9th March 2019
The Saturday Interview: S. R. Summers
Good evening, Ms Summers and thanks for your time. Could you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a somewhat hyperactive thirty-something, with a cafe, and a yoga addiction that I have turned into teaching. I love aerial arts, such as hoop and trapeze, fast cars, music, nature, honesty and a good cup of tea. I often wear flowers in my hair and almost never wear black. My outside expresses my inside, which is happy and bright. I’ve always been creative, in more ways than writing, which I started when I was about seven years old. Writing to me is like breathing. I love words, and words being used well.
What do you think moves you to write?
Honestly I don’t know. I feel things a great deal. I’m an empath, and hypersensitive, which is great for getting into the minds of your characters but quite hard to live with in real life sometimes. Ideas just come to me. Sometimes music inspires entire scenes, and it all fits together like an amazing technicolour jigsaw. I am a great believer in a balance, of energy, good and bad, positive and negative. There has to be a kind of harmony between the two, and I suppose my writing is an expression of this deep-seated belief.
Ultimately I want to change the world. I want to somehow inspire enough people to make a real difference. I see so much that could be better, so many people who could live happier, healthier, more meaningful lives, and I want to see that happen. There is such a huge spectrum of emotion and possibility at our very fingertips, and yet often we rarely reach for it. I hope, through the medium of my writing, I can give people a taste of what they have not already felt, or inspire them to reach for it themselves.
How would you describe Indigo Lost?
Being so close to the book(s) it’s hard for me as an author to describe it, but most people who read it say that its like “nothing they’ve ever read before.” I think this is because its cross-genre, so it takes you on this rollercoaster adventure of emotion and action, and there are no limits to where the story could go. For me personally, I also like it when the outcome of a book is satisfying. I like endings with justice, I like there to be a balance of good and evil. I don't want the villains getting away… unless they get their comeuppance in the next book (obviously)…
That sounds very exciting. How would you describe your writing style?
How I write is definitely cross-genre. I’m a bit of a rule-breaking maverick. I don’t subscribe to social norms, and I hate pigeonholing so that must come through in my writing. Indigo Lost has elements of thriller, romance, mystery, fantasy, crime, horror all thrown in like different colours of paint, and the result is, what I would like to think, a beautiful painting. I know some people are either surprised by how raw the book is, or the sex, or the unconventional characters that challenge their conscience or their preconceived ideas of how ‘life should be’ or how the plot should develop, but I like that. I like that my writing gets an emotional reaction. I don’t leave bits out to save anyone’s blushes because life isn’t like that. I want it to be as real as possible for people so they feel like they’re there, in the room, in the car, wherever the scene is, and experience the book as much as mentally and emotionally possible. I think this is why people say that they can ‘see it’ as they read, and desperately want it made into films.
As a writer of thrillers, what do you think is at the core of a good example of the genre?
I love it when people say “I don’t ever know what’s coming next.” I think the core of a good thriller is to keep people on the edge of their seats, so they don’t ever get too comfy, or if they get comfy, you give them a good yank and land them on the floor and they’re turning the pages reading 500 words a minute trying to find out what happens next, desperate to sneak ahead but afraid of missing something amazing in between…which is what I hear frequently from my readers.
Do you have a favourite thriller?
I have a strict rule that while I’m writing I can’t read fiction (non fiction is fine!) so I don’t get distracted, but I love Lee Child’s early Jack Reacher’s books, and some of Jeffery Deaver. I’d love to write more a crime thriller one day, but I’m still accumulating the details I want in my head before I compose that.
I understand that you’ve written all eight books of your Infinity Squared series (or, at the very least, are finalising the final one), but you’ve only published one so far. Why did you choose this schedule?
I started writing book one about six years ago. I was finishing another stand-alone book (unpublished) when this most amazing story came to me. I thought it was a trilogy, so I when I finished the existing book I told myself to wait a week before starting it, knowing it was going to be a big undertaking. I lasted 2 days and I had to start writing. It just poured out of me! I had so many ideas and the start is quite dramatic as it sets up the psychology for the lead characters.
I didn’t write for the two years I lived in Belgium, as I was just too unhappy, and my creativity just wasn’t able to feel alive inside me. As soon as I moved back to the UK it all started flowing again. I always massively believed in the book series. I would go back and re-read sections, and get caught up in it all over again. I guess partly it was a lack of confidence, being afraid to put something out there in front of people, and also a fear of the complicated, difficult world of publishing that has changed so much since I was a child, when everything was paper, to the digital labyrinthine marketplace we have now.
I met my editor in my cafe, and somehow talked about the book, and ‘lit up like a candle’ taking about it, so she gave me her card. Shortly after my mum went into hospital and almost died. I remember thinking how upset I would be to lose my mum and to never have managed to put one of my books in her hands, as my writing has always been my passion. I didn’t even know if she’d make it but I decided enough procrastination and cowardice had been indulged and I started the process off after my mum was out of hospital. I haven’t looked back since.
That’s a very moving and, dare I say, quite an inspirational story. When do you think you might release the other books?
Book two is planned to be out as soon as possible. We’re hoping to keep it to one per year so next year there should be one in January/February and one in November/December to get us back on schedule. I’ve had so many people asking, moaning, nagging and also having a go at me at how long they have to wait for book two I want to avoid that as much as possible in the future!
Was it important to you that your first book was self-published?
I’ve been advised to self-publish my second book, as I can’t say my experience with a publisher so far has been what I expected. There’s been many aspects about being an author/ the publishing industry that aren’t explained to you until after the fact, so book two will be made with my eyes wide open. The saving grace of the whole experience has been the enthusiasm and love from my readers. Currently I’m really excited about starting recordings for the audiobook of book one, which is a huge market I never really considered until I got an inundation of requests for one.
How do you find that running a cafe marries with being an author? Do you find yourself basing characters on people you’ve met?
Running the cafe and being an author has been pretty fun so far, as people come in and update me on where they are with the story, the bits they love, the bits that made them cry or gasp or laugh. It’s great to connect with people of all walks of life. Luckily so far 99.9% of people appear to have loved it, so I haven’t had any really awkward conversations (phew!) but I always respect people’s feedback. The best part is when people come in and demand book two, sometimes quite rudely, and I tell them its not ready yet, and they walk out in a huff!
As I started the book series before I had the cafe, nearly all of the characters are nothing to do with anyone I’ve met in the cafe or in life. The only exception is one of my most regular 11am americano-with-hot-milk coffee drinkers who was a policeman of many years, having working in the security services as well. We would have such great conversations. He pestered me affectionately into writing him into the book, so he has a small part in book 7, with a character who has his name, and is the head of the CIA. His face was an absolute picture when I told him, and he wants to read the scenes but as they’re so far ahead, I’ve told him he has to wait like everyone else!
I’m quite an active person, so it suits me to have a fast-paced physical job so I’m not sitting on my bum all day writing, which feels like a treat to me, for that time alone with my laptop. Being the boss, and as so many people know me, I can’t sit in my own cafe to write as I am constantly interrupted which is the irony considering my love of doing that helps inspire me to open the cafe! I am comforted to know lots of other people come in to get creative, or do work, and just have some space to themselves.
As a huge fan of psychology I do find people fascinating, so I do learn about people a bit more every day, so while I don’t use any one person specifically in my books, mannerisms, personality types, habits, language - my brain is carefully, subconsciously, taking note in a unseen repository inside my head like a giant encyclopaedia, which I then use when I come to write.
How have you found the writing community online?
So far, most of the time it’s great, and I love Instagram especially for how positive people can be, and amazed how cool it is to connect with random people who then turn out to be wonderful. One lady wanted to do a podcast with me so I went to London to meet her, and managed to persuade her to do an aerial conditioning class with me beforehand, which was awesome fun, and she’d never tried it before so she discovered something completely new on her doorstep she could try. I’m one of those people who doesn’t see barriers, I see bridges. We did the podcast as well (waiting for the link for that!) but it was so much more fun. We tend to feed more alive when we go just outside out comfort boundary. I’m very much a real-life person, so if I can bring the online, offline, I do.
If I can, one day, I would love to do an event to get as many of my readers together as possible. If we can get the film deal sorted (so many people want the books turned into big screen visuals) then one of my super-fans suggested giving free tickets to the premiere to everyone who had a copy of the first edition which I really love the idea of. I try and give back as much as I can. I’m hoping to connect with other authors.
You’ve clearly got a very positive attitude. Do you ever get writer’s block?
Not really. I don’t believe in writer’s block, per se, I think you either know what you want to say or you don’t. I always wait until I’m in the flow until I try and write a scene. I’ve never written anything and then deleted it. Creativity isn’t like a tap, you can’t turn it on and off, sometimes you have to give yourself some space for the ideas to come to you, be receptive to everything around you that can inspire you, and also have the emotional energy to write. If you’re not feeling ‘it’, then don’t write, because it won’t be your best work - that’s my rule. I have stopped feeling guilty about days I don’t get to write as I know I can more than make up for it on days when I’m totally in the zone and the words pour out of me. So far the individuals I’ve tried to ask for advice, have so far been a disappointment, so I’m determined that I will never become like that, and always try and help other people with their ambitions.
That’s a shame. Without naming names, can you elaborate?
I don’t want to name names as I don’t want to add any unnecessary bad feeling to any situations, I’m also content to make this journey by my own hard work and the support of my real friends and people who believe in me. Then when I get to where I want to be, I’ll know I deserve to feel every iota of pure joy I get to experience. One example made me quite sad, as one of my customers in the cafe loves the book and wanted to help me, even just some advice from someone much bigger in the literary scene would be a huge help. She went to school with someone who has been in the best sellers list and Waterstones’ shelves for years. She emailed explaining about me, and would it be possible just to have a quick chat. She was sent a short reply from the individual's agent explaining how busy she was and no, she didn’t have time.
Typical I suppose. It make me sad how easily we become disconnected from each other. I’m sure the author in question will never know that the request or contact was ever made.
Thank you very much for your time.