Welcome to Debut Diaries—One Year On, where SCBWI-BI members share their highs (hopefully lots of these) and lows (hopefully fewer of these) of the post-publication year. This month, Tizzie welcomes Susan Brownrigg, author of Gracie Fairshaw and the Mysterious Guest, to join her for afternoon tea.

After a busy post-debut year, it’s a chance for Susan to put her feet up and share her insights over a cuppa and some carefully chosen sweet treats, which reflect the mood of the months following life after debut. Has the reality lived up to the dreams? What do you wish you’d known before the first thrills of your book birthday became a distant memory? And are launch parties and school visits really that terrifying? 

Susan: July 2020 - Eccles cakes and a cup of decaf tea – Satisfying and comforting. 

Gracie Fairshaw and the Mysterious Guest is published in the UK! My lovely SCBWI friends share Blackpool-esque postcards on social media (my book is set in Blackpool, 1935.) 

Real-world launches are out because of covid so my seaside-themed dress stays in the wardrobe. Instead, my SCBWI pals suggest a virtual book launch with hats! I’m an introvert, I shy away from big gatherings and can really struggle with public speaking (though strangely I’m fine talking to children!) So, the zoom get together is perfect — a lovely, relaxed way to stay to adapt to the fact I’m now an author. I really enjoy chatting with my writer pals about my book and even do a short reading. 

My advice to other debuts is plan a launch that you are comfortable with. 

Susan's SCBWI friends with their Blackpool postcards

My day job is Learning Manager at a museum. Throughout 2020 I am either furloughed or working part-time from home, with only the occasional weekend on site. Switching from being full time is hard, but my author role feels like a lifeline. I push myself out of my comfort zone a lot – and say yes to lots of opportunities. 

In a COVID world, there is a definite move to online promotion. I soon learn putting together a ‘quick’ video actually takes a lot of time – especially when you have to juggle being the presenter and camera operator with trying to be audible over enthusiastic seagulls. Luckily, I can call on my dad to use his video-editing skills to turn my multiple takes into one seamless clip! Thanks Pops!


A highlight was a very early morning trip to Blackpool to record a Gracie Fairshaw detective trail for Get Blackpool Reading, a fantastic community project run by the National Literacy Trust. 

A pre-recorded Q&A at home for them doesn’t go quite so smoothly – when a panic over poor wifi signal sees me hurry downstairs and accidentally throw my laptop on the floor. Eek! 

I calmly switch to my work laptop and apologise for the slight delay! 

Afterwards I check my laptop. It was already old and very slow, but now it is clearly dying. Fortunately, all my writing is backed up to email etc but I do lose quite a lot of photos. Reminder to everyone – back up, back up, back up! The good news is that with all the money saved on having no social life for months I can treat myself to a replacement laptop. I promise myself I will not eat biscuits over the new one! 

August 2021 – cream slice – sweet and gone all too quickly. 

Hurrah! Some lockdown restrictions are lifted, and bookshops can reopen. I arrange visits to my favourite local independent shops to sign copies of my book. I feel like a real author when I see my book ‘in the wild’ for the first time. And I am over the moon when I spy copies of Gracie in the window of Blackpool’s Waterstones. 

I really enjoy chatting with the booksellers and find I am braver talking about my book when my blushes are hidden by a mask! 

Independent bookshops have been super supportive, and I am very grateful whenever they promote Gracie. I always try and buy a book when I visit – not that I need an excuse to add to my TBR pile! 

I am thrilled when Bounce Marketing include Gracie Fairshaw in their Staycation reads campaign. It is brilliant seeing Blackpool featured on the map as I am passionate about the importance of northern voices being represented in children’s literature. 

September/October – A garage forecourt Bakewell Tart – Sometimes you’re just in a rush. 

I am thrilled when Gracie Fairshaw and the Mysterious Guest is chosen by the GEC (Global Equality Collective) as a recommended book starring a character with a disability (Gracie has limb difference.) 

The wonderful CILIP Pen & Inc magazine (diversity and inclusion in children’s books) run an interview with me. It is an amazing opportunity to highlight the importance of representation – especially as a working-class writer. 

I am also invited to write a ‘Give Me 5’ feature by Books for Topics, and I am pleased that I can highlight other books featuring children with limb difference. 


Like lots of other debut authors, my first published book is far from being the first book I’ve written. I call those other books my ‘backlist.’  I am chuffed when Uclan say they want to publish one - a fantasy pirate adventure called Kintana and the Captain’s Curse (out in July 2021). Having book two already written should be easier, but I definitely still feel the pressure of making it is as good as it can be.


There’s a small hiccup involving a rogue PDF but at last my edits are done! 

I also finish writing a Gracie Fairshaw sequel – Trouble at the Tower – and ask my publisher if they would like to read it. Whoop! It’s a yes. 

All the usual nerves about submitting return! I follow the advice I’ve heard so many times and concentrate on another WIP while waiting for a decision. 

November/December - My mum’s coconut slice with blackcurrant jam – nostalgic and irreplicable


As part of the promotion for Gracie I was supposed do a week of school visits, but COVID put a stop to that. I decide to resurrect the plan – but by going virtual – like so much else in 2020! 

The superb Tony Higginson, a local independent bookseller, takes me under my wing. I have so much fun delivering my author talk and answering pupils’ fabulous questions – though I’m slightly disappointed not to have been asked if I am rich yet, ha ha. 

I feel a bit Wizard of Oz when I see photos of my face giant-sized projected on the wall! But these virtual school visits are a real reminder as to why I write. I love sharing my (long) journey to publication, talking about the effort it can take to become an author (or any other career) and how satisfying it is when you are finally published. 

I love encouraging children to read and write and to follow their dreams. 

After all dreams can come true. 



Susan Brownrigg is a Lancashire lass. A former journalist and sub-editor, she switched careers to heritage and wildlife education with roles at a Tudor hall, Georgian mansion house, mill apprentice house, science discovery centre and a zoo. She is now a Learning Manager at a museum. Susan's debut children's novel, Gracie Fairshaw and the Mysterious Guest, was published by Uclan Publishing in July 2020. Kintana and the Captain's Curse will be published by Uclan on July 1st, 2021. 


Twitter @suebmuseum 

Tizzie Frankish is a regular contributor to Words & Pictures.

Website: Tizzie Frankish
Twitter: @tizzief

Picture credits

Tea illustration by Coral Walker

Cover of Gracie Fairshaw by Jenny Czerwonka

Staycation map by Bounce Marketing

Give Me 5 image by Books for Topics

Pic of school by All Saints Catholic Primary 

All other photos by the author

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