How Brighton And Hove Has Inspired Author Sue Teddern


The Brighton author of Annie Stanley All At Sea and Pre-Loved Club, Sue Teddern, talks to Denise Tyler about balance, writers’ clubs and inspirations

In both Annie Stanley All At Sea and the Pre-Loved Club you balance some very emotional themes like grief and loss, loneliness and heartbreak with humour. How hard is it to achieve the right balance?

When I was writing for Birds of a Feather, Dorian had a line in my favourite episode about why she didn’t have children. She says, ‘In the end, you have to choose between children and beige carpets. I chose beige carpets.’ She says it as a throwaway line, but her eyes are so sad. I think that taught me that you can do both at the same time though it is a fine line between funny and sad. Years of scriptwriting and working with a studio audience have helped, but I don’t know that I consciously think, oh, I’d better have another sad scene or another funny scene. It’s just the way people are – they’re a bit of both.

Sue Teddern

The Pre-Loved Club grew out of a radio play, soloparentpals.com, that ran for five series and starred Maxine Peake and Kris Marshall. You’ve described the leap from writing scripts to novels as ‘a readjustment of my writing muscle’. How hard was it to do that?

One of the things I’ve had to learn how to do well as a radio scriptwriter is to make the dialogue jump off the page so that it’s not all ‘he said, she said, he said, she said’. I had written some short stories when I worked on teenage magazines so I knew I could create strong characters. But the actual process of writing in a different form took a while because, certainly with my second book, I missed out a lot of the underlying emotion. I was just telling the story without digging deep. And my editor had to tell me to find some reflective moments that actually reveal the ending so that the characters don’t know how the story’s going to end, but the reader does. You’ve got to give the readers some clues!

You clearly know and love Brighton and Hove well given the amount of detail in The Pre- Loved Club. You even thank the city’s shops, cafes, bus routes, restaurants and walks in the acknowledgements…

I wrote the book during lockdown, so I think it is a bit of a love story to the city because all you could do was walk. We did quite a bit of walking along the seafront in Hove as we live near there and it was still possible to explore the city. Hove Cemetery is nearby and is really interesting to walk round. After lockdown we actually took a tour of it and it’s fascinating when you have some of the celebrity graves explained to you. There’s someone who was the inspiration for one of the characters in Peaky Blinders for instance. There are other people who aren’t famous, but who just had very interesting lives or who touch the lives of famous people. It’s all very fascinating and inspiring. But I also like getting involved in the local community; I’ve made good friends through volunteering at BrightStore in Hove. It’s an affordable food scheme that started in the first lockdown but has carried on. 

You also thank your writing friends in both books; how important is it to you to have a writing network? 

When I first came to Brighton ten years ago, I joined the Beach Hut Writers Club, which was a really useful network to get to know other writers. Not just for friendship, but for feedback and advice. I met a writer friend last week for a coffee at The Old Crow because I had a really simple technical question about writing and I didn’t know how to find out the answer to it. I just wanted someone to say, no, you can do that. She gave me an example of where it had been done before and I thought, oh, okay, I can do that. And it just freed me to carry on writing. So in that regard, it’s nice to have people you can sort of expose your ignorance to. I still meet up with a group of friends from my early radio days; we called ourselves the Material Girls because we got together to write material, eat a lot of food and laugh a lot! They’re an important part of my life, not just my writing life.

If you could only write for one genre out of TV, radio or novels, which would you choose? 

I love radio and it’s a lot quicker to write for radio. But when I’m writing books I think, oh, I’d like to do radio and when I’m doing radio it’s the opposite. I just like telling stories really with whoever will have me!


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