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TRCH The Da Vinci Code

Interview: Susan Beecroft

14 November 13 interview: Clare Cole
illustrations: Adam Poole

The Thompson Brothers may think that they’re Nottingham’s most devout Royalists, but they’ve got competition from local children’s author Susan Beecroft...

First things first, how was your trip to the palace last month?
Fantastic. I stood outside with my mouth wide open. It was an absolutely mind-blowing experience to see my book on the shelves in The Queen’s Gallery. The happy tears I’ve cried - I’m going to get emotional talking about it now.

You didn’t bump into the Queen?
She knew I was coming, but she didn’t have the right cups out. I am going to write and thank her though, we had such a lovely day.

Have you always written children’s stories?
No, I only really started about seven years ago. I was a qualified social worker before that. My father was a magical storyteller though, I think it stayed with me.

How did Teddy Goes To Buckingham Palace come about?
I started writing some Teddy stories in 2006. Then I was unwell and they sat there for a year or so before I got them out again. I joined a writing group but unfortunately I had a bad experience with a woman who was very vocal in her disapproval and it really knocked my confidence. I was going to throw them all away, but a friend gave me a leaflet about the New Writer’s Fair at County Hall. It was from there I made some contacts and eventually met up with Gloria Morgan [Nottingham-based author] and Howard Barton [illustrator]. Now when I feel my confidence slipping Gloria just says, “you’ll stop writing when I tell you to!” And I began going to a New Writers UK group which was fantastic. The rude woman from the writing workshop inspired me to write the next in the Teddy series about Gobby Froggy. I’m going to send her the first copy when it’s finished.

 

I can see you have a bit of a mischievous side. I’ve noticed Teddy also seems to have a bit of a glint in his eye in the book. Was that something you intended?
Oh yes, it was very important that Teddy had a naughty side. I wanted there to be humour in the book.

What’s the best thing about writing for young children?
I can put in all the silly things I love, and I don’t have to be too serious.

Are there any children’s authors you particularly admire?
I’ve always liked Beatrix Potter’s books. She talked to her animals and her pictures you know, like I talk to you, don’t I Teddy? We’re crazy aren’t we Teddy?

Nice to meet you Teddy.
[Silence]

He looks very well loved. How long have you been together?
I’ve had Teddy all my life. He goes everywhere with me. People think we’re crackers but he’s very important to me. Howard Barton wanted to take him away to do some drawings when we first met. I said, “Oh no, he doesn’t go anywhere without me.”

Surely now he’s practically royalty, you’ll have to get used to travelling separately.
I haven’t been abroad for years but if I did, yes, I think we would have to fly separately. Actually, he has a double just in case anything happens to him.

A celebrity double? You really have made it Teddy.
[Silence]

Susan, take me back to how you ended up getting your first children’s book stocked in the Buckingham Palace gift shop?
I’d previously been to Buckingham Palace and had seen that they sold children’s books so when I’d finished writing Teddy Goes To Buckingham Palace, I just phoned them.

You can just phone Buckingham Palace?!
It’s easy to get through to Buckingham Palace. They said to send it in and they’d have a look at it. I hadn’t heard anything a couple of weeks later so I phoned again. I didn’t even finish saying the title and the woman blurted out, “Yes, we’ve ordered it!” I had to phone again the next day just to check I’d heard her right, I couldn’t believe it.

It sounds like you have Buckingham Palace on speed dial.
I regularly phone Clarence House too. And I write to them. They send lovely letters back. I sent a copy of one of my earlier stories, The Princesses Ebony and Bonny Arrive In Teddy’s Magical Town to Sophie, Countess of Wessex when Lady Louise was born.

You obviously have quite a knack for marketing. Most self-publishers find that hard.
The marketing is a nightmare. It’s a full-time job. But I always say, don’t just sit there - if you’ve got an idea, do something about it. A friend came to me the other day with an idea... I told him to phone Prince Charles. Even if you think to yourself, this is never going to get anywhere, well, how do you know unless you try?

That’s very inspirational.
But I also have to say without Howard Barton’s brilliant illustrations and all the fantastic help I’ve had from Gloria Morgan in bringing the book together, I would never have got here.

Would I be right in thinking you’re a bit of a royalist Susan?
D’you know the best day of my life was when the Queen came to Nottingham [on 13 June 2012]. William and Kate’s Jag went right by me. I tell you Kate is every bit the Princess. The Queen’s car stopped right in front of me. I was desperate for her to look at me so I could give her a curtsy. I’d had my hair done properly, but unfortunately she was looking at the floor. Two police outriders were parked in front of me because I was in the front row, so I asked the policeman if I could have a ride on his motorbike. He handed me the keys.

Wow! I hope you hopped on.
I said I only wanted to go if he took me. Unfortunately he couldn’t as there was only one seat.

You mentioned that you’ve been commissioned to write something for the Freemasons. Can you tell us something about that, or is it all meant to be on the QT?
I’m just waiting to hear whether they’re happy with the book. The Freemasons run a charity called ‘Teddies for Loving Care’ distributing teddies to children in hospital. They asked if I could write a new Teddy story which they could sell as a fundraiser. So this one’s about a little boy called Freddie who has to go to hospital. I based him on the Just William character. He gets given a Teddy who helps him through the experience. Howard’s doing the illustrations again.

Do you and Howard Barton work closely on the illustrations?
We all work together. Sometimes we disagree on something. Howard told me the dancing wallpaper in the palace book was a nightmare. Wait till he sees what I’ve got planned for him in Teddy Makes Friends With Mr Hedgehog Bumbledrop - it’ll kill him.

One last question, with your insider royal knowledge, do you have any tips for William and Kate on inspiring a love of reading in the new royal arrival?
It’s lovely that they’re going to be hands-on. They’ll make great parents. I tell you what I’d like to know... how to get a copy of the book directly into the Royal Highnesses’ hands. I’m going to do some enquiries.

It’s been absolutely lovely to meet you Susan.
I haven’t talked too much, have I?

Not at all. It’s the interviewee who doesn’t say anything that I fear. Anything you want to add Teddy?
[Silence]

Teddy Goes to Buckingham Palace, £5.99, self-published

Susan will be signing copies of her book in Waterstones between 11.30 - 2pm on Saturday 16 November.

New Writers UK website

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