To complement my daily blog interviews I recently started a series of Author Spotlights and today’s, the twenty-third, is of multi-genre author Sheila Dalton.
Sheila Dalton was born near London, England and came to Canada with her family when she was six. When she was twenty, she returned to England to study at the University of London, ended up dropping out, and working as a barmaid at an Aussie pub in Earl’s Court where, as she says, “I could not make change, let alone mix drinks. All that saved me were the kindness of the owners, and my name. Aussies call all women ‘Sheilas’.”
Back in Toronto, Canada, she took up crafts, and worked as an independent craftsperson for a few years before completing her degree at the University of Toronto, later returning for a Masters in Library Science.
“I did not want to become a librarian,” she says. “I wanted to be a writer, but as I specialized in dense, inscrutable bad poetry, the chances of making a living at it were non-existent.”
She married and had a son, then became a freelance editor and writer for many years. During that time, her first book of poetry was published, then a literary novel, and then a series of books for children, both fiction and non-fiction.
She has been a reference librarian at the Toronto Public Library for over twenty years. “And I found I loved the profession, after all,” she says. Her latest novel for adults, The Girl in the Box, is due out from Dundurn Press in November 2011.
And now from the author herself:
Travel has always had a big influence on my writing. That, and having a child.
Having a child meant I could step out of the working world to a certain extent, and spend more time writing. I didn’t quit working altogether, I couldn’t afford to, but so intense was my desire to stay at home with my son that I quite my fulltime job and ventured into the world of editing. This meant I could do most of my work from home, at least for the first few years.
Lucky for me, my son was a big sleeper. I edited while he napped and worked on several projects I had started before he was born – my book of poetry, Blowing Holes Through the Everyday, and my novel, Tales of the Ex-FireEater. Then, when he was old enough to read to, I wrote several picture books I thought he might enjoy – Doggerel, Catalogue, and Bubblemania. They weren’t published till he was much older.
I traveled before he was born, but it was many years before I traveled again. A trip to Central America stayed with me, and eventually gelled into my current literary mystery, The Girl in the Box. I went to Guatemala with a friend for four months during the height of the Civil War there in the 80’s. I saw and heard things I never forgot, such as seeing Mayan men pulled off a bus by government soldiers, and never coming back. The fear in their eyes haunted me. Locals told me about screams coming from the local church at night, a church they were convinced had been turned into a prison and torture chamber for guerrilla fighters from the hills.
Twenty years later, I used some of those experiences to craft a novel about a young Mayan women in captivity in the Guatemalan jungle, who is rescued by a North American doctor, and brought to Canada, where she kills him. The book is about why this happened. Caitlin, the doctor’s lover, wants answers, but is also afraid of what she might find.
A later trip to Morocco was the inspiration behind the historical novel I am currently working on. While there, a tour guide showed us underground dungeons. The dungeons were closed that day. All I saw were the holes in the ground meant to let in light and air. The sight horrified me. When I asked who had been kept there, the guide mischievously answered, “You.” Turned out the dungeons were used to house white Christian slaves, mostly from England, who were captured in raids along the English coast in the 18th century.
When I returned to Canada, I started researching this fascinating period and used what I learned in a book I’m calling Slavery in Black and White: My Life as a Kept Woman and Most Peculiar Pirate.
I don’t always use what I see right away, but travel shows me things that make me think, and end up in my fiction eventually.
You can find more about Sheila and her writing via…
Sheila is also kindly running a Goodreads Giveaway (US & Canada) which runs until 18th November.
Thank you Sheila! Do let me know when your book comes out and I’ll add a link (or tweak the text). 🙂
Sheila will be guest posting on Tuesday 1st November, talking about writing for different age groups.
The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with mystery / humour author Anne K Albert – the one hundred and sixty-second of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks here.