Sharon Booth: What I Did at 50

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!

Me

Sharon Booth

 

Sharon: Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Tracey.

CHILDHOOD.

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.

me aged from around 10 to 18

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!”   

MY FORTIES

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.

wedding

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.

MY FIFTIES

The Write Romantics

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.

61152910_2185787018205192_4018510842545831936_n

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.  

people's friend

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

MY FAVOURITE WITCH_FRONT_RGB150dpi

Sharon’s latest book, My Favourite Witch

BUY HERE

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

 

Why I Love Yorkshire: Guest post by Sharon Booth

I’m happy to welcome author Sharon Booth onto my website today. She tells us all about why Yorkshire is so important in her life, and why it inevitably found its way into all of her novels. Make yourself a cup of Yorkshire tea and sit back and enjoy a taste of Yorkshire, with Sharon.

author pic 1

Sharon Booth

All my novels are set in Yorkshire. It wasn’t meant to be that way. When I was writing my first full-length novel, There Must Be an Angel, I had originally intended to set it in Glastonbury. It was on a journey to Somerset, after all, that the first three characters popped into my head, and it was while wandering the streets of the mystical town that I began to plot out their stories.

Somehow, though, as the months went on, I began to feel that my characters just weren’t settled in the location I had placed them. I could hear their voices so clearly, and there was no doubting it. They were speaking to me with Yorkshire accents.

It seems unthinkable to me now that Eliza, Rose, Lexi and Rhiannon could live anywhere but Kearton Bay – a former fishing and smuggling village on the North Yorkshire coast that strongly resembles Robin Hood’s Bay. Kearton Bay’s streets are peopled with men and women I know, and voices I recognise.

32074743_1643669665750266_3066792140391579648_n

Whitby

I suppose the truth is, having lived in Yorkshire all my life, the county is in my blood and bones, as well as my heart. I love its varied landscape, from the picturesque Dales to the wild North York Moors, from the flat plains of Holderness with its crumbling cliffs and huge skies, to the pretty, and much underrated, Wolds.

But it’s the people, too. There is something about Yorkshire folk that intrigues and delights me. They can be “mardy” and annoying, not to mention stubborn as mules, but there’s a warmth and familiarity about them. I love to travel to different parts of the UK, and I’m making it my mission to see as much of this beautiful country as I can, but there’s no place like home for me. I remember once, on our way home from Scotland, we travelled back on a hot, sunny day and pulled over to check the map, unsure we were going in the right direction. Almost immediately, we were approached by a young woman with a couple of small children beside her. “You all right, love?” she asked. “Need any help?” We looked at each other and had the broadest smiles on our faces. We were back in Yorkshire, and all was well with the world.

k47

Knaresbrorough

When I was a child, my parents didn’t have a car and they didn’t have much money either. Holidays, therefore, were spent locally on the Yorkshire coast. We usually stayed in caravans or chalets. Sometimes, if money was particularly tight, we’d travel no more than twenty miles to stay on the Holderness coast. Mostly, though, we headed to Primrose Valley near Filey, staying in beautiful caravans. My nanna and grandad and auntie and uncle would be in a bungalow across the road, and various other great aunts and uncles, cousins and half cousins would be dotted around the village. We’d meet up every day to have picnics on the beach, paddle in the sea, go roller-skating or on the swing boats. Evenings would be spent walking along the sands to Filey, where we’d buy fish and chips for tea, then head back to a little pub, where the adults would disappear into the grownups’ bar for an hour, and us kids would sit in a little room, eating peanuts and crisps and drinking cola.

30715084_1621778384606061_8416244055848910083_n

Scarborough

They were very simple, basic holidays, but the memory of those days on the Yorkshire coast stayed with me. As an adult, whenever things got too much for me, when “real life” overwhelmed me and I needed to recharge my batteries, I would jump on a bus or train and head up to Filey or Scarborough for the day, to breathe in the sea air, watch the waves lapping on the sands, gaze up at those huge skies, and realise that, whatever was bringing me down, this too would pass. There’s nothing like being by the sea to put things in perspective. One memorable year, we spent our holiday in Whitby. I had my fifteenth birthday there, and I decided I had never been to a more beautiful area in my life. We visited Robin Hood’s Bay for the first time, and I never forgot that experience. I had no idea how important that little place would become to me.

I’d always wanted to visit the Yorkshire Dales, but – unbelievably – I was in my thirties before I finally went there. I fell in love with the area immediately, and these days we visit frequently, sometimes just for the day, other times for a week. Researching my family tree, I was delighted to discover a whole branch of my family came from Swaledale, and it made me feel even more connected to the area. I had to set one of my books there, and although I changed Swaledale to Skimmerdale, This Other Eden is a love letter to the home of my ancestors. It’s been a real pleasure, recently, to work on the follow-up, which I’m hoping will be published in September.

When I was at school, we went on a trip one day to Helmsley Castle and Rievaulx Abbey. I was captivated by these historic sites, and by the beauty of the surrounding area.  Years later, Helmsley would become Helmston, a market town featured in most of my books, and Rievaulx Abbey would be the inspiration for the ruined abbey at Kirkby Skimmer in This Other Eden.

B10

Whitby Abbey

We are so fortunate to have so many ancient buildings in Yorkshire. Scarborough Castle has also featured in one of my books, as has Burton Agnes Hall in East Yorkshire, which became Kearton Hall in Once Upon a Long Ago.  I’ve already tucked Knaresborough, with its glorious castle, into my file for a future series. The pretty villages dotted around the North York Moors inspired me when I created my Bramblewick series, and I have plans to write another series set in the Yorkshire Wolds. How could I not? They may not get as much attention as the Dales or Moors, but they are stunning, with some of the prettiest villages you’re ever likely to see.

When I was writing my Moorland Heroes series, I headed to an unfamiliar part of Yorkshire – the West Riding. I was writing about a modern-day Mr Rochester, so obviously I wanted to visit the Brontë Parsonage in Haworth! The Brontës are probably the most famous of Yorkshire’s writers, and like millions of other people, I love their work – particularly Jane Eyre. It’s not difficult, in the area surrounding Haworth, to imagine the brooding Mr Rochester riding his horse across the moors, or see Cathy and Heathcliff in each other’s arms beneath a glowering sky.

Wherever you go in Yorkshire, you can find inspiration, and many writers have done just that. From the gothic horror of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, washing up on the shores of Whitby, to the cobbled streets of Victorian Hull in Valerie Wood’s fabulous historical novels; from the wide open spaces of Holderness in Winifred Holtby’s South Riding, to The Secret Garden of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s North Yorkshire; from the dramatic moors of Brontë country, to the rolling hills and glorious dales of James Herriot country, Yorkshire’s varied landscape has lent itself to a massively diverse range of literary works.

Will I ever set a novel outside of Yorkshire? Never say never, of course, but for now I still have so much of God’s own county to explore, so much inspiration to draw upon, that I don’t feel the need to look elsewhere. I’m Yorkshire born and bred, and I wear my white rose with pride!

Heartwarming love stories set in beautiful Yorkshire

You can find out more about Sharon by visiting her website at www.sharonboothwriter.com

Follow her on Amazon: bit.ly/sharonboothpageUK or bit.ly/sharonboothpageUS.

You can find Sharon on Facebook: www.facebook.com/sharonboothwriter, or Twitter as @Sharon_Booth1.

Sharon Booth writes heartwarming love stories set in beautiful Yorkshire locations.

She wrote her first book when she was ten. It was about a boarding school that specialised in ballet and, given that she’d never been to boarding school and hadn’t a clue about ballet, it’s probably a good thing that no copy of this masterpiece survives.

She is the author of ten novels with Fabrian Books and has also written for DC Thomson and Ulverscroft. Her short story, The Other Side of Christmas, was included in the Winter Tales anthology – a collection of seasonal stories by popular writers, in aid of The Cystic Fibrosis Trust and The Teenage Cancer Trust.

Sharon lives in East Yorkshire, with her husband and their dog. She is one tenth of The Write Romantics, and a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. 

She has a love/hate relationship with chocolate, is a devoted Whovian, and prone to all-consuming crushes on fictional heroes. If forced to choose her favourite fictional hero, however, she would probably say Paddington Bear.