From the writing desk, of Susie Kelly
Welcome to the French Village Diaries interview feature, From the Writing Desk, where this week, to coincide with the release of It’s a Mad World – Travels Through a Muddled Life, I am delighted to be (virtually) joining author Susie Kelly at her writing desk in France.
Susie was born in Wimbledon, where the Wombles came from, but moved to Kenya where she spent most of the first 20 years of her life.
She later lived in the Cotswolds for many years until she moved to south-west France in the early 1990s and has been there ever since. That’s when she was inspired to begin writing. ‘It’s A Mad World’ will be her twelfth published non-fiction book.
Home is an old farmhouse in a tiny hamlet, where she lives with two pygmy goats, two dogs and an African Grey parrot. It’s a pretty good life.
Your writing space
Susie, how important is your desk space to your writing? Do you only write at your desk, or are you happy sitting anywhere?
Susie: I bought a laptop and planned to use it so that I could write anywhere, but I generally work at my desk, with a larger keyboard to accommodate my large fingers, and a large monitor so I can see what I’ve written. I find the laptop rather fiddly.
Do you prefer your workspace to be tidy and well-organised or creatively cluttered?
Susie: I would love it to be tidy and well-organised. Ideally my desk would only hold my computer and an exquisite Chinese soapstone brush holder that is one of my favourite pieces of collected oriental carvings. It is so intricate, every time I look at it I find something new to love and admire. The photo doesn’t do it justice.
However, during the day it will be joined by notebooks, battery chargers, cups of tea, sticky notes, cookery books and small pieces of plastic or metal objects that don’t seem to belong to anything.
How important is daily writing to you?
Susie: It’s not a must-do for me Jacqui. There are days when there are other things I need or want to do, and I never make myself write if I am not in the mood. It has to be a pleasure, not a task.
Do you prefer to work to a deadline, and if so, do you set yourself targets?
Susie: Hm. That’s an interesting question. Some people work best to a strict deadline; I don’t. As above, I would not enjoy writing under pressure, but at the same time I think you do need to have some kind of plan if you want to complete a project. I prefer to set a notional target and work towards that. With so much stress affecting us all at the moment, I do whatever I can to avoid it, and having to write ‘to order’ would only increase it.
Writing during Covid-19
As a writer, with a desk and computer at home, life and work would have continued for you throughout lockdown, but has the pandemic affected your motivation to write?
Susie: When lockdown first began I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to concentrate on writing. I never imagined it would go on for so long and have such a devastating effect all over the world. As time has gone on I’ve found the travel restrictions quite demotivating, especially as I am unable to visit my daughter. I haven’t seen her for nearly three years.
Although I am normally happy with my own company, after all these months I have begun to feel in need of a change of scene and atmosphere. Sometimes I feel like curling up in a ball and hibernating until it’s all over.
However, we are so lucky to live in a rural area where we have space, peace and quiet all around us. I cannot imagine what it is like for people living in crowded cities and confined spaces, so I count our blessings.
Have you noticed any unexpected benefits to life in lockdown?
Susie: I’ve saved a lot of money on lipstick. And petrol.
Was It’s a Mad World – Travels Through a Muddled Life your lockdown project?
Susie: It actually started before lockdown, when I was convalescing from my cancer operation. Then along came lockdown, and the writing became a much needed distraction and eventually therapy.
Your latest release
It’s a Mad World – Travels Through a Muddled Life, your latest memoir is out now, can you tell us a bit about it?
Susie: I think the title sums it up! I believe there are people who sail through life smoothly and nothing ever goes wrong. My life has never been like that. More things have gone wrong than have gone right. Going through my diaries and photo albums bringing back many of those memories cheered me up and made me laugh when I was reminded of all the things I’ve done, places I’ve been and people I’ve met. Although it may have been nice to have had an uneventful life, I think it’s probably a lot more interesting and fun when things fall apart. I hope readers will enjoy reading about my mishaps.
Life outside of writing
What do you look forward to, when you’ve saved the document and switched off the computer, as your treat at the end of the writing day?
Susie: During the chilly winter months when I’ve finished working I enjoy having a quiet meal and then sitting with Terry, the dogs and parrot and binge-watching Netflix. When I’m tired I take a cup of hot milk and spice up to bed and read for half an hour before going to sleep. It’s my interpretation of a rave.
Once summer comes we’ll all be chilling out in the garden.
How would you normally celebrate the release of a new novel, and will it be different this year?
Susie: I roll up my sleeves and tackle all the tiresome things I’ve managed to avoid while I’ve been writing. After that I need a good rest, and like to catch up on my reading for a few weeks before planning the next writing project. No change this year!
Thank you for taking the time out of your writing day to let me join you at your writing desk.
Susie: Thank you Jacqui.
It’s a Mad World – Travels Through a Muddled Life is a collection of adventures from Susie’s life. She is one of those people who always finds someone interesting on her travels, often finding herself in situations that could go from hilarious, to embarrassing, to terrifying, but show Susie and husband Terry have certainly given 100% to whatever life has thrown at them. This is another interesting and humorous read from Susie that you won’t want to miss out on.
It’s a Mad World – Travels Through a Muddled Life is available now in ebook and paperback formats and links to Amazon can be found below.
Join me on the blog this Wednesday when I will be posting my full review.
You can find Susie on Facebook.
Read my reviews of Susie’s previous memoirs here: