1. Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
I like to get started by about 10am, although sometimes I spend far too much time faffing around with emails, twitter and facebook first, pretending that I’m working. But even while I’m doing those things I’m thinking in the back of my mind what I’m going to be writing about later. When I eventually get going I’m pretty sure about what I want to do. It’ll either be new material or editing what I wrote the previous day and I’ll work until about 12.30-1pm before taking a break. Depending on the weather I’ll go for a walk and I’ll think a bit about where the plot is going and what I might write in the afternoon. I start again at 2 and go on til 4.30/5.30 depending on the scenes I’m working on – again it could be going back over what I’ve done or writing new material. It’s a two steps forward one step back approach but it works for me.
2. When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
No. I like to create the characters myself, although sometimes I might give them a particular characteristic of someone I know, like a way of re-arranging their hair when they’re nervous or something like that.
3. What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
I honestly can’t answer that question. There are so many wonderful books I’ve read and each one has a very special place in my heart. A book that affected me profoundly, even though it wasn’t fiction, was Wild Swans by Jung Chang. It was amazing on many different levels.
4. What is your writing process? Do you plan first of dive in? How many drafts do you do?
Like I said, two steps forward and one back. I have a vague plan which often ends up as post it notes decorating my desk. Because I go backwards and forwards writing and revising there is never one complete first draft or second draft, it’s sort of an organic process.
5. What was journey to being a published author?
Via banking which always makes people laugh. I worked for a long time in financial services but always wanted to write. I wrote lots of short stories but only one was ever published. However I really wanted to write a novel. When I was in my early thirties I decided the time had come to stop thinking about it and just do it. I wrote my first book, sent it to a publisher and they told me that they liked the writing but that the characters and plot were a bit too young. They said that if I could write a book with the same characters only older they’d be interested in publishing it. So I wrote Dreaming of a Stranger and that was my first published book.
6. What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That you have to wait for inspiration and then you write it all done in one big creative splurge. You need to write every day and some days you trash everything.
7. What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Read a lot (which they probably do already). Don’t try to copy somebody else, you have your own individual voice and style. Remember that writing a novel takes time so you’ll end up sacrificing evenings in front of the TV or nights out with your mates to complete it.
8. What are you working on at the moment?
My 17th novel. I can’t believe I’ve written so many.
Thanks Sheila! Keep an eye out for Sheila's Writing Room, coming up in the next week.