Sheila grew up in the UK and has a Bachelors and Masters in mathematics from Cambridge University, England. Now living in the States with her husband and sons, she enjoys reading, writing, drawing, telling stories, running a local writers' group, and meeting her neighbors’ dogs on the green.
Sheila describes herself as a Mongrel Christian Mathematician.
Sheila describes herself as a Mongrel Christian Mathematician.
Thanks for letting me torture you with some interview questions!
Q. Do you do any special research for your novels?
I always said I couldn’t write historical fiction because I wouldn’t want to do the research. What I hadn’t realized of course is that you really need to do your research for any kind of fiction. If it’s science fiction, I need to make sure the science at least makes sense. For spiritual speculative fiction I have to check my signs and symbols haven’t got confused. Divide by Zero’s contemporary fiction, and I needed to find out, amongst other things, how American houses differ from English ones—my editor asked how Granny could sleep in the living room since there wasn’t a door, but of course an English living room would have had a door. Help! So yes, despite all my intentions to avoid it, I do have to do some research for my novels and novellas.
Q. What’s your favorite genre to read? Do you write it?
My sons say I have no taste. I also don’t have a favorite genre, but if I had one I would almost certainly write it.
Q. What are you working on right now? Can you tell us about it?
I’m editing the sequel to Divide by Zero. One reviewer described Divide by Zero as a human patchwork quilt, which I love! It’s written from multiple points of view, weaving together the lives of a subdivision because, of course, it takes a subdivision to raise a child. When tragedy strikes, it takes a child to raise the subdivision too. But by the end of the novel I was really curious about a different child in the story. Pretty soon she was insisting I write about her so Infinite Sum is set in the same subdivision but told from a single point of view—that of a girl growing up, keeping quiet, and struggling with feelings of helplessness and guilt.
Q. Did you ever write a character you didn’t like? Or one that gave you problems, going against your intentions for them or your story?
When Divide by Zero started coming together I thought it might be a mystery because I didn’t know who was going to commit the crime. Even when I wrote the first draft of the vital scene, I wasn’t sure who it was, and when I found out I was really surprised. I guess the character disappointed me then, but I had to find out more about him and now, though he’s not a nice guy, I feel really sorry for him. Oh, and the novel’s not a mystery anymore—it’s contemporary drama.
Okay...enough with the business questions! How about some fun stuff. You know, just between the two of us.
Q. The opportunity to go on a surprise vacation arises. You have 90 minutes to pack and get to the airport. Where will you go and what will you pack?
Can I go to Hawaii please? And I mustn’t forget to pack my kindle, my kobo and my charger. Plus a camera. A computer so I can do some writing…
Q. When YOU read, what do you like to pick up?
A book, a kindle or a kobo. But books are best—the pages turn so easily and I never have to make coffee while waiting for them to wake up.
Q. If they make a movie about your life, who do you want to play your part?
Someone unknown seems appropriate.
Q. Tell us one thing about you that might surprise us...it can be a secret...we won't tell. :)
I can’t tell left from right, and please don’t tell me to make an L with my hand—which hand, and which way up are you asking me to hold it?
Even MORE FUN! Please tell us about your recent release.
Divide by Zero was released last summer—my first novel; in print and ebook; on Amazon and in real book stores!!!!! It weaves a tapestry of lives in the Paradise subdivision of a small university town. But one thread’s unraveling; one life falling apart. When a tragic crime threatens to leave the community in ruins, a small boy, raised by the subdivision, will raise his neighbors’ hopes with a surprising piece of wisdom.
It takes a subdivision to raise a child, and a wealth of threads to weave a tapestry, until one breaks. Troy, the garage mechanic's son, loves Lydia, the rich man's daughter. Amethyst has a remarkable cat and Andrea a curious accent. Old Abigail knows more than anyone else but doesn't speak. And in Paradise Park a middle aged man keeps watch while autistic Amelia keeps getting lost. Pastor Bill, at the church of Paradise, tries to mend people. Peter mends cars. But when that fraying thread gives way it might take a child to raise the subdivision...or to mend it.
Peter gazed down at the golden pond of his drink. I’m not my father he told himself though his reflection wasn’t sure. I’m faithful, good and true. I’m not like him. I don’t hurt people.
He glanced up at the woman dancing on the stage. She was young and beautiful, unblemished and free. He watched her swirl, swinging her red skirt high above her knees. Mary had danced this way in their youth. She’d hung on his arm, long curls of hair brushing his face, filling his nose with the perfume of roses and sun. Her eyes shone like blades of new grass in a painting. Her lips brushed his, soft as petals falling in rain. But this wasn’t Mary, and Peter wasn’t his father. He wondered if his parents had ever known any dance but hurting and tears.
“You could try your chances with her, old man,” said the friend at Peter’s elbow. “See how she’s looking at you?”
Peter shook his head.
“I mean, seriously, she’s got all the moves. And look at those…” The friend fisted hands in front of his chest, but Peter shook his head again, making his ears ring. The conversation clattered too loud and jarring. He shouldn’t have come here, shouldn’t have let them persuade him. He should have stayed working, or gone home alone.
The friend of a friend from a table close by rocked a lazy hand. “Old Pete, you know, I rather think he likes…” Long fingers dangled in the air as words trailed away.
Not that Peter minded, but why should not wearing a ring and not dating mean people assumed he dated men? Crazy world we live in. He sighed, lifting the glass back to his lips. Drink up. Get out of here. I shouldn’t have come.
The dance ended. The woman placed her mike back on the stand. She stared over the crowd then glided towards their table as if she’d seen Peter watching. Broad hips swayed under the bright red dress. Thick hair tumbled on bare shoulders. Her teeth were white, eyes green; but she wasn’t Mary, wasn’t who he wanted to see.
“I’m off.” Peter coughed, slapped down his glass and added, “Got work to do tomorrow.”
He wasn’t used to this, the company, the drink, going out instead of going home. He had rules to keep him safe and lived by them. Now Peter staggered as he climbed to his feet, steadied himself, leaned over the table, then felt sick. Sour smells of drink, sour memories flooded in. He’d given up women long ago; perhaps it was time to give up alcohol too. It had been a mistake letting his friends drag him here, risking temptation in public. Lead us not… remembered prayer? He shouldn’t let friends lead him away from his silent home, or drink lead to despair; no ring, no girls, no nothing the safest way.
He remembered the smell of his father’s breath and the ringing sound of his voice. He remembered the sodden thump like wood on wet earth and his mother’s whimpering cries like a kitten in distress. He remembered many things and thrust them away with straightened arms. Then he struggled to find the door.
“Don’t leave.” Was someone calling him back? His mother, but she wasn’t here? Dreams and reality mixed and melded in his mind then tumbled free. Cold air should wake him.
Peter tugged the door awkwardly and stopped, trapped somehow in a gap between yesterday and tomorrow, between outside and in. Warm air wafted behind—“Shut that door, man!” Cooler breezes blew ahead. He remembered hiding outside in the cold, under the picnic table in un-mowed grass. A rotten plank, fallen free long ago, lay splintered and soft. He thudded it hard as he could against the ground. “Take that. Take that.” It didn’t drown the sound. Later his mother let the cat out; Peter crept through the line of yellow light spilling from the back door. He hugged her battered knees as he passed, smelling sweat and blood. Then he stepped around the hulking, snoring shape of his dad and climbed upstairs to bed.
In the cold air Peter remembered Mary and thanked the Lord he’d left before he could hurt her. No ring, no women; he’d seen his temper, watched those storm clouds over his head, and taken a hike. She was probably married to someone else now, had long forgotten him. She never answered his letters, never acknowledged cards or gifts he sent her for the lad. She’d stand in the kitchen cooking hot dinners for a stranger’s family tonight. Peter imagined the swirl of her dress—wide, fifties style, like the picture on flour packs—her face bright and free. She’d enjoy clear days of sunshine, sweetness and light. She deserved it, for sure.
And the boy, little Troy? He must be better off with another dad too.
Peter slammed his fist into the wall outside the bar, making his knuckles bleed. Not the first time; they were thick and rimmed with scars. A couple shuffled by, heading in for a drink. “Let’s get inside,” muttered the man. “Let’s get away from him.” But it was only a wall Peter hurt. Forever, for always, for mercy, Peter wasn’t his dad.
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