Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Sheila Claydon, Kissing Maggie Silver

AUTHOR:                   Sheila Claydon
BOOK TITLE:             Kissing Maggie Silver
PUBLISHER:               Books We Love Ltd.
BUY LINK:        

Please tell us about yourself?
Once upon a time I wrote books. That was in the nineteen eighties and I achieved a moderate success. I couldn’t make a living at it though, so I very deliberately turned my back on it for twenty-five years while I climbed the career ladder and built up a pension. Then I had the chance to retire early and I grasped it with both hands. After that it wasn’t long before I started writing again.

When I take off my writing hat, like everyone else, I’m a lot of different people. Wife, mother, grandmother, friend, neighbor, traveller, chef, homemaker, gardener, blogger, poet; each role showcases a different part of me, as did the many jobs I’ve worked at in the past. I’ve stacked shelves, delivered flowers, run poetry workshops, featured in a cosmetics promotion, taught typing, run an employment agency, worked in a mental health unit, supported people with disabilities in the workplace and, latterly, managed a variety of health and employment projects for the government. Why so many jobs…well because I could. I was lucky enough to be born at a time when work opportunities were everywhere and when it was entirely possible to finish one job on a Friday and find another one the following Monday. Also (and I’m not proud of it) I have a very low boredom threshold, so once I’d learned a job it was always time to move on to the next one as far as I was concerned.

Now, of course, I’m reaping the benefits. With so many experiences, often in jobs I had to develop from a standing start, I have a wealth of information I can tap into. And that boredom thing…well it’s what leads me from one book to the next.

Tell us your latest news?                  
Samhain Publishing has taken out an option on all of the books I wrote in the 1980s. It is republishing them under a retro label, with one coming out every few months from August 2013. I was beyond excited when the editor first contacted me and now I’ve seen the updated cover for the first one I can hardly wait to see it in print again.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Once I became brave enough to talk about it.

Although I always wanted to be a writer it took me a long while to admit it to other people. When I started I always wrote under an assumed name and only ever mentioned it to my nearest and dearest. If I’m honest I was even a bit embarrassed that I wrote romantic fiction because of the snigger factor. Also I had friends who dismissed the whole genre as not being a worthy topic so I wasn’t about to open myself up to them was I?

It wasn’t until I accepted that if I didn’t believe in myself as a writer then nobody else would, that I found the courage to talk about it. When I did, I found, to my surprise and delight, that most people were genuinely interested. Even the friends who supposedly never read romantic fiction are now fans and every time someone tells me how much they have enjoyed one of my books, I know I’m a writer and I’m proud of it.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes. In Kissing Maggie Silver, Maggie does a lot of growing up. Not until she learns that there are as many different ways of living a life, as there are people to live it, does the future she dreams about begin to take shape.

Maggie is not the only one who has lessons to learn either. When Ruairi, the hero, realizes he’s made a stupid decision, he has to live with it for a long time before he can put it right. It makes him realize he shouldn’t second-guess people because he doesn’t know all the answers after all.

Most of the secondary characters in the book have to face up to truths about themselves too. Maggie’s parents, siblings and friends have all changed by the end of the book, so I guess you could say it’s about life and the lessons we all learn from the people we love.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?  (Has anyone ever realized it?)
Frequently! I have been lucky enough to travel a lot and many of the places I’ve visited feature in my books. One, Golden Girl, soon to be published by Samhain, is set in Paris, another, Accident-Prone (Montlake/Amazon) is set in Tenerife. In another, Cabin Fever (Books We Love) my heroine works as a dancer on a cruise ship travelling from New Zealand to Australia while in Reluctant Date (also BWL) the heroine moves to a small town on the Gulf Coast in Florida. Setting a story in some of the places I’ve visited means I can relive the experience, something I love to do.

As for basing characters on people I know…yes, it does happen, very occasionally…but no, nobody has ever realized it because I’ve put them in a different setting and probably matched their physical attributes to an entirely different type of character or vice versa, so they remain pretty well camouflaged.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Stephen King without a doubt. Although he writes in a totally different genre, I consider him a master storyteller, and his book A Memoir to the Craft is my bible. I’ve learned so much about editing and putting words together from him that I remain forever grateful. I have to acknowledge Ray Bradbury as well because I base my writing on his quote: ‘first, find out what your hero wants. Then just follow him….’

What book are you reading now? What do you like, or not, about it?
 My reading tastes are eclectic. From Stephen King through to fellow romance writers, with comedy, murder and fantasy thrown in for good measure, I read them all as long as they are well written. Right now I’ve just finished Salmon Fishing on the Yemen by Paul Torday. It grabbed me from the outset. I worked for a government department for many years so the blame culture and politics rang true, as did the (fictional) official emails and reports that were an important part of the story. It was a fascinating read, written in an unusual style, and now I want to see the film.

What are your current projects?
I’m halfway through a trilogy. Books We Love has already published the first book, Pathway to Tomorrow, and the second, Pathway to Success, will be out later this year. It is a series that is very close to my heart because it is set in the countryside close to where I live, and features a fictional version of actual places that I see every day. It has a great mix of characters too. There’s a film composer, an international singer and a young autistic boy who has an obsession with birds and horses. Oh, and there’s a reluctant earl, too, as well as an ex-dressage rider.  Does it sound far too complicated for a romance?  Well I can assure you it’s not because love blooms in many places and my Pathway Trilogy is one of them.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No, but that’s only thanks to my editor at Books We Love.

When I first submitted Kissing Maggie Silver I left the reader guessing about her future. Not the romance part but the bit about her career. When my editor suggested that this would disappoint the reader who was rooting for Maggie all through the book, I re-read it and decided she was right. The problem was that I knew Maggie’s future but instead of explaining it I’d kept the detail neatly filed away in my head. That’s why an editor and a reading partner are so important. As well as picking up mistakes they notice the things a writer forgets to put in.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
From listening to stories I think. My mother always read to me until I was old enough to do it myself. I remember her reading chapters from Anne of Green Gables every Sunday morning and of barely being able to wait until the following week for the next installment. I loved Anne and her imagination, and the fact that she, too, was an only child who loved books.
One of my earliest writing memories is of setting up an ‘office’ in my toy cupboard, complete with notepad and pencils, and writing at least half a chapter of a book about a little girl called Dorothy. I can’t remember what happened to her, or to the notepad, but I do know I was only about seven years old, which is the age I was when I was first introduced to Anne.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Time!  I lead a very busy life and, like all writers nowadays, I also blog and promote my work wherever and whenever I can. Sometimes days go by when I only manage a few hundred words and I find that very frustrating, especially as I know that writing the next book is the most important thing if I want to keep my readers happy.

What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?
Well apart from the social media thing, I walk a lot and take yoga and Pilates classes as a counterweight to the sedentary life all writers have to fight. I garden too. One of my best moments each day is when I stroll around my garden early in the morning when everything is fresh and the birds are busy at the feeders. 

Then there’s family and friends and all the cooking and entertaining that is part of that. My grandchildren take up a lot of my time too, and my husband of course. As well as all that, my son lives in Australia so there are trips to Sydney to organize, or to one of the other places we sometimes use as a meeting point instead.  Thanks to his wanderlust I’ve visited the US, Canada, Thailand, China, India, New Zealand, Scandinavia and many of the other countries in Europe as well…all grist to the mill as far as writing is concerned.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned the same things that the characters learned. Obviously they were things I already knew deep down or I wouldn’t have been able to write about them, but putting them into print clarified them. Writing is as much about digging into one’s memory and subconscious as it is about creativity. By the end of a book I have often unearthed memories of conversations or experiences that I had years ago. Sometimes I will have clarified my thoughts on a topic too.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Yes. Keep reading, keep writing and connect with other authors. Don’t ever give up. And when you’ve finally finished your book edit it at least twice before you get someone else to read it, then listen very carefully to what they say and be prepared to change things. Don’t be precious about what you’ve written. Be prepared to accept that you might have got something wrong.

One other piece of advice, don’t get hung up on sales and reviews. Chasing stats and reading what people say about your books is a complete time suck, to say nothing of what it might do to your confidence on a bad day. Venting about it is not good for stress levels either. Readers want more books, not an author who has his/her latest sales figures at their fingertips.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Yes. Having just told fellow authors not to keep reading their reviews, I’m now going to contradict myself. If a reader really likes a book then the best thing they can do for the author is to review it. The most helpful reviews are those that are specific. Nobody needs a resume of the story but a reference to a particular character or an opinion about what they, the reader, personally got out of the book, can be a wonderful hook for other readers.

Authors like to hear from their readers too, so don’t ever hesitate to get in touch if you have something to say.

Who is your publisher and how did you connect with them? 
I have worked with a number of different publishers over the years. In the eighties it was Hamlyn and Silhouette in the UK. Now I have books with Amazon’s Montlake Publishing and with Samhain, as well as with Books We Love Ltd. who published Kissing Maggie Silver. An author friend who thought my type of story would fit put me in touch with them.  Amazon bought out Avalon who accepted my first submission when I started writing again, and I contacted Samhain myself when I saw they were looking for retro romances.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc. - please share your public links. (website and blog)


Maggie Silver intends to put as much space as possible between herself and her family just as soon as her parent’s ruby wedding celebrations are over. She is fed up with their constant advice and her never-ending babysitting duties. There’s a great big world out there and she wants to see it before she settles for suburbia. Then Ruairi O’Connor turns up at the same time her sister-in-law goes into labor, and suddenly everything becomes a lot more complicated. 

As for Ruairi, in a few weeks time he will be on the other side of the world, so now is not the time to fall in love, especially with Maggie. Until now he’s thought of her a little more than a child so why has he suddenly discovered she is very grown up indeed and the only thing he wants to do is kiss her.


  1. Interesting interview. I especially like your answer to the question "When did you consider yourself a writer?" I identified with that one. Agree about Stephen King's book - lot of no-nonsense advice there.

  2. Wow, Sheila, you are one prolific writer and busy lady! :)

  3. Wow, I beat Gail here. Lol. Great interview and advice. Hi Penny, nice of you to host and ask such great questions.

  4. Hi Sheila,
    Wonderful interview. You have certainly accummulated a wealth of writing wisdom over the years. Best of luck with all your writing ventures.



  5. Thank you for visiting everyone. So many friends, so much support. All greatly appreciated. I found Penny's questions challenging. I really had to dig deep but it was a very positive exercise.

  6. Truly interesting interview with a far-traveled lady. Thanks, Penny, for the interview with a successful writer, who seems to have had quite a romantic life herself. :)

  7. Hello, Sheila,

    This is one of the best author interviews I've ever read. You have a lot of wisdom to share. I particularly resonate with the following:

    "One other piece of advice, don’t get hung up on sales and reviews. Chasing stats and reading what people say about your books is a complete time suck,"

    Thank you for sharing so much of yourself. I'm looking forward to having you as my guest later this month.

  8. Hi, Sheila. Nice to meet you. Interesting interview.

    Hi, Penny!

  9. Even more nice comments since the last time I visited. Thank you Lisabet, Susanne and Juliet for taking the time to visit Penny's fabulous blog. I'm glad some of the stuff I said resonated with you. I'm looking forward to visiting your blog later this month too Lisabet.