Author Interview: Sue Robertson Danells



JMR-Welcome to the Books Delight, Sue. Tell our readers where you live, what you do for fun and what does the perfect day look like?

SRD- I live in Levington which is a small village close to the coast in Suffolk England. It is so small, the only buildings other than homes are a pub and a church. Levington Marina is a short walk away, and the countryside is beautiful, with river and estuary walks much used by people from miles around.

I’ve always had plenty of hobbies, but not sure you’d call them fun as such. I’m rather a stay-at-home kind of girl, gardening or soaking up the sun when it appears. I do love to be by the sea, walking the dogs or simply sitting and watching life go by, whatever the weather. I think it’s in my blood and probably comes from my father, who was born in a small fishing village on the east coast of Suffolk. Craft hobbies have featured large over the years, both sewing and knitting, but also porcelain doll making, a few years ago. While I was working in education, there was little time for relaxed reading, so I make up for it now. My research into family history has been ongoing for thirty years but is now on hold. Writing novels has rather taken over for the time being.

The perfect day? In retirement this has to be getting the housework done early, we have two dogs, and my husband still works in garden and building maintenance, so that the rest of the day is mine to read, write, and research. I take every opportunity to visit my son, walk his dog along the east coast and meet him for lunch, so this must feature in any perfect day. A truly perfect day is one where I feel satisfied, that by the time I sit down in the evening, I have achieved something positive.

JMR-What’s your favorite historical time period? Why?

SRD- I studied history at school, and archeology at college, so have experienced quite a range of historical periods. My real love of history lies in the social lives of ordinary people, discovering who they were, how they lived, what happened to them, and ultimately, when it comes to family, how they impacted on future generations. The nineteenth century is by far the most interesting for me, so much change having taken place, social class playing a major role in how people were treated, the dreadful hold some had over others. I could go on, but then this would be an essay!

JMR-Who is your favorite historical figure? Why? If you could ask them one question, what would it be?

SRD- This is a really tough one because I don’t have a favorite historical figure. There are many I admire, for different reasons, mainly those who have worked to better the lives of others, or to create an awareness in public perception, so I would have to put writers like Charles Dickens, John Steinbeck, and William Blake in there, and of course Martin Luther King, and John Brown. But there are others like the social reformers and philanthropists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, such as Lord Shaftesbury, because they were able to see the power of education as a catalyst for improving children’s lives and therefore the lives of the next generation. Florence Nightingale, one of many pioneers who dedicated their lives to medical research for the benefit of future generations. What would I ask them? What would you hope for, for peoples of the world in the twenty-first century?

JMR- How did you come to be a writer of historical fiction?

SRD- I began researching my family history thirty years ago, when my father died and I realized I had so little knowledge of him and his parents, even though I knew my grandparents well. Over those years I’ve written the social stories of both paternal and maternal ancestors’ lives, going back to seventeen hundred. On the maternal side I came across a man who seemed to disappear after one of the censuses and spent many months searching for him, eventually locating documents which shocked me. From that point, he took over my head. The more I discovered, the more I needed to know. The more I knew, the less I could forget about him. I began to write everything down in order to clear my head, but that didn’t work either. Three and a half years later, his story had become a novel.

JMR- My love of family history/genealogy also led to books about my ancestors. What did you find to be the hardest about writing about your family?

SRD- The protagonist in my novel was my mother’s great uncle. My mother is now fast approaching the age of ninety-five, with her mental faculty still wonderfully acute, and she knew her grandfather well. The shock she experienced when I told her of my find, (‘but he’s my grandfather’s brother,’) meant I had to have her permission to publish. It has felt closer to home than it might have done had it not been for Mum, and this was the hardest aspect initially. Creating a narrative to draw the factual elements together, while also attempting to be faithful to the events, was also more difficult than I expected.

JMR- Did you visit anyone of the places in your book? Where did you feel closest to your characters?

SRD- My maternal ancestors, dating back to seventeen hundred, were from East Sussex, most of them Brightonians, as is my mother, who, with my sister, has in recent years moved back to her hometown. I therefore visit often, use the records office frequently and have come to know the town intimately. I have walked the streets where my ancestors lived and worked, the house they lived in still being there, and have spent many hours photographing the area. Undoubtedly when walking Rock Street and its surrounds, I have almost had Freddie walking beside me.

JMR- Sue, tell us about your new book, Bittersweet.

SRD- Having never had thoughts of writing novels, I now find that I’m a little hooked. My next book is total fiction although inspired by a true event occurring in Scotland. Bittersweet is a story set in three distinctly different parts of Britain, about two unconnected families, and three generations. I want to explore what people do to each other and why, but also how people can so often be something other than they seem, either because of their innate characters, or as a result of external influences. The question of who we are is perhaps fundamental to the novel, that we have the power to be whoever we desire to be if we only we recognize it.

JMR-What projects do you have in the pipeline?

SRD- I really do want to get back to writing the social histories of my ancestors, but I’m also thoroughly enjoying writing novels. I have no set projects – perhaps it’s better at my age not to plan too far ahead.

JMR- Tell our readers how to find you on social media and the web.

SRD- Social media and me do not really make good bedfellows, however I can be found on Twitter and Instagram, and at www.http//

JMR- What question were you hoping I’d ask but didn’t?

SRD- To be honest, I can’t think of anything I was hoping for. I’m just pleased you asked this much.

JMR- Thank you Sue for a great chat. Good luck with your writing, we wish you much success. Readers I have included a link to Amazon if you are interested in seeing more about Sue's book, When Darkness Falls. 


  1. Thank you for inviting me to share an interview and all your support in placing my novel in the public eye.


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