Tea and Talk at Sally Lunn’s with Serena Fairfax

Sally Lunns Tea Houseserena_fairfaxWelcome Serena to Tea and Talk at Sally Lunns, it’s lovely to see you here in Bath today.

This is a treat in more ways than one. A scrumptious tea in Georgian Bath, following where Jane Austen did not fear to tread.  The last time I visited this architectural gem was ages ago when I came with a boyfriend who had a job interview scheduled. I wandered around sight seeing whilst he underwent a gruelling afternoon being asked a lot of trick questions. He didn’t get the job – the feedback being unsuitable as lacking in entrepreneurial ambition although he eventually ended up employing himself with outstanding success!160bulbul

Now that we are settled and waiting for our food to arrive could tell me a little about yourself? 

I spent my childhood in India. My father was an international businessman (I kind of persuaded myself that was his cover story and that he was really a secret agent!)  so wherever he was posted –  we followed. Then I was sent to boarding school in England – a really fun place with inspiring staff- midnight feasts in the dorm etc – and thence to University where I read law. Joined a large London firm and am still in the day job!  wilful_fate_160

When did you start writing and what was it that made you decide to be an author?

There were the usual juvenile compositions  but I started writing category romances in the early 1990s when I heard Mills & Boon were looking for new authors ( I’ve not been able to crack that nut!) Robert Hale published my first two and they went into large print. Then nothing for ages, as I was busy earning a living. When I’d laboured sufficiently in the vineyard, I became eligible for a Sabbatical so grabbed it and not being someone who does things by halves, traded bricks and mortar for a houseboat, dusted off a mothballed typescript from the bottom drawer that eventually morphed into WHERE THE BULBUL SINGS which I self-published as an e-book and hard copy.

in_the_pink_160 (1)And what was your route to publishing?

Well, like true love it didn’t run smooth! More downs than ups but always exciting and challenging. Being an indie – author is like setting off on a journey without a compass or road map. There are unknown perils and pitfalls but ultimately there’s the real pleasure of unchartered waters and a safe haven.

You have written five books, all different.  Was that a conscious choice or did the inspiration for each just strike and make you think ‘yes, this is what I’ll write next?’

Six at the last count. Four – STRANGE INHERITANCE; PAINT ME A DREAM; GOLDEN GROVE and WILFUL FATE are unashamedly 50,000 word romances. WHERE THE BULBUL SINGS is a sprawling saga of 150,000 words that cried out to be told and IN THE PINK   (40,000 words ) is  an experiment and quite different from the others.  I can’t say it was a conscious choice  as it depends on what mood I’m  in when type that first sentence. It’s capable of luring one down an entirely different path.golden_grove_160

What is your advice for would-be writers?

I wouldn’t presume to give advice, as I’m not a household name.  All I can say is enjoy what you’re doing, keep b—-g on and drink lots of red wine.

If you could change one thing in your life, what would that be?

I’d like to experience a process that would render me invisible. That would be amazing because you’d be able to everything people normally only say about you behind your back and don’t dare to say to your face! Also I could happily gatecrash  celeb dos  and no one would be the wiser.

paint_me_a_dream_160And lastly, who would you most like to meet and why?

That’s a difficult one. If I’m allowed to time travel I’d choose William Harvey (he of the circulation of the blood) a brilliant, short, rather irascible man whose innovative theory was truly revolutionary and impacted hugely on modern biology and anatomy. He became known as the person who arrived to a great proficiency in Cat and Dog cutting.

Many thanks Serena for coming along today and giving such a great interview, it was lovely to meet you.

strange_inheritance_180

You can learn more about Serena and her novels by clicking on the social network links below.

Website      http://www.serenafairfax.com/
Blog         http://www.serenafairfax.com/serena_fairfax_author_blog/
Email:       info@serenafairfax.com
Linkedin     http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/serena-fairfax/4a/852/a67
Twitter      http://klout.com/user/Sefairfax?n=tw&v=connect_twitter
Facebook     http://www.facebook.com/serenafairfax

Tea and Talk at Sally Lunn’s with ‘Torn’ Writer Gilli Allan

Sally Lunns Tea House319047_10200185805234291_856254877_n - Copy (2)

Welcome Gilli, lovely to have you here at Sally Lunns

Hello, Jo. Thank you for asking me out to tea.  I love Bath. It’s only 45 minutes down the road from me, so whenever I visit I always wonder why I don’t do it more often.

My first question as always is to ask a little bit about you. 

I’m married, with one son.  After art college I did a variety of jobs.  I was a shop assistant in several West End department stores, selling wigs, shoes, children’s fashions and accessories. I have also been a beauty consultant and a bar-maid, and once did a job which involved spotting American tourists in London and persuading them to go on a coach tour, that culminated in a free lunch at the Hilton. There they had to endure a high pressure pitch selling real-estate in Florida. I then found my dream job as an illustrator, in advertising.  More recently I have been a school governor, a contributor to local newspapers, and a driving force behind the establishment of a community shop in my village.  I still regularly attend a life-class.

Gloucestershire seems to be a popular choice for novelists.  How long have you lived there and what attracted you to the county?

Gloucestershire is indeed a popular location for novelists. (We are also awash with ‘celebrities’, as well as various members of the royal family. Not that I do any hob-nobbing, you understand!) I live in a village near Stroud, which is situated in the Cotswold Hills, and to name a few writerly names, Jilly Cooper, Mo Hayder and Katie Fforde all live within a few miles of me.

But I didn’t choose to live here.  My husband and I both originate from the South East of England. In 1988, when an out-of-the-blue job offer came for my husband, we’d neither of us ever set foot in the county, but it was too good an opportunity to turn down and all these years later we don’t regret the move.  We live near the head of a beautiful valley, and we back onto fields where cattle are grazed, and where we often see deer and rabbits. Buzzards glide overhead and our garden is regularly visited by a local pheasant, whom we call Jason (don’t ask), and one morning this week we watched a fox jump over our back wall and nose about for a few minutes.

When did the writing bug first bite?

There are two answers to this question – depending on whether you mean writing as a hobby or writing with the serious intention of being published.

I was ten, or thereabouts, when my fifteen year old sister began to write a Regency Romance.  The notion that it was possible to write the story you wanted to read had never before occurred to me, but it truly was a light-bulb moment.  My sister actually finished her novel, but my imagination and energy failed after only three or four illustrated pages of a small format notebook. But the writing seed had been planted and I continued with the hobby through my teenage.

But I never took seriously the idea of writing as a profession. After all, writers were clever, educated people.  I was neither.  I wasn’t a star pupil at school. I wasn’t even particularly outstanding in English.  I left at 16 to go to Art College.  In my early adult life I stopped writing altogether.  My career was in advertising, where I worked as an illustrator.  It was only after having my son, when I wanted to find something I could do at home to earn money, that the idea of writing, this time with the serious intent of getting published, resurfaced.

And what was the very first novel you wrote?

Do you mean my very first novel ? The one I started when I was a child, or the one written over twenty years later?

If it ever had a title, I don’t remember it, but my first ‘book’ was set in the olden days (the period was unspecific, but it wasn’t Regency. I recall drawing my female characters in full-skirted frocks, which I preferred to the high-waisted style.)  The plot revolved around the visit to a manned lighthouse by a party of ladies.  They were trapped there by bad weather.  Attempting to secure their  boat during the storm, my young hero fell on the rocks. Confined to a chaise longue by his not very serious injuries, he was nursed by my young heroine. At this point my imagination failed. I knew my main protagonists would need to fall in love, and crucially that kissing would be involved, but I couldn’t be bothered to work out how to get them from A to B.LIFE CLASS

The novel I began, when my son was toddler, is called Just Before Dawn.  My original plan – to write a book suitable for Mills & Boon (the Harlequin had yet to be added) – was immediately subverted when I began to work out my plot. My heroine is a young woman whose very first love affair ends in pregnancy.  The story opens when she is in hospital and going through a miscarriage. The romance is between her and the Obs & Gynae consultant!  When I first had the idea it made me laugh and I dared myself to write it, thinking, “If I can pull this off, I can do anything”. Just Before Dawn was the first novel I ever finished, and it was accepted by a publisher (unsurprisingly it wasn’t Mills & Boon) within 4 months of completion.

A lot of writers seem to stay with a theme when they write – romance, saga, crime etc.  Yours are quite individual novels dealing with different issues.  Did you deliberately want to avoid writing a certain genre?  If not, what inspired your books?

I don’t intentionally avoid a genre, it’s simply that the stories I am drawn to write don’t easily fit into a pre-existing box.  I often say that I’ve invented my own genre.

First and foremost, I’m an unapologetic member of the Romantic Novelists Association, and I would defend to the death the fact that all my books are love stories.  But I have never been comfortable with the word ‘romance’. With or without ‘category’ preceding it, it has come to mean a very specific style of fiction.  I am not entirely averse to reading about alpha heroes. I have nothing against the Cinderella tale, where the beautiful, but downtrodden, heroine transcends her situation and meets and marries her handsome rich and highly successful prince, but I’ve no interest in writing this kind of story.  I have always worried that attaching the label ‘romance’ to my books, might lead the potential reader to expect something different from the kind of story she’ll get, if she buys a book of mine.

You ask what inspires me.  Inspiration is a strange beast, there is never a single idea which inspires a whole book. It is always an amalgam of incidents, memories and reflections which prompt a story and which, so far, thankfully, continue to pop-up, even when in the midst of writing or revising.  But as for the inspiration for my style of fiction….?

Maybe I have to go back to my growing-up, to unearth my specific preoccupations. I’ve already said that my sister’s role was pivotal, but after my first foray into historical fiction writing, my instincts and interests drew me to a contemporary world.  As I grew older I began to read my sister’s magazines (mainly Honey), which she stored under her bed.  I would skim the fashion tips and articles, but avidly devour the fiction. I still remember one serial.

When I say remember, I actually recall very little about it – not the title, the plot, or who it was by – but what has always stayed with me is the atmosphere and my profound response to it.  It touched my pubescent emotions and I now wonder if it set the course for my own writing life. The hero was angry, emotionally tortured, self-destructive and hiding some traumatic event from his past. The heroine’s role in the story, I now realise, was to redeem him. Unfortunately, the magazine containing the final episode of this heart-wringing tale was missing. From then on, the many novels I started, throughout my teenage years, were set in a word I had zero first-hand knowledge of. It was a dark, seedy world of delinquency and rebellion. The heroes were always damaged young men, who had survived war, accident or heartbreak.  To do a bit of amateur self-psychoanalysis, perhaps my motivation in writing the kind of stories I then wrote was in fact a subconscious attempt to satisfactorily complete that serial in the magazines I’d dragged from under my sister’s bed.

My writing has moved on a bit from those days, but I never feel impelled to write about beautiful, privileged people living glamorous lives. I want my characters to be flawed, to live in a recognisable world and to have real-life dilemmas.  Please forgive me for quoting from this lovely review I once had from Sandy Nachlinger, in which she sums up what I’m trying to achieve.

“I enjoyed both TORN and LIFE CLASS, and would rank them among the best books I’ve read in years. The characters are real, their situations are believable, and their stories are messy — just like life! There’s no perfect hair or bodies-to-die-for in these books! I highly recommend them both.”

If you were offered a book deal to write a certain style of books, what would you choose?

In many ways, though I would dearly love to be super-successful and to earn loads of money, this is a nightmare scenario for me.  I assume you don’t mean that I might be offered loads of money to carry on doing what I’m doing, although I would even find this scary. I have never had to write to order.  But to be offered a big wad of spondulicks to write something else….? Oh, goodness!

I’ve sometimes thought about writing erotica, and I don’t think I’m too bad at the occasional sex scene, but for me they need to be significant to the plot. To have to write sex scene after sex scene, every few pages….?  Phew! I don’t think I could sustain it and would get terribly bored.  I enjoy crime thrillers and am quite happy to read quite gruesome stuff, but I don’t think I’ve the right kind of brain to first, come up with the clever plotting, or second find the enthusiasm to do the research necessary on police procedures, on injuries and dead bodies.  So, although I failed before, I might have a go at the category romance again. I know they’re difficult to get right, but at least they’re fairly short.

Have you a current project underway?

Fair copy - Copy - Copy - Copy - Copy - CopyI am currently revising and editing a book which will be published later in the summer (I hope). It is called Fly or Fall, and is about a woman, Eleanor (known as Nell), who dislikes change and has always been risk-averse.  She married young when she became pregnant with twins.  Life changes and circumstance, compounded by her husband’s impassioned advocacy, conspire to force a move away from London, away from her friends and her safety net, to a totally new environment.  Nell finds herself among women who have a totally different view of life to her own. She finds them materialistic and superficial. The fact they are married seems no bar to having adventures and revelling in the fact.  The house which Nell and her husband, Trevor, have moved to needs a lot of refurbishment. One of the men working for the building firm they engage to do the work, over a two-year period, is infamous as a local Lothario.  So why doesn’t he make a pass at her?

The book begins in 2006, like this:

Fly or Fall

The cartoon rabbit ran straight off the edge of the cliff. He hung, apparently oblivious to his predicament, feet pedalling the empty air. There was a snigger, halfway between laughter and derision, from our twelve-year-old twins.

Perhaps belief is everything, I thought. If you believe you’re still on the same level, that life hasn’t changed, you won’t see the void which has opened beneath your feet. And if you don’t see it, you don’t fall. Inevitably the rabbit did stop running, did look down. I felt with him the nightmare lurch of panic, the sudden plunge downwards as he dropped out of frame. The result was explosive. As the dust cleared a precisely incised, rabbit shaped crater was revealed at the foot of the cliff.

Throughout the drama, the ongoing ‘improvements’ to Nell’s new house can be viewed as a metaphor. Against the low-key backdrop of the financial crisis, which culminated in 2008, the story follows the dismantling of all of Nell’s certainties, her preconceptions and her moral code. Unwelcome truths about her friends, her children, her husband and herself, are gradually revealed.  Ultimately Fly or Fall is a love story. And by the end, where I bring the book bang up to date, Nell has rebuilt herself as a different person, a braver person, and she has embarked on a totally transformed life.

What is your favourite holiday destination?

I am slightly ashamed to admit this, but I am a real baby when it comes to holidays. I may not need the bucket and spade any more, but I love the sand, the sun and the sea.  My husband prefers city breaks, history, museums and art galleries.  I am an intelligent woman.  I can do museums and art galleries.  I am particularly fascinated by archaeological remains and can wander around old temples, forums and excavated dwellings with the best, but…..

What I really want from a holiday is a destination that doesn’t take too long to get to, it’s beautiful and there’s peace and quiet, sun, sea, and walks, as well as plenty of little restaurants and bars in which to eat local food and drink beer and wine. In other words TOTAL guilt-free relaxation and the opportunity to read and read and read. In fact, in a few weeks time I am going on such a holiday, to the Greek island of Fourni.  I’ll let you know if it ticks all the boxes

And lastly, if you could invite four guests to dinner, who would they be and why would you invite them?

This is a tricky question.   I could invite famous wits and raconteurs –  Stephen Fry springs to mind – but I know they’d make me feel stupid, tongue-tied and inadequate. It’s why I write. I know I’m fairly intelligent, but I’m not quick-witted, and it takes me time to order my thoughts and to find the perfect words to express myself.

So maybe I could invite attractive actors and celebrities.  Richard Armitage,  Vigo Mortensen in ‘Aragorn’ guise, and Hugh Jackman possibly, although I’d still be afflicted by the tongue-tied problem, but for different reasons .  And I’d be disappointed if they turned out to be vain, self-centred and preening. (However, I do have it on good authority, from someone who knows – no names, no pack drill, – that Hugh Jackman is a regular, very nice and unstarry, bloke!)

But I think I am going back into the past, if I may. I’ve toyed with inviting Prince Rupert (from the English Civil War) because I’ve loved him since I was 12, George Harrison, for pretty much the same reason, Richard 111 to ask him if he really murdered the princes in the tower, and Will Shakespeare, just to put the speculation to bed that he was really the author of the plays ascribed to him, but no…..

Instead I’m going to assemble some characters from my own family tree, if that’s all right. I’ve some fascinating individuals there, from music hall artists to eminent Victorians.  My great great great uncle G W Kitchin, for example, was a musician and a writer. He was the tutor to the crown prince of Denmark, was Dean of Winchester, then Dean of Durham and became Chancellor of Durham University. He was a committee member of the Association for the Higher Education of Women – the result of which was Summerville College. And he was a friend of Ruskin and Charles Dodgson. It would be fascinating to meet him.

For more information about Gilli and her work click on the author links below:

http://gilliallan.blogspot.com/

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1027644.Gilli_Allan

http://twitter.com/#!/gilliallan

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Gilli-Allan/128177480684322?ref=stream

LIFE CLASS: A story about art, life, love and learning lessons.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Life-Class-Gilli-Allan/dp/1481943138

TORN: She may escape her old life but will she ever escape herself?

http://www.amazon.com/TORN-ebook/dp/B004UVR81Y

Better Late Than Never…

OK White Rabbit syndrome again, I’m late.  My new book has been taking up so much of my time and I’m sorry there’s only a brief mention here.  But so you don’t miss out on who I am and what I do, I’m going to ask anyone picking this up to go to my website www.ladywriter.moonfruit.com where you can find all about me and my books, reviews and things that inspire.  And you can contact me as well to ask any questions.

TheOtherSideOfMorning_MEDIUM (2) (425x640)

My latest novel The Other Side of Morning will be available later in the year

The Story So Far…

I feel almost as if I’ve been in hibernation over the past few months.  I’ve dipped in and out of Facebook and Twitter and hosted writers on my Tea and Talk at Sally Lunn’s on WordPress each Sunday.  But for the most part the new book has had my undivided attention.  In fact at times it seemed to have taken over my life completely.  It became the first thing I thought about in the morning when I woke up and the last thing before I went to sleep – yes I really seemed to be  suffering from obsessive writer’s syndrome!  The whole thing has certainly given me a few surprises and scares along the way but then I should be used to it by now – that’s how writing is.  You set out on a journey with all good intentions of following the plot you’ve decided on only to find yourself constantly pushed off course by some unseen force which appears to know better than you do how the book should be written.

Now I’ve almost reached the end of my first draft, hitting 152,000 words as I tell the of the love triangle between my three main characters.  There are moments with this book when I have felt emotionally drained.  The first 70,000 words wrote like a dream, but after that things were very up and down.  There were becalmed moments when the writing simply did not go well at all or completely dried up.   Then there were moments where self-belief turned tail and ran away and I wondered whether I should save my sanity and abandon the whole project completely. You see even though I know all about the myriad of moods which accompany me when I’m writing, I still manage to succumb.  Luckily I never make rash decisions; I always sleep on things because the next day the world is a whole new place.  And that’s how it was.  So I became skilled at going with the flow, riding out the storms and trekking my way across the inspirational deserts.  I think the fact that the cover had already been designed was another reason which kept me going.   I’m very glad I did because even though I’m only at first draft stage I know this book has already exceeded my expectations.

Luckily I have had pockets of time away over the first four months of this year. Time which has given me the opportunity to get away from the PC; to shut the door on the physical side of writing and relax.   I do, however, use the quieter moments to run ideas through my head.  I’ve no distractions when I’m not home and have found this is a really good time to sort out things that aren’t working.  When we left for four days in Chester last week I had written the final scene of the story but wasn’t entirely happy with the way it had worked out. Those four days away enabled me to return with the ending of the book completely worked out in my head.  Time well spent.

I have to say my books usually do not get written in chronological order.  It’s the way I do it – you might call it ‘ordered chaos’.  However this time the book has been more or less written in a straight line.  The only part I have to complete now is to finish the one missing scene which takes place in Verona.   I visited Verona a few years back so still had a vague memory of places like Juliette’s balcony and the Arena.  Google maps to the rescue!  Absolutely brilliant – you can wander the streets electronically and get a genuine feel for your surroundings!

Tonight will definitely see the words THE END typed.  It’s a strange time.  No more deliberating on how to write the next scene and from whose aspect.  No more working out whether the characters are reacting to each other in the right way.  Now it’s all about going back and retracing my steps to make sure not only that the writing is tight but also that the pace is right and the timeline is in the correct sequence.  Then there is the check to make sure the characters don’t start a scene wearing one thing and end up dressed in something completely different!  A book I read recently had the main female character wearing a blouse at the start of a particular scene and a jumper at the end of it!  Another had a woman with short hair who a few pages on was plaiting it!  This is more observation that criticism as it is such an easy trap to fall into.   Someone I used to work for long ago once told me with regard to reading that ‘we see what we want to see.’  As far as writing a novel is concerned that is also true and it’s so easy not to pick up on things when you tend to be very close to your work.   That is why I’m so glad that when I’ve checked and checked and tweaked and bullied my MS to the best of my ability I can then  e-mail my editor and say ‘over to you.’

.TheOtherSideOfMorning_MEDIUM (2) (425x640)

My fifth novel The Other Side of Morning will be published later this year

Tea and Talk at Sally Lunns with author Jennifer Bohnet

Sally Lunns Tea HouseDSC01836Welcome Jennie to Tea and Talk at Sally Lunns, it’s lovely to see you here in Bath today.

Thank you for inviting me Jo. I love Bath but it’s ages since I’ve visited – despite my brother and family living here. In fact when I leave here I’m going to pop down and see my brother – he’ll be surprised to say the least!

As we settle down to await tea and cakes could tell me a little about yourself? 

Well, I was born in Weston-super-Mare just down the road from here, grew up between there and Bristol when my parents divorced. Moved to Dartmouth, Devon when I got married and had my family, moved to Wales to farm, moved back to Devon and finally we came to France.

Oh, we’re having some of the famous buns – thank you. Haven’t had one of these for so long.

And you currently live in France, how long have you been there and what prompted the move?

We’ve been in France 14 years this May. We came on two push bikes with a trailer behind my OH’s bike for Holly our 14-year-old collie bitch, and rode down the canal paths to the South of France. The 1990s had been a disaster for us financially and we just needed to get away for a bit! Quarantine laws were still in effect so we knew we couldn’t go back until either they changed or Holly was no longer with us. In the event the law didn’t change until we’d be in France for 2 years – by which time Richard had got a guardien job and we were happy living in the South of France. So we just stayed put! Two years ago we were finally able to think about owning our own home again and we moved up here to a tiny cottage in rural Brittany.

When did you start writing and what was it that made you decide to be an author?

I don’t think I ever consciously took the decision to be an author! Writing is just something I’ve always done – either for fun or for much need funds when the family were small.

And what was your route to publishing?

I started writing features and then humorous anecdotal pieces about my life when we lived in Devon and Wales. I had my own column in the South Hams Newspaper Group for over three years when we lived in Dartmouth. And when we lived in Wales I was editor of the Carmarthenshire W.I. Area magazine. It wasn’t until we came to France that my fiction writing started to take off. My short stories have found homes in the UK, and internationally in Australia, Sweden, South Africa, Ireland – sadly not yet in France, where there doesn’t appear to be the same culture for woman’s magazines.51zB9XUD0qL._SS500_

I see from your website that you are inspired by writers such as Erica James, Judy Astley and Katie Fforde.  Are your books similar to theirs.

I write the kind of book I enjoy reading – contemporary woman’s fiction that deals with relationships of all sorts, family, couples, siblings, mixed marriages etc. I also prefer emotional conflict in a story as opposed to crime or gung-ho conflict. So I guess the answer is, yes I hope my books would be regarded as being in a similar genre to my favourite authors as they are real experts at exploring relationships and creating great, interesting characters.

You write short stories as well as full length novels.  Do you alternate when you do this? i.e. novel-short story-novel or is it the next idea you have which dictates the length of the project?

No I don’t alternate in that way. I try to write at least four short stories a month – I need an income while I write my novels. As the world’s worst procrastinator – or the best if you look at it another way – these days I try to be stern with myself and set deadlines and goals and to stay off the internet! With all the publicity authors are expected to do these days, it’s all too easy to lose hours on Twitter and Facebook and the various writing forums I belong to.

51kA9KzQrsL._SL500_If you could change one thing in your life, what would that be?

I’d love to be musical – and be able to sing in tune! I’m tone deaf.

And lastly, who would you most like to meet and why?

I’d love to meet Peter Mayle and talk to him about his novels as well as his books about life in France. His stories about the good life in France influenced a lot of people into changing their lives (for better or worse) and I’d like to ask him how he feels about that.  I’d also like to talk to him about how easy he found the transition to writing novels – and then perhaps he could introduce me to his friend and neighbour Ridley Scott and they could make Rendezvous in Cannes into a film! Well I can dream can’t I?

Many thanks to Jennie for coming along to Sally Lunn’s today – to find out more about Jennie and her writing click on the links below:

Twitter: @jenniewriter
Facebook Author Page:
SHADOWS OF CONFLICT
ROBERT HALE LTD
MY WEBSITE:

Tea and Talk at Sally Lunns, this week hosting Sheryl Browne, a lady who writes fabulous, funny, heartbreaking romantic fiction.

Welcome Sheryl and Snoops,  lovely to see you both Sally Lunns Tea House here at Sally Lunns.

Hi, Joanna.  It’s lovely to see you, too. Thank you for inviting Snoops (aka Rambo, star of Recipes for Disaster) along. He’s perfectly well-behaved, as you can see, as long we can avoid the usual hordes of screaming fans.  Yes, Snoops, they do serve cream with their teas.  Ivy House clotted cream, to be precise.  Nothing but the best at Sally Lunns, you know.   Sorry, Jo, he’s a bit fussy now he’s uber-famous.Sheryl and Dogs Photo

My regular opening question is to ask my guest to reveal a little about themselves.

Ooh, now, what to reveal that hasn’t already been seen?  Well, I live in Worcestershire but grew up in Birmingham, UK.  I’m a mother, a partner in my own business and a foster parent to disabled dogs.  I can’t help myself.  If a hoppity three-legged dog in need of care comes along…  Well, do you blame me?

I decided to become a literary superstar when… Lol! I am now published, but I’m not sure many writers become literary superstars in today’s tough publishing climate. We keep writing though, (passionate souls that we are), lovely reader feedback so often giving us the impetus we need to keep at it.

How did your writing career begin and where do you get your inspiration from?

My writing career began when I took leave of my senses.  Ignore me.  I love writing.  I simply wouldn’t know how to be without it.  I’m artistic by nature therefore I’ve always had a creative imagination.  Reading, anything and everything, and making up stories in my head was a kind of escapism for me.  And, believe me, when you come from a large family, escapism is as necessary as food for survival sometimes.  I suppose then I’ve had a passion for writing since childhood.  I’m an avid reader.  I love anything that explores life and relationships and how people cope with and grow through certain life events.  Looking back, my first attempts at novel-writing were possibly a catharsis to loss in my Recipes For Disaster coverown life.  Without going into too much detail, I’d taken compassionate leave from work to nurse my mum through early onset Alzheimer’s.  Losing my mum in my twenties was devastating, of course, but I found my way of coping was to remember the hysterically funny moments we had (and we did, much to the bemusement of my father, who just didn’t get women’s quirky SOH).  Out of necessity, I’d worked since leaving school and being a young single mum when my mum got ill giving up work to write wasn’t an option.  I started jotting things down in my spare time, though, and from little acorns…

Do you put any of your personality into your female characters?

Oh, God, yes, definitely.  I think we are all multi-faceted creatures and, though we would prefer to put out best front forwards, there are times when we might be sad, angry, lonely, feisty, quirky, have a touch of the old green-eyed-monster.  Human beings come with a whole gamut of emotion, after all.  I think I’m generally a happy, bubbly person (mainly because I’m happier when I’m happy, if you get my drift), but sometimes life’s little mishaps or obstacles have caused me to be any of the above.  I draw from Somebody to Love - Coverthat.   I think most writers draw from personal experience,  and then go on to do a great deal of research, determined to get the detail right and never to trivialise emotive issues that some people might live and struggle with on a daily basis.  My writing, though romantic comedy, has been described by an agent as funny but thoughtful.  Thoughtful because I feel drawn to look at the relationships of people whose lives may be little more complicated than most (someone parenting a special needs child, for instance, or caring for an elderly relative).

You are signed to Safkhet and I understand have another three book deal which is brilliant!  How did you become one of their authors?

It’s a long story, but I’ll try to keep it short. My first book got picked up by an agent but, sadly, it didn’t get picked up by a publisher. The bug, however, had bitten. Being a passionate soul who would wither and die without her writing, I kept at it, enlisting editorial help, drafting and redrafting, taking on board feedback; using every piece of criticism constructively and – the dreaded part of the writing process – submitting.  Eventually my current lovely publisher, Safkhet Publishing, read some of my work, liked my style and commissioned me to write my debut book, Recipes for Disaster (romantic comedy written around fun recipes)!  I was so nervous waiting for their initial feedback I’d almost bitten my fingernails down to my elbows.  And then they said Yes! They loved it! Music to a writer’s ears.  Needless to say, I was euphoric.  Thanks here to Snoops, co-writer and, as mentioned, superstar of Recipes for Disaster.

Warrant for Love - coverYou are a well-known rom-com writer with a great following.  Could you ever see yourself moving into a different area of writing and if so what would it be?

Ooh, I could.  Well, sort of.  I’m currently undertaking an MA in Creative Writing (very part-time at Birmingham University).  One of my modules (which I passed, I’m pleased to say) was screenwriting.  I once reached runner stage up in a BBC sitcom comp and would love to write script basically – though I think it would also be romantic comedy.  I still have a lot to learn though.  Maybe, one day.

Changing the subject completely  I know you are a disabled dog fosterer which must be really rewarding,  how did this come about?

I had a dog that was so badly grieving the loss of her mate that the poor girl was on sedatives.. When she became skeletal from not eating, I knew I had to do something fast.  I decided the best course of action was to put her in the rescue centre.  No, not permanently!  Just over a few days to try her out with different dogs.  So, fingers crossed, that’s what I did – and every time I rang hopefully thereafter, I was told, ‘Not happening. They’re fighting like cat and dog.’

NYXThen we tried one last dog. I rang the next day, my heart in my mouth, and they said, Yes!  Apparently, they were sleeping together like little bookends.  I’ll take her, I said. What make is she? Cross Rottweiler, they said (Eek!) and she has cancer. So, that’s how it all started. I fostered her, knowing I’d have to make a huge decision whether to allow her surgery, which might save her or kill her.  She survived and loved life.  From there on, I decided I would take the OAP or disabled, ‘special needs’ dogs.  Snoops was brought in by the police, who’d rescued him from youths playing football, unfortunately using Snoops as the ball.  He was blinded in one eye, the other also damaged, so he has very little sight, but…  Well, do I need to say he’s happy and healthy now – and that I love him to bits?I don't believe it

If you could take four people on holiday who would they be and why?

George Clooney – so I could bask in his smile.  Ben Affleck – so I could … drool.  They’d probably only fight over me, though, wouldn’t they? *sigh*.  OK, really?  My son.  He hasn’t had a great time of things lately, but keeps fighting.  Oh, and Snoops, Odi and Dougal, my current dogs. Well, they are little personalities – and at least we’d have a healthy walking holiday.

If you had to spend six months on a desert island what five things would you take with you?

Cover FrontMy dogs (do they count as one?).  A fishing rod, so I could feed them.  I’d like to say my Kindle (the one time I would prefer it over paper books) so I could catch up on all the books I so want to read.  I’m guessing there would be no electricity though, so I’d have to take a trunk packed full of books.  A huge fat pad and a box of pencils.

If you would like to know more about Cheryl and her writing , check out her social network links below:

 

Sheryl’s Website

Safkhet Publishing

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Author Facebook     

Romantic Novelists’ Association

Sheryl is a Loveahappyending Lifestyle Author and Feature Editor.

Twitter: @sherylbrowne