Love and Freedom won the Best Romantic Read Award 2011 at the Festival of Romance and Dream a Little Dream was nominated for a RoNA in 2013. She received three nominations at the Festival of Romance 2012, and is a Katie Fforde Bursary Award winner.
Sue is vice-chair of the RNA and editor of its two anthologies. She also writes short stories, serials, articles, writing 'how to', and is a competition judge and creative writing tutor.
I’m not one for resisting soft and fluffy animals, and if they say ‘Mmmm’ a lot, have great liquid eyes, punk rock topknots and a ‘Huh?’ expression, I definitely need to get involved. Having made some friends who own an alpaca farm, I could see it was only a matter of time before these appealing animals made their way into one of my books. So when I created Emilia, a secondary character in Is This Love? who’s married to a wealthy man, I wanted something over the top for her to possess. I gave her a starter herd of alpacas. (They don’t like to live alone.)
What I had to do, obviously, was get myself off to the alpaca farm with my camera and my notebook to be introduced to about thirty of them, to see their field shelters, their feed, their halters, even their feeding bowls. I was fascinated. Alpacas are all colours from ash blond through fawn and brown to black. Their fibre is incredibly thick in winter and when they’ve been shorn you can see the tracks of the clippers. They look as if they’ve been neatly combed.
In this country, alpacas are bred for their fibre, which is spun and knitted like wool. I consider it itchy but the most exclusive of shops attach eye-watering price tags to the resulting fine garments. Alpacas are camelids, smaller than their llama cousins. They’re used to low temperatures but like to be able to get out of the rain (wouldn’t you, with all that hair to get dry?) and their babies are called ‘cria’.
I learned a lot more but one thing was overwhelmingly obvious - alpacas are cute. They have a funny walk, their heads pop up like periscopes with devil horns on top whenever anything excites their curiosity. And they make the most soothing humming noise.
Heroine Tamara has a sister, Lyddie, who’s an adult who needs care, having suffered an accident as a teen. (The alpacas may be soft and fluffy but not all of the themes in my books are.) Lyddie loves animals and the alpacas and their cria draw her towards Emilia and the odd household at Lie Low, where Jed Cassius happens to work. Those four characters are essential to the plot and, in the middle of them? Alpacas.
Some research is hard work, some is uncomfortable, but learning about alpacas was just fun. Mmmm. Mmmm-mmmm.
Is This Love? will be out on 7 November 2013 in paperback and is already available across all ebook platforms. It has been nominated for the Readers Best Romantic Read Award.
Thanks for a fascinating - and educational - interview, Sue. We wish you all the best with Is This Love, and all future novels.
Interviews on the RNA Blog are carried out by Freda, Henri and Livvie. They are for RNA members only. If you are interested in an interview, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org