Susanna M. Newstead, Brackley Author.
Susanna’s first memories of writing were from the age of about eight at primary school, when she used to write stories about a young girl, who lived in a forest and who had a wicked uncle. Susanna’s mother remembers that her teacher’s were always very keen to receive the next instalment. When she was seventeen she wrote her first full novel entitled ‘The Matter of Britain’ which was a re-working of the tale and the real history (as much as was known in the 70s), of the Arthurian legends. Susanna had always had a fascination with history and lived near to Avebury and other sites of prehistory, which she visited many times. Luckily her father, who was also interested in times past, took her to visit period houses and other places of historical interest further feeding her love of the past.
Despite this fascination and interest in writing when Susanna went to university, she followed a different course and studied Speech Pathology and Therapeutics at Cardiff. With this choice of degree she was keeping most people happy, as her father and her teachers thought it was a degree with promising job prospects. Susanna herself was happy enough too, for a while. After her undergraduate degree she took a Masters degree in the behavioural side of speech pathology and then took jobs in Norfolk and Hampshire and also spent some time living and working in Sweden. After her return she took a position working in the field of child behaviour and therapeutics. This didn’t interest her as much as she had hoped and she decided to move into working with older patients. She then found an opportunity which allowed her to complete a PhD in the subject area of early-onset dementia. She used her strong language background to study the effect of dementia on the abilities of younger sufferers. She was in this post for four years when she became very ill and had to take early retirement. Being a creative person throughout her working life, she had always had ‘side-lines’ on the go. Whilst working and in her spare time, for example, she ran a business making handcrafted products for Harrods and Fortnum & Mason’s and other retail outlets. She also wrote poetry, but due to her being so busy with other projects, these were written here and there, when she could fit them in.
Susanna turned to her creative projects after taking early retirement, indulging in writing, embroidery and painting. As her fingers became less nimble she focused more on the writing than on the making and painting. She had started her first historical murder novel whilst at university when she was aged 20 or so. There were no computers around at that time and the work was written by hand in a small orange exercise book. When Susanna retired, what could be more natural than for her to take out the orange exercise book, last written in 40 years ago, and continue from where she had left off? Susanna based her novel’s story-line in the medieval period, a time which has always held a great fascination for her and most especially in the reign of King John (1199-1216). She feels that John has been unfairly treated by the history books and she wanted to try and show a different side of him by re-interpreting the written sources. Susanna has researched this much maligned monarch’s reign in detail and although she is very modest here, she has, over the years, built up considerable knowledge of the subject. For her, the reign of King John marks an important stage in the formation of England as he brought to the fore the importance of administration and was the instigator of much governmental procedure, still around today. Through her research Susanna has been able to make her novels as accurate, historically and socially, as possible, within the genre of murder mystery. The location for her novels is Savernake Forest, near Marlborough in Wiltshire, which she adores and which she spent a lot of time exploring when she was young. She still walks her dog there when visiting her mother’s home, and also does the occasional historical guided tour of the forest too.
The first novel has the title “Belvoir’s Promise”. The central thread of the story came to Susanna when she was reading a book about the Bayeux Tapestry forty years ago. On a part of the tapestry King Harold, (of arrow in the eye fame), is shown swearing an oath whilst his hands are placed on two reliquaries – caskets of sacred bones. In the Middle Ages this would have been a very powerful and holy act and as Susanna considered this she thought that she could use a dilemma caused by such a powerful oath to create the story-line for Belvoir’s Promise. After finishing the first book Susanna realised she had many more plots in her imagination. For example, another story – now book 2 – (inspired by a part of the Canterbury Tales as told by Chaucer) that she wanted to explore, was the ‘locked tower room’ story, where two victims are found murdered and it’s hard to see how they were done to death. To date (Jan 2018), Susanna has 13 further completed novels and 2 more that are nearing completion! Her stories feature a multitude of murder methods which it’s obvious she has had quite a bit of fun concocting! Her books are in the same vein as Ellis Peters’ ‘Cadfael’ mysteries so if you enjoy those then you will enjoy her books. Sadly, Susanna hasn’t been able to find a book deal with a publisher and so has decided to self-publish via Amazon and you can find her first 4 books, both on Kindle or as paperbacks here – www.amazon.co.uk. She also has a website and a Facebook page
Susanna is an amazing, intelligent and creative person who is determined to get the details right. Her fascination with history and in particular with King John, her fondness for the location where she grew up – Savernake Forest – and her penchant for creative murder methods have come together in her 16 novel series. She has tried to thoroughly research her subject to ensure that her books are historically correct with the political history of the time woven into the story lines. Susanna started her first novel 40 years ago and throughout her working life she patiently kept in mind the ideas for finishing that novel and for many more books. Subsequent to retiring, the determination she has shown to complete the first novel and to write 15 further books is astonishing. Susanna’s plan is to prepare and publish four books a year for the next few years until she reaches the end of John’s reign, in 1216. When her last book in this series is published, I am hoping that Susanna will take a day off and maybe put her feet up for a bit. But I know she won’t!
Written for Your Letterbox by John