By: Loni Cameron
Our first volunteer for the Member Spotlight on the blog is Sheila Horne. A once aspiring journalist, Sheila is the author of three novels and several short stories. Sheila writes fiction, exploring a “slice of life”. She loves road trips, music, the beach and dancing. Sheila is a self-described minimalist. She describes herself as “a human being who loves to write.” She is also an avid reader of fiction, enjoying the works of Miriam Toews, J.D. Salinger, and Raymond Carver. Sheila free-writes everyday, getting ideas from “interacting with people” and “getting out into the world”.
Tell Us About Yourself
When did you decide you wanted to become an author?
I didn’t decide to become an author. I started writing at fourteen years old. At sixteen I wanted to work for the Toronto Star newspaper, maybe sharpening the writers’ pencils, running errands and working my way up to being a journalist. Instead I became a short story writer. Even though I’ve had three books published, I don’t consider myself an author. I prefer to use the word writer. To me it includes novels, short stories, poems, essays.
Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.
Place in the Sun is the third book in what I refer to as, the Sun series. I start the series with Sunshine Girls, in 1973. The four young women are in their early twenties. Book two, Paper Sun, the women are fifty years old and it takes place in 2001. Place in the Sun is in 2017 and they are in their mid-sixties. All three books take place in the summer. The theme of my latest book, Place in the Sun is starting-over. I was inspired after talking to women in their 60s and finding out how many mentioned starting-over. Especially when suddenly a curveball turns their life inside out. The book is not about glamourous retirees. The characters and their mistakes are relatable. They are real women dealing with issues of aging and what to do with their life after retiring, divorce, or loss of a partner. Add it to all the shoulda-dones in their life
Why do you write?
I ask myself that question many times. The answer always comes back, because I love it. I love the use of words, the way I can start with one word or sentence and end up with 73,000 words.
All About Business
What is the funniest/most embarrassing/scariest story from one of your books signings or events?
I made little booklets of one of my short stories, The Psychic to hand out. A woman approached my table, saw the stand with the booklets. She proceeded to tell me about all the psychics she knows, who’s working where, who moved from one location to another. Finally, when she finished talking on and on, I said, “I’m not a psychic, I wrote a story about a not so nice one.” She put down the booklet, said, “oh,” and walked away.
What would you tell aspiring young writers about the publishing business?
Not to let them dictate what genre to write. If they have a good story to tell write it even if it isn’t in the top 5 genres. If they can’t get it published, self-publish it.
What kind of promotions do you do for your books?
Book signings at books stores, book events, advertise on social media.
Writing and Critique Groups and Professional Organizations
Do you belong to a critique group? How has this helped or hindered your writing.
I belonged to a large critique group, which dwindled. I didn’t find it helpful to me since most of the members were new to writing. I now belong to one with only three members. I take part of a story and tell them what feedback I’m looking for: Does it flow? Is it realistic? Can you relate to the characters? Is there anything confusing? So, it depends on the other members of the group. If they’re into “you need a comma”, here it’s useless to me, and more of a hindrance, because I need feedback on the bigger picture.
What so you see for the future of publishing and e-books?
I think self-publishing will be the norm. The stigma is disappearing. I believe we’ll see more and more books being released as e-books.
The Process of Writing
When do you get your best ideas and why do you think this is?
In the world. Looking out the car window on a road trip at the changing scenery clears the mind of the daily routine. Meeting all kinds of people, listening to their life stories. Experiencing different things.
What’s your biggest challenge with your writing: the beginning, middle, end? Idea generation? Characters? Dialogue?
The biggest challenge is getting the first sentence perfect.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
From my first professor in the Creative Writing Program: Write for the general population-a grade six education. Writers use big words to show they know them-keep it simple (KIS). Step back, look at the big picture, detach from the story and do what’s best for the story. Even though you love them remove the words, characters, and anything else that doesn’t work. Show don’t tell. Visualize your scenes.
Which of your characters do you love/hate/fear/pity the most and why?
In my books, I love Aunt Ruby. She’s witchy and quirky-a free spirit. She always has advice for my protagonist, which usually involves the universe and spirituality.
The World of Publishing
What have you published/where?
Three novels with FriesenPress. Short stories in four anthologies and in various online magazines such as: Commuterlit. Two articles in Fashweekly magazine. I have a prosy poem coming out in an anthology at the end of September. The launch party is on September 30, 2018 in Oakville.
How important do you think writer communities are, considering many of us are solo adventurers?
Writers spend a lot of time alone. Most of our friends don’t write and aren’t interested in our projects nor do they understand what we do. It’s always nice to meet with people who you can chat with about your work and have the same interest.
Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?
www.sheilahorne.com. Facebook: Sheilahorne/author
On Reading and Ideas
What book are you reading now?
Women Talking by Miriam Toews
Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?
Yes. The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, The Bobbsey Twins, Sweet William, Fairy Tales-loved them all,
Do your pets help you with your writing?
I read my work out loud to them.
What is the worst, best, most embarrassing or funniest situation your writing career has put you in?
Years ago a friend and I were invited to read at an event at Smoky Joe’s, upstairs in the Big Bop on Queen Street. We were told it was going to be recorded so we should dress-up. We wore suits. When we arrived I refused to sit down and stood in the middle of the room clutching my coat, purse and my book. The cameraman disappeared for a few minutes and reappeared dressed as a woman. Then we found out when they said dress up, they meant slutty and it was a burlesque show. When a girl told us it was too cold for her to strip, we didn’t stay around to read. But we laughed all the way to the car and home. All we could say, our writing takes us into some weird situations.
We would like to thank Sheila for being our first volunteer and for providing us with some interesting stories. We wish Sheila luck with her latest book, Place in the Sun and look forward to its release in the fall.
If you would like to participate in the Member Spotlight here on the Easy Writer, please email Loni at email@example.com.
Sheila Horne was raised on a sugar estate in the British West Indies, and in Bryan, Texas. In her mid-teens she moved to Toronto, Canada, with her family. She is the author of three novels: Sunshine Girls, Paper Sun, and the soon to be released, Place in the Sun. She is the co-author of Temple of Light, a book of poems about the Sharon Temple. Her poems and short stories have been published in various magazines and anthologies. Sheila is a writing coach and and facilitates writing workshops in the Greater Toronto Area. To read more, visit Facebook.com/ sheilahorne, author or www.sheilahorne.com.