Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Meet Author Sheila Claydon


Accident Prone, by Sheila Claydon

Avalon Books, December 2011

ISBN-13: 978-080347615

The end of a long-term relationship leaves interior designer Alex Moyer emotionally bruised. Determined to concentrate on her career, she is thrilled when her boss asks her to redesign a hotel in the Canary Islands.

Matt Anderson, the hotel’s handsome owner, has emotional problems of his own, so when Alex starts to melt the ice around his heart, he tries to ignore it.

Alex proves hard to ignore, however, when Matt has to constantly rescue the accident-prone designer. After he steps in to save her from the clutches of the untrustworthy Francesco Pascual, things begin to get out of hand. It becomes clear that dating Alex was part of Francesco’s bigger plan to cause the hotel to fail. On top of that, Matt and Alex are falling for each other, which doesn’t suit either of them.

Can they ignore their growing mutual attraction as they attempt to foil Francesco? If they succeed, well, Alex will have to return to London anyway … won’t she?

Congratulations on your new release, Sheila! Tell us a bit more about the main characters, Alex and Matt. What really motivates them?

Although they don’t realise it when they first meet, Alex and Matt are two of a kind. Neither of them is prepared to open themselves up to the sort of heartbreak they have suffered in the past, so they have both given up on romantic relationships. This means that they pour all their energy into their work, letting their personal ambitions drive them. Hardworking, obsessed by deadlines, determined to do the best job possible; they fail to see that they are both running away from love.

With Alex and Matt already running away from love, I’m sure that’s just the opening your antihero, Francesco, needs to make his move. Tell us more about Francesco and what makes him a danger to Alex.

Francesco is sexy. He has looks, intelligence and charm. He knows how to seduce…slowly, and with flowers, and special dates. It works for a while until, like all thinking heroines, Alex eventually becomes irritated by his over-the-top attention, then suspicious of his motives, and finally frightened by his calculating and amoral behaviour.

Ah, good for Alex. She sounds like a character I can relate to (I’m a bit suspicious and accident prone myself). Was there one accident scene that was a favorite for you to write?

I enjoyed writing all of them, not because I wanted bad things to happen to Alex, but because each accident allowed me to give a different insight into her personality. When she twists her ankle it is down to vanity and, dare I say it, a bit of stupidity. (My characters are far from perfect!) The accident at the beach shows how brave she is. Her run-in with Francesco makes it clear that she is not someone to be tangled with, and the final accident is all about the depth of her emotions and about how she worries for Matt.

Speaking of the accident on the beach…your novel is set in the spectacular Canary Islands. Any special reason you chose that location and what sort of research did you have to do to prepare?

Many of my stories are set in foreign countries because I travel a lot and I enjoy researching the places I visit and then using them as background for a book, so I already had this in mind when I went to Tenerife for a short holiday a few years ago. Then serendipity stepped by when I was introduced to an English property developer who had settled there and he told me about a boarded-up hotel that was the subject of a local planning dispute. Needless to say the property developer isn’t Matt, nor is the hotel the Alcaszar that features in Accident Prone, but they were the starting point for the story, the things that made me explore the island and immerse myself in its atmosphere.

Nice! I love stories seeded in a little bit of reality. Accident Prone is not your first romance novel. What draws you to write romance?

I’ve just written about that in my latest blog so, to prĂ©cis, there are lots of reasons but I guess the main one is that everyone falls in love. Everyone has experienced that leap of the heart when a special person comes into the room. We have all been there, as teenagers, in our twenties, our thirties, our forties and onwards. Age is no barrier to the thunderbolt any more than it is to the slow burn.

So I write romantic fiction because it is about life, about people, and about the things that happen to them when they fall in love. I write about how it affects them and how it affects those around them, how it often makes them better people. Learning to think of someone else first is part of loving. Love is part of life. And because anyone can fall in love, and most people do, I have an awfully big cast of characters to choose from when I write about romance.

You’re an experienced writer published several times over in romance and poetry, and you’ve been at it for over twenty years. Do you have any tried and true advice for a new writer trying to make their way in this quickly changing business?

Don’t give up, and always, always think of yourself as a writer, even before you are published. Think writer…then mom, wife, employee, friend, whatever. Don’t list it the other way around. Thinking that way doesn’t mean that you won’t be a wonderful mom or wife, anymore than it means that you are going to relegate your other roles to second place. It just makes you own your dreams and ambitions. It takes a lot of courage though. When someone you hardly know asks you what you do and you haven’t got anything in print, saying that you are a writer is difficult. It’s amazing what intent can do however. Think writer, act writer, talk writer, and one day you will be a writer!

Fantastic advice! Tell us a little bit about your writing style. It sounds like you use an interesting mix of careful planning and knowing when to turn things over to your characters.

First find out what your hero wants. Then just follow him…’ I love that quote by Ray Bradbury and it is my constant guide. But yes, of course I plan as well, only not meticulously. Once I’ve found my characters I always find the beginning easy. The first couple of chapters are fine but then I have to wait while the plot fits itself together in my head over a period of several weeks or even months, until it reaches the romantic ending that I had planned from the first. Apart from that I just let them run.

I don’t make many notes either. Instead I rely on the Internet to check out my facts, and my computer to put it all together. Writing is far easier now than it was when I started. I used to scribble out pages by hand and then type out a top copy and several flimsies on a ‘sit up and beg’ typewriter, and that was after a tortured trawl through libraries, magazines and newspapers for the information I wanted, so you will never hear me wish for the ‘good old days’ before technology took over our lives!

Did you say no notes? I'm impressed! So, when you’re just following your characters, do they ever completely surprise you with the path they’ve taken?

Hardly ever because I don’t write about them until I know them. Although I don’t make notes about them I can see them very clearly in my head. I know exactly what they look like, what they sound like, what hopes and dreams drive them, who their friends are. I know their back-story. Until I have all that clear in my mind I can’t write about them at all. Once they start their journey, however, nothing they do surprises me because they never act out of character.

I guess all that makes my writing style seem a bit fanciful but it’s what works for me. Characters first, plot second, journey last.

You clearly understand the importance of author promotion and social media in today’s world. What are your three favorite promotional activities or ways to connect with readers?

That’s a hard question because it is still all pretty new to me. When I was first published the Internet didn’t exist. Nor did cell phones or home computers. Yes, I’m that old! So publicity was down to my publishers and, if I was lucky, the occasional interview.

I’ve only recently embraced social media having finally understood the need for it in today’s fast moving world, and because I developed all of it at once, website, facebook, twitter, instead of piece by piece, I don’t mind admitting to the fact that on some days my brain actually hurt! Now that it is more under control though I do get quite a buzz out of it. I love the fact that I am making lots of new friends and having contact with readers, and I enjoy writing my blog. That, of course, is because, as a writer, I always think I have something interesting to say! I just hope that my readers agree. It is also a wonderful way of talking out loud about things that are on my mind.

And your least favorite?

My least favourite activity is the newspaper interview because it can go so wrong. I worked closely with journalists for most of my employed life so I know how easily a chance remark can be misconstrued, or how facts (a book) can be wrongly reported, and there is absolutely nothing that can be done about it after the event.

Yikes! That sounds exciting and scary at the same time. I can see why you feel that way. The last five questions are just for fun—five seconds getting to know you:

  • Deceased celebrity you’d most like to meet: Sorry, but I’m going to have to beg your indulgence here and ask if I can meet my paternal great-grandmother instead of a famous person who is wafting about out there in the ether waiting to be contacted. Why? Well the story is too long for this interview but it’s something that would make a terrific book if I could only get my head around it, and get the truth out of her!

  • Ooh. Now you really have me intrigued. Can’t wait to hear that story. Ok, an easier one—favorite comfort food: Toast with butter and marmite (how English is that!)

  • “I can’t live without…” the radio (it’s my constant companion and educator)

  • “I would love to try…” swimming with dolphins (but as a ‘one foot on the bottom’ swimmer, it’s not going to happen.

  • One word to describe you: A people watcher!

Very nice! It was a pleasure getting to know you, Sheila. Thank you for your time, and best of luck with your newest release.

To learn more about Sheila and her books or to follow her blog, please visit her website at http://sheilaclaydon.com/

About the Author:

Born on the south coast of England, I now live in the northwest only minutes from a wild sandy beach where I walk my neurotic dog every day come wind, rain or shine!

Happily married with two grown up children, and two granddaughters who regularly come for sleepovers and adventures, I also have good friends and much loved relatives. I know how blessed I am in my personal life and I try to give everyone in it the time they need. This includes regular late night or early morning Skype conversations with my son and daughter-in-law in Sydney, Australia, as well as long flights over there to visit them.

After college I worked in central London in a variety of minor executive roles, one of which in a psychiatric hospital and another was running an employment agency. It was a truly exciting time because this was the swinging sixties and I really was there!

Then time out to have a family and this was when I started writing. I produced my first book in between naps and diapers. In those years I also taught Basic English to people who had missed out in the education system, and ran ‘Poetry in Schools’ workshops as well. I had four books published by the time my youngest child was out of primary but, sadly, nothing has changed over the years. Then, as now, it was almost impossible to make a living as a writer, so I returned to full time employment.

Having had medical as well as commercial training I started out working for organizations that provided education and jobs for people with disabilities. Then I moved across to the National Health Service where I worked for many years as a senior manager in a number of different roles, all of which were about improving patient experiences and medical standards. These jobs took me back to London on a regular basis where I often worked alongside parliamentary staff in Portcullis House and the Houses of Parliament itself. One of my two claims to fame during that period is that I once ‘minded’ a bottle of milk for a well known Member of Parliament while he went into the chamber to vote on a transport bill! The other is that I had to sit behind the Speaker’s Chair, in the House itself, ready to dig a new Health Minister out of a hole if he got his facts wrong. Fortunately he didn’t so the briefing papers must have been OK.

All my employed roles involved very long hours, a lot of travelling, and a lot of factual writing. With a growing family to care for, and an aging mother, there was no time left for story telling, hence the twenty-year time gap between books. Now that I have retired, however, I am making up for lost time. I am hopeful that my early books will be republished. New manuscripts are being considered, I have two books awaiting revision before I try to place them, one of which is a children’s book that I wrote for my granddaughters. I also have a queue of four new stories sitting in my head.

There’s not nearly enough time for everything that I want to do…but I’m going to do my best to stretch it as far as possible!

5 comments:

Mona Ingram said...

Great interview, Rebecca. I enjoyed reading about Sheila's characters in her latest book, her writing process, and her varied life experiences...lots of fodder there for future stories!

Beate Boeker said...

I loved this interview. What a fantastic picture, Sheila - and I'm the same - I love to write and read about foreign places! Your books sounds wonderful. Thank you for your time - both of you!

Gina/Katherine said...

Great interview! I've already pre-ordered my copy of Accident Prone and I can't wait to crack it open. Lots of luck, Sheila! And many sales!

Sheila Claydon said...

Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving such lovely comments Beate and Gina.

Thank you too Rebecca for asking just the right questions to make me think hard about how and why I write. I have really enjoyed talking with you.

Sandy Cody said...

Sheila, your book sounds fantastic. Love the cover.