Q&A with Sibby Spencer

Today I’m joining the blog tour for The Heart Ladder. I’m sharing my Q&A with the author with thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on the tour and to Sibby Spencer for answering my questions!

Have you always wanted to write?

Yes. I wrote poetry and stories from a very young age. I often sat and wrote stories at primary school when I should have been doing my maths! Writing a book always felt like a mammoth task, so when I finally did it was a big achievement for me. 

What were your previous jobs? Have they helped you with your writing process?

I have had lots of different jobs, including dinner lady, sales assistant, magazine editor, primary school teacher, Panama hat seller. Consequently, I’ve worked in different settings and got to know all sorts of people. I think just living and breathing, as well as having as many varied experiences in life as you can, helps with the writing process. 

What was your inspiration for The Heart Ladder?

The inspiration for this came sometime in the late 90’s when my friend and I did a bit of writing together for fun. She wrote a bit and I wrote a bit of a very short piece of writing – but within that the character of Jacob, and the idea for The Heart Ladder, was born. 

How do you construct your characters? Do they have traits of people you know?

None of my characters (I hope) are recognisable as people in my life. I don’t consciously give characters familiar traits but I think it’s inevitable at a sub-conscious level that they might have some. Also, I think it’s about empathy. I’m definitely an empath, which means I can sense how people are feeling and get underneath their layers. This works with characters too. Sometimes they might react how I have perhaps reacted to a similar situation, for example. Other times, I intuit how they themselves would react – as though they really exist. Which they do – at least in my imagination! 

What does your writing process look like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I get blocked really easily, particularly in the form of procrastination, which is why I feel called to help people with creative blocks – they can be so frustrating and hard to tackle. Having a deadline can sometimes help me get my arse into gear! 

I do have a plot outline, but between the main points of that plot I allow for things to flow out – which they do in really surprising ways sometimes. I write the ending very early on, and I don’t write chronologically – rather, I piece all the bits together like a patchwork at the end.

How did you research? Did you enjoy it?

I researched online, particularly about the Vietnam War. I read old newspaper and magazine articles and accounts from soldiers. Images and films can also help with research as they give you a feel for events or times in history. Writing about places you’ve never been to is scary, and even more scary is writing about something like a war which has touched so many people’s lives. With anything you write that you haven’t experienced yourself, you want to get your facts right and also honour other people’s memories. Thankfully, I have had some positive feedback from readers in the US who felt that my representation of the war was authentic.

Who are your favourite writers? Are you influenced by them?

I have so many writers that I admire. I love David Mitchell’s work, particularly Cloud Atlas. It’s so clever the way he plays with timelines and writes with such different voices, so original. Michel Faber is awesome – and he is such a versatile and highly skilled writer. I’m a huge Matt Haig fan, not just for his books but for his honesty about mental health. I love Raymond Carver’s short stories; he’s the master of showing not telling! I love Madeline Miller’s Circe and the fierceness and tenderness of her title character. Pat Barker, Susanna Clark, Roald Dahl, I could just go on and on… I think all writers must be influenced by stuff they read – I think reading is just essential as it makes you a better writer because you have something to aim for, plus it reminds you of the magic and power of a well-written story. 

If you could invite three people, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be and why?

Prince, so I could sit in the presence of a musical god, and maybe touch his skin (am I getting creepy now?!)

Damien Dempsey for pretty much the same reasons as above. 

My Auntie Lesley, who died of Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in 2015. I’d like to hear her voice again, and tell her how wonderful she is.

Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with and why?

Suella Braverman (British Home Secretary), because she is destroying the rights of refugees and anyone seeking asylum in the UK – and I would find it hard not to punch her. 

Who would play the main character/s in a film version of The Heart Ladder?

I have given this quite a lot of thought, and I even have the soundtrack to the film. Dan is a tricky one but I’m thinking maybe Louis Hoffman, or Jack O’Connell – or someone totally unknown might be nice too. Possibly Romola Garai or Billie Piper for Fiona, Gillian Anderson for Faith and Guy Pearce for Jacob. The role of Quinn I promised to my actor friend, Mike! 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I work for myself, so spare time and work time tend to merge, but I like to hang out with my husband and two boys, and my friends. I love reading, taking courses, going to see a film or a play, dancing or singing to great music, getting out in nature and taking the occasional wild swim. I run with our dog two or three times a week.

What is next for you?

I am in the middle of writing my second novel, Ocean, but it’s been at a standstill for a while. Instead, I’ve been writing poetry, co-hosting a podcast called Whispers of the Soul and running two book clubs. I’m launching a course in May called ‘Channelling Your Creative Spirit’. I’m excited to be collaborating with my artist friend (@kittenboyart) and we’re putting on an art & poetry exhibition in Derby later this year. I’ve also written and recorded two monologues, one of which was featured on BBC Radio Derby, so I’d like to do more of that. I’m hoping to finish Ocean by the end of this year. 


Book? The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Film? Donnie Darko

Band/Singer? Damien Dempsey

TV show? Dark

Colour? Turquoise

Place? Greek islands

Biscuit? Shortbread


The Heart Ladder is available from Amazon.

You can follow the rest of the blog tour here:

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