Author Interview: Sheila Norton

When did you start writing? 

As a hobby, I’ve been writing since I was a child. It was the only thing I was really good at, at school, and I filled notebooks with stories for my friends. I had my first publications – several children’s stories – in the late 1980s, and then won two short story awards in the early 1990s which prompted me to start submitting to the women’s magazine market. I was having stories published regularly in Woman, Woman’s Weekly, etc., for about 10 years before my first novel, The Trouble With Ally, was published in 2003. So, it was quite a long apprenticeship!

Tell us about your novel, Sophie Being Single

It’s the first in a series about three sisters – one single, one divorced, one married. Sophie’s the eldest of the three but is the dedicated single girl, living in London and working for herself – ironically as a wedding hair and makeup specialist. Because she doesn’t want to get married or have children, her two sisters think she’s strange, and so do her friends and bridal clients. For some reason, they also insist on telling her all their problems with their husbands and boyfriends! It’s a light-hearted read but with some heart-wrenching moments too.

What inspired you to write Sophie Being Single

Well, I have to say – the fact that I have three daughters! They’re nothing like Sophie or her sisters, though! They’re all happily married with lovely children, and are very close. But I think sisters’ relationships are very fertile ground for writers … sisters have the same family background and yet can have very different personalities and different lifestyles. I also love writing stories centred around major life events – weddings, divorces, etc! My ‘Tales From’ trilogy, written under the pen-name of Olivia Ryan, concerned a hen weekend, a wedding day, and a honeymoon – and I so enjoyed writing them. There are so many relationships to explore in this type of story!

Which of your characters do you identify with the most and why? 

Not Sophie, (although I love her as a character, and I’m very sympathetic to her situation and her decisions) because unlike her, I love being married and having a family! I guess I can identify most with her mum, who’s raised three daughters and just wants them all to be happy! But as a woman, I think it’s easy to identify with the sort of problems and feelings my female characters have, whatever their status or situation – especially now that I’m older and have been through so many of life’s twists and turns myself.

What message do you hope readers will take away from your novel? 

I’d prefer to think they’ll just enjoy the read rather than look for a message … but if there is one, I guess it’s that family and friends are the most important things in life, however you choose to live it.

Why do you write women's fiction? 

Because I think women’s lives often tend to be emotional roller-coasters! There’s usually an intensity about our relationships, whether it’s love affairs, marriages, families or friendships – with ups and downs and sadly, often lots of doubts and insecurities too. I love exploring all these emotions within stories of families and friendship. I usually include some romance, but it doesn’t tend to be the whole focus of my stories. And by the way, although it’s marketed as women’s fiction, I do get male readers too! I prefer to think of it as contemporary relationship fiction.

What is the most challenging part about being a writer? What is the most rewarding?

Challenging? The disappointments. There are always rejections, even for successful writers – it isn’t a case of having ‘made it’ and having a contract for life (not unless you’re one of the very lucky ones who hit the headlines!). Rewarding? Fan mail. I never tire of receiving messages through my websites from readers saying they’ve loved one of my books. It’s one thing to buy a book, but for a reader to then take the trouble to look me up and send a message, they must have been really moved/amused/impressed … and of course I always reply.

What are you working on now? 

Something completely different, actually! Don’t worry, the sequels to ‘Sophie’ will be appearing as planned … the next in the series (Debra Being Divorced) is at the editing stage and will be published as a Kindle book before the end of the year. But I’m now trying my hand at a new genre – books set in the 1960s. The current work in progress is more of a saga, crossing from the fifties through to the early seventies, with a lot of suspense involved. I’m enjoying the change, and hoping to find a traditional publisher again for these new books. Wish me luck!

Thank you, Sheila!