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.
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 own 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 that. 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.
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.’
Then 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?
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?
My 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.
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Sheryl is a Loveahappyending Lifestyle Author and Feature Editor.