Radio is where she first started out, but renowned broadcaster Sue Cook has found many ways to make herself heard. Sue knows how to tell a good story and she is coming to Verulam Writers' Circle's Get Writing Conference, at the University of Hertfordshire this month, to share some of the tricks of the trade.
Known to TV viewers for shows such as Crimewatch and Holiday, and the annual Children in Need, Sue has got her point across succinctly in a number of formats from radio jingles to consumer shows and travel articles, to name just a few.
More recently, she has turned her hand to writing fiction. Her first novel On Dangerous Ground was published by Hodder Headline in paperback in November 2006 and her second, Force of Nature, followed in 2009. She is currently adapting On Dangerous Ground for film and beginning work on her third novel.
For Sue, words have always been a passion.
“I love writing. It was the only thing I was praised for at primary school,” says Sue. “I enjoyed writing stories and I’d often gaze out of window and imagine things and how situations might develop. I love words and the origin of words and language.”
Born in Ruislip and schooled in Ickenham, Sue started out in commercial radio in 1974 and joined Capital Radio before the station went to air. She was headhunted by the BBC in 1978 where she presented several shows including Radio 4’s You and Yours, Nationwide and Breakfast Time. In the summer of 1984, she and Nick Ross launched Crimewatch UK, which she presented until 1996. Other popular shows Sue has hosted include Daytime Live and the Chelsea Flower Show.
For me, the writing process is like a muscle you have to exercise. I used to set myself a target of 5,000 words a weekSue Cook
Having had such a stellar career, you’d never guess Sue suffered from bouts of nerves.
“I was actually quite shy. I did sing in a band. In public, my hands would be shaking like mad but I do love the challenge of live broadcasting. You’re in control and I love being depended on and coming through to people.”
As well as producing fiction and journalism, Sue contributes to The Write Lines, an information and resource website for aspiring writers. The Write Lines began in 2009 as a four-part programme for BBC Oxford on how to becoming a published writer.
Sue began writing in earnest after leaving Crimewatch but at first she was undecided whether to begin with a novel or a film script.
“On Dangerous Ground was set in Vietnam and it was so filmic that I put the first eight chapters of the novel in the back of drawer and tried to write a screenplay. Then Hodder took it up as a two-book deal in 2002 and I really had to concentrate. I went back to Vietnam in 2004 to finish it off.”
After writing two books, Sue is now settling down to work on book number three at her new home in Belsize Park, which she shares with her husband, film director Ian Sharp.
“We’re just moving house and I’m looking out of the window at my writing den. At the moment, book number three is just scribbles in notebooks and I need to sit down and get it typed up. For me, the writing process is like a muscle you have to exercise. I used to set myself a target of 5,000 words a week as I’m someone who needs a measure. I’d write 1,000 words a day and then read and review the next day. I’d often annihilate what I’d written before, so it’s always two steps forward and one step back.”
I wonder if the less frenetic world of books suits Sue more than the hubbub of live TV?
“I miss the adrenaline rush and the office community, the cups of tea and going for drinks after work. Working from home is quite hard to cope with but at least we have Twitter – it’s how all us authors can get together when we feel in need of a water cooler moment.”
Get Writing 2011, de Havilland Campus, University of Hertfordshire on Saturday, February 19, 9am-6pm. Details: www.vwc.org.uk/getwriting www.thewritelines.co.uk