Wednesday Writer Interview - Sheila North

This is exciting!  I'm starting a series of occasional (and hopefully, eventually, regular) Wednesday writer interviews - a chance for me and my blog readers to meet some interesting people and hopefully discover some great books that we wouldn't otherwise have found.  The series kicks off today with my friend, author and radio presenter Sheila North.  

Welcome, Sheila.  Tell us a bit about your writing.  What have you had published?

‘The Woodcutter’s Son’ is my first published novel, and was published for the e-reader market late last year. Around the same time, my short story ‘Perfect for Her’ was selected for ‘Tales from the Circle’, a short story collection published by as a fund raiser. A poetry pamphlet, ‘An American in South Yorkshire’, was published by Smith Doorstop in the 1980s. I’ve had poetry published in both the US and UK.

I worked for two years as a stringer, reporter, assistant editor and editor for a small weekly newspaper in the States. Much later, in the UK, I spent 10 years in internal communications, but I suspect neither are the sort of thing you mean.

Does ‘Doctor Who’ or ‘Buffy’ fan fiction count?

Absolutely.  And talking of the media, you’ve also done some radio presenting.  Tell us about that. 

I present ‘Book It!’, a monthly programme about books and writing, for Sine FM,  Doncaster’s local radio station: I’ve been presenting the show with the help of my producer, and husband, David, for over three years. I’ve met some great writers, and had some fascinating chats.  I'm giving a talk about the programme on Thursday 9 May at 10 am, at Sine FM (Netherhall Road). The talk is part of "Turn the Page", the Doncaster Literary Festival, which runs from 7 to 17 May this year.

What is the main genre you write in?

Mainly paranormal, though the one I tried to complete for the 2012 NaNoWriMo was an attempt at a straight romantic novel. It’s called ‘The Vicar’s Wife’, and is a sequel to my first ever paranormal romance. I plan to return to ‘Vicar’s’ at some point.  All my novels have some humour, to a greater or lesser degree.

What inspired you to write ‘The Woodcutter’s Son’?

I don’t remember! Some of the setting and atmosphere is based on a private wood which some friends own and which David and I visited, many years ago. I took photos, made notes, and rambled about.  I also needed to interview a tree surgeon. Fortunately, some other friends own a small woodland, and had recently had a few trees trimmed, so they were able to introduce me to one.

‘Woodcutter’s’ is a love story, a modern day myth, and a novel about loss. At the beginning of the book, my main character, Robin, is attending the funeral of the person closest to him.

How long did it take you to write The Woodcutter’s Son’?

Years! This is because of my tendency to rewrite the same book, over and over again. I think I was onto my fifth rewrite of ‘Woodcutter’s’ when David managed to prise it away from me.

What is the working title of your next book (or books)?

One is a partially written novel with the working title ‘The Boy in the Corner’. As well as some characters of my own creation, it brings together several, mainly minor, characters from Celtic myth into the modern world. It’s partly set in Danefield, an imaginary Yorkshire town which is the initial setting for  ‘Woodcutter’s’.

I’m also working on the latest rewrite of  ‘Pointy Demons’, which one friend describes as a ‘paranormal relationship novel’. I’ve got a soft spot for ‘Pointy’, and would like to place it with a trad publisher.

If anyone reading this can help place a paranormal relationship novel which is set in Yorkshire, and has a fair slice of humour, please get in touch!

Why did you decide to self-publish ‘The Woodcutter’s Son’, and how have you found the experience?

Technically speaking, I’m not self-publishing, as my husband is my publisher! I’ve nicknamed it ‘Upstairs Publishing’ as I usually write downstairs, whilst he generally works upstairs. 

What advice would you give to a writer starting out with self-publishing or a small press?

That’s a tough one! As far as self-publishing is concerned, my main suggestion would be ‘Don’t hang about.’ Rumour has it that it’s going to become increasingly difficult to self-publish, at least for the e-reader market, so the sooner you do so, the better. As for small presses, make the contacts, by all means, but also read – and follow! - the submission guidelines. If they say, ‘We only take flash fiction about shire horses in space’, don’t send them your 120,000 word novel about a young estate agent’s coming-of-age in Slough.

What part of writing books do you find the hardest?

Knowing when to say ‘Enough!,’ and stop writing yet another draft. My husband practically had to drag ‘Woodcutter’s Son’ away from me.

What do you do in your spare time?

‘Book It!’ takes up a lot of time. I like to read, and I sometimes attend the local folk club. I’m also involved with the Friends of Hyde Park Cemetery. Most days start with a cup of tea, followed by an offering of suet, meal worms and seeds,  and a few minutes by the kitchen window, watching and waiting to see who calls by.

Who is your favourite author?

My favourite living author is Joanne Harris, partly because I’ve followed her career from the very start; mainly because she’s extremely talented – and from Yorkshire! Favourite dead authors include James Thurber, an American with a deft touch for witty, sometimes biting, short stories; James Hilton, whose ‘Random Harvest’ should be required reading for all aspiring romance writers, and James Herriot, whose books are incredibly heart-warming – and have the added bonus of being set in Yorkshire.  

What’s your favourite genre to read?

I’ll read children’s books, classics, biographies, sci-fi, fantasy, romance, etc. If a book engages me, I’ll read it.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write - a lot.

And where can we find out more about your work?

Here’s a link for the latest podcast of ‘Book It!’:

And one for ‘The Woodcutter’s Son’ on Amazon:

And one for my husband David’s website, which includes some of my (very short) fiction:

And one for the ‘Book It!’ blog:

Thanks, Sheila, and all the best with your writing! 


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