I’m delighted to welcome Sheryl Browne back on the blog with her new book Learning to Love, released today! I had a few questions for her, of course, but first, the cover and the blurb . . .
Sometimes help comes from the most unlikely places …
Living in a small village like Hibberton, it’s expected that your neighbours help you in a time of need. But when Andrea Kelly’s house burns down, taking all her earthly possessions with it, it’s the distant and aloof Doctor David Adams – the person she would least expect – who opens his door not just to her, but to her three kids and slightly dotty elderly mother as well.
Andrea needs all the help she can get, dealing with aftermath of the fire and the suspicious absence of her husband, Jonathan. But, as she gets to know David and his troubled son, Jake, she begins to realise that maybe they need her help as much as she needs theirs …
And now to find out more about it . . .
It’s lovely to have you back on the blog, Sheryl. Tell me, what was the kernel of an idea that got you started on Learning to Love?
I can’t think where, but I read an article about helping children through the bereavement process by allowing them to remember, to cherish the good times they’d shared with the person they’d lost. A subject I’m familiar with, it struck a chord with me and I wrote a short around it, entitled The Memory Box, now published in a Birmingham City Anthology. The characters though simply called to me and I knew I had to write their whole story. Learning to Love does look at bereavement in childhood and a single father desperately trying to help his son come to terms with his grief. ‘It’s also about family as beautifully chaotic as they can be.’ – thank you Reviewed the Book for that perfect description.
Fundamentally, it’s a story – poignant at times, but also hopefully amusing and uplifting – about moving on, trusting yourself and opening yourself up to the possibility of loving again, even though life might be complicated.
It sounds like an emotional read. Do you find yourself getting too caught up in the subject matter?
When you’re writing about a sensitive issue, I think you have to get caught up in the subject matter. As long as your research is thorough, you don’t necessarily have to have experienced something, but you have to be able to put yourself in your character’s shoes and feel every single emotion. When an author says they’ve just read their last chapter and laughed or cried, they’re not bragging. They’ve simply been completely in character. Well, that applies to me anyhow!
Which aspects of Andrea and David’s personalities did you enjoy writing most?
Oh David. David’s euphoria and underlying heartbreak when he finally makes a connection with his son was my most enjoyable section. David knows his son’s anger towards him is justified. He did something which would be unforgivable in most people’s eyes. Writing aspects of his character that showed him to be a man worthy of forgiveness was a huge challenge, but hugely satisfying. The challenge with Andrea was writing a strong female character, yet portraying her to be forgiving, and vulnerable, as we can all be at times. This is a woman who will claw and fight for her kids. The scene where she’s furious with David when he seems to be every bit the womaniser he claims not to be was fuelled by her determination to protect their respective children. Funnily enough, David’s instincts were to do the same.
Do you find it hard writing children into a book?
No. If we don’t have a convenient child to hand, we can always reach out to our friend’s via social media nowadays. I do tend to look at the situation through the child’s eyes, however. The above mentioned scene with David and his son was written from David’s point of view, but I was often in Jake’s character, if that makes sense.
It sounds like a wonderful story. Have you started your next book yet, and if so, can you tell us a little about it?
Currently, I have another book contracted with Choc Lit and four in the pipeline, one of which, my latest thriller Sins of the Fathers, has been passed by the wonderful Tasting Panel. I also have two more for submission and another contemporary romance underway, Ripples on the Water, a story about childhood sweethearts forced apart by secrets and ghosts past. There’s also a sequel to Sins of the Fathers itching to be told. I may faint!
Crikey, you are so busy! If you could choose your ideal writing space, where would it be?
Looking at the above, I think my little boat, Aquaduck, moored exactly where it is for six months with no internet would be a writer’s paradise.
That looks absolutely perfect! Thank you for visiting today, Sheryl
You can buy Learning to Love at these links:
Amazon UK Amazon US
Watch the trailer here . . .
And here’s an excerpt to tempt you . . .
David turned his attention back to his son, who was surrounded by a sea of photographs, he realised. Photographs of Michelle, from the albums in the spare room.
Cautiously, David walked across to stand by Jake’s side. Then, hands in pockets, he waited again, wondering what to say that could even begin to heal their relationship. What would he want to hear, if he were Jake?
Sorry perhaps? Wholly inadequate, David knew, but it might be a start.
He looked down at his son, whose head was bent in concentration on his endeavours.
He needed a haircut. Needed a lot of things.
David closed his eyes as he noticed the bottle of perfume tucked in the corner of Jake’s Adidas shoebox.
Because Jake wanted something to remind him of her.
‘Need any help, Jake?’ David asked softly.
Jake didn’t answer. That was okay. David didn’t really expect him to. He swallowed back a lump in his throat, then took a gamble, crouched down next to Jake – and silently waited.
Biding his time, he studied the photographs quietly alongside his son. ‘You’ve chosen all the good ones,’ he ventured.
Jake did respond then, somewhere between a nod and a shrug.
‘Not many fun ones though.’ David reached for a photograph. One he’d taken himself on what turned out to be their last time at the theme park together: Michelle, Jake in front of her on the log flume, both shrieking with laugher and soaked through to the skin.
Probably the last time she had laughed – with him.
David breathed in, hard. ‘I did make her sad, Jake,’ he said quietly. ‘I’m sorry. I know it doesn’t help much, but … I wish I hadn’t.’
Jake’s head dropped even lower.
‘She did laugh though, you know, Jake. With you.’
David placed the photograph carefully in the box. ‘Alton Towers,’ he said, ‘summer before last. She laughed so much she had to dash to the loo, remember?’
Jake dragged the back of his hand under his nose.
‘She couldn’t have been that happy without you, Jake. You gave her the gift of laugher. That’s something to be glad about. To be proud of.’
David stopped, his chest filling up as he watched a slow tear fall from his son’s face.
David hesitated, then rested a hand lightly on Jake’s shoulder. Jake didn’t shrug him off.
‘You won her a stuffed toy that day, do you remember? What was it? A tiger?’
‘Tigger.’ Jake finally spoke.
‘That’s right,’ David said, his throat tight. ‘Tigger.’
‘She kept it in the car,’ Jake picked up in a small voice.
The car she never arrived at the hospital in, David realised, overwhelming guilt slicing through him. ‘She kept a whole family of furry friends in the car. I’m surprised there was room for her.’
Jake’s mouth twitched into a small smile. ‘She talked to them.’ He glanced up at David, his huge blue eyes glassy with tears.
‘That was the little girl inside her. The little girl you made laugh.’ David squeezed Jake’s shoulder. He actually felt like whooping. Like punching the air. Like picking Jake up and hugging him so hard … Jake had looked at him. Full on. No anger.
David closed his eyes, relief washing over him. ‘I have one of Mum’s stuffed toys,’ he said throatily. ‘One she kept. Not Tigger, but … Do you want me to fetch it?’
‘Right.’ David smiled. ‘Back in two.’ He dragged his forearm across his eyes as he headed for his own room. He had something else, too. Something he’d wanted to give Jake before, but somehow couldn’t.
The antique locket he’d bought Michelle for her thirtieth birthday was in the bedside drawer. David collected it, ran his thumb over the engraved rose gold surface of it. If Jake needed something to remind him of his mother, this was it.
‘Bedtime Bear,’ David announced, joining Jake back on the floor. ‘Your very first toy.’ He handed his son the scruffy little white bear.
Jake laughed and David really did feel like crying then.
‘I have something else for you, Jake.’ He passed him the locket. ‘It was very special to her,’ he said gently as Jake’s eyes fell on the photograph of himself inside it. ‘She wore it right next to her heart. And that,’ he went on as Jake looked at the lock of hair on the opposite side of the locket, ‘is your hair and hers, entwined.’
Jake went very quiet.
‘Okay?’ David asked.
Jake nodded vigorously. ‘Okay,’ he said, around a sharp intake of breath. David reached out, ran his hand through Jake’s unruly crop, and then allowed it to stray to his shoulder. He wanted very much to hold him, to reassure him. But Jake’s body language was tense. It would take time, David knew, but maybe someday, Jake would let him back in.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Heartache, humour, love, loss & betrayal, Sheryl Browne brings you sassy, sexy, heart-wrenching fiction. A member of the Crime Writers’ Association, Romantic Novelists’ Association and shortlisted for the Best Romantic e-book Love Stories Award 2015, Sheryl has several books published and two short stories in Birmingham City University anthologies, where she completed her MA in Creative Writing.
Recommended to the publisher by the WH Smith Travel fiction buyer, Sheryl’s contemporary fiction comes to you from award winning Choc Lit.
You can find Sheryl at:
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Choc Lit | Romantic Novelists’ Association