Sue Moorcroft - Uplifting, Heartwarming Summer Read
Sue Moorcroft is a Sunday Times bestselling author and has reached the #1 spot on Kindle UK. She’s won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award, Readers’ Best Romantic Novel award and the Katie Fforde Bursary. Published by HarperCollins in the UK, US and Canada and by other publishers around the world. Her novels sweep readers away to other places. As our Author of the Day, she tells us about her book, Summer on a Sunny Island.
Please give us a short introduction to what Summer on a Sunny Island is about.
Summer on a Sunny Island is set in Malta, that golden nugget set in the middle of the Mediterranean sea. In history, various forces have struggled for control and I used the island as a place for Rosa Hammond and Zach Bentley to meet when each is at a crossroads in their lives. Rosa’s mum, Dory, and Zach’s dad, Steve, were army kids who went to school on the island together. Rosa’s working for Dory, who’s a celeb cook spending summer in Malta writing a new cookbook, and Zach’s gaining space from Steve, who has not taken well to Zach letting his fight for the underdog get him in trouble with the law.
What inspired you to write a story set in Malta?
I love Malta. Like Dory and Steve, I lived there as an army kid and it feels like a second home. I’d love to spend an entire summer there but I sent my characters off to do that instead. At first, Rosa doesn’t get her mother’s love of the island so I had to temporarily view it through a different lens. Zach’s got a double link because, as well as the army connection, his grandmother is Maltese. It’s a good place for him to learn about himself.
Tell us more about our protagonists?
Fathers are important in Summer on a Sunny Island. Rosa’s dad, Glenn, is feckless, which makes her consider men unreliable. Dory says that now we’d probably talk about ‘attachment disorder’ but when Rosa as a child he was just ‘a crap dad’. When Rosa’s ex, Marcus, began online gambling, he fulfilled all her worst fears and she didn’t give him much opportunity to redeem himself. Dory brought Rosa up to stand on her own two feet and speak up - Rosa’s pretty blunt when she does that - and those two things are fundamental to how she reacts to conflict. When Dory offers to help her financially, by funding the starting of a business or maybe further education, Rosa finds it hard to simply accept the money in her quest to move on.
Zach describes himself as ‘a trouble magnet’. Twice he’s got into trouble when sticking up for a victim of a bully and yet he repeats the pattern when he sees Luccio, a young guy, falling in with the wrong crowd. In his way, Zach’s a damaged hero, as his father’s made a huge deal about Zach’s minor (and pretty understandable) transgressions, affecting Zach’s view of himself. He’s complex and decent but driven to protect underdogs by taking the law into his own hands. He has the silky black hair and golden skin of his Maltese grandmother and the ‘never knowingly leave a man behind’ philosophy of his army grandfather. His sisters, niece and mother love him and he’s the one they all turn to when they’re in trouble.
Some readers said scenes were very detailed, making them feel like they were on holiday... how did you pull this off?
Writing about a quarter of the first draft on a writing break in Malta probably helped! It was wonderful to be able to see the view my characters were seeing and eat the food they ate. My editor encouraged the deep sense of place. As travel has turned out to be so restricted this year readers can travel AND stay at home, just by reading the book.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I’ve just created a Mediterranean garden within my own garden at home, if you consider digging out a mass of tangled holly, ivy and cotoneaster and humping around a load of rock a hidden skill.
Although much of the story is bright and cheerful, you don't shy away from serious life issues. Why do you take this approach?
I don’t see why popular fiction should be restricted to trivial matters. I like to shine a light on subjects that interest me. I’ve written about revenge porn, life-threatening illness, losing a business, a neurological condition, being the victim of a scam and other real-life issues. I always try and dig below the surface. With Zach, for example, all Steve sees is that his son has been given community service twice. He didn’t learn from his original mistake. He embarrassed the family. What Rosa sees is a man who puts others first and can’t stand by and watch the weak suffer.
The book has a bright, colorful cover - tell us more about how that came about.
That’s completely my publisher’s end of things. Avon, HarperCollins has experts to call on and I’m lucky that I have a great cover artist assigned to my work. The traditional fishing boats depicted are luzzi.
What did you have the most fun with when writing this book?
Being in Malta to write a chunk of it. I’d begin the day on my balcony, overlooking the bobbing boats of Sliema Creek, then pack everything up and move on to a café for lunch. I’d set up office in that café for a couple of hours then set off walking again, stopping for an afternoon beer and setting up office again, basing my route on what I was writing about and what photos I wanted to take to record my research. I was sublimely content.
When working on a new book, what’s the first thing you do?
I think about what I’m going to write about. Then I begin writing character biographies, longhand, and working out conflicts and goals. I like to examine a character from the perspectives of several other characters. What’s Rosa like with her friends? What does Dory think of her? How does her boss at her job in the UK view her and how will that impact her summer in Malta? How did her ex, Marcus, view her when they were together and what does he think of her now she’s taken this big step of working in another country? Does it affect him and their relationship detritus? No character of mine was ever born on page 1. Their backstories illuminate their present stories and their futures.
What are you working on right now?
I’ve just finished the structural and line edits on CHRISTMAS WISHES, which is set between England and Sweden. While I wait for the copy edits I’m writing the first draft of my summer 2021 book, which will be set mainly in Italy. I’ve just begun Chapter Three and I’m in that delicious place where it’s too early for anything to have gone wrong.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
My website is at www.suemoorcroft.com. I’m on Twitter as @SueMoorcroft, Instagram as @SueMoorcroftAuthor and Facebook as SueMoorcroftAuthor. I love to hear from readers, so come along!