Sunday, December 16, 2012

Interview with Sheila Mary Taylor

I would first like to say a great big thank you to you, Roxanne, for this interview, and also for the wonderful way in which you have organized my blog tour. 

Thank you for touring with Bewitching and for being a guest here today.

Let's start with the basics.

1. What inspired you to become an author?

My mother, Dora Taylor. But I didn’t realize this until thirty odd years after her death, when I resurrected her three unpublished novels and edited them and had them published by Penguin, and then realizing that writing was what I had always wanted to do but thought I couldn’t. And also the dramatic events of my son Andrew’s teenage cancer, which was what finally triggered my pen as I felt compelled to tell the story of his extraordinarily brave fight. 

2. Do you have a specific writing style?

I have no idea what my writing style is. I write instinctively, in a way that seems appropriate to the novel or memoir or short story I’m writing, but I think I may have automatically adopted a fairly spare way of writing, of not over-elaborating and leaving some things to the readers’ own imagination. It’s a fine line you have to draw: not telling too much and yet telling enough for the reader to know what is going on.

3. Do you write in different genres?

Yes, although this was not my choice. It just happened. I think it is my characters who choose my genre.  So far I have written four romances, Count to Ten, the true story of my son Andrew’s fight against teenage cancer, Eldorado, a short novella which is a kind of medical drama,  Pinpoint, a psychological legal/crime thriller, and Dance to a Tangled Web, my soon to be published romantic drama. All are very different. 

4. If yes which is your favorite genre to write?

I don’t have a favorite genre, but I think that even if it is not specifically a romantic novel it will always be something with some romance in it. Even the gritty Pinpoint has a romantic theme running through it with a very touching love scene.

5. How did you come up with the title for your latest book?

The title ‘Pinpoint’ arose from my main character Julia’s desperate need to know who Sam Smith is, and to pinpoint exactly what the ghastly event in her childhood was that caused her loss of memory.

6. Do you title the book first or wait until after it’s complete?

 I had the title of my first romantic novel – Diamonds of the Sun - long before I had the faintest idea what the book would be about. Swimming one sunny day at Son Bou beach in Menorca, there was a swath of diamonds sparkling on the sea surface. The title haunted me until finally I wrote the book, set in the romantic Seychelles Islands. But usually I find the title during the writing of the novel, and it suddenly jumps into my head, all ready made as though it could never be anything else.

7. If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

My mother, Dora Taylor, who was a teacher of English and English Literature, as well as a poet, novelist, playwright, essayist and literary critic. Strangely, the process of editing her three previously unpublished novels so long after her death, taught me not only a great deal about her that I had not known when she was alive, but also how to write. These novels were then published by Penguin and as a result, my mother won the South African Posthumous Literary Award for 2008. From a very early age she read to me every night in her lovely lilting Scottish voice, and was always encouraging me to read books she considered the classics in literature.  Oh, how happy she would be if she knew that the most unacademic, unliterary of her three daughters ultimately became a published author and an editor for a publishing company! And I wish I could tell her that it was all because of her.

8. What is your current “work in progress” or upcoming projects?

My work in progress – Dance to a Tangled Web – which is only waiting for a final edit after which it will be published by Taylor Street Books (the similarity to my maiden name is a complete coincidence), is quite different from Pinpoint. I call it a romantic drama, although I don’t think there is a genre for that. There are three main characters whose lives become inextricably entwined, with a bitter sweet ending made up partly of tragedy but also of something wonderful and heart-warming happening. But that’s so typical of life, isn’t it. There are very few lives that remain untouched by tragedy, and I think that after reading this novel most people will have a smile on their faces, even though at times they might have bitten their nails off.  After that I’ll be revising and publishing my four romances as e-books.

9. Who designed the cover of your latest book?

I always create the basic concept of my covers myself. And I’m really lucky in having a very artistic family who do the art work. My sister, Muriel Clutten painted the portrait I used for Pinpoint, while her grand-daughter, Monica Eringin did the graphics. For Dance to a Tangled Web, my neice Bridget Clutten Esch is painting the cover image, and will probably also do the graphics. It’s such fun when the family can join in the creation of a book. And my own talented granddaughter Katie Belshaw made the book trailer for Pinpoint – something I could not possibly have done myself.

10. Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write from the heart. Try not to be too influenced by what the present big thing is, because by the time you’ve written your similar novel, something else will be the new big thing. Rather, you should aim at writing the book that you cannot go on living without writing it. And always make sure, by editing until it is squeaky clean, and reading it out loud, that it is the very best you can do before sending it to an agent or a publisher – or self-publishing it.

11. Do you have a song or playlist (book soundtrack) that you think represents this book?

Not exactly a song or playlist, but I think the music my granddaughter Katie Belshaw chose for the book trailer she made for Pinpoint, evokes just the right edge-of-your-seat atmosphere.

Sheila Mary Taylor

Publisher: Taylor Street Books

Genre: Crime (Legal Crime Psychological Thriller)

ISBN: 1461049148

Number of pages: 363
Word Count: 122,000

A lawyer, a murderer and a policeman - caught in a tangled web of love, loss, terror and intrigue.

When lawyer Julia Grant interviews Sam Smith who has been charged with an especially vicious murder, she feels a strange connection to him, as if she has met him before, as if he holds the key to something she has forgotten among the unbearable memories from her past she has determinedly blotted out.

He feels a connection too. "Julia, you are the only one who can help me," he pleads. 

Is it the same connection? Does he know something she cannot recall?

When he is duly convicted despite her best efforts, he suddenly turns on her in the courtroom and threatens that one day he will make sure to wreak his revenge on her.

But why? What has she ever done to him?

And then, on his way to prison, he escapes ......

About the Author:

Sheila Mary Taylor was born in Cape Town beneath the towering slopes of Table Mountain. Her Scottish parents, both serious academics and writers, despaired of her, as the things that turned her on as a youngster seemed far removed from their serious world of academia. 

And no wonder. Cape Town was a distracting paradise to grow up in: mountain climbing, surfing in the glistening waters of the Indian Ocean, roller-skating, riding, hunting – and parties galore. She did it all, although the thing she loved most was dancing, and until she was twenty-three when she met Colin, her husband-to-be, on a visit to the UK, she wanted to make ballet her career. But having been surrounded by wall-to-wall books from an early age, and listening to music almost non-stop as her father played his hi-fi classical records so loud it was like having an orchestra in the house, was bound to have a belated influence on her. Yet it was only much later that these two strong influences – combined with the clock-ticking heartbreak of her youngest son Andrew being diagnosed with teenage cancer – would change her life and kick-start her writing career.  

Her plethora of unusual activities:  jockey in amateur ladies’ races, exhibition roller skating in night-clubs, a spell of acting and directing, secretary to a diplomat, creator and editor of a dramatic society magazine, dancing in the Royal Albert Hall, and above all, living in exciting exotic places around the world with Colin, her mining engineer husband of almost sixty incredible years – have all enriched and inspired her writing.

Twitter: @AuthorSMBelshaw

LinkedIn: Sheila Belshaw