring writers to be a great help when confidence wavers.
Q2. Did you always want to be a writer?
No, I never thought it would be possible. I was born in the 1950’s and my early years were pre the influence of the Women’s Liberation Movement. Aspirations for little girls, especially from a working class background, were limited, to say the least. Despite gaining a place at the local Grammar School, I cannot ever remember a teacher encouraging me to write, all I remember of the limited creative writing in the ‘O’ Level curriculum are the masses of red pen marks all over my efforts.
The only career advice I ever received was to be a nurse (which I did not fancy at all) or to be a secretary. I did study secretarial skills later on, and touch typing has turned out to be one of the best things I ever learned to do – to music – on old fashioned hit the keys typewriters, with the keys covered up. The spectre of the red pen still lingers – thank heavens I found such a brilliant editor to unravel all my grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes – and never a red pen in sight!
Q3. How did you feel when you were writing this book?
I felt I was doing something for myself, not for publication. When I began, the self publishing phenomena did not exist, the only route was traditional publishing. In some ways that was a good thing – I wrote what I wanted to write. I spent some time working for a company called Country Cousins – for those not in the UK, this company provides temporary live-in respite care for those who are caring for elderly family members in their own homes, or to provide care when an elderly person leaves hospital and requires home based help.
Primarily my clients were women, and once the shopping and cooking element of the job was done, the rest of the time was mostly spent sitting, listening and reminiscing with these amazing ladies. They had led full, vibrant, interesting lives and were still exceptional human beings – but felt they had become invisible with age. I felt older persons were either stereotyped or non existent in the majority of novels, film or television, and I wanted to write about them.
Q4. How long did it take to write?
The process was long, extending over several years. The tale began life as a short story about two older women from different backgrounds who meet by chance and become great friends. However, these two characters, Alice and Margaret, kept on nagging away at me, demanding I wrote more about them – so I did. I thought the novel was complete, and managed to get excerpts read by an industry insider, the literary agent, Clare Alexander (she is my employer’s daughter’s agent – it seemed foolish not to take advantage of the one connection I had in the industry).
Clare was encouraging, but reading between the lines, she was saying that the story was too ‘nice’. I put the manuscript away for almost another year after that, until, out of the blue, a new voice spoke up. The voice of Mordwand of the Brigantes, the last person to hold the gold cup of the title, and the person who hid it beneath the ground along with the other artefacts. I wrote her story in one long rush, polished it up with facts from Tacitus and some old herbal’s that lived on my bookshelf. Then I chopped that story up into sections to head each chapter. Mordwand’s story, her voice, gave me the balance I needed to lift what had been a contemporary rural tale to another level.
Q5. Do you have a special place where you go to write?
do now. I have a shed at the bottom of the garden where I write for most of the year, but living in Scotland means the shed gets a bit chilly (and expensive to heat!) in the winter – so I have retreated to where I wrote The Cunning Woman’s Cup, on the landing at the top of the stairs.
Q6. When you begin writing, did you ever think you’d get to where you are now?
Absolutely not. To have published one novel seems incredible, to have readers contact me saying how much they enjoyed my book still seems surreal. To have been nominated for the Rosie Amber Rose Award 2015, which has just happened, is the icing on the cake.
My second novel, working title A Patchwork Legacy, is currently with my editor, and if I can overcome a few difficulties regarding some diverse characters in this novel, I hope to self publish it some time next year.
I have already started on a sequel to The Cunning Woman’s Cup – so many readers and reviewers have asked for more about the lives of the characters who inhabit the village of Duddo I felt I could not let them down.
Wow, thanks so much Sue. It’s amazing to hear your story and to hear about your book – it sounds intriguing!
If you would like to purchase Sue’s book, you can find it by clicking here.