Q&A with Susanna Beard, author of Dare to Remember.

Reeling from a brutal attack that leaves her best friend dead and her badly injured, Lisa Fulbrook flees to the countryside to recuperate. With only vague memories of the event, she isolates herself from her friends and family, content to spend her days wandering the hills with her dog, Riley.

However, Lisa is soon plagued, not only by vivid flashbacks, but questions, too: how did their assailant know them? Why were they attacked? And what really happened that night?
As she desperately tries to piece together the memories, Lisa realises that there's another truth still hidden to her, a truth she can't escape from. A truth that may have been right in front of her all along.

A clever, sophisticated, psychological thriller, perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn, S.J. Watson, B A Paris and Sophie Hannah.

Today on Hummingbird Reviews, I'm thrilled to be welcoming Susanna Beard to the blog to take part in an author Q&A. Susanna is the author of upcoming psychological thriller Dare to Remember, which arrived in both digital and paperback format on February 1st 2017, from Legend Press. Without further ado, I'd like to welcome Susanna to the stage. Let's get started!

Please introduce yourself. Where are you from? What do you do? And what's your shoe-size?
Hello! Delighted to be asked to chat. I'm Susanna Beard; I live in Marlow, Bucks and I'm a writer and PR consultant. Shoe size 4 3/4.

When was your latest book published and what is it called?
My debut novel, Dare to Dream, launches 1st February.

What is it about?
It's a psychological thriller. It concerns a woman who's suffered a terrible trauma in her life. With only vague memories of the event, she isolates herself from her friends and family. But she's plagued by vivid flashbacks as she tries to piece together the memories. She realises that to move on she has to remember that dreadful night.

How do you expect readers to feel while reading it?
I'm hoping readers will feel Lisa's pain as she struggles to remember what happened. The tension rises as she realises what she must do to move on in her life, and she has to summon all her courage to continue.

If you were to describe this book in the same way you'd describe the weather, what would you say?
While a storm threatens and the wind begins to whip through the trees, a tiny patch of blue sky appears, and then disappears...

When did you begin writing? What was your first book about?
I began writing this book (my first) in early 2014.

Whether that was a while back or just recently, did you or do you have any goals for your writing?
Yes, I want to continue to write - I've just completed the first draft of my second novel and hope to get that finished in the next few weeks.

Which authors inspire you?
Donna Tartt, Isabel Allende, Anthony Doerr, Elena Ferrante, Hannah Kent, Sarah Winham.

If you had to describe your writing in three words, which words would they be?
Spare, immediate, stylish.

What themes do you focus on within your writing?
I like the psychological aspects of developing characters; exploring people's behaviour in challenging situations; the way that life can turn on a sixpence.

Once you've an idea firmly in place, what is usually the next step for you?
I might start to plot the first half of the novel, or I might just get started!

Do you have a favourite part of the writing process?
Not really; sometimes, though, a certain scene just takes off, and that's very satisfying.

Are there any techniques/methods you use when it comes to plotting?
I learned a technique from Louise Doughty (Apple Tree Yard), who was one of my tutors on a course at the Faber Academy in London. It's very simple and very helpful.

Have you ever come face to face with writer's block? If so, how did you overcome it?
Not really, though there have been pauses in my writing - usually when I'm not sure where the story is going. Then I spend time ruminating, mulling it over, trying different options - and eventually write something down which I can then work on. Once it's written it's much easier to see where it might go.

Where do you normally find inspiration?
There's no 'normal'! Thoughts come to me at odd moments - in the shower, on a walk, on holiday...

What does a typical day in your life look like?
I get up when my dogs wake me up, usually 7.00 ish, and have a cup of tea in bed while reading the paper and having a cuddle with them! It's their treat of the day! Then we walk for 30-45 minutes, and then I spend the morning working - I have about five clients for whom I handle PR. The afternoons might include a swim, more work, or if I have a block of time, some writing. I try to work on my novel every day in some way - thinking, writing ideas down, editing, or writing.

What part of the writing process do you find most difficult?
I think plotting is quite difficult, especially if you're writing thrillers, which need to maintain tension with twists and turns and unexpected moments. It's important to keep the momentum going, not to lose the reader with too much description or too many sub-plots.

How do you usually come up with your titles?
With Dare to Remember, it was my third go! With my new one, it came from a key sentence in the novel.

When it comes to creating your characters, what is the first step you take?
I try to develop a biography for them. This might change as I get closer to the character, but it gives me a good start.

Have you ever taken a research trip? If so, where did you go, and for which book?
Indeed - my second book is partly set in Lithuania, which I'd never visited, so I spent a few days there getting the atmosphere and visiting the parts I wanted to include in the novel.

Do you ever set yourself word-count goals?
Sometimes - I try for a thousand words a day if I've given myself a deadline. But I don't beat myself up if I don't achieve it; sometimes a good 500 words, well written and satisfying, are just as good.

What is your definition of 'success'?
I want to write books that surprise and delight people, that people want to read - and I want to make a career from my writing.

What is your definition of 'happiness'?
A happy puppy! A combination of having your basic needs satisfied, someone to love who loves you (preferably unconditionally!) and beauty in your life.

Which do you find hardest? The beginning or the end?
The end, definitely.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
Get the first draft done - then worry about the editing.

What one piece of advice would you pass on to another writer?
The above, plus make it the best you possibly can before you send it to an agent/publisher.

Tell us an author who is on your auto-buy list?
Donna Tartt.

If you were to write in another genre, which genre would you pick and why?
It would have to be literary fiction - to give myself the ultimate challenge.

What are you working on at the moment?
I'm editing my second novel!

Now for some quick-fire questions:
Coffee or tea? Tea, definitely.
Summer or winter? Summer.
Bath or shower? Shower - no patience with baths.
Sweet or savoury? Savoury every time.
Holiday in the city or the countryside? Countryside.
Text or call? Text.
Facebook or Twitter? A bit of a novice with both at the moment, but getting there! Twitter probably.
Sunrise or sunset? Sunset.
TV programmes or movies? Movies.
Wine or beer? Wine - can't stand beer.
Cats or dogs? Dogs, every time.
Chinese or Indian food? Ooh, difficult. Can I say Turkish?
Pasta or cheese? Neither.

About the author.
I'm an introvert with the odd flash of the extrovert. I'm happy in my own company - but only because I know it's not going to last too long. I'm a private person, sometimes, and sociable, usually.

After a long career in PR, I wanted to write more freely and turned my attention to novels. I have a vivid imagination and love deep dark stories, from Victorian Gothic to contemporary Nordic noir tales. After learning the art of creative writing I wrote my first novel, Dare To Remember (published by Legend Press, 1st February, 2017). My aims are to write at least ten more novels - each better than the one before - and not to get old.

I live in Marlow with my sons and two dogs, who keep me sane and ensure I don't become a lounge lizard. I've been swimming with whalesharks in Australia and trekking in Nepal; I've fallen down a crevasse in France. I'm passionate about tennis and animals.

You can find Susanna Beard on Twitter & susannabeard.com.
You can Dare To Remember on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US.

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