Tag Archives: Sue Barnard

Spotlight on Sue Barnard

I’m happy to welcome fellow Crooked Cat author, Sue Barnard, who is on my blog today to tell us about her brand new book, The Unkindest Cut of All, which mixes Shakespeare and amateur dramatics.  What’s not to like? She has kindly brought an extract to give us a taster, and purchase links are at the end. Now I’ll hand over to Sue…

Hello, and thank you for welcoming me to your corner of the blogosphere!

TUCOA front

The Unkindest Cut of All (released as an e-book on 9 June 2015) is my third novel for Crooked Cat Publishing.  It’s a murder mystery (with a touch of romance thrown in for good measure) set in a theatre.   The story takes place during an amateur dramatic society’s production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

To write this book I’ve drawn on my love of the theatre, my own experience of amateur dramatics, and my dim and distant memories of studying Julius Caesar at school for my English Literature O-Level.  (For those of you below a certain age: O-Levels are what we had way back in the Dark Ages before the days of GCSEs.)   I was extremely fortunate to have an excellent teacher who not only made the play really come alive, but who also managed to achieve the near-impossible task of making a group of stroppy teenage girls appreciate the finer points of Shakespearean tragedy.

The book’s title is based on one of the lines spoken by Mark Antony, in his crowd-turning speech after Caesar’s murder.  The actual quotation is “This was the most unkindest cut of all” (according to my English teacher, the double superlative is intended to add extra emphasis), but it was generally agreed that this was perhaps a little too fussy – especially for a book by a writer who is notorious for her insistence on correct grammar!

Here’s the blurb:

Beware the Ides of March… 

Brian Wilmer is God’s gift to amateur dramatics – and he knows it. So when the Castlemarsh Players take the ambitious decision to stage Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, there is only one man who can play the title role – even though Brian’s posturing ‘prima donna’ attitude has, over the years, won him few friends and many foes. 

Rehearsals progress apace, and the production draws ever closer. But when another member of the cast has to drop out due to illness, local journalist Sarah Carmichael (a stalwart of the Players’ backstage crew) suddenly finds herself called upon to step into the breach at the eleventh hour.

Not surprisingly, Sarah finds that Brian is in his egotistical element playing the mighty Caesar. The fact that the final performance of the play takes place on the infamous Ides of March – the day when, according to tradition, Caesar was fatally stabbed – only adds to the excitement.

But tragedy is waiting in the wings. And when it strikes, it falls to Sarah – with the help of Brian’s personable and fascinating nephew Martin Burns – to uncover the incredible truth about what really happened… 

TUCOA front

And here, to whet your appetite, is a (slightly adapted) brief extract:

“Drink, Sarah, dah-ling?”

Sarah hadn’t heard Brian approaching as she stood waiting to be served at the bar, and in view of what she’d heard about him the previous evening, she felt more than just a little uncomfortable in his presence. But for the sake of keeping things on an even keel, at least until the end of the run, she turned to face him and forced a smile.

“Thanks, Brian. That’s very kind of you. I’ll have pint of bitter, please.”

“OOOH, a lady who drinks pints?”

Not for the first time, Sarah had to suppress her irritation at having to explain it.

“Yes, I drink pints. I like beer, and there’s no point in my drinking halves. I get very thirsty and they don’t last.”

“Fair point, I suppose, fair lady! And I can’t say I blame you. I’ve worked up a pretty thirst myself. I think I might take a leaf out of your book. Now, you go and find us some seats, and I’ll be right back.”

He strode up to the bar and returned a couple of minutes later with two brimming pint pots.

“Cheers, sweetie!” Brian sat down opposite her, raised his glass and took a swig.

“Cheers. And thank you.” Sarah smiled and returned the gesture.

“That wasn’t a bad audience, for a Wednesday,” Brian went on. “I can’t believe we’re halfway through the run already. How time flies when you’re enjoying yourself!”

“Are you enjoying it?” Sarah asked as she took another sip of her drink. She knew before she asked that it was a pointless question, but all the same it made something to say.

“Am I enjoying it, dah-ling? Tell me, sweetie, is the Pope a Catholic?”

Sarah forced a smile.

“I knew it was a stupid question. Have you done any Shakespeare before?”

Brian’s face creased into a broad grin at the prospect of talking about his favourite subject – himself.

“Oh yes. I started very young, you know. Oddly enough, my first role was in this very play.”

“Really?” Sarah called on her own acting abilities and pretended to look interested. “What part did you play?”

“Lucius. It was a school play. Most of the other parts were played by sixth-formers, but they needed a younger boy to play the servant. It wasn’t a huge part, but it was the first of many. I was well and truly bitten by the acting bug by the end of it.”

“Oh yes? What came next?”

“The following year the school did A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I played Puck.”

“Then what?”

“After that, it was The Tempest. That time I played Caliban. Then the following year it was Hamlet, and I was Polonius.”

“Wasn’t he the one who was stabbed through the arras? I always thought that sounded slightly rude!”

Brian chuckled. “So you see, I’m no stranger to the Bard. But until now I’ve never managed to play the mighty Caesar.”

All those Shakespearean performances, Sarah thought. No wonder Brian was such a prima donna.

The Unkindest Cut of All is officially released on 9 June 2015, but is already available for pre-order, at the special early bird price of only 99p.  Order it now, and it will magically appear on your Kindle on launch day.  There will also be a launch event on Facebook on the day itself, with fun, frolics, quizzes and competitions.  Click here to add yourself to the guest list!

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Book links:

The Ghostly Father

Nice Girls Don’t

The Unkindest Cut of All


Interview with an author: Sue Barnard

Sue Barnard author picI’m delighted to welcome fellow Crooked Cat author Sue Barnard to my blog. Her novel, ‘The Ghostly Father’, is an interesting take on ‘Romeo and Juliet’, with a postmodern twist. It’s a fascinating idea for a novel.

Here is the blurb:

Romeo & Juliet – was this what really happened?

When Juliet Roberts is asked to make sense of an ancient Italian manuscript, she little suspects that she will find herself propelled into the midst of one of the greatest love stories of all time. But this is only the beginning. As more hidden secrets come to light, Juliet discovers that the tragic tale of her famous namesake might have had a very different outcome…

What are the main ideas or themes in your book?

The main theme of The Ghostly Father is one of forgiveness and reconciliation. This is portrayed not just with reference to the infamous feud between the Montagues and the Capulets (who have Italian names in this version), but also, on a more personal level, by the way the main character comes to terms with his own demons.

TGF Front Cover

What is the setting or context of the narrative? Why is it important?

The setting of the main story is 15th-16th century Italy – specifically Venice, Verona and (briefly) Mantua. The context is vital because it’s a retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet story, which is set in Verona. There is also a present-day narrator (also called Juliet) whose comments provide a modern framework for the story.

Tell us more about the main characters and their dilemmas.

Romeo and Juliet – the original star-cross’d lovers – need no introduction. But the book concentrates mostly on the character of Friar Lawrence (Lorenzo), who has a number of significant issues and dilemmas of his own. I can’t say a great deal about those here, because it would give too much away, but suffice it to say that he didn’t willingly become a Friar…

He’s a very interesting character, I agree. His strange decisions in Shakespeare’s play are intriguing, and keep the story moving. He is definitely an ambiguous character.Why did you write this novel? Any other issues or ‘big ideas’ behind it?

It was in answer to the exhortation Write the book you want to read. When I first wrote the book, I was writing it originally for myself. I wanted to give Romeo and Juliet an alternative ending to their story – one that I could read privately, and in doing so, be able to think that perhaps things might have worked out for them after all. But judging by the way the book has been selling, it seems as though lots of other people also want to think the same way!

How do you go about writing a novel? Is it a simple or complex process?

I’d like to be able to say I sit down and plan things out beforehand, but that would only be partly true. I start out with an idea, but the writing itself is very haphazard. And sometimes the characters themselves take me completely by surprise. In my novel Nice Girls Don’t (due out later this year) one of the characters said something which I hadn’t anticipated, and which went on to change the entire course of the subplot! Which was probably just as well, because with hindsight I don’t think my original idea would have worked.

I like plot and characters that are malleable too, and am always open to change half-way through writing. What advice do you have for less experienced writers?

Keep at it. The more you write, the more you will learn. And find some writing buddies (either online or in a writing group). It’s very easy to lose all sense of objectivity with your own stuff – a fresh pair of eyes can work wonders.

Sound advice. What are you working on next?

I’ve always been fascinated by the paranormal, so I’m having a go at something in that genre. It’s still very much at the concept stage, though!

If you could leave a message to the world, what would it be?


Absolutely right. Thanks for your thoughtful answers, Sue, and good luck with the novel.   If you’d like to read ‘The Ghostly Father’ then please click on the cover image below.

TGF Front Cover



Crooked Cat Books

Sue’s Blog