Can't Get You Out of My Head by Sue Shepherd
CAN'T GET YOU OUT OF MY HEAD
BY SUE SHEPHERD
A moving and funny story about sisters, secrets and second chances.
Twin sisters Beth and Lisa do everything together, so what will happen now they both want a life of their own?
Beth has a secret she's kept from everyone except her sister. But it's time to get on with her life. Could a seductive Italian, a smooth-talking charmer or backpacking around Australia be the answer?
Lisa feels she's always lived in her sister's shadow. Maybe now it's her turn for some fun, whatever the consequences. But will her drunken antics land Beth in trouble?
And when it comes to the crunch, will one sister have to give up what she wants so the other can have what she needs?
I'm delighted to welcome Sue Shepherd along to my blog today! Thanks so much Sue for coming along and answering my questions!
Can you tell me a little bit about your new book, Can’t Get You Out of My Head, in a couple of sentences?
‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ is a romantic comedy. It’s a moving and funny story about sisters, secrets and second chances.
Why did you make Beth and Lisa twins rather than just sisters?
Good question. But one I can’t answer. The reason for them being twins will become apparent as the reader makes their way through the book. You know me, Katherine – things are not always as they first appear!
There are a few stories featuring protagonists about twins. Why do you think we are so intrigued by twins and relationships between siblings?
We have such close relationships with our brothers and sisters. In most cases, as we grow up, we share a home, and often a bedroom. And yet, despite having similar DNA, some siblings just don’t get along. I find the twin relationship the most fascinating, and I’ve always wanted to explore it further. Babies are usually alone in the womb, so, I wonder what it must be like to share that very first part of life with another person. This is the prologue from the book –
Right back at the beginning. When they were smaller than kidney beans, floating gently in a sea of amniotic fluid. When there was no control to be had over the tiny limbs they’d so recently sprouted. That was when they met. Lisa bobbed past, and, even though they couldn’t see, they couldn’t smile and they most definitely couldn’t wave, they acknowledged each other.
Long before Beth met her mum, her dad, or her special nanna, first and foremost – she met Lisa.
Do you have any siblings? What sort of relationship do you have with your siblings?
Yes, I have one sister. The book is dedicated to her. Not because we are anything like Beth and Lisa, but because she’s known me ‘forever’. There’s only eighteen months between us. We are no longer close geographically, but we are very close emotionally. Being older than me, she used to be in charge. But, at some point during our childhood, I grew taller, and I don’t think she’s ever forgiven me. 😊
If you could choose a fictional sister from any book, who would it be and why?
I really like the books written by Marian Keyes about the Walsh sisters; Watermelon, Rachel’s Holiday, Anybody Out There and Angels. I’ve always loved the way Marian writes, and these books are my particular favourites of hers. They present such a warm family.
The blurb for the book asks whether the sisters can really live without each other. Which person, book or belonging could you not live without?
Well, excluding the obvious – my husband, our two sons and our dog – I’d have to say that I would struggle to live without writing fiction. I’m always in the process of writing a book. As soon as the first draft is with my publisher, I’m already thinking about the next. I just love creating people and relationships. I came to writing quite late, I was in my forties. But, now I know how much pleasure it gives me, I honestly can’t imagine a world where I don’t write.
I love the titles to your books – they are always catchy and capture my attention. Do you come up with the title yourself? At what stage in the writing or planning of the novel does the title come to you?
Thank you. I’m glad you like them. I do love a slightly quirky title. All of my books started life as works in progress with very different names.
I knew I needed to change the title for my first book because the one I’d been using just didn’t quite feel right. Then, it occurred to me that the real story was not the angels but was actually the secrets that all three main characters were keeping. So, I settled on the title - ‘Doesn’t Everyone Have a Secret?’
The title for my second novel, ‘Love Them and Leave Them’, was a collaboration with my publisher. Being about parallel lives, the book tells two stories, one where one of the characters loves, and one where, through no fault of their own, the same character leaves.
As soon as he read the first draft of my third book, my publisher suggested the title ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’, and I instantly loved it. The very next day I heard Kylie Minogue in the background on two separate TV programmes. On both occasions she was singing “La, la, la – la, la, la, la, la …” And, I just knew it was meant to be!
And talking of planning… Your stories often have multiple characters and narrators, or plot lines that are cleverly interwoven. Do you plan your stories in detail first?
Thank you. Another compliment! In the beginning, I don’t plan at all. I don’t know the end of the book until I’m quite far into it. I simply prefer it that way. As the story unfolds for me, it’s like reading a book I really enjoy, but which I ultimately have control over. As Terry Pratchett said – “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”
My publisher is also my editor, and after he’s seen the first draft, he usually has some brilliant observations to make about the storyline. My books are so much better once he’s involved. When I get to the second draft, that’s when I start making detailed notes, to be sure the story makes sense and that all the characters are where they’re supposed to be. My second book took a lot of checking, because it was two stories running simultaneously. ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ was a little different again. It covers a much longer time period than my previous books, and I needed to write quite a detailed timeline.
What did you enjoy most about writing Can’t Get You Out of My Head?
Part of the book is set in Australia. After a traumatic event when the twins are seventeen, they decide to go on a backpacking trip with their friend, Michelle. I, myself, went to Australia (A good few years earlier than the twins). I spent a year living and working there between 1990-91. Writing that section gave me a great excuse to dig out all my old photos.
What’s next? Are you working on anything else at the moment?
I’m now writing my fourth novel. I’ve decided that what I like most about writing fiction is the twists and turns, and the revelations. So, I thought I’d try writing something a bit different. Book four is hopefully going to be a little darker. I’m aiming for it to be more of a psychological thriller. Watch this space though, knowing me, it could well finish up as another romcom with a twist!
Thanks so much Sue for coming along and answering my questions with such detail! It's been such a pleasure to hear more about 'Can't Get You Out of My Head' and your writing life!
I do enjoy Sue Shepherd's books - they are always a little bit different! They always have something quirky about them which keeps them light and upbeat even when some of the scenes are more moving or tackling something more serious. Shepherd refers to Marian Keyes as a writer she enjoys and there are definite echoes of this author in her writing.
This story has a really interesting and original premise which Shepherd then uses to explore more universal issues. Beth and Lisa are twins but there is something unique about their relationship which I can't reveal without it being a complete spoiler - which makes talking about the book a bit tricky! However, what works well is that despite being twins and with lives that are completely interlinked, they are also contrasting characters. Beth is more cautious, quieter and takes less risks. Lisa is forever encouraging her, spurring her along and making the reader smile with her sarcastic retorts and frank speaking. Their relationship is complicated; a partnership but not always an equal or healthy one.
This is a light, engaging, upbeat read. Shepherd explores ideas and themes about siblings, family relationships, independence, risk taking and love. The dynamics between the characters feel real and convincing and the dialogue is particularly effective. There is a great romantic plot line and the novel spans many years which gives the reader a chance to really get to know Beth and Lisa and see them through all the key moments in their lives. There are some moments of shock, drama, grief and sadness but there is also an underlying message of hope and the lengths we go to for those we love.
Some readers may find they have to take a slight leap of faith with the premise of this story but I was happy to do this. As I said, Shepherd likes to take a slightly different direction with her stories and I liked the idea of duality and the bond between twins which is explored here.
Can't Get You Out of My Head is a quick, fun read and I'm really grateful for the advance copy from the publisher and the opportunity to be on the Blog Tour!
Born in Harrow, Sue went on to spend several years living in Hertfordshire before selling up and taking a leap of faith across The Solent. She now resides on the picturesque Isle of Wight with her husband, two sons and a standard poodle. Her passions in life are: her family, writing, the seaside and all the beautiful purple things her sons have bought her over the years. Happiest when hunched over her laptop with a cup of tea on the go, Sue loves to create stories with plenty of heart and laughs, but she makes sure to include a bit of naughtiness too. Ask Sue to plan too far in advance and you'll give her the heebie-jeebies and she'd prefer you not to mention Christmas until at least November!