Tracey: I’m thrilled to welcome Sharon Booth onto my blog today, in a continuation of my ‘What I did at 50’ series. I’m enjoying these stories so much, and Sharon’s story is particularly moving and hopeful. Welcome, Sharon!
Sharon: Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Tracey.
Well, I was the typical bookworm. I spent every spare moment I had reading. My favourite Christmas presents were always the Enid Blyton books that my parents bought for me without fail (usually a bundle of three – exciting times!) and I practically lived in the local library. My pocket money went on books, too. If I wasn’t buying novels, I was buying notebooks, because it had already occurred to me that it might be a good idea to start writing my own stories. I can’t tell you how many “Chapter Ones” I wrote, but I do know that I wasted a lot of paper!
I did reasonably well at school – but only excelled in English. I could have done much, much better in other subjects, but I was too busy daydreaming and only English held my attention. I was in a world of my own most of the time, but I came alive when I had to write a story or read a book.
I remember for one essay I had to state what I’d like to be when I left school. Among the rather strange choices of showjumper (I’d never even had a riding lesson!) and vicar’s wife (I mean, why?) I put author. Honestly, though, I had no expectations of any of those things happening. I may have got top marks for my English assignments, but becoming an author seemed to me about as realistic as my chances of becoming an Olympic showjumper. Nil. Authors were otherworldly creatures like Enid Blyton, who floated around big, country houses like Green Hedges. It was a different world.
Sharon aged between 10 and 18
MY TWENTIES AND THIRTIES
My passion for writing deserted me when I got married. We had five children and I suffered from post-natal depression. For several years I was self-harming. When I finally confessed to a GP, he told me angrily that I didn’t deserve children then gave me a tetanus injection with alarming ferocity. Funnily enough, that attitude didn’t help.
On antidepressants, I suffered from social anxiety and rarely left the house. At one point I couldn’t even go into my own garden. My mental health was spiralling downwards, and I was a mass of insecurities and anxieties. My dad died, which just about broke me. He was only fifty-five. Meanwhile, my husband was acting as if he didn’t have a wife or children at all. I suppose he was living the life a man of that age should have been living, but it felt like I was shouldering all the responsibilities and growing old before my time.
We got divorced, but our estrangement was no more successful than our marriage and we married for a second time. Nothing had changed, and we grew further and further apart. Another divorce followed and I sought refuge – as I had when a shy and “overly-sensitive” child – in books. Tentatively, I took a short course for women who had, like me, been at home with children for many years. It was designed to give us confidence to look for work. We were taught how to use a computer and given careers advice. I confessed that I’d quite like to be a primary school teacher. I was told I was being unrealistic and maybe should look for something less ambitious. My tutor was furious when she heard and, when I left the course, she sent me a message saying, “I think you will go far. Aim high!”
Reunited with my husband and remarried – yes, for the THIRD time! – I knew I had to do something to change my life and break this self-destructive pattern. I wanted to “aim high” but how? I needed something that made me believe I had something to offer, that I wasn’t a complete waste of space.
Third wedding – to the same man!
I enrolled for a degree in literature with the Open University and it honestly changed my life. I loved learning and being introduced to so many works that I probably wouldn’t have read in other circumstances – Shakespeare and Flaubert and George Eliot, for example.
One of the modules I did for my degree was in creative writing. My tutor suggested I submit one of my short stories to a magazine, so I sent it off to The People’s Friend. It was returned with a polite rejection slip. I was crushed and, convinced I had no writing ability, I threw the story away and decided to concentrate on finishing my degree instead. After six years of hard work, I graduated with Upper Second-class Honours. I was forty-six.
While doing my degree, I’d also enrolled at a local college and studied for an AMSPAR diploma in medical reception – something I’d never have been able to do if my OU work hadn’t boosted my confidence – and got a job as a receptionist at a local GP practice. That job altered me beyond all recognition. Meeting new people, learning new skills, being part of a team, making friends, it was a whole new world and I loved it. My colleagues and I shared confidences, moaned together, and laughed together. For the first time in years I felt “normal” again.
Three years after starting the job, and two years after finishing my degree, I was on my way to Somerset for a holiday, when three characters popped into my head out of nowhere. I hadn’t done any creative writing since the OU module, so it was a bit of a surprise. Arriving in Somerset, I grabbed a notebook and pen and began to scribble down details about the characters. They would eventually become Joe, Lexi and Will in my Kearton Bay series.
I knew little about writing a novel, so I bought loads of “How-To” books and started to study them. Determined that this story wouldn’t go the way of the endless “Chapter Ones” of my childhood, I enrolled for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) to ensure that I persevered. Throughout October 2011 I plotted the outline of the story and on November 1st I began writing. By December 1st I’d written 120,000 words and the first draft was finished.
Over the next two-and-a-half years I rewrote the book, endlessly redrafting as I learned more about writing. I did a fiction writing course with Writing Magazine and joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. I submitted what was then called Angel in the Marble for a critique and, thankfully, got hugely positive and constructive feedback.
The Write Romantics
Through the NWS I met Alys West and Jessica Redland, and was introduced to their blogging group, The Write Romantics. I was invited to contribute a short story to a charity anthology they were putting together, called Winter Tales. By November 2014 I was a published author at last – my short story was in print! I was then invited to join The Write Romantics and I’m so glad because, quite honestly, they’ve been my lifeline. After feeling so isolated and alone for so many years, to have nine new friends to share this writing adventure with was just incredible. I love those women!
The following March, at the age of fifty-one, I indie published what was had become There Must Be an Angel.
Sharon’s first novel, There Must Be an Angel
Since then, I’ve published a further thirteen novels. I’ve written two pocket novels for The People’s Friend and – drumroll please – had a short story appear in their magazine! What a sweet moment that was after my early rejection. I’ve had four large-print novels published by Ulverscroft, and a fifth one is due for publication in December. I’ve also had two audio books produced by WF Howes.
At last, a story published in The People’s Friend!
Last year, I was able to leave my day job at the medical centre and become a full-time writer – a whole new chapter in my life.
I write contemporary romance, with plenty of humour sprinkled in. It was only finding the funny side of life that kept me going sometimes, and I’ve had enough darkness to last a lifetime. I like to write humorous, positive stories. Yes, my characters deal with all sorts of issues and problems, but I always pepper their lives with laughter, and reward them with a happy ending. I find writing quite therapeutic, as I resolve problems for my heroines that I perhaps couldn’t resolve in my own life. It’s rather satisfying!
Now my children are all grown-up, some with children of their own, and my third marriage is about to enter its sixteenth year. After all the rough seas, it seems we’re now sailing on calmer waters. This month, I celebrated my fifty-sixth birthday and I can’t help thinking I have so much still to learn, so much to explore, and so much still to enjoy. Bring it on!
My latest book is My Favourite Witch. BUY My Favourite Witch HERE
Sharon’s latest book, My Favourite Witch
MY FAVOURITE WITCH
The world is full of magic, if you know where to look.
Blurb: It hasn’t been an easy time for Star St Clair. Her father has heaped disgrace on the family, and the man she loves rejected her when he discovered the truth about her powers. But the St Clair family’s magical heritage goes back centuries, and no one could be prouder of that than Star. Neither her father, nor Benedict Greenwood, will be forgiven.
Fate, however, has a shock in store for her. Not only is her errant father back in town, along with his new fiancée, but her ex has arrived home with a new girlfriend in tow. Maths teacher Elsie is everything Benedict seems to want – bright, steady, normal. How can Star possibly compete with her? Not that she intends to, of course. She is a St Clair, after all, and Benedict won’t get a second chance.
Benedict is an anxious man. Bad enough to discover your girlfriend is, in fact, a witch, but running out on her was probably a big mistake. Who knows what she’s plotting in revenge? Taking Elsie home to meet his grandmother is a test of nerve, and Star’s behaviour doesn’t exactly bring him peace of mind. Just what is she up to?
Star couldn’t be sweeter to Elsie, and even presents her with a bouquet of flowers to welcome her to Castle Clair, but Benedict isn’t fooled. Star is plotting something, and when Elsie suffers from a mysterious ailment, he is convinced that it’s all down to his ex-girlfriend. After all, everyone knows witches can’t be trusted.
But events are about to unfold that will challenge both Star and Benedict, and everything they believe to be true. In an attic room in North Yorkshire and a village hall in Ireland, unpalatable truths must be told, secrets must unfold, and life-changing decisions must be made.
Is forgiveness truly impossible? Are witches really that scary? And can a solution be reached before time, patience, and all the bourbon biscuits run out?
A story of pride, prejudice, and a whole lot of magic …
Buy My Favourite Witch HERE
Connect with Sharon on her website at: www.sharonboothwriter.com
Find her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/sharonbooth.writer
And on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Sharon_Booth1