Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sue Lawson: on influences – or of Shakespeare and British Blue Cats

Sue Lawson and I started our writing careers at roughly the same time, and it seems that over the last dozen or so years our paths keep on crossing, and we have become buddies as well as colleagues. So it is my great pleasure to welcome her to my blog today where she will be discussing her latest release, Pan's Whisper, and the things that influenced her in the writing of this poignant novel.

Over to Sue.

Sue, thank you so much for inviting me to visit your blog to chat about Pan’s Whisper.

I thought it would be interesting to talk about influences, as I’ve been asked and know most writers are asked how much of our work is autobiographical. 

I guess for me the simple answer is not much is directly from my life – though I did have a pet chook when I was about 12 (Tessa), I grew up on a wool property (After) and my grandfather did die aboard the Montevideo Maru (Finding Darcy). Rather than being stories about me or my life, my books are influenced by my experiences and the questions that these raise.

Pan’s Whisper was sparked by a conversation with my younger sister about an event from our childhood, which both of us remembered differently – she recalled it with fondness, while I remember it was an uncomfortable experience. Strange thing is I can’t remember the details of the discussion now, just the question it sparked – why do two people have such different memories of the same event?

Once I start writing it’s inevitable that important influences in my life slip into a story. In Pan’s Whisper two of my great loves are featured – Shakespeare and Smocker (pronounced Smocker as is soccer).

From the moment our English teacher, Mr Samuel, started reading Romeo and Juliet to our class, Shakespeare’s language, humour, tragedy and unforgettable characters had me hooked. So that influence is obvious. But what about Smocker?

One of my early memories as a child was an ABC radio program we used to listen to on Saturday morning, called I Smocker. (Before you right me off as ANCIENT – we did have TV, but ABC radio ruled our home.) Smocker, written by Eugene Lumber, was the story of a British Blue cat who lived with Patrick the Irish terrier next door to Nasty Neighbour Norton. It was hilarious! I can remember my complete joy when I received the two books, I Smocker and Smocker Takes Off for Christmas.

Sue's fat ginger tom, Smocker
So great was my love for Smocker that I named my first pet, a HUGE ginger tom, after him.  My Smocker was every bit as unique as Eugene Lumber’s Smocker, though not quite as mischievous. (Or well bred – he was a moggy!)

When I was writing Pan’s Whisper, I wanted somewhere for Pan to keep her treasures and it had to be something that also gave her comfort. A tin or box would be too hard and cold. While trawling the internet, I stumbled upon a picture of a pyjama holder from the 80s and knew I was onto something. The moment I decided the holder had to be a cat, I knew its name was Smocker.

Sue's rabbit pyjama holder she found on Etsy that sparked the idea

Thanks so much for having me Sue.
All good things must come to an end, particularly this close to Christmas, and thus the Pan’s Whisper Blog Tour ends tomorrow at http://cherrybananasplit.blogspot.com

Hope to see you there!

All the best for the success of Pan's Whisper, Sue. 


  1. Loved the name Smocker and the journey of its influence- including the pyjama bag- where did those go to?

    A great entry- two Sues...

    Lorraine M

  2. This is such an interesting post! Thanks Sue for sharing and thanks Sue for hosting! Go Smocker.

  3. It always intrigues me to discover what influences authors and it seems to be those little things that spark the most vivid story ideas.


  4. Those small things are so important, aren't they? Glad you all enjoyed Sue's post. Hope it wasn't too confusing working with all the Sues! Good luck with the book Sue L!

  5. Thanks so much Sue - Hope everyone had a brilliant Christmas and New Year. I'm finally getting back into work!