Today I’m delighted to feature author (and wonder woman) Susi Osborne. I first met Susi when she visited my local book group a while ago. However it wasn’t until this year that I got to know her better via my attendance at Northwich LitFest. Susi works amazingly hard to organise the festival which is now in it’s 8th year. I normally miss many of the events as I’m always away in June but this year the fates were kind and I got to attend a variety of them. You can read my write ups here and here. I’m sure I’m not the only one looking forward to seeing who/what Susi has in store for next year’s festival.
In the past Susi Osborne led a varied career, mostly in libraries but also as a classroom assistant, craftworker, office worker and fundraiser. Along the way, handicapped children, trying to adopt, a chronically sick child, troublesome teenagers, neurotic dogs, and caring for a mother with Alzheimer’s kept her on her toes.
Towards the end of that chaotic period of her life, Susi started to write more prolifically than she ever had done before – mostly as a form of escapism. Since then, alongside her writing, Susi started Northwich LitFest which she has continued to run each June for the past eight years. In addition she remains at the centre of her somewhat chaotic family who continue to need her to fulfill various random roles such as that of designer, adviser, publicist, stage manager and a zillion other things in between. She also runs an antiques business, Vintage Adorables, selling all things vintage and adorable!
Susi is the author of four published novels.
Over to Susi
Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack of your life and why?
If You’re Going To San Francisco – Scott Mackenzie. The sixties were definitely my era and this was just one of the many songs I could have chosen from that time. I was a teenager and every aspect of that decade seemed magical to me – like a whole new world had opened up before my very eyes. I was a hippy through and through. The boho fashion and the flowers in my hair were all so very me. Some may say I haven’t changed much in that respect!
Lola – The Kinks. I lived in a small Cheshire town from which you had to travel into Liverpool or elsewhere to see live music gigs. But, in the sixties/seventies, our town expanded and suddenly we had a Civic Hall and live bands! The Kinks were the first band to play there and my friends and I were in awe. Thinking back to that era, it really was such a very special time in my life. I’d discovered Mary Quant and Barbara Hulanicki and…Biba! The whole ambience of that Biba store had a huge impact on me. The ornate Victorian furniture, the antiques, the feathers, the dim lighting – is this why my house looks as it does today? I just adored that kind of look after the austerity of the fifties, which had been the decade of my childhood.
I Believe I Can Fly – R. Kelly. For many years I had to put my life on hold through sheer necessity as I cared for family members who needed me – firstly for my daughter, who had a lot of medical problems which kept her constantly in and out of hospital as a child, and then for my mother, who developed Alzheimer’s from which she suffered for ten years. Towards the end of this period of my life I had a significant birthday and threw a huge party for all of my friends. Not only was it my birthday but it was also the week of the publication of my very first book. I wore huge red feathered wings to the party and I really did feel I could fly!
My Way – Frank Sinatra. This song always reminds me of my dad. I was very close to my dad and whenever I had a problem, he was always the one person I would turn to for advice. I miss him every single day. I still speak to him even though he is no longer here, particularly when something is worrying me. It may sound weird but quite often, after doing so, a white feather mysteriously appears on the ground – like some kind of calling card. I find it both comforting and reassuring to feel that he’s still around as my guardian angel. My dad loved this song and it was one he would always sing at parties too. He was one of life’s ‘big characters’ and I think it sums him up perfectly. We played it at his funeral.
Dancing Queen – Abba. I may not be young and sweet and only seventeen ( I wish) but I am the dancing queen! Give me some music and a dancefloor and I’m away. Who needs alcohol for Dutch courage? Certainly not me, I can dance all night on water – and frequently do!
Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.
My dog. I have a cavapoochon called Alfie, who is my absolute shadow. He is the most gentle, sensitive dog I have ever known and he is never far from my side. We were in Edinburgh recently and I was reminded of the story of Greyfriars Bobby. I can imagine Alfie doing exactly as Bobby did if he was to outlive me. And, still on the music theme, Alfie is the only creature on the planet who would gaze at me with such adoration as he listens to my rendition of ‘What’s It All About, Alfie?’ – anyone else would run away screaming!
My Writing. I suppose by this I mean pen and paper or laptop, something with which to write. I find writing is such a brilliant form of escapism – like living in a parallel universe almost. You can just immerse yourself in a bubble of characters you have created, over whom you have total control – what’s not to love? I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but only seriously so for the past fifteen years. Having my books published has actually been quite life-changing in so many ways.
Northwich LitFest. I started Northwich LitFest eight years ago and have run it for the whole of June each year ever since. That means I must have organised approximately 120 LitFest events in total, a thought that has never crossed my mind before – no wonder I’m exhausted! It really is incredibly hard work for absolutely no financial reward whatsoever and every year I say ‘never again’. Nevertheless I have met, and come to know, some amazing people through the LitFest and that is reward in itself. So, much as I threaten to give it up each year, I think I ‘d find it hard to live without Northwich LitFest now – and I just surprised myself by saying that!
Vintage Adorables. I have always had a passion for rummaging around antiques emporiums and flea markets and daydreamed about one day maybe owning a shop of my own selling a mixture of vintage and quirky things. I never in a million years thought that could ever come to fruition. But then one day I was at Northwich Antiques & Collectables Centre having a look around, when I saw an empty room with a ‘Unit to Let’ sign pinned to the wall. It was a spur of the moment decision but when you get to my time of life I think you should seize every opportunity – so I did. And I have never looked back. If anyone reading this is in Cheshire do call into Northwich Antiques Centre in Barnton – and check out Vintage Adorables on the top floor!
My phone. I feel like a bit of a saddo admitting to this but I truly would be lost without my phone and its internet connection. I run my life through my phone – researching for my writing, organising Northwich LitFest, buying and selling for Vintage Adorables – and publicity through the social media platforms for all three of those things. All of that plus all of the personal stuff I use it for too – and yes, I admit it, I love Facebook!
Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?
Never be afraid to try new things – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!
Always follow your dreams, even though others may advise otherwise.
Live your life to the full and do whatever it is that makes you happy.
Be the best person you can be and always be kind to others – but don’t forget to be kind to yourself too.
Don’t let anyone, or anything, grind you down – you’re worth so much more.
Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.
I’ve never used a hair dye. Guess I’m just lucky that, even at my age, my hair remains the colour it’s always been – well, mostly!
I have a really bad snake phobia. One of my earliest memories is playing outside in my grandmother’s garden and suddenly being dragged back into the house by my mother who was screaming with fright. I hadn’t seen it but a huge snake had slithered along against the wall behind me. I remember my uncle rushing outside in a panic and grabbing the garden spade – he apparently chopped off its head, the poor thing. I have been terrified of them ever since, although obviously not as terrified as the snake must have been at that moment.
I used to be the northern area secretary for Dusty Springfield’s fan club – an amazing singer whose life was cut short far too soon. She had an incredible, soulful voice – I still love to listen to her music.
A fabulous lady I have always admired is the wonderful Molly Parkin and I feel so lucky to have met her. Now 87, she has an incredible sense of style which she carries off with such panache she is a joy to see – as well as being a lovely person whose warmth and humour shine through. Amazingly I have come to know Molly’s equally wonderful daughter, Sophie, who is an artist and a writer, and who did two events for me here at Northwich LitFest. Sophie runs an arts club in London called Vout-o-Reenees, to which she invited me for the launch my most recent book, Angelica Stone.
I am descended from King Richard I – apparently.
What are the first 5 things you’d have on your bucket list?
Live to be 100 and still be in good health, as I have so much I want to do and I won’t have time otherwise.
Spend a lot more time in France, or even live there. Maybe buy a dilapidated chateau and renovate it, Dick and Angel style! I have a bit of an obsession with France, I don’t know where it originated – perhaps I lived there in a past life!
Travel around the entire coast of the UK in a camper van.
Improve my skills when it comes to restoring and renovating old furniture. Since opening Vintage Adorables I’ve really come to appreciate the beauty and craftsmanship in the pieces that we find. No more ‘flat-packs’ for me!
Learn to paint – and I don’t mean furniture, or my house!
Thanks you so much for joining us today Susi. I’m fully on board with your ‘flower power’ vibe. Though I was a bit younger in 1968 I loved the music and fashions. My treasured possession was a ‘cow bell’ necklace! When I got to finally visit Biba in the 70’s (just before its demise) I was in heaven. I loved everything about it. I’m glad to see you certainly follow your own advice of living life to the full. Your enthusiasm and passion shines through in all you do and because of that I’m sure you’ll get to achieve some (if not all) of your bucket list items. That obsession with France is probably down to Richard I who is buried there. As his children were fathered on his travels there’s definitely a link in there somewhere. Good luck with all you do in the future and don’t say goodbye to Northwich LitFest just yet – your town needs you!
Following years of sexual abuse and resulting psychological trauma, Angelica Stone has learnt to rely solely on herself. Unwilling to allow anyone to get close to her, Angelica is reluctant to allow her work colleague Lola into her life. Lola, in contrast to the damaged Angelica, is from what appears to be a happy middle-class family. But all is not what it seems…
An unlikely bond is formed between the two as they learn more about eachother. As they become closer, a series of life-changing events leave Lola on the verge of ruin. Will the friends be able to better themselves and have the lives they so desperately want? Or will they succumb to the expectations and the path already laid out for them?
Angelica Stone follows both characters in their own journey of self-discovery. This close and in-depth look into the lives of Angelica and Lola will see the reader laugh and cry as the two women learn about themselves and the invaluable friendship they have.
Kate is trying to rebuild her life after the death of her baby son and her husband’s unfaithfulness.
Having fled to Cornwall with her daughter, the last thing she expects is a call for help from her former best friend – the woman who slept with her husband, Tom, and destroyed their marriage.
With huge misgivings, Kate returns to the Cheshire town where her life fell apart and stays with Grace – the indomitable warm heart at the centre of a loving but chaotic household. If an outspoken four-year-old, senile Gran and characterful dog can’t make Kate forget her troubles, no one can. When Kate comes face to face with Tom again he still gives her butterflies – does she still love him? But, more importantly, can she ever trust him again?
The friendship between Grace and Kate – the heroines of Susi Osborne’s previous two novels – is the only constant in an ever-changing landscape of embarrassing moments, fraught relationships, and shock discoveries in this moving yet humorous novel.
Grace lives at the centre of a chaotic but happy family, who are her whole world. She has two teenagers, Zak and Cleo, from her first marriage to Richard, and a precocious three-year-old, Izzy. Gran, who is in the early stages of dementia, also lives with them; and then there is Alfie, a loveable but incontinent dog. Grace cares for them all, nurtured by the love and stability given by her second husband, Charlie. But sometimes she feels she would like to escape to a more exciting life, Then a letter from her long-lost sister turns Grace’s life upside down. An emotional meeting leads to shocking revelations. Now Grace knows why Gran turned Anna out of her house, aged just 16. Charlie’s jealousy of Grace’s first husband Richard rears its head, and Grace feels jealousies and concerns of her own as new relationships are formed and old ones reassessed. Emotions are running higher than ever, but does this family have the strength to pull through?
After the upheaval of moving from Cornwall to Cheshire to find work, Tom and Kate Darrington seem to have life sorted out. Kate is a devoted mother and talented artist, Tom a caring and sensitive husband and father. They have the perfect marriage, a beautiful home, two gorgeous children and are still madly in love. But when a tragic accident strikes, their perfect lives are torn apart and their love is put to the test. But will love be enough to save their marriage? The shockwaves from the Darringtons’ tragedy spread out like ripples on a pond and touch the lives of the people around them. Kate’s best friend Chloe tries to offer support, but her own problems cloud her judgement. Caroline, the young receptionist at Tom’s office, complicates matters with her infatuation for him, and her clumsy attempt to help almost ends in disaster. As this hard-hitting domestic drama unfolds, lives become entangled and relationships change forever.
Keep in touch with Susi via
Vintage Adorables (Facebook page)