I’ve recently read a couple of articles celebrating inspirational women in Sheffield. This got me thinking about the many inspirational women I have met in my life, some of whom have truly helped me shape it. Most of these women have overcome obstacles in their own lives, often to achieve and succeed against the odds. This got me thinking that it would be interesting to ask some of these model, hardworking and inspiring women a set of questions (selected from the Proust Questionnaire, a parlour game popularised by Proust*) – and it seemed more than appropriate to begin with the writer, Susan Elliott Wright.
I first met Susan when I joined her writing evening classes about five years or so ago. Since this time, Susan has, not only had one book published, but three, and she is currently working on her fourth. She ended up mentoring me prior to my commencing the MA at Sheffield Hallam University, and ended up tutoring me for the final and difficult long haul. Not only is she a brilliant writer, she is a dedicated tutor with a keen sense of humour, but I know that the path to her success has not been smooth.
Susan Elliot Wright is the author of four novels, all published by Simon & Schuster: The Things We Never Said (2013), The Secrets We Left Behind (2014), What She Lost (2017), and If I Should Fall (out late summer 2018). Susan grew up in south-east London. She left school at sixteen and worked in the civil service for five years but returned to education in her thirties to do a degree in English. Before becoming a full-time writer, she did a number of jobs while raising her two children. Job titles included: cleaner, dishwasher, cake decorator, barmaid, journalist, caterer, and chef. She has an MA in writing from Sheffield Hallam University, where she is now an associate lecturer. Her working life is a mix of writing, admin & social media, running writing workshops and mentoring new writers. She loves her adopted city of Sheffield where she now lives with her husband and a big black dog called Henry. She is the author of The Things We Never Said, The Secrets We Left Behind, and What She Lost. To find out more, visit her website: www.susanelliotwright.co.uk or follow her on Twitter @sewelliot or Facebook https://www.facebook.com/susanelliotwrightwriter/
Susan, what do you consider your greatest achievement?
Becoming a published novelist – I dreamed of it, but never really believed it would happen.
And who are your favourite writers?
Maggie O’Farrell, Helen Dunmore, Patrick Gale – they all have an ability to tell compelling, nuanced stories using language that is in no way flowery or complicated but is still beautiful, sometimes even lyrical, and always exquisitely precise.
What is the best thing that has happened to you?
I don’t think I can single out one particular thing, but having my kids is up there, obviously, as is meeting and marrying my husband (this one, not the first one), and then, of course, having my first novel published.
What is your greatest strength?
Tenacity, probably – once I decide I want to do something, I’m unwilling to give up. I can also drink quite a lot of wine without falling over…
What was the best advice given to you?
Never expect other people to think or feel the same way you do. I try to remind myself of that every day – it has saved me a lot of frustration and heartache.
What is the one word you’d use to define you?
I know this sounds a bit showy-offy, but I’d say hardworking.
What is the best gift you could receive?
World peace, obviously, but I won’t hold my breath for that, so a 36 hour day would be useful. I’d also quite like the ability to eat and drink whatever I want with no ill effects to my health or looks. What do you mean I can’t have either of those? Oh well, book tokens, then, I suppose.
What makes you laugh?
My sense of humour tends to be more language-based than visual. I enjoy clever use of words – satire, wit, parody. I loved the way Ronnie Barker used language to comic effect – genius! My favourite sitcom of all time is Frasier, which is brilliantly witty (poignant, too). It still makes me laugh out loud even though I’ve seen the episodes many times now. And I have to admit that I usually find swearing quite funny. I don’t like it when people swear in anger, but I’m quite fond of a bit of colourful language to lighten what’s being said and add rhythm to a sentence – my husband says I’m potty-mouthed.
Which living person do you most admire?
I couldn’t possibly choose one person. I admire a great many people, a few of whom are famous, but if I’m honest, it’s mostly ordinary people – mothers raising their children in difficult circumstances, people living with pain and illness on a daily basis, medical staff who work long and gruelling hours to reduce the suffering of others, the emergency services who go into life-threatening situations to rescue other people – these are the people I admire most of all.
What is your most treasured possession?
That’s a tough one. My attitude to possessions is very different now to when I was younger. I got married at 18 the first time, and I took great pride in building a home and choosing the right things to make it look nice. But my first husband turned out to be controlling and abusive, and I ended up fleeing the marriage, taking only my two children, a bin bag full of clothes and another full of toys, and that was it. I eventually got the house back, but by then he’d sold anything of any value and burned anything else that had meant anything to me. The upside of this is that things no longer matter anywhere near as much as they once did. Having said that, I’m now happily married so I’d be upset if I lost my wedding ring. I’d cope, though – what’s important is the husband, not the ring.
What is your motto?
Tomorrow is another day.
And finally, how would you like to be remembered?
Daily, and with a fond but slightly sad smile… No, that’s a crap answer, isn’t it? I suppose I’d like to be remembered as someone who was loving, supportive, and generous, and who made people laugh. It would be good if people thought I was a fairly good writer, too.
- The Proust Questionnaire https://www.vanityfair.com/magazine/2000/01/proust-questionnaire