Thursday, 21 January 2016

Interview with Sarah Stephenson

Hi Sarah

Welcome to Comet Babes Books.

Thank you for having me on your blog today

Can you tell me about you book Dougal’s Diary?
It’s about a dog dealing with the complexities of modern life and the unusual characters he comes across.
When Dougal leaves the quiet of Kent for Greenwich, he has no idea what sort of dog he’ll turn into, no clue about London life, or whether he’s chosen his owner well and landed on his paws. Dougal documents the first 18 months of his life through the highs of Wimbledon, the Olympic, birthday parties, bonfire night, playing a sheep in a nativity play and getting into trouble with his young mate, Jacob. And the lows of puppy classes, dealing with a chaotic owner and her eccentric friends, going on a booze cruise to Calais and coping with his own obsessions; his health, balls, eating socks and Sat Nav skills.  Dougal is convinced writing his diary, saved his sanity.

Can you tell us the inspiration for the story?
I do have a dog called Dougal. The moment I got him home, I realised he was very different from any I’d had before.  He was a lover of life and adventure: a social animal, a party goer – rather more human than dog. I felt his character was asking for a story.

What are your future book plans?
I’m planning a series of cozy crime thrillers set in various home in Britain, Europe and the states. Recipe for Death (working title) is set in Gloucestershire, another in Palm Beach and one in Mallorca

Tilly Carey, a recently trained chef is sent to work for various client. Her own family run through all the books, so does her assistant, a student from Tbilisi. A young man Scottish man, she meets on a train brings in the love interest.

Can you tell us about your writing journey?
I was told Dougal’s Diary would be hard to place. It didn’t fall into any particular genre. It wasn’t a non-fiction story about a cute Labrador, nor a fictional children’s book.
Luckily for me, Elaine Everest saw that Crooked Cat Publishing, a young ebook company was open for submissions and suggested I sent it in. Funnily enough, although they have a cat logo Crooked Cat had meant Crooked Category, and was originally for books that fell between the usual genres. They were the first people I sent it to.

How long have you been writing?
When I was young and couldn’t write, I made up stories that my brother and I acted out. They went on for days. As a young adult, I wrote long letters, followed by a diary which turned into a vast meandering, chaotic memoire. Then I started on a treatment for a film.  The hero was a hamster working in the kitchen of a recording studio.  It was a rodents and humans versus the enemy, story.  I hadn’t a clue what I was doing. Then, three years ago I was lucky enough for find a wonderful writing class, The Write Place run by writer, Elaine Everest. Thanks to Elaine I have a far better idea of what I’m meant to be doing.

Who are your writing hero's?
Edward Albee. Jane Gardam. Tom Sharp. Paul Scott. Alan Bennett. PD James. Angela Carter.

Which best selling books of all time do you wish you had written?
The Diary of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend or Shakespeare’s As You Like It.

What's on your desk/writing area?
Piles of exercise books filled with scribble that’s waiting to go onto my laptop. I write in long-hand first. A dictionary, thesaurus, pencils and pens.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to write a book?
Don’t dither about, just do it. Start small; a short story or even flash fiction. Nothing too daunting: something achievable. Join a class if you can and subscribe to a writing magazine. They are packed with useful information and loaded with competitions.

If you were invisible for a day what would you do?
I’d probably hang out with a bunch of homeless people in The Strand or under the arches at Waterloo. Hear their stories and find out exactly what their lives are like.

Can you share a peek at what you're writing at the mo?
We’re frequently told to write what you know. So, having spent the last twenty years as a free-lance chef; cooking in Britain, Europe and the States in the homes of the very wealthy. I am sending Tilly Carey, a young inexperienced chef down to a crumbling mansion in Gloucestershire to cook for a funeral. She arrives to a frosty reception and a quarrelling aristocratic family. Death occurs. Poison. Was she to blame? In order to clear her name and prevent further deaths, she needs to discover what’s really going on. Can she do it in time?

Best/worst thing about social media?

I’ve caught up with old friends from school and colleagues I worked with in France and other parts of the world. It’s great for keeping in touch.
It can take up hours of one’s time, become a dreadful duty or guilt-making machine. You feel bad if you haven’t posted something, read something or missed someone’s birthday.  I have a love /hate relationship with it.

Thank you for answering my questions today.

Has he chosen his owner well and landed on his paws? Dougal the Labradoodle puppy, a complete hypochondriac and Boris Johnson’s No 1 fan, arrives in Greenwich with great expectations. 

He longs to travel the world on Virgin Atlantic, dine at royal banquets and either become a superstar and party the night away or work as a doorman at the Savoy. 

Behaviour classes were never on his wish-list, neither were cliff-hanging experiences on the Thames, booze cruises to Calais or obsessions for eating socks. 

Can he survive life with a chaotic owner and her eccentric friends? Can he deal with his jealousy when a foster puppy comes to stay? And as for his dreams, will they ever come true?


  1. Fab interview Jo & Sarah! He's quite a character isn't he. Love this pic too. Wishing you every success Sarah and Dougal xx

    1. Thank you Karen, it's been a great week of fun interviews, sadly almost over.

  2. I learn something more about you every day, Sarah. What a great interview. Thank you, and thanks also to Comet Babe

  3. Thanks Natalie, It's been great fun. All the interviews so extremely different. And thanks indeed to Jo, for having me on her blog. It's been a privilege.