Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Interview with Sheila Claydon

It's my pleasure to interview Sheila Claydon this week. First, a little bit about Sheila: She started writing when her children were small, fitting it in around nap time and school pick up. She had some successes too but then life got in the way and before she knew it she had turned her back on the characters who were begging to be liberated from her imagination, and stopped writing.

Now, many years and a career in health and education later, she is back to writing fiction again and enjoying her growing reputation as a slightly eccentric senior who doesn't know when to bow out!

Now, it's time to hear from Sheila herself:

When did you first know that you were destined to be a writer?

At about 7 years of age when I cleared out my toy cupboard and turned it into a very dark and cramped study! I remember the heroine in that very first (unfinished book) was called Dorothy.

Sounds like you were a very decisive little girl. What part of writing do you find most satisfying?

Although I’m probably unusual in this, it’s the editing at the end. That’s the time when I get to see all the characters at once and can make the journey with them from the reader’s perspective.

Interesting answer. That's my favorite part too, but I never realized why until now. What part do you find most difficult?

Finding the time to sit down and write.

Ah, the universal writer 's lament. What comes first for you? Characters? Story? Setting?

I guess I should say two out of three. I will get the germ of an idea – this could be the vague outline of a story or a setting could trigger it - but I can’t do anything with it until I find the characters who are going to make it into a book.

Tell us about Reluctant Date.

This is a special one for me and in this case the setting definitely came first because Dolphin Key (not its real name) is a place in Florida where I had a wonderful and relaxing holiday a few years ago. As soon as I got there I knew I was going to write about it, and all the background details are authentic. I actually stayed in the clapboard apartment block on stilts that’s featured, and I wandered over to the pier to talk to the fishermen too. I also went out to the nature reserve, just like the characters in the book.

Of course to write about the place meant that I had to find a story and the idea came from a magazine article about Internet Dating. I even joined a website to find out how it worked but no, I didn’t go on a date or even put up my profile! I also had to explain myself to my poor husband when I started receiving messages from the site!

I'd like to have been a fly on the wall for that conversation. The book has a great cover. How much input did you have?

A lot. My publisher, Books We Love, allows all its authors a fairly free rein when it comes to cover images. We are encouraged to suggest our own backgrounds and identify an image we like from the designer’s photo site. Needless to say, we also have a fantastic designer who takes our ideas and turns them into a fabulous cover.

That's a great system. It seems to work out well for both publisher and author. You published books as Anne Beverly in the 1980s. Why did you decide to use a different name?

Mainly chutzpa! I was shy in the 1980s in a way I can barely recognize now. I thought people would laugh at the idea of me writing romantic fiction. Now though, I don’t care. It’s one of the many wonderful things about getting older. And I’ve certainly found that writing under my own name and being open about it has generated a lot of interest and sales.

Good for you! Are the Anne Beverly books significantly different from the Sheila Claydon books?

Not really. They are true to their time of course. No cell phones. No Internet. Different fashions and food, and different attitudes as well. The heroines are still feisty though, and the hero is still someone to die for. Oh, and they all have happy endings too!

All my books offer escapism from the vicissitudes of real life. I want readers to lose themselves for an hour or two while I take them on a journey that leaves them feeling satisfied that all is right in one small corner of the world.

Exactly the kind of book I like to read. I know that you use a quote from Ray Bradbury as a guide in your writing. Want to share that with us?

The mis-quote on my website says ‘First find out what your hero wants. Then just follow him...’ Ray Bradbury’s full quote is more specific ‘Find out what your hero or heroine wants, and when he or she wakes up in the morning, just follow him or her all day.’ This is exactly what I do when I write. Fanciful as it sounds, my hero and heroine lead me by the nose. I just tap what they want into the computer. The fact that someone like Ray Bradbury understood that really inspires me – hence the quote.

Do you read a lot of science fiction?

Not so much now but I did in the past. I like science fiction films too but not the ‘all aliens are out to destroy the world’ ones. Only those that are more thoughtful and whose characters I can relate to.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Now that is a really difficult question because there are so many. My choice is eclectic and depends on my mood. Ray Bradbury of course and then Stephen King (his horror genre is close to science fiction and he’s also a master at characterization) After that, and in no particular order, Joanne Harris, Marian Keyes, Jodie Picoult, Lee Child, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, Elizabeth Goudge, Andrea Levy, Kathryn Stockett, Robert Harris, Daphne Du Maurier……see what I mean. I could go on and on. I just like reading and I like exploring different genres too.

You're right, that's quite an eclectic list. What other projects are in the works?

I have a book coming out in October. It’s called Double Fault and is about an ex tennis player and a young single mother of twins. If all goes according to plan this book will also feature in an omnibus of all three of my Books We Love kindle editions in time for Christmas.

I am also writing a trilogy about three sisters. I know it’s been done before but hopefully this one has a twist. I’m really enjoying it but as I’m only half way through the first book it’ll be a while before it’s published. Each story will be linked but totally different. The next stage of my research for this is to visit my local riding stables to watch a Riding for the Disabled class, something I’m looking forward to and which I will be doing very soon.

I have a manuscript with Amazon Publishing as well and am waiting to see if it will be published. I hope so. It was sent to Avalon Books a long time ago and then transferred to Amazon when Avalon was bought out.

Great. I think (hope) I see more interviews in the future. What do you do when you're not writing?

I’m fairly energetic - my family would say too energetic – so I don’t sit down much. I like to garden, to cook and to entertain. I go to Yoga and Pilates classes, and I walk on the beach or through the countryside. I used to walk my dog every day but sadly he died recently, and because my son lives in Australia and we like to visit for long periods, we’ve decided it’s not practical to get another one. When I’m not doing any of the above I’m usually caring for my two small granddaughters or visiting family and friends, or travelling – and when that’s all done, I read.

I'd say more you're more than fairly energetic. Do you have a schedule for writing or do you squeeze it in when you can?

I wish! I’m a squeezer I’m afraid although I do try to find the time to write most days. I also grab blocks of time when I can so I might work all day, every day, for a few days and then not so much for the next week or two.

Plotter or pantzer?

Pantzer but with a vague background plot to work to.

What refreshes you creatively?

Reading and walking I think. On the other hand I do get a lot of my ideas when we’re travelling. Meeting and talking to other people can be inspiring.

Love that you find other people inspiring. That's refreshing in today's sometimes cynical world. Where can we find you on the web?


You can read extracts from my books on the site too.

Thanks, Sheila. It's been a real pleasure getting to know you a little better. Best of luck with Reluctant Date.


Beate Boeker said...

Reluctant date sounds great, Sheila! I'll check it out! Oh, and I've always wanted to tell you that I love your picture. Very classy - great eyebrows :-)!
I'm glad you're part of the Avaloners.

Sandy Cody said...

Beate, like you, I can't wait to read Reluctant Date. Also agree that Sheila's a very classy lady.

Gina/Katherine said...

Reluctant Date is a terrific story and Sheila is a top-notch writer! Thanks, Sandy, for a peek into her special genius.

Sheila Claydon said...

Thank you so much all of you for such lovely comments - and thank you for the eyebrow compliment too Beate!!! A fair bit of grooming there but glad to know it's working:-)