RONA Awards 2022 Celebration Drinks with… Sheila Norton

RONAS

Tonight is the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Novel Awards 2022 ceremony so I’m not sure if anyone will actually be reading this, you’ll all probably be glued to Twitter as I will be to see who the winners are. However, I am still delighted to be welcoming to the blog another of the shortlisted authors for a drink and a chat. Tonight, my guest has been shortlisted in the category of Christmas / Festive Holiday Romantic Novel for her book, Winter at Cliff’s End Cottage. It’s author… Sheila Norton.

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Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

A large glass of red wine for me, please! Merlot or Malbec are my favourites. Red wine is good for you, obviously! 

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If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

There’s a nice country-type pub near my home in Galleywood, on the outskirts of Chelmsford. It’s called the Horse and Groom, and it sits on Galleywood Common. It used to be in the middle of a horse-racing track years ago. Sitting outside this pub on a fine evening, we could imagine ourselves to be in the depths of the countryside instead of in suburban Essex.

If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

My famous male would definitely be William Shakespeare. I fell in love with his work while I was studying for my English A-level, and still love to see a Shakespeare play. For my famous female, I’d choose our Queen Elizabeth. I never used to be particularly interested in royalty, but recently, I’ve come to realise she could well be the last of a breed of British royalty we’ll never see again: all those years of putting duty above everything else, unlike some of her family we could mention! She might not be a barrel of laughs on our evening out but Will Shakespeare will make up for that with some of his bawdy lines!

So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

OK, I’m working on my twenty-fifth novel right now, although I’m aware that I’ll soon have to return to the twenty-fourth, which is due for release later this year, because I’ll soon be getting the editing work on that one to do for my publisher. Number twenty-five is in the very early stages; I started it after Christmas, it’s about two sisters who have never really got along together but end up on a shared holiday and start to find out some truths about their relationship. Like all my recent novels, it’s set in South Devon. Where do I want it to go? Well, I always hope to be able to get to the end without wanting to completely delete it all and start again!!  I’d like to finish it, be pleased with it, get a contract for its publication and, hopefully, sell some copies to people who enjoy it! Which is my constant prayer!

What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

It’s a tough one to choose, for my proudest moment, between the day I received the email accepting my first novel for publication, back in 2002, and the day a few weeks ago when I received another email, telling me my book Winter at Cliff’s End Cottage had been shortlisted for this award!

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!

Ha! Well, of course I’d love to have a bestselling novel – wouldn’t we all! Even if I had one that was ‘moderately’ best-selling, that would be wonderful. I don’t want to be rich or famous but I’d just like the recognition. And in a way, that’s what’s so marvellous about this short-listing: without even being a bestseller I feel that this is a kind of recognition.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

Can I list more than one?!  Firstly, the Awards Ceremony that I’ve been shortlisted for! Then, a lovely trip to London to see a show and have a meal, with my three daughters and two sisters-in-law. This has been planned since before the pandemic and (fingers crossed) is finally going to happen next month. And third, a holiday to the Greek island of Santorini in May with my husband and two friends. Again, this was supposed to happen in 2020 and has been deferred twice, so it feels all the more exciting that it’s finally, we hope, going to happen this year.

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I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

I’ve been fortunate enough to do quite a lot of travelling since I retired from the day job. But of all the countries we’ve visited, I loved New Zealand the best. I’m a sucker for beautiful scenery, and NZ has it all: lakes, mountains, fjords, beaches – it’s so beautiful and uncrowded, but small enough to travel over the whole of it in one trip (unlike Canada, which is also really beautiful, but so big!). My bucket list these days is more modest as at my age now, I’m finding long haul travel quite difficult. But there are still places in Europe I’d like to see. I think the southern tip of Italy would be top of my list now: Puglia. 

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

Not really a secret, but I have a couple of peculiarities! I’ve been a vegetarian since childhood. I know it’s very common now and even seen as virtuous, but it was unheard-of back then in the 1950s, it worried my parents to death and made them cross. But I quite simply never liked meat and absolutely hate fish. Even the smell of fish makes me feel sick, so I can’t handle it or cook it although I do cook meat for my other half, and even ate a little of it while my kids were young so that I didn’t influence them with my ‘strange habits’. But I’d never be able to eat fish, and worse still, I can’t even look at it without feeling sick. So I have to avert my gaze if someone is eating it opposite me in a restaurant, and if I’m in a fishing port, seeing fish in a net turns my stomach, never mind the smell! But weirdly, I love snorkelling when I’ve been on holidays, and am happy for LIVE fish to swim around me.

Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

One that really took my breath away was All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

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Marie-Laure has been blind since the age of six. Her father builds a perfect miniature of their Paris neighbourhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. But when the Nazis invade, father and daughter flee with a dangerous secret.

Werner is a German orphan, destined to labour in the same mine that claimed his father’s life, until he discovers a knack for engineering. His talent wins him a place at a brutal military academy, but his way out of obscurity is built on suffering.

At the same time, far away in a walled city by the sea, an old man discovers new worlds without ever setting foot outside his home. But all around him, impending danger closes in.

So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and  your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

Ha ha! I don’t drink enough, these days, to get a hangover. Unfortunately at my age I don’t have the constitution for it anymore! But I have had plenty of experience in the past, and plenty of regrets. Having worked in hospitals, after difficult days my colleagues and I often used to have impromptu parties and I’m afraid I never did find any way to prevent a hangover (apart from not drinking much!), or a cure that worked! I just suffered, as I probably deserved!

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

I’d like a lie-in, if my cats would let me, reading a good book. Then a leisurely breakfast, a nice walk out in the fresh air with my other half, and then we’d get together with our favourite people: our three lovely daughters, their husbands and the total of six grandchildren – perhaps we’d all go out for lunch together. Bliss!

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That does sound like bliss! Thank you for joining me virtually this evening, Sheila, I hope you enjoy the actual ceremony in real life and I wish you luck.

Sheila’s shortlisted novel Winter at Cliff’s End Cottage is available now in all formats and you can buy your copy here.

Winter at Cliff's End Cottage

Cliff’s End Cottage is a local landmark. Perched on the South Devon coast, its garden has begun slowly toppling into the sea, yet the elderly and infamously stubborn owner Stella refuses to leave her home. When Holly, a young journalist and single mum struggling to make ends meet, decides to interview Stella about her life, at first she’s given short shrift. However, helped by a slice or two of cake and a couple of friendly cats, a tentative friendship begins to develop between the two lonely women.

Stella and Holly may live different lives, but over the cold winter nights, as Stella shares her story, the two women discover more and more in common. Time is running out for the house on the edge, but perhaps, together, Stella and Holly can find a new way forward.

Sheila Norton lives with her husband near Chelmsford in Essex, and part-time near Torquay in Devon. She spent most of her working life as a medical secretary, before retiring in 2008 to concentrate on her writing. During the years she spent bringing up her three daughters, she took various jobs including teaching the piano and recorder, doing home typing, and working in a playgroup, but always wanted to be an author. She had over 100 short stories published before the acceptance of her first novel, published in 2003. She now has six grandchildren, and also has two cats – the latest in a succession of dogs and cats who have inspired some of her recent stories! When not working on her writing, Sheila most enjoys spending time with her family and friends, as well as reading, walking, playing the piano, and photography, and loves exploring the contrasting countrysides of Essex and Devon.

Connect with Sheila:

Website: www.sheilanorton.com
Facebook: Sheila Norton Author
Twitter: @NortonSheilaann
Instagram: @Sheilaann.norton

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