TEA AND TALK AT SALLY LUNN’S WITH CHOC LIT’S LATEST SIGNING SHERYL BROWNE…

Sally Lunns Tea HouseYes, I’m back at Sally Lunn’s again.  I’ve not been here for some time but have re-opened this feature to talk to author Sheryl Browne.

First huge congratulations at being signed up by Choc Lit, you must be really excited.  Can you tell us how that came about?

Hi Jo and thank you so much! Thanks also for inviting me to partake of tea and essential brain food: cupcakes! After a trying year, which saw my partner diagnosed with prostate cancer (I mention this, because I ended up having to apologise all over the place for my constant state of befuddlement. I should also mention that his prognosis is extremely good after early diagnosis – and that he is now very positive, agreeing to share his progress with Prostate Cancer UK in hopes of encouraging other men to seek help early), I am over the moon about being signed by Choc Lit for my upcoming novel, currently titled The Rest of My Life. This development is all the more special because Choc Lit read the book on recommendation of someone, someone who restored my faith at a time when it was seriously wavering. Excitingly, the news was announced first in … The Bookseller! Wow! Little me rubbing shoulders with Burt Reynolds and Julian Clary (form an orderly queue, guys). The link to the Bookseller feature, where you can find out who that lovely someone is, is below. I owe this man a huge debt of gratitude for picking up my book, loving it, and being prepared to say so in the right ears. Having written seriously for fifteen years – yes, FIFTEEN whole years!, mystified agents, and achieved several near misses, this really couldn’t have happened at a better time for me.

http://thebookseller.com/news/choc-lit-signs-browne

When did you first decide you wanted to become a writer?

I think that was about the time I took leave of my senses. Haw, haw! I joke, sort of. Writing has always been my passion, since way back when a kindly English teacher gave me 22/20 for an essay, bless him. However, I started writing novels (as I grandly termed them) as a catharsis, in truth. Struggling with a major life event in my twenties, I just picked up the pencil – an actual pencil then – and started pouring out my feelings. It turned out to be a real antidote, because I found humour in the recollections around that life event.

Can you tell us something about the very first novel you wrote?

You mean my bestselling debut? Um, it didn’t … sell. I think the agent who’d hailed it as such went off in search of Prozac. I’d love to tell you about it but, unfortunately, I eventually tossed it in the bin. I can tell you the title though! It was called Loose Screws! Hmm? Not so sure about that now. However, silver linings, and all that: my book, Warrant for Love – published and currently touring with Hit Lit Pro, was based on that first book. Or rather what I could remember of it, mostly a hunky policeman in a bite-the-buttons-off blue uniform. Ahem. Advice to new writers, never throw away your first manuscript. It might need work but, as your writing grows, you can fix it!

What made you decide to take a Degree in Creative Writing?

I think because I could. I was a young mum (very young and, shortly after my second son’s birth, very single, sadly). Motherhood at a young age is not something I regret but, like many women’s, my other aspirations in life tended to get put on the back burner. As I wrote though, I realised I wanted to be the best I could possibly be. That’s not to say great (I wish), just better. I wanted to stretch myself, if you like, take a look at other aspects of creative writing, including screenwriting and stageplay. Also, I was lacking in confidence, so it really was a huge step enrolling on the MA Course. I had to force myself, but I am so glad that I did.

Has it changed your approach to writing?  If so in what way?

Well, it’s done my self-esteem the world of good, not just passing the MA, but mixing with other students, who simply filled me with awe and were massively supportive of each other. As part of my final project, I wrote one of my books, A Little Bit of Madness, to script for stage. The first scenes were performed at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, my leading man played by Dan Hagley from BBC Radio 4’s, The Archers. He was fabulous. I can’t thank him enough for his inspirational performance. I’m super-pleased to say the first scene has since been published in BCU’s 2014 Anthology, I am therefore I write. That exercise really made me think about superfluous narrative. Overall, the course, sharing my work, getting feedback and seeing how other hugely talented writers might tackle a subject, has opened me up to all sorts of possibilities. It’s definitely helped me to tap my inspiration.

Describe your typical day

Utter madness!

5.45am: try to get up. 6.00am: succeed, possibly.

6.00am: social media, promo, scheduling tweets.

7.30am: make tea for the men (partner and son), because I’m very kind. Rouse dogs, feed, dogs, shower, walk dogs. I’m not always completely successful there (I foster disabled dogs. Here, we have one three-legged dog, one OAP, and one extremely short-sighted dog. Guess which one has the sight problem?).

 Three dogs

 

9.00am. EAT!! Thereafter, whilst juggling the various household chores, growling at the persistently ringing telephone or callers who dare knock the door, I try to dedicate most of the day to writing and go back to social media in the evening. I must admit I get a bit tired sometimes. If I go quiet, it’s because I’ve fallen off my chair. Blogs and posts I leave until the weekend, unless they are urgent.

What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

Skydiving1

For charity. Need I say more?

If you were able to invite four guests for dinner who would they be and why would you invite them?

three men

George, Ben and John. I’m taking it you don’t further explanations here either? Then I think I would maybe have Kathy Lette, Australian born uber-talented author, famous for such hilarious books as Foetal Attraction and Mad Cows, or possibly Ruby Wax or Dawn French to shake the guys up a bit.

Sheryl thank you so much for sparing the time to come and chat today  It’s been lovely having you here at Sally Lunn’s and good luck with the new novel The Rest of My Life due to be published soon..

Thank you to all those lovely readers, bloggers and author friends who have supported me. I would have been lost without you. Thanks, too, to my little muse, Snoops!

Muse Snoops

Heartache, humour, love, loss & betrayal – and a little Ohhhh la la! Sheryl Browne brings you edgy, sexy, poignant fiction. A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and shortlisted for Innovation in Romantic Fiction, Sheryl has six books published with Safkhet Publishing and has now been signed with Award winning Choc Lit Publishing.

Choc Lit

Where heroes are like chocolate – irresistible!

 

Recipes for Disaster – Sexilicious Romantic Comedy combined with Fab, Fun Recipes.

Somebody to Love Sigh with contentment, scream with frustration. At times you will weep.

Warrant for Love – Three couples in a twisting story that resolves perfectly.

A Little Bit of MadnessWhite Knight in Blue rescues The Harbour Rest Home.

Learning to Love Exploring the Fragility of Love, Life and Relationships.

The Edge of Sanity – How far would YOU go to protect your family?

cover spread jpg

COMING SOON from Choc Lit

The Rest of My LifeTwo damaged hearts, a sizzling sexual connection. Can love find a way to bring Adam and Sienna together?

 

Author Links

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Buy | Buy US | Pinterest | Loveahappyending Lifestyle

Safkhet Publishing | Romantic Novelists’ Association

 

 

 

STRANGER THAN FICTION…

 untitled112

I recently joined the Facebook Group British Books whose members talk about their writng and post photos of places in the UK they have used as settings for their novels.  It’s a lovely opportunity for a glimpse into the world of other writers to see what inspires them.  Every novel needs a setting, whether it’s coast, countryside, town or cityscape and what better way to do this than to use places you are familiar with?  Today my post is going to be about one such place, but not only is it a where there’s a who  involved as well..

My first full length commercial novel was set to be just that; one book.  However once the writing got underway the whole thing simply took off.  WhenTomorroComes_Cover_AVATARWhen Tomorrow Comes finally expanded into Love Lies and Promises and The Ghost of You and Me – a trilogy based in the West Country in the late sixties/early seventies.  The story followed the on-off relationship between star LoveLiesAndPromises_Cover_AVATARcrossed lovers Ella Kendrick and Matt Benedict.  At the start of the story twenty year old Matt, a gifted song writer, was part of a rock band who eventually found fame, taking him away from the provincial town he and Ella had grown up in.

Part of Matt’s gift was in the genes – his father Tad Benedict had been a well-known singer in the 1950s, a pragmatic businessman who had used the money from his success to give him an alternative career once his singing days were over.  As well as owning a string of small hotels he purchased local run down riverside tea gardens and converted them into a club – TheGhostOfYouAndMe_Cover_AVATARThe Mill,.  This became a social hub where the emerging 1960s youth culture came to drink and dance. So was this something which I conjured up entirely from my imagination?  No, far from it. A venue similar to The Mill did actually exist and the inspiration for Tad was based on the man who ran it.

Keith Johnson, a Bath entrepreneur bought the Weir Tea Rooms in Bathampton on the eastern edge of the city in 1962.  He converted the old riverside building and The Keel Club was born.  At that time the only way the emerging youth culture could listen publicly to music was through live bands.  Playing recorded music was almost unheard of but Keith changed all that. Starting out with the 12 records he had in his possession he extended the collection, playing the latest chart sounds and adding a weekly promotional slot for live bands.

He was said to be the pioneer for shadow dancing, where two girls danced on stage silhouetted behind a  lighted screen.  His dancers also introduced him to a group of Bristol students who were developing some quite innovative lighting techniques which could be used in the club.  Spotted by a man from the ‘Beeb’  they eventually went on to work on  lighting for the BBC’s prime time chart show Top of the Pops.

In 1967 Thin Lizzy played their very first gig at the club, an event which nearly ended in disaster.  Keith’s advertisement for the band’s appearance was picked up by Bath Council’s Watch Committee.  He was contacted and told if Thin Lizzy appeared he risked having his licence revoked.  Why all the fuss?  Because the Committee had it in their heads it was the name of a striptease artist!

Annual membership was £5 a year and at its height of popularity the club had 16,000 members..  This was a totally unique venue, there was nothing like for miles and it pulled in people from all over the West Country.  By the early seventies the generation who had flocked there a decade before had moved on. They were married with mortgages and babies on the way, no longer having either the inclination or disposable income to visit the club. The new up and coming late teenage/twenty somethings had different tastes and demands on their pockets too.  Membership waned and Keith finally closed the club in 1974.  He reopened it shortly afterward as The Skanda  a restaurant offering genuine Scandinavian smorgasbord to its diners.  I followed a similar pathway to this in The Ghost of You and Me where Tad closes The Mill and reopens it as a dinner/dance club called Zefferelli’s.

43605In 1984 Keith sold out to one of the big breweries who did a complete refurbishment adding it to their Beefeater steak chain.  Today it’s still an eatery only now it goes under the name of The Bathampton Mill.

In 1994 Keith moved into up market bed and breakfast, converting part of his own home to start this new venture. That was when I actually got to meet him.  I was working for an international training college at the time and we were always looking for new local places out of the city to accommodate visitors.  He showed me around we had coffee and he talked about those amazing times when he ran The Keel Club.  Sadly he’s no longer with us but local people who remember him do so with great respect; he lives on in local musical folklore.  He was definitely a visionary; a man ahead of his time and of course I’m indebted to him too because without Keith Johnson there would have been no Tad Benedict.

British Books’ current group topic is Christmas and I guess although I’m not contributing directly to this having a shot of Bathampton Mill in the snow does go someway to embracing the theme! imagesUHD9ANEI