Interview with Sue Copsey

Name: Sue Copsey

Date of birth: a long long time ago … (28 Oct 1960)

Place of birth: … in a country far, far away (Coventry, England)

Now living in: Ponsonby, Auckland, NZ

Cover of The ghosts of Tarawera Cover of Our children Aotearoa Cover of The Ghost of Young Nick's Head

What is your favourite food?

Chocolate cake, or possibly tiramisu. Never underestimate the power of pudding.

Do you have a nickname and if so what is it?

My dad’s nickname for me was Giggleswick, which is the name of a village in Yorkshire, England. I was a big giggler.

What was your most embarrassing moment?

My life is a series of them. The most recent would be walking through a garden centre after visiting the Ladies, with a long tail of loo paper trailing from my jeans. I only found out when I caught up with my friends near the potted colour.

How do you relax?

I love my garden. I have a favourite seat, next to our fish pond, where I dream up plots for my stories. Next door’s cat usually comes and sits on my lap, and our rabbit (Tog) sits by my feet. Bliss!

Who inspired you when you were little?

Cover of Famous FiveThe Famous Five. I wanted all my holidays to turn into adventures. I was forever tapping the walls of the places we stayed in, looking for secret passages. And David Attenborough. I wanted to explore the world and see ALL the animals. I had more success with that than I did with secret passages.

What were you like at school?

See answer above! Always giggling. It drove my poor teachers mad.

What was your favourite/most hated subject at school?

I loved geography, especially all the stuff on volcanoes, earthquakes and glaciation. My most hated subject was cookery because the teacher frightened the life out of me. She was really mean. In fact I wrote a story about her a year or so ago - and I killed her off!

What was the book you most loved as a child?

My parents bought me a beautiful hard-backed book called Folklore, Myths and Legends of Great Britain. It was full of photographs of haunted houses, and illustrations of mythical beasts and fairies, and had maps showing the locations of Britain’s spooky spots. It’s still a treasured possession.

Which person from the past would you most like to meet?

One of the great explorers, like Shackleton. I’m in awe of adventurers, but today’s just aren’t the same - they can phone up if they get stuck.

Who is your favourite author/children’s author?

Cover of Harry PotterJ.K. Rowling. I love the Harry Potter books, and I also love the fiction she writes for adults. She’s so wise - even her tweets are writing masterpieces!

Why did you want to be a writer?

Some people love baking cakes, some like painting pictures; my happy place is writing stories. When I was a child and anything was possible, I just assumed I’d write children’s stories and that would be my job. The older and wiser me realised that was unlikely to happen, but I still managed to have a career that allowed me to write – I became a press officer at London Zoo, then an editor in a children’s book publisher. But I never gave up on that dream of publishing my own children’s stories.

Do you have a special place where you write your books?

My computer is in the kitchen, looking out over the garden. My writer friends can’t imagine how I can knock out a chapter while my daughter and her buddies are gossiping and baking cupcakes behind me! But it’s just me for most of the day. (And actually, having children around while I write can be useful - I’m always stealing the things they say for my books!)

What’s the best thing and worst thing about being a writer?

The best thing is when a reader gets in touch to tell me how much they’ve enjoyed my book. Also there’s a lovely community of children’s writers in New Zealand, and meeting up for a good natter with them is always fun. We have ‘writing weekends’ where we go off and write and gossip and eat puddings. The worst thing … rejection. It’s part of a writer’s life (even JK Rowling was rejected ‘loads of times’), and you get more used to it over the years. But it still sucks!

If you weren’t a writer, what would you like to be?

An explorer. One with people to carry my things.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write, write and write (and read). Loads. Short stories, long stories, articles for school magazines, competition entries. The more you write, the better you’ll get at it. You’ll develop your own style and voice, and become confident. Don’t write stories and squirrel them away – get your work out there! You can publish your stories on sites like Wattpad, and if people like your writing they’ll leave you nice comments which will spur you on to write more. Good luck!

This interview is from 2015.

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