The inimitable club owner and author Sophie Parkin talks to writer, Susi Osborne. And helps us to not be so London-centric.
Susi Osborne, 69, was born in Winsford, Cheshire and still lives there, just not in the same house! She is married with two children. In 2006 she had her first novel published, in 2011 she started Northwich LitFest in Cheshire, just outside Liverpool. Angelica Stone – the tale of a young woman in care who has been sexually abused in her past, it also manages to be funny – is her 4th book, published on 8th Sept with a party at www.Vout-O-Reenees.com. please RSVP HERE if you wish to attend.
I’ve always dabbled in writing. As a child I convinced myself I was Jo March from Little Women. I used to lock myself away in my grandmother’s attic in her rambling old house in Yorkshire and write short stories using that as my pen name. It was my favourite place on earth, filled with all kinds of treasures and was a source of great inspiration!
My next step towards the writing of an actual book came in the form of my actress daughter’s need for monologues. She has quite a specific casting and monologues were always in short supply so I started to write some for her – with great success! This sort of spurred me on. Well, this plus the fact that my mother had by that time developed Alzheimer’s and I was her main carer. That was tough – I cared for her for ten years but, in a weird sort of way, it was also a source of inspiration. If there’s one thing you need to hold onto when dealing with Alzheimer’s, it’s definitely your sense of humour. I have so many funny stories. And so, as a form of escapism almost, I started to write my first book.
What were you doing before?
Before this, for what seemed like forever, I worked in libraries. That does sound really boring and is the stuff jokes are made of, but we truly did have some good times in the libraries where I worked. We certainly had a lot of laughter – or maybe that’s just because I’m a bit bonkers and don’t like to take life too seriously! There was not a ‘Silence’ sign to be seen, nor a ‘ssshhh’ to be heard.
You always look so glamorous. Is this also something you took up later in life?
Well, thank you for the compliment! No, I have always loved clothes and style – really ever since my teenage years when I would get the train into Liverpool. It was the era of The Beatles and the place to be – a fashionista’s paradise, lots of trendy boutiques. Lucinda Byre in Bold Street was definitely my favourite.
But then I discovered London and Mary Quant and Biba. Actually Biba had a massive influence on me. I think Biba with a hippy edge is still my kind of style. I just love textures – crushed velvet, lace, silk and feathers – and colour (even though I do always seem to end up wearing black!)
What gets you up in the morning and makes you happy other than writing?
I really am not a morning person – although sunshine helps. Seriously, our two little dogs are always so overjoyed to see me in the morning that I couldn’t fail to be happy when I get such a waggly welcome. We have a cavapoochon and a chug – they’re both only just over a year old and so are still very much at the bouncy stage. We are just a little bit besotted.
What made you begin the Northwich Literary festival and when does it happen?
Having been to lots of other literary events throughout the country, six years ago I had this idea to start one locally – Northwich LitFest. It seemed like a good idea at the time – the fact that I didn’t have a budget or that I had never run a festival before just didn’t seem to come into it. Never have I blagged my way into getting so many things for free in my life. But it worked. Incredibly, Northwich LitFest has now gone from strength to strength – I organise about 15 different events and the festival runs throughout June annually. It is such hard work, but I have met so many interesting people because of the LitFest, many of whom have become good friends. It has opened up so many doors for me too – for instance, I wouldn’t be having this interview with you now if it hadn’t been for Northwich LitFest, that was how we got to know each other.
Who are your role models in life or writing?
Weirdly, as I’m talking to you, Molly Parkin has always been one of my role models in life. I love her attitude and her warmth – and her sense of style, obviously! A couple of other people I know, who I cannot name on here, are inspirational to me too – I’m always full of admiration for people who have come from nowhere, and have gone on to achieve great things in their lives while still remaining nice people.
In writing, it would have to be Marian Keyes (love her humour). Although I aspire to be able to write like Jojo Moyes.
Yes, I totally regret not doing so much more with my life at a much younger age. I think you can get bogged down with the minutiae of life, thinking you have all the time in the world – and you really don’t have. You only have one life – get out there and grab it with both hands while you still can!!
What has been your favourite decade?
My sixties have definitely been my favourite decade – I feel as though I have achieved so much, met so many interesting people. And it really doesn’t matter now what anyone else thinks, when you reach a certain age you feel free to do what you want to do, to dress how you want to dress. You feel free to be you! As for my social life – it’s gone bonkers!!
Any future ambitions as you head into your 70s?
I do have another book bubbling away, although it hasn’t started to make its way from my head to the keyboard yet. I quite fancy the idea of writing a play script too. AND art. I’ve always wanted to paint.
Are you any relation to George Osborne and is he actually referring to you when promoting The Northern Powerhouse?
Hahaha!! Yes, I am the Northern Powerhouse – undoubtedly! I did meet George Osborne once and my husband started talking to him about ancestors. Don’t think he was too impressed!!