Sue Haasler Q & A: Half A World Away Blog Tour

Today I have Sue Haasler on my blog and I'm so excited to talk to her about her new book, Half A World Away...

1. Your book Half A World Away has just been released! Can you tell us a bit more about it?

Half A World Away is set in East Berlin in 1987 - two years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. East Germany was a country where it was best to fit in and be unremarkable. The main character, Alex, is doing just that, working in his father’s bakery and playing the saxophone in his spare time. Then he sets himself apart by falling in love with a girl from an “enemy state” (Britain), and attracting the attention of a man called Detlef - who is a complicated, troubled character with some very dangerous connections. Alex, who is essentially a very optimistic, open person, quickly learns that the country he lives in isn’t as benign as he always thought.

2. This book features music heavily. What is it about music that captivates you so much?

I love the way music can operate as a time capsule. You hear a particular song and it can take you back to a specific time or place in your life. The song ‘Half A World Away’ by REM  reminds me of visiting my boyfriend (now my husband) in Berlin at the start of our relationship. I often steal song titles to be titles of my books. Music can make you cry or it can cheer you up when nothing else can. It has such a direct connection to the emotions.

3. Now that Half A World Away has been released. Is there anything else in the works? Would love a little teaser...

I’m writing a book called Another Girl (a Beatles title this time!), set in the fashion world of 1960s London - Carnaby Street and that whole exciting, swinging sixties era. Cathy comes to London to escape a boring life a northern town and gets a job working for up and coming designer Diane and her business partner, Joe. It’s a life of pop stars and parties, but running through it is the mystery of a girl who vanished without trace ten years earlier. 

4. Is there any particular music you listen to that inspires you to write? Or is it different music for every book? 

It’s different music for every book. I can’t listen to music when I’m physically writing, though, as I find it too distracting, especially if it has lyrics. When I’m not actually at the laptop I often find hearing a piece of music will spark off an idea, or a mood, which I can then use. I’m listening to a lot of early 1960s music at the moment for Another Girl.  

5. I know you're also a non-fiction writer. How do the two differ in terms of planning and writing?

I’m not really a planner when it comes to fiction. I start off with the initial idea, and it grows from there. I like Stephen King’s analogy that writing a book is like digging up a dinosaur - you find a little bone, and another, and you’re not quite sure how they relate to each other or what the final shape will be, but you keep digging and finding more, and eventually you know what you’ve got. And then (in my case) you can go back and knock it into better shape. With non-fiction, I recently wrote a book about the TV series Holby City and that had to be planned carefully in terms of who I needed to interview and how to structure the book to get across all the aspects I wanted to talk about. 

6. Are there any books you'd recommend for anyone that loved Half A World Away?

There are lots of books about East Germany, but I found a lot of them focused just on the Stasi and not so much on the everyday. The book I enjoyed reading the most was Zoo Station by Ian Walker, which is out of print now. It really captured the different atmospheres of both sides of the divided city in the 1980s, with all their quirks and peculiarities.

7. Which authors inspire you to write?

As mentioned above, Stephen King is my writing hero. I love the way he gets into the heads of his characters, so you feel you know them. I was probably inspired to write by the authors I loved as a child. The first book I remember reading is Jane Eyre (I’m sure there were others before that, but it’s the one I remember) and I loved HG Wells. I grew up reading a lot of science fiction, probably because my mum was a sci-fi fanatic and she used to get books from the mobile library for me while I was at school. She had excellent taste.

8. What are you currently reading?

I’m reading a lot of background stuff about London in the 1960s for Another Girl. I’ve been buying books that were published at the time, such as London and the Single Girl by Betty James (1967) which hilariously tells you where to go in London to meet and ensnare your preferred type of man. 

BONUS: What instrument can you not play, that you'd love to be able to?

I can actually play the flute, but would love to be able to play it better (and my neighbours would love that too). I started learning about 10 years ago, on a whim - I just suddenly thought that I needed a flute in my life. Handily, my flute teacher (who is now a good friend) also plays the saxophone very well, so she could answer my saxophone-related questions. She let me have a go on one of her saxes and it’s so difficult! I could hardly get a sound out of it. 

Check out the other stops on the Half A World Away blog tour here:

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