Hi Daisy and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, A Bicycle Built for Sue!
Why thank you very much, it is fabulous to be here!
To start off, can you please tell us a little bit about this book?:
Absolutely. In a nutshell, it’s a feel good factor novel about a woman in the wake of her husband’s suicide. No!!! Don’t run away just yet. I know it doesn’t sound the cheeriest of topics, but…we all have bad things happen to us. But we also all have the strength to regroup, rebuild and rebound. That’s what I wanted to explore – particularly with a topic that is so squirmy and horrible, but, increasingly, a reality many people will encounter in their lives.
Please share your favorite lines or quote(s) from this book:
This is a little exchange between morning television show host, Kath and her husband Kev:
Kath’s eyes slid back to the autocue.
K & K: AD LIB ON JUMPERS FOR PETS 30 SECONDS
She smiled, shook Bridie away and began to laugh as studio
camera two lit up. ‘That face! Precious. And what a lovely way to brighten up a grizzly February day, don’t you think, Kev? A chihuahua in a zebra jumper?’
Kevin, who rarely looked at her off air anymore, looked her straight in the eye and laughed along, ‘How could I not?’
ABicycleBuiltForSue_B_3rdRevise_20200601_690AAA.indd 35 01/06/2020 08:42
After twenty-five years of performing together she knew subtext when she heard it.
Bloody ridiculous, he was saying. Only a simpleton would find that funny. If only their devoted fanbase knew the derision he had for them. The contempt. She’d read Wolf Hall, too. Didn’t mean she couldn’t find a gussied-up dolly dog adorable. In fact, of the pair of them, she was pretty sure she was the one with a handful more brain cells. Compassion anyway.
‘Maybe we should get Humphrey a jumper. Stacy?’ Kath waved to their producer in the galley. ‘Can we get a picture of our dog up? He’d look good in the one with pom poms, don’t you think?’ She winked conspiratorially at the camera.
Kev shook his head and gave one of those twinkly eyed wry smiles of his. The type that had won her over all of those years ago when he’d first held out a hand to her to dance. At the time she’d thought his cobalt-blue eyes held a hidden wisdom. An under- standing of the depths of her soul. Now of course she knew that it was actually a finely honed ability to patronize without the recipient being vaguely aware of him being anything other than charming.
‘Just so long as you don’t try to put me in a matching one,’ Kev said in a way that implied he knew he’d end up in a matching one on tomorrow’s show. ‘I’m sure Humph is willing to go along with anything. What do you think viewers? Is our Kath mad enough to try and get me and Humph into the same threads?’
‘Listen to you!’ She gave his arm a play swat. ‘So down with the kids. You and your threads.’
Kev’s smile brightened, which meant she’d annoyed him. ‘Are you trying to say I’m an old codger, Kath?’ He always ramped up the Liverpudlian twang when he was trying to endear himself to the audience.
Kath feigned horror. ‘Never.’ She felt herself losing the invisible audience so she threw a wink to her husband. ‘You’ll always be my toyboy.’
‘Atta girl.’ Kev gave Kath’s knee a brisk pat and they both turned to the centre camera, expertly absorbing the next prompt on the autocue.
What inspired this book?
Definitely. I thought of the title first and loved it. That’s often how I start. And then … Sue’s going on a charity cycle ride. A hard one. With hills. Something she never in a million years would have dreamed of doing. She’s not an athlete. She’s not even all that fond of getting sweaty, to be honest. She’s going to have to have gone through something big. Something that blindsided her. Something that turns her into someone who wriggles into a pair of padded lycra shorts and rides. And rides and rides and rides until she can tease away the darkness and begin to see some light.
I’d done a run recently (and by run, I mean put one foot in front of the other, listening to “Defying Gravity” from Wicked on repeat for two and a half hours). Nearly all of the fifteen thousand people participating were running for charity. I spent the bulk of the event weeping as I read everyone’s t-shirts, imagining why and for whom they were putting themselves through the horrendous ordeal.
It was pouring with rain, cold, and very long. And yet…there were literally thousands of people running for every sorrow under the (not entirely visible) sun. Amongst the scores of organisations represented, there were a preponderance of mental health charities, loneliness charities, depression, addiction, bi-polar, and, of course, suicide prevention charities. And then it hit me. Sue lost her husband to suicide. I’ve known far too many people who took their lives and, a few months later, as I rode the route Sue would ride along Hadrian’s Wall, I met far too many people who also knew people who had taken theirs. It was a six degrees of Kevin Bacon I would’ve much rather ended with Kevin Bacon.
Writing about life in the vacuum of a loved one’s suicide is not easy. Finding a way to make it uplifting was even harder.
How did you ‘get to know’ your main characters? Did they ever surprise you?
I would say all of these characters, more than many others I’ve written either as Daisy Tate or Annie O’Neil, are all extensions of me. Flo is the me who has crossed into a new age group when taking a survey. I’m not her age, but I fear it. Sue is the me who has been blindsided by loss and wasn’t entirely sure how to see the light again, and Raven is the me who wishes I could be a teenager finding myself all over again and end up with this wonderful gaggle of women. I think Kath is an amalgam of all of them
What was your favorite scene to write?
Definitely the scene during the cycle ride when…..I CAN’T TELL YOU WHAT HAPPENS but you will know when it is. All of the gals are MISERABLE. This charity ride lark has turned out to be one of the most horrendous, soul destroying, awful things any of them have ever done until….
I STILL CAN’T TELL YOU! But it was my favourite scene.
What was the most difficult scene to write?
The scene when Sue figures out her husband won’t be coming back. That was awful. I had tears pouring down my face the entire time.
Would you say this book showcases your writing style or is it a departure for you?
This book is very different from my identity as Annie O’Neil who, up until recently, only wrote Mills & Boon Medical Romances (I also wrote a Christmas book called Miracle on Christmas Street which is out now). This is more women’s fiction than romance and more dark night of the soul stuff wrapped in a bouncy, cushion of humour and the guaranteed kindness of humans when you least expect it and most need it.
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
I would love for people to know that even when they think they couldn’t possibly feel more alone in the world – they are not. They do not have to be. There is someone, sometimes many someones, who are there for you. They might not come in the shape or size or colour or creed that you expect – but they will be the person you need in that time and space. And your presence in their lives will be equally rewarding. Everyone has value. Everyone deserves compassion. Everyone is worth a schnibbet of your time.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned?
I am currently working on a book about a woman who sets up an un-dating agency. She breaks up with people for those of us who can’t quite get up the courage to do it ourselves. Suffice it to say, hijinks ensue and some valuable lessons are learned along the way. It’s more light-hearted than so, but no less heart-felt. I’m not sure if it’s coming out as Annie O’Neil or as Daisy Tate.
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
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Excerpt from A Bicycle Built for Sue:
‘Let’s wrap these up, shall we? You might want them for your tea.’ Sue’s mother nodded in that perfunctory, no-nonsense manner she had perfected through the years. A quick nod, a press of the
lips and a follow-up nod that settled the matter.
For the first time in her life, Sue wanted to slap the look right off of her mother’s face. A bit of a shocker considering she gener- ally preferred it when decision making was taken out of her hands, as it had been for most of her life. Not those curtains, Sue, they’ll show the dust. A call centre? Oh Suey, you wouldn’t want to work there, what would people think? Marry that Young lad? Honestly. You’d best be shot of him. He’ll bring nothing but sorrow, Suey. Nothing but pain.
For the past three weeks her mother had been hard at it. Making decisions for her. Apparently that’s what happened when planning your husband’s funeral suddenly seemed too much and you moved back into your parents’ and had always been the lesser of two children, her older brother Dean having taken the role of favoured child quite some time ago.
You’ll sleep in Dean’s old room, but try not to change things about will you? I’ve turned yours into my sewing room because of the light. If the little ones are needing it for a sleepover, we might shift you to the pull out in the lounge.
You won’t want to watch that programme, duck, it’ll depress you.
You’ll not want too fancy a coffin seeing as it’ll be burnt straight away.
Yes, sometimes her mother’s bossiness was useful. Today it filled her with rage. She’d just been widowed. She didn’t want limp, pub wake sandwiches to take home for a midnight snack. She wanted her husband back.
Just as quickly as the instinct to lash out flared, it sputtered and disappeared. Who was she to make grand pronouncements on how someone should and shouldn’t behave? Her mother’s fussing always escalated when she was uncomfortable and having a son-in-law who’d ended his life was certainly pushing a lot of buttons. Sue, like her father, became more still, as if the prospect of having to select one solitary choice out of the thousands of options available rendered her inert. Like choosing what clothing Gary would like to wear in perpetuity. She’d let her mother pick in the end.
‘I’ll put the white bread ones aside for you, shall I?’ Bev was already plucking out the white triangles from amongst the brown triangles. ‘Your father doesn’t have the stomach for it. Dean never was one for sandwiches and Katie won’t let the children touch white of course, so . . .’
‘Oh, I—’ Sue stared at the triangles of leftover sandwiches her mother was already piling onto the fullest aluminium tray.
There were so many of them. Barely touched, really.
Sue looked at her mother.
Neat, shock-white hair, tidy lipstick, bright blue eyes, not at all red-rimmed as hers were. She looked well in fact. Her skin was still tanned from the trip to Florida where she’d taken to her role as ‘nanny granny’ with Dean, Katie and the children like a milkmaid to a butter churn. Hardly a surprise. In fact, many folk were surprised to hear Dean had a sister at all. Once Sue had married Gary, Bev had lost hope that her daughter might, one day, blossom into something wonderful and promising, ultimately giving into the poorly disguised fact that Dean was and always would be her favourite, along with his ‘catch of a wife’ and their two children.
Today, Bev wore a simple black dress from Wallis that she’d bought when Sue’s Uncle Jake had passed about ten years back. It still fit. Mostly. In fact, very little had changed about Bev through the years, save the colour of her hair. Suffice it to say, she’d not taken the journey from chestnut to white gracefully.
Sue’s eyes skidded off of her mother’s impatient expression and landed on her Uncle Steve. He was whistling in admiration at something on her brother’s phone who, when he noticed Sue looking, shot her a guilty look and pocketed the phone. Gary would’ve laughed and shouted across the room, What’s the score then, Dean-O?
Gary would’ve handled a lot of things better about today if it hadn’t been his funeral.
Sue tugged at a hangnail she hadn’t remembered having. ‘Perhaps we should leave the sandwiches out a bit longer. In case anyone who missed the service shows up.’
‘Sue, love.’ Her mother’s expression left little to the imagination. There’d be no one else showing up.
‘The agricultural show committee have the room booked from three-thirty and after that it’s Silver Surfers Book Club, so . . .’ Her mother was a member of the Silver Surfers and hadn’t enjoyed the latest book. Something depressing about a girl in a religious cult in America, she’d said in the car on the way here. One of those ‘worthy’ reads Carly Beacon always insisted everyone read when it was her turn to choose. Between that and her ‘endless quiches’ despite the decision to fine tune the meal to the book’s overriding theme or location, Carly Beacon was frequently the recipient of the sharper end of Bev’s tongue. Bev nodded at a smaller pyramid of sandwiches she’d briskly constructed. ‘These will make a nice meal later on. Filler anyway. Two meals even now that . . . well . . .’
Now that Gary was gone.
No one had quite managed to say it yet. Then again. He’d only died three weeks ago. It had passed in the blink of an eye. What with the shock and the paperwork and the scrambling to book the Royal Oak’s function room at such late notice, no one had had much time to wrap their heads round the fact Gary was dead, let alone absorb the surprise that he knew how to tie a noose.
If his father had been alive, Sue supposed he might’ve helped with the arrangements. Managed to find a way to contact Gary’s step-mum, who was off working on the cruise ships now, completely unaware he was gone. Perhaps if his father had been alive, this might not have happened at all.
Why were there so many leftover sandwiches?
She would’ve expected it at her own funeral. A small crowd. Fickle appetites. No shows. Oh, she had friends and such, this wasn’t a pity fest. There would’ve been some people. But she’d never had a large crowd she went around with. Not ones who’d fall apart at the seams if she died, anyway. When it came down to it, she and Gary had been a perfectly self-contained unit and that had always been enough. Perhaps they’d been a bit too self-contained. Outside of Gary’s foot- ball mates, they’d never really needed a ‘squad’ like Dean and Katie had. Ones they invited round for spontaneous barbecues and such. And anyway, Sue’d always thought they’d die at the same time. Of old age. Hand in hand. Not a care in the world about how many people did or didn’t show up at the crematorium and then, after, at the function room down the pub.
Sue scanned the faux ‘olde worlde’ oak-beamed room. It was the same place they’d had Gary’s fortieth. There’d been silly balloons and jolly handmade posters and shouting. All sorts of shouting. Jokes mostly, about the plumbing trade and Zimmer frames. They’d had hot food then. Mini fish and chips rolled up in newspaper cones and chicken wings with a guacamole type dip that had had a bit of a zip to it. There’d been quite a turn out for the birthday. More than had turned up today after the service, anyway. Cake and ice cream, she supposed, were a far better lure than hushed, awkward conversations over triangles of egg and cress.
Her sister-in-law, Katie, strode over from the small huddle of men she’d been presiding over. Katie never walked. She strode or jogged or, once, on her wedding day, glided. She pinched a sandwich between her fingertips then put it back down again, tipping her frown of displeasure into a benign smile as she gave Sue’s arm a fingertip squeeze. ‘Sue, love, this is a bit awks, but . . .’ she made a wincey face and then, ‘Are you still alright to look after the girls on Thursday?’
Sue frowned. Thursday. When was Thursday?
‘It’s just that it’s been a bit of a struggle to get paid help in at such late notice and now that . . . well . . .’
Now that Gary’s funeral was over? Was that what Katie was trying to say? Now that Gary’s funeral was over could they get back to normal please?
‘Of course,’ she said without entirely pinning down where Thursday fell in the realm of days beyond her dead husband’s funeral. She had work one of these days, but when exactly—
‘I completely understand if you’re not up to it, but I’ve got a regional meeting up in Manchester and Dean’s—’ Katie flicked a glance over in Sue’s brother’s direction, did a comedic little eye roll and laugh then, ‘Getting here today was quite the feat. Not that we wouldn’t have shown. Obviously. But you know what this time of year spells for Dean, don’t you?’
As it happened, Sue didn’t have to imagine what this time of year spelt for Dean because on the ride to the crematorium, Katie had filled them in on just how busy his accountancy recruitment agency was from January to April. The end of the financial year. Not quite as busy as Katie’s construction recruitment business was at the moment, but that was because her business picked up at the start of the financial year which meant, between the pair of them, they were always terrifically busy.
‘Excellent. Thanks so much, Sue.’ Katie was already turning to leave then, as an afterthought added, ‘If you feel like spending the night—’
‘—we’re always happy to make up the sofa in D’s office.’
‘Thank you,’ Sue said. She’d rather gouge her eyes out and that was saying something because she had always struggled with gory things. Whenever Gary wanted to watch a film with a certain amount of bloodshed, he’d had to do it on his own. Her heart felt hollow as it lurched off of her ribcage. Had that been the problem? Leaving Gary to confront all of his fears on his own? ‘I think I’d prefer to stay at home, if you don’t mind.’ Perhaps then she could figure out why her husband had killed himself. The Support Officer who had come over to her parents’ a handful of times had tried to explain that the ‘circumstances’ of Gary’s death weren’t unusual. She simply couldn’t wrap her head round that. They were definitely unusual to her. After all, she’d only put together tea, called her husband to join her and found him hanging from a rope just the once.
‘Of course,’ Katie said a bit too quickly. ‘You don’t have to stay if you don’t want to.’
‘It was very kind of you to offer.’
Katie obviously thought so too and went off to tell Dean the good news.
If Gary were here she would’ve added the story to their catalogue of Katie-centric tales that he told the lads down the pub – this pub – after the football. Remember the time at my funeral when Suey was freshly widowed and Katie checked to make sure she’d still be raising her children for her?
Oh, how they’d laugh.
And then Sue would go and do it anyway. Everyone’s favourite little helper.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Sue Young has never asked for much apart from a quiet life. She’s always been happy with her call centre job and dinner on the table at six o clock; that was until a tragedy tore her tranquility into little shreds.
With her life in tatters, Sue is persuaded to join a charity cycle ride led by Morning TV’s Kath Fuller, who is having a crisis of her own, and Sue’s self-appointed support crew are struggling with their own issues. Pensioner Flo Wilson is refusing to grow old, gracefully or otherwise, and a teen goth Raven Chakrabarti, is determined to dodge the path her family have mapped out for her.
Can the foursome cycle through saddle sores and chaffed thighs to a brighter future, or will pushing themselves to the limit prove harder than they thought?
Meet the Author:
Daisy Tate loves telling stories. Telling them in books is even better. When not writing, she raises stripey, Scottish cows, performs in amateur dramatics, pretends her life is a musical and bakes cakes that will never win her a place on a television baking show. She was born in the USA but has never met Bruce Springsteen. She now calls East Sussex home.
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