Today we have another interview with a self-published author, Shirley Ford, who also happens to live in the same village as me (what a creative place!) Shirley Ford, originally a director of an import/export company, at the age of fifty-five suddenly changed direction. She became a carer for the elderly in their own homes. It meant much less money, but a far more rewarding career. Whilst working as a carer, she realised how touch was so important to her clients, such as holding a hand, or washing their feet. She took a course in Reflexology so that she could give hands on treatment to her elderly clients. Shirley has moved around extensively around England and Wales, but has now retired and lives in Dorset, where she enjoys long walks on the beach, reading and of course writing. She has attended various writing courses and workshops. Shirley runs a writing group in her local village called the Jurassic Coast Writers. She belongs to a local book club, and an English Country Dance group; but one of her passions is Tai Chi; she regularly attends classes and recently took part in World Tai Chi Day in Exeter in Devon. She has published two novels; Every Why and Be Mindful available as ebooks.
And now on to the interview. Thank you for joining us today Shirley. Can I start by asking:
Where did you first get the idea to write a book?
The idea of writing a novel began through meeting Sallyann Sheridan, attending several of her workshops and then becoming a founder member of the Jurassic Coast Writing Group, which Sallyann started. I had already written a book of poetry called There Is Hope, which I have since altered and re-released as an ebook called Heartfelt; I found writing my feelings down as poems was the only way I could cope with losing contact with two very special grandsons. It was a very cathartic exercise, one which I would recommend to anyone struggling with emotional problems. I very rarely feel the need to write poetry now and my writing has evolved into novels. Sallyann Sheridan gave me confidence in myself that I could write and about the same time I read an article by Penny Vincenzi in a magazine, in which she gave some very good advice on getting started.
What goal did you originally have for your books and / or writing?
My original goal was to actually complete a novel. Could I produce a story long enough to be classed as a novel? I had been dabbling with short stories, but somehow they didn’t grab my interest. I needed a bigger project.
How did you decide whether to self-publish or find a mainstream publisher?
I knew that I would never find a mainstream publisher for my poetry book, it appealed to such a niche market, that I decided to self-publish through a company. I don’t think I appreciated how little the publishers would do in promoting my book, unless I paid out vast sums of money, which I could ill afford. It was down to me to promote my work and not being good at self-promotion, book sales fizzled out.
How do you feel about the rise of ePublishing in the last few years?
I think it is a great idea, especially for new writers. There will always be a market for hardbacks and paperbacks, but as someone pointed out the other day, the readers of tomorrow – children – are already using iPads etc, so it will possibly be the medium they turn to first.
How did you find enough commitment to complete your first book?
That was easy. I am retired so have time during the day. Also, once I set my mind to completing a task I will do it.
What did publishing your book mean to you in terms of self-fulfilment or growth?
I felt it was a great achievement for me as a person. I now feel that I will continue to write. I did worry when I was writing my first book, that perhaps I wouldn’t have ideas for any more. Just be a one-book writer; but I needn’t have worried. I have ideas for more books swirling round in my head.
How did you and/or your publisher get your book(s) known?
I find this the hardest part of writing. As I mentioned before I am not good at self-promotion, but if I want to make sales, I have to put the work in. Having a pen-name has helped me enormously, I can hide behind this persona. If someone gives me a poor review, then I needn’t take it personally. I have taken advice and started a blog, it is in its infancy, but hopefully will evolve into something that people will follow. I also use Twitter as a means of communicating with fellow writers and have met some very interesting people and discovered a world of information on writing.
What is the oddest, most amusing or exciting thing that has happened as a result of becoming an author?
It is the attitude of family and friends. The look of disbelief when you tell them you have written a book. Once they get over the shock, friends immediately want a copy and show how pleased they are for you. Family, or rather my family, have been a bit reticent in their praise and are not sure what to make of me.
What advice can you to pass on to others who would like to write?
Just do it! Doesn’t the saying go that everyone has a book in them? If you don’t know where to start, think about your childhood, your job, your family, your hobbies. There must be at least one story in amongst all your memories.
Every Why saw the McPhail family overcoming all the obstacles in their attempts to establish Dunnbray as a successful business venture. Susan thought all their problems were behind them, but she was wrong. Now in Be Mindful, another adversary appears in their lives to try and prevent Susan from becoming a well-respected Lady of Dunnbray. Who is it this time? Is it someone much closer to home? How do Susan and the rest of her family cope?
This raises more questions which need answers. More intrigue, but more romance. Finally, the riddle is solved, but by whom? Does it turn out to be a joke or something that will benefit Dunnbray?
I am a fan of Shirley’s work, and thoroughly enjoyed her first novel, Every Why, which I found to be an intriguing yet gentle mystery. As soon as I have cleared a little of the backlog on my Kindle, I will be diving into the sequel Be Mindful. In the meantime, here’s a review from someone who has read it already.
“I adored this story and it had me hooked from the very first page. Each chapter kept me wanting to know what happened next to Susan and friends, and I finished the book in 2 days – an absolute first for me! I loved the fact that it had no violence, nor smut.”
You can pick up a copy of Be Mindful on Amazon in the UK and on Amazon in the US.
Thank you Shirley for taking the time to share your experiences, and good luck with your writing in the future.