Friday Reads – The Dangerous Life of Ophelia Bottom by Susie Bower

Welcome to my Friday Reads blog. This week I’m featuring a children’s book for a change, The Dangerous Life of Ophelia Bottom by Susie Bower. So grab yourself a cuppa, get comfy and let’s find out a bit more about the book then get chatting to Susie.

Blurb

The Dangerous Life of Ophelia Bottom

‘Life with Ar and Ma was never quiet: it was all earthquakes and blizzards and hurricanes and thunderstorms. I wished, wished, wished I had normal parents…

Parents who had ordinary jobs, instead of being actors.

Parents who dressed sensibly, instead of in tatty old costumes from Shakespearean plays.

Parents who were called Jones or Smith, rather than Bottom.’

Ophelia Bottom longs for an ordinary life: to have normal, well-behaved parents rather than embarrassing Shakespearean actors, and to live in a house that stays still. Instead, she’s stuck living in a rickety converted van – and having to manage her parents’ often disastrous plays at Bottom’s Travelling Theatre.

When the family are forced to stay in the perfect seaside town of Stopford, Ophelia’s dream appears to be coming true. But someone is trying to drive the Bottoms out, and there’s the issue of the strange Stopford motto: PLASTIC IS FANTASTIC – DIFFERENT IS DANGEROUS. Can Ophelia discover what lurks behind Stopford’s perfect appearance – before she loses everything that makes her family so special?

It sounds a fun story, doesn’t it? If you know a child who would enjoy reading it, you can get a copy here:

Buy Links

Pushkin Press

Waterstones

Amazon

Welcome to my blog, Susie. Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Yes! My grandfather wrote memoir and poetry and was my inspiration. My first story was published by Princess magazine when I was about 12 – a huge thrill! I waited rather longer for my first novel to be published – 47 years to be exact…

Has any author inspired you?

So many. From my childhood – Arthur Ransome, C.S. Lewis, Enid Blyton and Jane Shaw. And later – J.K. Rowling, Jessica Townsend, Piers Torday and Katherine Rundell.

What do you like writing most?

There’s so much freedom in writing for children: pretty much anything can happen: magic, mayhem, adventure and – much needed in these challenging times – happy endings.

Do you have a special place for writing?

Until recently I lived in the city and my writing desk was squashed into a corner of the living-room, my chair partially blocked the door and I heard every footstep from the flat above. Now that I’ve moved to the country, I have the luxury of a whole – peaceful – writing room to myself.

Are you a pantser or a plotter?

I’m an inveterate plotter. If I’d ever learned to drive, I’d have needed a clear map and directions before stepping into the car and it’s the same with writing. I’ll spend months writing what I call a Craftless Draft – basically a long outline with bits of dialogue and description thrown in where they occur to me. That said, there will be large plot holes, and I often have no idea of exactly how the story will end. But it really helps my confidence to know that there’s a basic direction.

Is your writing ever inspired by your family or real life incidents?

In The Dangerous Life of Ophelia Bottom there’s a very cute black and white puppy. He’s an amalgam of my brother and sister-in-law’s two dogs – their much-missed sprocker, Jack. and their new puppy, Jiggity.

And I always seem to write about children going to new schools – probably because as a child we moved so often (my father worked for GCHQ) so I knew all about being the ‘newbie’ and its attendant fears.

What are you writing at the moment?

I recently finished an audio script for the wonderful now>press>play. They bring the curriculum to life in primary schools via the use of wireless pink headphones. Now I’m in the early stages of outlining my next children’s novel.

What inspired you to write this book?

I’ve had a lifelong fascination with all things theatrical – as a student, I took a job as a dresser at Drury Lane. In The Dangerous Life of Ophelia Bottom, Ophelia’s parents own Bottom’s Travelling Theatre and Ophelia works backstage, desperately trying to hold together her parents’ disastrous Shakespearean plays.

The other theme is plastic pollution: a metaphor for the pressure to be ‘the same’ and to ‘fit into a mould’ which our culture can push. I hope that The Dangerous Life of Ophelia Bottom is a celebration of difference and diversity.

What time of day to do you write best?

Mornings. It’s a psychological thing. A day begun with writing means a day begun well.  

What are your hobbies?

I love, and need, to walk. Here in Devon, I can be on the beach in 15 minutes, or out in the country. Long walks in nature are meditation and nourishment for me. In the city, I had no garden – here, I have an arbour to sit in, a pond and a flock of sparrows. (I also have a large rat and a gang of cats who use my garden as a combined toilet and take-away…)

What advice would you give to other writers?

  • Be patient: writing a novel is like gestating a baby. It needs time to find its shape.
  • You can’t trust your emotional ‘weather’ when it comes to writing. One day you may feel full of confidence and hope, another downcast. Keep showing up for the writing – it’s the middle way between extremes.
  • Finish a draft. Yes, there will be work to do afterwards, but there’s something very important, psychologically, about completing something: when you do, you will know what you are capable of.
  • Keep your first draft to yourself. It’s as vulnerable as a foetus (see above) and should not be poked and prodded, discussed or dismantled!
  • Be the writer that only you can be. Trust this writer. As the saying goes, everyone else is taken.

Great advice, Susie. Thanks so much for dropping by to talk to us today. I hope your book flies!

Meet Susie

AUTHOR BIO

By the time she hit her teens, Susie had lived in 8 houses and attended 7 schools. This theme continued in her working life: she’s been a teacher, a tour-guide, a typist, a workshop facilitator, a PA and a painter. She’s written and directed TV programmes for children at the BBC and Channel 4 and she currently writes educational audio scripts alongside her books for children. School for Nobodies, The Three Impossibles and Shoo! are all published by Pushkin Press, as is her latest middle-grade novel, The Dangerous Life of Ophelia Bottom. Susie lives in Devon.

AUTHOR LINKS:

Twitter handle: @susienottbower

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/SusieBowerAuthor/


Karen King – Writing about the light and dark of relationships.
Amazon Author Page: 
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Karen-King/e/B0034P6W7I
Website: 
https://karenkingauthor.com/

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