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July 6, 2016 / peoplesbookprize

susie kelly⌈ Vote Now ⌋

In the lead up to The People’s Book Prize 2016 we caught up with author Susie Kelly to talk about her non-fiction book

Swallows & Robins


Susie  was born in London, but spent most of my childhood and early adult life in Kenya. For the past 20 years she has lived in a small hamlet in rural south-west France. Susie is an animal lover, and currently has two pgymy goats, an African grey parrot and two dogs. She enjoy travelling and exploring lesser-known places, and at home when she’s not writing she’s probably either cooking or out with her camera.

When did you start writing?

I have written short stories and poetry for my own amusement since I was a teenager, and had a few articles accepted by magazines and newspapers. When we moved to rural France in the mid-90s I had the space and time to sit down and seriously begin to write, inspired by learning about a new culture and having an opportunity to travel and explore the country and its history.

As an Author, what influences you the most?

When I wrote my first book a friend introduced me to Frank Welsh, a prolific author who agreed to read the manuscript and give me honest feedback. His verdict was that I was a good writer and it was a good book, and that I should do everything I could to find a publisher. It would not be easy, he warned, but I shouldn’t be discouraged if it didn’t happen quickly. Without his advice I think I would have probably given up after the first dozen or so rejections, but he persuaded me to keep trying until I had my first publishing deal – Best Foot Forward (Transworld Publishers, 2003) I owe my subsequent success to him.

Where did the idea for this book originate?

Friends used to enjoy hearing about the guests we had, and the ups and down of running the holiday homes. They said “You really must write about it.” So I did.

The People’s Book Prize nominees are voted for by the readers, how important are your readers to you?

Readers are the reason I write. I believe everybody wants to contribute in some way to other human beings, and through my books I hope to entertain people. It is hugely flattering when a reader takes the time to contact you and tell you they enjoy your work. I love hearing from my readers and always respond to them, and have made friends from countries as far away as New Zealand and Australia through my writing. We meet up whenever they visit France. The most moving letter I received was from a reader to say that reading my books to her terminally ill husband had made them laugh and helped them during his final days.

We like to think there’s a voice for everyone in Publishing – what is your opinion?

I think the digital age has revolutionised the publishing industry. Writers, editors, proofreaders, cover designers and publishers all contribute to the production of a book, and being able to collaborate on-line and communicate quickly means the book can be on the shelves in a relatively short time. Where once only those published by the major traditional publishers had a chance of success, now, thanks to forums, blogs, book reviewers and social media, independent authors and smaller publishers are able to develop their readership, which in turn gives readers a chance to discover new authors. Through reviews – gold dust for writers – readers are able to express their opinions. So yes, everyone connected with publishing has a voice.

Blackbird Digital publishes a variety of brilliant authors, what is it like to be in the company of talented writers?

I feel really lucky to be part of the Blackbird family, all, as you say, talented authors who are fun, friendly people, supportive of each other. We are all very happy to nestle under the gentle wing of our mother blackbird, the lovely Stephanie who works so hard to help us all develop and progress, and smooths ruffled feathers when needed.  

What book influenced you most as a writer and what are you reading at the moment?

I’ve always loved the blend of humour, travel and personal observation in Bill Bryson’s travel books and I try to incorporate those same features in my writing. I read a lot, in many genres, and am currently enjoying ‘A Deniable Death’ by Gerald Seymour, who stands out for me as the master of the political thriller.

What can we expect from you in the future? What are you writing at the moment?

In 2015 we went on a holiday to Kenya, and besides the joy of seeing Kenya’s magnificent scenery and wildlife, it was also an emotional experience returning after forty years to the country where I was brought up. That is what I am working on writing just now, a follow-up to I Wish I Could Say I Was Sorry, my memoir about growing up in Kenya. Fiction is an area I haven’t yet ventured into, but a couple of drafts for novels are simmering way quietly.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Yes, I’d like to thank all those at The People’s Book Prize for their efforts to help promote authors and small publishers who do not have the benefit of massive publicity budgets to showcase their work, and thus give them a chance to show their talent and connect with readers.  And I would also like to sincerely thank all those people whose votes have made ‘Swallows and Robins’ a People’s Book Prize finalist.


Find Susie at:

Facebook: SusieKellyAuthor

Twitter: @susieenfrance


home pageThe People’s Book Prize is the unique literary competition that is judged by the nation and open to all UK publishing companies.

You Be the Judge: The People’s Book Prize – “The home for new and undiscovered works.”

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