I am thrilled to welcome local author Susi Osborne to My Chestnut Reading Tree today. Whilst emailing Susi to organise this feature we found we had quite a few things in common. Check out her bio and see if you can spot our coincidences!
When Dreams Come True…
People dream of becoming rich and famous, becoming a pop singer or a television star of some kind – especially in these days of the reality tv show. Did I ever dream of becoming a writer? No, I did not. But then, I don’t think writing is really of quite the same ilk, it’s more like one of those things that chooses you, rather than the other way round. Or in my case it would seem that way at least.
I’ve always loved words, been fascinated by them you might say. As a child one of my very favourite toys was a John Bull Printing Outfit. I don’t know whether anyone else remembers them – I certainly doubt very much that they still exist! It came with tiny little rubber letters, so small that you had to use tweezers to pick them up – slotting them into the wooden block which you could then dab into the inkpad to enable it to print out a word. Messy – but great fun!
I loved making up stories too – inventing characters. I blame the fact that I was an only child. Well, you have to blame something! And it’s true, I was a dreamer – I lived inside the world of my imagination a lot of the time. And I did progress. From John Bull Printing Outfit to exercise book to… typewriter!! I was almost like Jessica Fletcher at the beginning of Murder She Wrote! If my younger self could see my laptop now, she would be in awe.
So then, as I got older, I surrounded myself with words. Just that they were other people’s words, not my own. I worked in libraries for many years which, believe me, is not as serious as it may sound. Certainly the one in which I spent most of my time was always filled with laughter rather than the sound of silence.
But then life and responsibilities came along. Firstly, in the form of one of my children, who had a chronic, little-known health problem and was always in and out of hospital – and then with my mother, who developed Alzheimer’s, and for whom I was caring for ten years.
Help! I needed to escape! I had a dream. I needed to be me…
So, writing was really all I’d ever known. What better form of escapism is there than that? Writing was/is my life’s blood.
I started off in a small way – audition pieces for my actress daughter. But then I went for it wholeheartedly. My very first novel, The Ripples of Life, was published on the week of my 60th birthday. That was quite a week! Despite still caring for my mum at this point I had started to be me again – it was the most liberating feeling ever.
A second book followed, Grace & Disgrace, which was my bestselling book to date (although I’m hoping Angelica Stone will outsell it, obviously!). One of the characters I wrote about in this book had Alzheimer’s but, despite this, it’s a story full of comedy and laugh out loud humour. Having cared for someone with Alzheimer’s for so long, you come to realise that an irrepressible sense of humour is paramount to your survival!
I wrote a third book, Secrets, Lies & Butterflies but, in addition, buoyed on by all the excitement that was creeping back into my life, I had another word-connected, somewhat crazy idea. I would start a literary festival! Single-handedly and without a budget would be no obstacle at all… Lol.
And so, Northwich LitFest was born! I’ve been running it for six years now, throughout the whole of June each year, on a very tight budget but nevertheless… Northwich LitFest has had some fabulous events with people such as Adele Parks, Sunny Ormonde, Carole Matthews, Sophie Parkin, Angela Clarke, Rowan Coleman, Paul Burston, Julia Crouch to name but a few. It has been an amazing six years, all very hard work but such a fantastic experience – and I have met such interesting, wonderful people.
In fact it was one of the latter, the very lovely Sophie Parkin who, when my fourth book Angelica Stone came out at the end of August, offered to let me hold a book launch in her fabulous London arts club, Vout-o-Reenees. Friends travelled from far and wide to be there for me. It truly was the best book launch I could ever have imagined – such a special night. I really did feel that all of my dreams had come true.
About the book…
There was something about Angelica Stone…she seemed to bring trouble, bad luck some would call it, to everyone she met.
Following years of sexual abuse, Angelica has been brought up in care. As a teenager she absconds, living on the streets, before eventually being forced into prostitution to survive. She learns to rely solely on herself and is reluctant to allow anyone to get close to her for fear of bringing them trouble.
In contrast, Lola is from what appears to be a happy middle-class background – but all is not as it seems… The two form an unlikely friendship but, from that point onwards, cracks start to appear in Lola’s world. Who knows what secrets lurk behind closed doors? Especially at number 9, Lilac Avenue.
Angelica Stone is a story that contains a lot of humour, some captivating characters, a mysterious thread and a massive twist!
Meet the author…
Susi lives in Cheshire with her Scottish husband and her actress daughter. They live in a house of chaos which is largely caused by their two fairly recent furbaby additions – a chug called Lola, and a cavapoochon called Alfie – but also by their love of entertaining.
Susi is a great believer in ‘you’re never too old to do anything’ and says that her sixties have been incredible – in fact the best decade yet!.
I was thrilled that after organising this feature, Susi Osborne popped a copy of Angelica Stone in the post for me so I thought I would add a mini review to the bottom of this post!
I didn’t know what to expect from the blurb from the back of Angelica Stone but it certainly wasn’t this dark and sometimes shocking drama that made my jaw drop to the floor more than once! Be warned that there are some very disturbing scenes here but as they are used within the context of the terrible crimes that have been committed, they are necessary to the plot and not gratuitous. I found myself gritting my teeth throughout some difficult to read moments but boy, did those scenes really hit home as they explained some of the shocking behaviours that exploded off the page!
Both Angelica and Lola were well crafted characters who held my attention throughout with their realistic reactions to their life circumstances. I loved the way they both met a need within each other, meeting at just the right time in their lives. But this friendship isn’t without its problems and there is a shocking twist in store for all our characters with life changing decisions about to take effect for them both.
Angelica Stone contains some difficult subject matters but ultimately this life affirming book handles them with sensitivity and understanding. Both Angelica and Lola became very close to my heart whilst reading and I think they took a little bit of it with them when they left me.