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An Interview with Susan Oldham — Joannes Rhino - Bali Online Editor " />
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03 Aug


Between Horror/Dark Fiction and Historical Romance, meet Susan Oldham or Lillian White…


JR: Tell us about yourself, and how would you describe yourself?

SO: I am 48 years old, very happily married with two grown up sons and a much-loved Cocker Spaniel named Milo. I live in South Wales, UK. I am an avid reader, especially of horror and dark fiction, historical fiction and fantasy, although I am open to just about any genre if a book/writer catches my eye. I love children and have worked with them for most of my working life. I love animals, too, especially dogs and elephants! I am fairly quiet until you get to know me. I try to be a good listener, to be understanding and above all, to be kind.


JR: When did you first realise you want to be a writer? Who spotted that talent and what was the first thing you do knowing that?

SO: I have written stories and poetry since I was a very young child, as any of my four older sisters and my mum will attest to. I joined an online writing site some years ago, as a tentative step to sharing my work with a wider audience. I have had lots of my work published over the years, in various anthologies, magazines and e-zines, calendars and even a greeting card. I once had a story narrated by a voice actor and broadcast over a national radio station. Conventional publishing was not a path open to me and so, like many other indie writers, I decided to try my hand at going it alone. My family have always supported me in my writing.


JR: Do you have any formal education in creative writing? Do you think formal education in writing is necessary?

SO: I don’t have any formal education in writing, no. I am not convinced that it is necessary in order to be able to tell a good story. Certainly, it has nothing to do with having a fertile and active imagination, or a passion for story-telling. When it comes to technical forms of writing, or writing knowledgably about specific subjects then yes, obviously a formal or a working education is advantageous. However, experience is often an education in its own right. For example, I would never dream of writing a book in which there is a great deal of forensic detail, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t write about a ‘good’ juicy crime!


JR: Are you a full-time author? Do you have other activities as main source of income? How do you organise your schedule and time in writing a book?

SO: I only wish I was a full-time author! That is the dream and the goal. I currently work as a Teaching Assistant in a primary school working with special needs children. I love my job, but due to my own personal health (and other factors) it is very likely that I will need to make changes to my working life in the near future. I don’t have a set time to write, largely because of work and other family demands, I just write whenever and wherever I can. It is not a chore for me as it is one of my passions. It is not at all unusual to find me writing in the early hours of the morning or late into the night. During school holidays, I spend most days writing as it is an ideal opportunity to do so.  I spend most of my spare time writing. It is not a ‘job’ to me, it is a passion and a compulsion.


JR: What made you decide to start writing something? What or who influences you?

SO: I have often thought about who influences me, as it is something writers are frequently asked. I am not sure of being consciously influenced by anyone, but on reflection I would probably have to say that I am influenced by any number of authors whose work I have enjoyed. To a great extent, I think probably Stephen King, who is a master story teller, but also the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett. As a pre-teen and teenager, I couldn’t get enough of Agatha Christie, Jean Plaidy, Catherine Cookson to name a few. I used to sneak books off my dad’s bookshelf, by authors like Dean Koontz, Ngaio Marsh and James Herbert, not to mention a whole host of other less famous authors. As a child, I loved Enid Blyton and Joel Chandler Harris. These days some firm favourites include: Conn Iggulden, Phillipa Gregory, Hilary Mantel, Robert Harris, Lindsey Davis, Bernard Cornwell and Jo Nesbo. Stephen King and Sir Terry Pratchett have always been with me, so to speak. I have always been greedy for books! I think that in some way, all of these authors influenced me, because I knew from very early on that I wanted to do what they did – write books and touch the lives and minds of readers. As for what makes me decide to start writing something – sometimes an idea forms in my mind, takes root and then niggles away at me until I do something with it. Other times, it might be something I have heard or seen, snippets of conversation perhaps, something I have witnessed on the street. The honest truth is I don’t always know!


JR: What is the greatest lesson you have learned and/or greatest achievement you have reached as a writer?

SO: This is a hard one to answer. I am not sure what the greatest lesson I have learned is, because I am still learning so much. I think learning to believe in myself has been a big thing, to trust in my own ability. As for my greatest achievement, it was a real thrill to have my story ‘Best Served Cold’ broadcast on Rutland Radio, though it was some years ago now. I think taking the plunge and self-publishing for the first time was also an achievement, because I finally started to take the bull by the horns so to speak, and try and make a go of what has been a life-long ambition for me.


JR: Do you have habits in writing? Any specific time and/or place to write?

SO: If I do have any habits, I am not aware of them! I don’t have a specific time to write either, though I do have a specific place. We converted a small under-stairs cupboard into an office last year, and much of my writing is done there. Not all; I sometimes sit in bed with my laptop and do it there (I said I often write in the wee small hours) but usually my office is where I write. I will jot ideas down wherever I am though, and whenever it might be, and go back to them later.


JR: How long do you normally finish writing a book? What is the hardest part in the process?

SO: The length of time it takes to write a book varies enormously. Perhaps if I had an agent or a publisher urging me to stick to deadlines that would be different, but as things stand that is not the case. I am not sure I would call it the hardest part, but certainly the most urgent part, for me anyway, is simply getting the story down and making it go the way I envisage it going. The first draft. After that I can breathe a little easier and focus on honing, editing and refining, making it as good as I possibly can. The hardest part, speaking as an indie author, is marketing and promoting. A job in itself, and not an easy one!


JR: Do you have professional editors to furnish your books? If you do, any recommendation you would like to share to fellow authors?

SO: I work on an extremely limited budget at present, one which sadly does not allow for editors. It is something I would like to be able to do and intend to do in the future, but at the moment I do not have an editor, so I would welcome recommendations from others!


JR: How do you think you have evolved creatively?

SO: I like to think that I have learned how to ‘slow down’ and take the time to build atmosphere and background into a story, rather than be in a rush to just tell it. My writing is less raw now than it once was, due in no small part to joining a writer’s site, learning how to take constructive criticism and not be ‘precious’ about my work. I have also learned to have a little faith in myself, a must for any author.


JR: Do you ever face Writer’s Block? If you do, how did you overcome the situation?

SO: I don’t think I have ever experienced Writer’s Block, or if I have I can’t remember. There are days when it comes less easily than others, but I think that is natural and true of just about any occupation. Sometimes, a change is as good as a rest. I go and do something else for a while, forget about it and trust my mojo will come back. Again, this is perhaps a luxury that I would not be able to indulge in if I was under the scrutiny of an agent or a publisher, so perhaps there are advantages to being an indie after all!


JR: Do you have professional designer to design the cover and/or interior of your books? If you do, any recommendation you would like to share to fellow authors?

SO: Again, due to a seriously limited budget, this is a luxury I simply cannot afford. I use a site called SelfPubBookCovers to buy pre-made covers for my books, which I know is not ideal but it is what it is, for now. To be fair to them, many of their covers are good quality at reasonable prices, I am very happy with my purchases from them thus far. I also recently engaged the services of an artist based in South Africa, Mike Tenebrae, who designed a poster for my recent book. ‘Sleep, Think, Die.’ In my view, Mike’s work is of an extremely high standard and I count myself lucky to have found him.

https://www.selfpubbookcovers.com/index.php?option=com_author&view=profile – SelfPubBookCovers

http://tenebraestudios.net/main/ Mike Tenebrae


JR: How do you involve in promoting your books? Any marketing technique you can share?

SO: Again, this comes down to budget. I do my best to promote myself on social media, especially twitter and Facebook, as well as my own website of course. I intend to pay for some advertising and marketing sooner or later because if I am honest, I know very little about it and I think it takes someone with some know-how and contacts to make it work effectively. I try to run competitions alongside promoting my books, as well as the standard procedures of offering discounts and freebies. I have had artwork related to my book printed on bags and T-shirts, which is fun and a nice thing for me to do personally, but I am not sure how much impact it has on such a small scale. My current competition is here: http://solostinwords.doodlekit.com/home/zombie-competition


JR: Give your thoughts about traditional publishing Vs. self-publishing?

SO: In an ideal world, I would love to be published traditionally. The advantages this brings is tremendous; professional editing, marketing, promotion, cover design, not to mention being able to offer actual, physical books. However, this is simply not a possibility for us all. Breaking into the world of traditional publishing is a monumentally difficult thing to do, because the market is flooded and the publishers have their pick of the crop. It is frustrating because a lot of the time I feel authors such as myself are not even given a chance. Because we are not already famous for something, or university educated or professionals in some other field, we are often overlooked. I understand why this happens of course, but it is nonetheless frustrating for that. For many, including myself, if we are to ever fulfil our dream of becoming an author, self-publishing is the only option left to us. One of the many annoyances with regard to being self-published is the complaint, particularly from potential reviewers, that we only have e-books to offer, and being refused reviews as a result. Believe me I know there is nothing better than being able to hold a ‘real’ book in your hands, but for an indie such as myself, for whom writing is not yet a full-time occupation, it is an expense I simply cannot stretch to. This is why I often feel dejected when I read the submission rules on reviewer blogs and sites, which specify ‘physical copies only.’ It is absolutely their right to do so of course, and I respect that, but I don’t feel it takes into account the financial restrictions often imposed on indie authors. There is also the environmental argument, that e-books are actually better for the planet, but it would be hypocritical of me to hold to that too rigidly, given my love for my book shelf!


JR: How many books have you written (published and non-published)?

SO: I have three horror/dark fiction books available on Amazon and am in the process of writing a fourth, which is a sequel. I also have two historical romances on Amazon and am writing a third. I have also published a book based on life with my beautiful Golden Retriever, Roman.

In the Horror genre I have published:

Wakeful Children: A Collection of Horror and Supernatural Tales (short stories)

Hag’s Breath: A Collection of Witchcraft and Wickedness (short stories)

Sleep, Think, Die – a zombie horror romp – full length novel

Coming Soon – The Undertaking – sequel to Sleep, Think, Die


In the Historical Romance genre I have published:

The Mill Owner’s Son

The Unschooled Heart

Coming Soon – Commoners – a Victorian Romance



The Walk Down Roman’s Road: The Story of a Life Shared


JR: What genre that you normally write, and what draws you to this genre? Do you always write in the same genre?

SO: I write in two genres, Horror and Dark Fiction as S P Oldham, and Historical Romance as Lillian White. I tend to be drawn more to dark fiction and horror, although I also have a love of history. The fact is, my romances tend to have a darker (not horror) element to them, a gritty realism as well as the main romantic theme. As for history, well that is testimony to the horrors of mankind, if anything is. The two genres, at first very different, are actually not so far apart when you think about it. There is a kind of overlap, and I find that I cannot stop writing in either genre, as they both draw me back every time! I don’t absolutely restrict myself though, and will write whatever I feel inspired to. I like to dabble in poetry from time to time, and limericks, just for fun!


Sleep, Think, DieJR: Of all the books that you have written down, which book that you think the best one? And what do you think readers will find most appealing about this book? What’s the “real story” behind this book?

SO: I think the ‘best’ one, in terms of ease of the writing of it, was Sleep, Think, Die. I had such fun writing this book, and I hope that shows. What readers deem to be the best of my work, I leave to them. I just hope they enjoy my books and find some merit in what I do. As for what is appealing about ‘Sleep, Think, Die,’ it has been mentioned that the character names are highly original and the back story to that is, I think, a very human one. There is no ‘real story’ behind it as such, other than perhaps a sub-conscious tale of the state of humanity and, conversely, the way we humans manage to unite and overcome the most awful of circumstances, time and time again. There are always bad guys – but there are always good guys, too.


JR: Any other works in progress?

SO: ‘The Undertaking,’ sequel to ‘Sleep, Think, Die,’ and ‘Commoners’ a stand-alone Victorian Romance.


JR: What advice would you want to give to an aspiring writer?

SO: Be willing to learn, but retain your own discretion and don’t allow anyone to deter from your goals. Keep your faith in yourself, keep an open mind, write and read every chance you get and above all, never give up!


JR: How can readers discover more about you and your works?

SO: Visit my website, So Lost in Words: http://solostinwords.doodlekit.com/home/index

On Facebook:

S P Oldham https://www.facebook.com/solostinwords/

Lillian White https://www.facebook.com/LillianWhiteRomance/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15055997.Lillian_White

Twitter: @dogskidssmiles

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01N2LSUMX


S P Oldham