Wednesday, July 3, 2013

An un-Expected Interview with Sarah England

It's always a delight for me to feature a colleague from the author's community at Crooked Cat Publishing, and this week is no exception. I sat down with British author Sarah England to talk about her humor, mental health, and first full length comic novel, Expected. It's a comedy, but you'll find Sarah's a jewel of many facets. (Next time I'm going to have to ask her about the spooky stuff, too!)

MSW: Sarah, you’ve written thrillers and chillers, explored the sinister side of life in your short stories. So how did you find yourself writing romantic comedy?

SE: Well Maggie, I whiz from one end of the literary genre straight to the other - something of a bi-polar mystery witch of the literary art form. I've written many many stories for magazines and am right at home in comedy - something to do with my upbringing probably, since my parents were not pushy in that they wanted me to do well in life - I was simply there for their general amusement. However, I maintain a morbid fascination in all thinks spooky, read the tarot and researched demonology for my next project. I also have a background in nursing and medical sales, specialising in mental health - so many of my ideas come from that.  Finally I am not sure that Expected could be described as romantic - oh there is a fair old bit of sexual longing when Joel comes along - but most of it is wicked sparring between Sam Sweet and 'the wrong man' she's stuck with in the meantime... surgeon Simon.

MSW:  Your new novel Expected concerns psych nurse Samantha Sweet, known as Sam, who is
terrified of giving birth. A lot of people wouldn't consider that an obvious comedic premise. What took you there and how did you approach it?

SE: Oh yes that's true. It's just that it is expected (!) of Sam that she will marry this doctor (good catch) and have his children... only his attempts to persuade her by pairing her up with his sister as a birthing partner, and showing birth videos etc, only serve to terrify her more. The comedy comes from Sam trying to escape what is expected of her, have a crack at independence and try to make something of herself. 

Everything goes wrong for her. Tragedy is so often juxtaposed with comedy in real life - it's a kind of Sod's law humour. I did want to get serious messages across however, and not wanting children is very taboo for a woman to admit - whether she changes her mind later, whether it is because she has not met the right man yet, or has tocophobia (fear of childbirth) it is not really tolerated or understood that well. So she has to find an enormous amount of courage to stand up and be counted. To admit who she is and what she wants. I think that serious messages like those Sam has - of feeling inadequate, grateful even to be treated shoddily by her fiance, coerced into behaving how her mother wants her to - can be portrayed in a more acceptable manner with the use of comedy. Hopefully. And Sam explains as the book goes along on this matter.

MSW:  As the novel begins, Sam’s life is decidedly not going well. I know you trained as a nurse yourself. Coincidence?

SE: No. Sam took nursing because she wanted an escape route from the sink estate (boarded up windows, stray dogs, lots of bonfires...) and the benefits culture she was brought up in. She took psychiatric nursing since it involved clearing up less  um....bodily secretions... but of course when she was in charge the patients took over. She now injects facial fillers and as the Queen of Jinx that isn't going too well either - product going lumpy. Yes I have been there too - stuck in the back room of a beauty parlour injecting a product into tissue-thin skin, but the unguent won't come out and Oh God.... it was awful... just horrendous... never again. SO much experience in this book - it really is tragic!

MSW:  Writing short fiction can be radically different from planning, plotting, and finishing a novel. What encouraged you to make the shift and how did you find that transition? Will you do it again?

SE: I had around 150 short stories published (magazines, newspapers, anthologies, online) before starting Expected. Also a 3-part detective serial for Woman's Weekly (UK).  I came to the point where I wanted to push myself to do more things. With short stories I basically jot down the ideas, type them up, and then know if they are going to work quite quickly. Expected -  hmm, do you know I don't even know how it happened? It just had to come out. Yes there is a series of 'Sam Sweet' novels queuing up to be written, but it depends if readers like her or not - she is controversial and she has a lot of growing up to do.

MSW:  What are you working on now?

SE: I'm dithering, Maggie. Either the sequel to Expected, or a supernatural thriller just buzzing around in my head... not sure which will be first as I am currently working hard to bring Expected to people's attention. But soon...

MSW:  Casting Call! When it’s time to make the movie, who do you see in the principal roles in Expected?

SE: Oh well now we're dreaming.... the big dream - wow. Well I have always wanted Christina Hendricks to play Sam. In the beginning Sam has no self-belief and only sees herself as the fat ginger girl - like so many young girls these days she has no confidence in the way she looks - but then when she meets Joel - wowee - Madison, and he calls her Christina Hendricks - well, she then morphs into the kind of va-va voom girl he dreams of. I'd like to see bigger women play the major roles. For Joel - well I'd have to get a few good looking guys onto the casting couch I think....  Take my time choosing... hmm... he's got to be mature, silver-haired, cobalt eyes, tanned and broad shouldered, strong presence and wear a Stetson with style... And talk like Elvis - he's from Tennessee.

MSW:  Finally, my favorite question: When you come to power, what’s the first thing you’ll do?

SE: Make chocolate free of charge. Oh, and issue a worldwide death penalty for animal cruelty and child abuse.

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About Sarah England

Sarah originally trained as a nurse in Sheffield (UK) and then went on to work as a medical representative for nearly 20 years, specialising in mental health. She had always wanted to write fiction, but did not begin until around eight years ago, prompted by a house move and relocation to the South coast of  England. Since then around 140 short stories have been published, mostly in national magazines and various anthologies; most recently a 3-part detective serial in Woman’s Weekly. 

In May 2013 3am and Wide Awake was released by Alife Dog Fiction—a collection of 25 thrillers, many supernatural or medically based—two of her predominant themes.

Expected, a comedy from Crooked Cat Publishing (June 2013) is her first novel.

Sarah lives in Dorset with husband Don and spaniel Harry.

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