Thursday, January 14, 2016

WHO am I really? by Sheila Claydon

My publisher has suggested that I and my fellow authors start the year off by introducing ourselves properly on the Books We Love blog. It's a much taller order than it seems. It depends is the only answer I can give about who I am and what I do.

Although I'm always a wife, a mother, a grandmother, an aunt, a cousin, a friend, a colleague, and a neighbour, I'm also a writer, a reader, a gardener, a cook, a dog owner, a traveller, a walker, a carer, a Yoga practitioner, and a whole lot of other things besides, and that's before I get on to control freak, micro-organizer and (you might already have guessed this) list-maker! Then there's my working life  - the jobs I had, the things I learned - but I'm not even going there.

I'm no different from anyone else of course. We are all made up of the little bits of  everything that are our day-to-day lives. It's how we form the memories, some bad, some good, that we reminisce about as the years go by. Oh hang on a minute...I'm a writer (it said so in the list) so I am a little bit different after all. Its why I store all those experiences in my sub-conscious until I'm ready to retrieve them and download them onto the pages of my latest manuscript.

I'm not proud of it, but it's how it is. When I travel most of the details of the journey remain lodged in my brain. A new environment is uploaded to my sub-conscious lock, stock and barrel and sits there until I need it.  Time spent with my grandchildren, visits to family, walking the dog, talking with friends, shopping for a neighbour, even visiting someone in all goes into the swirling cauldron of memories that I call upon when I'm writing.

Sometimes an experience will trigger an idea for a story and when that happens, it will, if left to its own devices, weave itself around the memories I have stored in my head, rejecting some of them and trying others for size until the outline of a new story emerges with very little conscious effort on my part. It's not until I fire up my lap top that the real effort of joining it all together begins.

In Reluctant Date the trigger was a place I stayed on a holiday. This somehow wove itself into another landscape 3,000 miles away, picking up a hero and heroine on its journey. In Mending Jodie's Heart the idea for the story was prompted by an actual event involving horses and disabled children, which, before I knew it, had turned into the When Paths Meet trilogy. Then, in my latest book, Miss Locatelli, half-forgotten memories of Italy forced themselves back into my consciousness as soon as I realized my heroine had to visit Florence. A magazine article about a jeweller triggered that one.

When I look back at the dozen or so books I've written so far there is a real bonus, however, because every one of them has special memories woven into the story. None of them are about me or my family although, inevitably, some of the characters will display traits I've observed in the people I know, but the story still resonates with me on a personal level. The children in my books often behave in the same way my own children and grandchildren did when they were small, and then there are the animals. Dogs, horses, birds...even the wild ones...all trigger a memory. The grown up characters too. I rarely spend long describing any of them. They are just part of a continuing story of memories that I like to think helps to make my stories real.

So that's who I am. Someone who is made up of little bits of a lot and who never knows which bit she is going to wake up to.  Today it was the micro-managing/list-making persona. Tomorrow it's grandchildren day, so cooking, cuddling and playing games will dominate along with supervising homework and listening closely to whatever they want to tell me.  With any luck I'll wake up to my writing persona the following day and by then I'll have more memories to call upon, so when the book I'm writing at the moment, Remembering Rose, is published at the end of June, I will be able to read it and remember.

All of Sheila's books can be found on the links below:

She also has a website and can be found on facebook

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