Friday, August 17, 2012



My guest, contemporary fiction author,Susan Buchanan. She hails from Scotland and is discussing using current events in novels.

I like to keep my stories current, so there will be elements mentioned, in order that it’s clear the events are contemporary. Generally speaking my novels can be read and are applicable to any contemporary time period, and they address the same issues, dilemmas and problems that people have been living through the ages.

Let’s look at Sign of the Times first.   When I finished writing it in 2008, Facebook had been around a few years and Twitter had just been born, but I hadn’t even heard of it back then. But I wrote the first draft of Tom’s chapters in 2003 and none of those social networking sites existed, so Tom used MSN Messenger for his correspondence  with Shirley. I thought about updating it, but I would have had to change so many other elements and it would have left a complex novel open to continuity errors, so left it as it was.

The twelfth character, Scorpio, Czeslawa is Polish. I introduced her, as I wanted to depict the changing demography of the UK and particularly Scotland. When I was growing up, there were very few European immigrants.  The majority were Italians who came across in the 50s and then had kids here, too. Now Poles top the European immigrants in Scotland, with entire supermarket aisles dedicated to Polish foodstuffs. Even the signage at Glasgow Airport is in both Polish and English now. I wanted to cover the difficulties of integration, language problems, racism, culture shock, retaining to a certain extent their own culture, whilst contributing to the community.

With Gemini, Lucy, the cardiologist, I created a character who was pretty ruthless and who had It all – looks, intelligence and a fabulous career, not to mention a devoted boyfriend.  It was my intention to convey a woman who was not only making it in a man’s world, but who was actually adopting, in many ways, male traits, whilst being distinctly feminine and sexy. Her actions are simply accepted as what some men do, but it would shock many people that women are also capable of it.  There are more Lucys out there than we know!

In Oscar’s chapters, his desire to set up his own estate agency is dampened by the problems he faces due to the current state of the housing market.  Unfortunately In real life, this poor situation hasn’t changed in the past five years…

When we meet Antonia, I hoped to convey the pressures of managing a current-day call centre, as well as the day-to-day running of it.  I also wanted to highlight the trend of closing call centres and moving the work overseas.

Now moving on to The Dating Game, (released later this fall).  Early on I refer to the financial collapse and the recession inadvertently. Bankers all of a sudden became persona non grata after being the golden boys for so long. The difficulty in finding a job in the current climate, no matter the experience of the candidate is also covered, as the protagonist, Gill, has her own Recruitment Agency.  The novel shows how Recruitment Consultants don’t have it easy either, in the current climate - too many candidates, too few vacancies. They have become the new persona non grata.

Part of The Dating Game is set in Barcelona and the ongoing debate over whether Gaudi’s masterpiece La Sagrada Familia church should be finished or not by contemporary architects is discussed. (It’s due to be completed in 2026). Of even more interest to everyone is the issue of pickpocketing in the Spanish city and how international gangs come from as far afield as Colombia to target the city.

The whole premise of the novel  - Gill joining a professional dating agency  - is very topical.  There is an increasing trend for people of all ages and walks of life, to look for a partner by means other than face to face, whether via internet or by way of an introduction agency.
So, I suppose, yes, I like to keep things topical. I am writing contemporary fiction, so it makes sense that I include topical themes and refer to current affairs that are relevant, like the recession. I haven’t mentioned the Olympics, but that’s because The Dating Game is based largely in Scotland, or I would have had to mention them!

  • Do you feel it's important to include current affairs and events in contemporary novels or do you prefer to leave it ambiguous as it may date the work?



Twelve people. Twelve star signs.

Sagittarius - Holly, a travel writer, visits Tuscany to research her next book. Seeking help when her car breaks down, she gets more than assistance when Dario, a vineyard owner, puts temptation in her path. Disappearing without explanation, he proves elusive. Bruised, Holly tries to put it behind her until a chance encounter brings her feelings to the surface again.

Capricorn – Holly’s fiancĂ©, Tom misses her while she is in Italy and turns to an internet chat room for solace. His construction business is under threat, but could foul play be at work?

Gemini - Holly’s sister, Lucy, a serial man-eater finally meets her match, which puts her long-term relationship and career in jeopardy. Cheating she discovers, can have devastating consequences.

Libra - Holly’s uncle Jack, an eminent prosecutor, juggles a difficult teenage son with his high profile career and finds himself lacking. When his son’s school work starts slipping, he decides he needs to take control, but it’s not long before the balls all come tumbling down and Jack finds his family on the wrong side of the law.

One event binds them all…EXCERPT CHAPTER

Susan Buchanan lives in Central Scotland with her partner, Tony. Sign of the Times is her first novel, published Mar 2012. Her second novel is expected to be released late 2012.

You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm thankful this is one element I don't have to worry about. I imagine it's difficult deciding what to put in and what to leave out.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Alex, writing Sci-fi is freeing in that regard.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Sooz, Welcome to over coffee. I doubt I can offer sunshine--we're having some hefty rains right now and we need them--but I can offer plenty of coffee and goodies. :-)

As for your question, I tend not to date my work with specific dates or events, although I do use some current events where the story calls for it.

Jo said...

What I am staggered about is the fact that so many Polish people are ending up in Scotland. That surprises me.

The novels sound somewhat complicated but interesting.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Alex, I meant to tell you thank you! The show I was trying to remember the title of on your blog last Friday was The Pretender! I enjoyed that show!

Jo--Fresh blood, lol! I have no idea why they end up in Scotland. Maybe it has to do with government regulations on immigration?

Maybe Sooz knows the answer, it's her country. :-)

Mason Canyon said...

Susan, as a reader I enjoy it when authors include current affairs and events in their stories. As bad as it sounds, it's a great way to see how things use to be. Your book sounds intriguing. Wishing you much success.

Sia, another interesting author and a book I've got to add to my ever-growing list. Have a great weekend.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

To ground a story in a particular place and time, I think it needs an authentic background, and that would include current events, local customs, and the like. The trick lies in making that information a natural part of the story, and not just an information dump. Sounds like a terrific book.

Susan Buchanan said...

HI Alex, yes, I can imagine you don't have this issue in Sci-fi.
Jo/Sia - re volume of Poles in Scotland. This is relatively easy to understand in a way. With the opening up of the EU (European Union) many nations, including Poland were free to move to other countries within the EU and take up work there. When the trend first happened, probably 10 years ago, Poles could earn five times what they earned back home. I think in the 90s/early 2000s, Poland saw 13% of its population move overseas. Now, wages are near parity and with the worldwide recession, less Poles are moving here and many are moving back. But when I wrote the novel in 2007/8, the trend was still for them to move here!
Mason, thanks for your kind comments and yes, you're right. It shows us how things used to be. This will be even more true in my third book, due out early 2013.
Hi Susan, great name by the way! Yes, I agree, it can't just be narrative for narrative's sake. It has to be a natural integration.
thanks everyone for all your comments and thanks Sia, again, for having me on your great blog, Sooz