Abingdon comedy writer Sue Clark talks to Geri Krasteva about the long journey to her first ever novel.

A FEW months ago, Sue Clark’s go-to claim to fame was ‘dancing the conga with a James Bond’.

Now the Oxfordshire resident boasts her very first novel, which is partly set back in the 1960s, in the fashion heyday of Swinging London.

The former sketch writer, who has lived in Abingdon for more than 30 years with her husband David, tip-toed around writing a fiction book loosely inspired on her own glamorous experience for a long time, she says.

Before retiring from full-time work and devoting her nine-to-five hours to writing, the Abingdon resident came up with funny lines for the likes of stand-up comedian Lenny Henry, actress June Whitfield, presenter Roy Hudd and actor David Jason.

Mrs Clark was also a scriptwriter on popular TV series including Alas Smith and Jones, Weekending, The News Huddlines and The Jason Explanation.

She said: “My work has always revolved around writing, particularly comedy.

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“More recently I have also written local dramatic revues – again, all comedy stuff.

“So, although this is my first novel, it is definitely not my first foray into the genre.”

Alongside all that, she also had a more ‘conventional’ career as a PR, journalist, copywriter, guidebook author, a secretary, and even freelanced for a bit as a features writer at the Oxford Mail.

While Mrs Clark has never been in the spotlight herself, she spent her entire career rubbing shoulders with celebrities.

This was especially the case when she worked in a well-known American film company in central London in the 60s and 70s.

Some of the latest titles that Columbia Pictures is known for include Quentin Tarantino’s box office success Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Greta Gerwig’s film adaptation of Little Women.

It is these experiences that inspired Mrs Clark’s ‘Note to Boy’.

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The author said: “When I finally stopped working the usual nine-to-five, I decided that now it is the time to write a book.

“I had the idea for this novel in my head for a while, and thought it had to be humourous because that is all I know really.

“I feel that people need entertaining, especially in more recent times.

Oxford Mail:

“This is how the little jokes, the little quips and the characters just occurred to me, so I just went with the flow of it.”

In conversation, the cheerful writer casually slips in how she met not one, not two, but three James Bonds while she worked in the film industry.

The first – a young and dashing Sean Connery – she bumped into on the street on a rainy day in Soho.

Now, she fondly remembered babbling at him ‘like a crazy woman’.

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Then she met the second James Bond – George Lazenby – who she danced the conga with at a party.

Mrs Clark added: “Sadly, it was not a romantic dance.

“It was good fun, though not as glamorous as it sounds.”

David Niven was the last James Bond Mrs Clark met, who is also famously known for his role in the Pink Panther.

‘Note to Boy’ tells a story of faded fame and unlikely friendship, according to Mrs Clark.

The veteran writer assured her fans that there are ‘plenty of laughs’ in the novel about Eloise and Bradley, and added: “The story is about the mayhem that results when a once-famous and outrageous fashion guru teams up with a downtrodden and wily modern teenage boy.

“She wants her celebrity life back, he just wants a life.”

As the story is set in the 60s, Mrs Clark said she did ‘a great deal’ of research on the decade.

She said: “It made me remember all the good times I had around Carnaby Street in Soho.

Oxford Mail:

“My time there was filled with parties, music, fashion events and a lot of fun – London was in the centre of it all."

Since a conventional book launch was not possible during the coronavirus crisis, Mrs Clark’s publishers Unbound set up an online launch.

Supporters tuned in to watch her talk with BBC writer and fellow Abingdon resident Paul Mayhew Archer – most famous for co-writing the The Vicar of Dibley – on Thursday last week.

Mrs Clark said: “After waiting so long to write my first novel and get it out there, I am certainly not going to allow its publication to go uncelebrated.”

The Abingdon resident began writing Note to Boy almost five years ago but it took time to complete her first draft, find a publisher and get a crowdfunder going.

She explained part of the reason for the lengthy process: “I am not a fast writer by all means.

“It took me long time to find and partner with my publisher Unbound – I signed with them two years ago when I had already completed the work.

“It has taken me two to three years to write it but then a couple of years to find an agent and a publisher.

“But the story has been stewing in my head for much longer than that.”

Note to Boy is available now at Blackwell’s Bookshop in Oxford.