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Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Susan Roebuck to Alternative-Read Can you share the blurb for your book, Perfect Score?
Feckless, exasperating Alex Finch is a rich, handsome and talented singer/songwriter who longs for two things: a career as a professional rock singer, and to have his love for Sam Barrowdale reciprocated. But drifter Sam's two aims are simply to earn enough money to pay his sister's medical bills and to hide from the world his reading/writing and speech disability. At this time the word "dyslexia" is generally unknown so to most people he's just a "retard". From the severe knocks life's dealt him, Sam's developed a tough outer coating and he has no time for a spoilt, selfish guitar player.
Despite his defects, Alex's love for Sam never wavers and when Sam unexpectedly disappears, Alex begins a somewhat bungling quest to find him, only to discover that Sam has a fearful enemy: Alex's powerful and influential yet sociopathic uncle.
As Alex spirals downwards towards alcoholism, many questions need answering. Just why did Alex's evil uncle adopt him at age eleven yet deny him any affection? And what's the mystery behind Alex's father's death?
Both seem to face unbeatable odds. Are they doomed to follow separate paths forever?
1. What inspired you to write the story of Alex and Sam?
A couple of years ago I was staying near the site of the famous 1969 Woodstock Music Festival and I became a huge fan of Bob Dylan so I bought all his music and his biographies. He fascinated me. Then I read “On the Road” by Kerouac and I adored it. I know that’s an earlier period but it interested me too. I also read Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” and couldn’t get that kid’s voice out of my head (maybe Alex talks a bit like Holden).
You probably don’t recognize any of that in “Perfect Score”, but that’s how it started, I promise – well it does have twenty-seven versions!
2. Who is your favourite character and why?
It’s Sam. He had to overcome such odds to become the tough-guy he is that I really admire him. I know he didn’t change much throughout the book (Alex is the one who turned into a different person) but I just loved him from the start. I got scared at one point in the book because I had his name as Sam Riverdale and then realized he had the same initials as me! So I changed his surname to Barrowdale. I don’t think I was writing about myself (anyway I don’t have dyslexia and nor did I have a terrible upbringing!) Mind you, I think I enjoyed writing Alex’s parts in the book – I really wanted to get his voice right and I think I did – he’s such a twit.
3. What was the most difficult challenge you came across when writing Alex and Sam's story?
I really think you’re going to be sorry you asked this. As I said, I have twenty-seven versions of the book - not complete rewrites but major changes. It didn’t start off to be an M/M book but it just evolved like a baby evolves, like the world evolves, like a language… As you’ve not doubt already guessed, I’m a terrible plotter and just let it all come out. I did stick “post-its” around the edge of my computer to make sure the dates all coincided and I wasn’t a year or two out anywhere. But, having complete character outlines, like where they went to school? Forget it.
I’m afraid I went against all the writing rules: I have a prologue, an epilogue, I have alternating chapters from first person POV and third person POV. But all reviewers have said it works very well. So the major challenge was trying to get into Sam’s head (he’s third-person because he’s so muddled) and getting Alex’s way of speaking just right (after all, I’m not American). One reviewer recently said it was “an atypical adult read”. She got that one right.
4. Do you have a favourite quote from Perfect Score?
Not really. I liked Mule Palmer and he kept saying things like, “Well, stop the world” and “He’s a piece of work, right enough” and “Only half-drunk? Must be reforming”. But I think my favourite would be the song that Alex writes for Sam when Alex is at his lowest point: “Come Back”.
5. If you were to win a medal for anything in the world, what would it be?
Oh, that’s a good one. My Dad’s and Grandfather’s medals for bravery in the 1st and 2nd World Wars are enough medals for me. I’d just like lots of people to read this book and realise that we can look at gay people in different ways and that this world can be worthless at times, but there are many worthwhile people living in it. That’s all I want.
6. Who are your preferred authors and can you recommend any books to our readers?
I’m afraid I don’t read as I write – reading doesn’t influence me much. But I do love Alan Hollinghurst’s “The Line of Beauty”, anything by Michael Cunningham. I’ve just read and very much enjoyed Keta Diablo’s “Where the Rain Is Made”. I also like the Australian writer: Tim Winton. You see? It’s very eclectic. Oh – I’ve also just read Ally Blue’s "Oleander House". Loved that.
7. Some great book suggestions. And I have Keta’s already in my TBR pile! I will definitely look up the other authors, too. Thanks!
Can you tell us about any new projects you are working on?
It’s already up and going. My new novel is called, at the moment, “The Deepest Secret” and it’s set between the UK and Portugal. The MC will have a special ability (which I’m not going to tell you yet). At the moment she’s a girl, but who knows how she’ll end up. There’s going to be a female bullfighter in it too, but she’ll be a very, very bad person indeed. There’ll be the usual corruption (in politics this time) and some very odd people.
8. Sounds a lot of fun! Where can my readers find out more about you and your new book?
My page on Awe-Struck Publishing has excerpts and a bio: http://www.awe-struck.net/books/perfect_score.html , or there’s my blog which has all the news: http://lauracea.blogspot.com (lauracea is the name for the laurel forests in Madeira which seriously need saving).
Thank you for taking the time out to be interviewed, Susan. It's a pleasure to meet you. Good luck in all you do.
Check out my review of Perfect Score here!
In her own words:
I was born and educated in the UK but she now lives in Portugal . She has taught at various colleges and institutions in Portugal and her interest in dyslexia started with a discussion over lunch with a colleague and friend.
She has traveled widely through The States and believes that "being born American is like winning the lottery of life". If she could live anywhere, she'd live in the Catskills in Upstate New York.
Perfect Score covers such matters as the problems of dyslexia in the 1960s.
One review (Rainbow Reviews) said they'd never read such a beautiful romantic ending.