I am pleased to be featuring author Sheila Deeth here this week. We struck up a conversation recently about the influence music has had both in our writing and in our lives more generally and from that, I was eager to explore Sheila's work more and share it here.
So a little about Sheila first up. She grew up in the UK and has a Bachelors and Masters in mathematics from Cambridge University, England. Now living in the States near Portland Oregon, she enjoys reading, writing, drawing, telling stories and meeting her neighbours dogs on the green.
Given the various influences that have imprinted themselves onto Sheila, she admitted to me that she doesn't write to the accompaniment of music, unlike myself, though music is an important ingredient in the formation of her characters and stories.
I don’t listen to music while I write. I don’t keep the radio on in the car or play CDs. But the voices of characters I write about are sometimes drowned in song, and I hear the beat and tunes of my son on his guitar.
From there, Shelia extrapolated on the genesis of her musical inspiration.
My son listens to music all the time and writes it too, but he’s left home and any other melody would make the hole feel bigger I suppose. But music’s always been part of my life. My parents dated at air-raid warden concerts after the war, Mum young and quiet, Dad slightly older, recently returned from prison camp, and definitely shy. They sang opera together and my childhood thrilled to the sound of Dad singing excerpts from the Mikado. When he wasn't singing he’d play favourite records in the living room, classical, opera, and more. He set up extra speakers to our sound system before anyone even called them sound systems. We had music while we cooked and while we ate.
Having come from a such a background of music then, I was curious to know why it is that Sheila finds it somewhat difficult to listen to music while writing now.
In church I used to have my un-favourite hymns, the ones whose tunes made me think of plodding feet and accusing eyes. I’d sing my own variations under my breath, hoping the choir-mistress couldn't hear. Even now I struggle to sing the right notes to “Now Thank We All Our God.” But my son’s the musician. And my brother. And not me.
That little brother, now a priest, used to compose his own tunes on the piano when we were kids. I didn't tell him but I quietly wrote the words. I still sing some of those songs in my head, sometimes even while writing the words of a novel.
So why no music playing outside of your own head?
I think it’s because I'm listening to my characters. If they've got the radio on or are playing a CD that’s fine by me, especially since they often seem to like what my guitarist son likes. But I wouldn't want to get the songs confused. I don’t want two tunes vying for my attention as they tell their tale.
I've been told my writing’s sort of musical. If so, I'm glad it’s got a tune of its own. If not, I hope readers might like it anyway, maybe with a CD playing while they read. My characters clearly hope they’ll come back for more since they’re arguing in my head about which novel I'm meant to write next. Their arguments sound like Beethoven symphonies, those endings that never quite finish, that never quite let my fingers get back to the keys. So I’ll go for a walk and hear my son’s guitar on the wind in the trees till they settle down. Meanwhile I'm not listening to music, but my first book’s just come out, the second’s been accepted, and I'm eager to settle down and write the third.
And now to showcase Sheila's latest work, Divide by Zero:
It takes a subdivision to raise a child, and a wealth of threads to weave a tapestry, until one breaks.
Troy, the garage mechanic’s son, loves Lydia, the rich man’s daughter. Amethyst has a remarkable cat and Andrea a curious accent. Old Abigail knows more than anyone else but doesn't speak. And in Paradise Park a middle-aged man keeps watch while autistic Amelia keeps getting lost.
Pastor Bill, at the church of Paradise, tries to mend people. Peter mends cars. But when that fraying thread gives way it might take a child to raise the subdivision—or to mend it.
Divide by Zero is available now from:
Barnes and Noble
W. H. Smith
Readers can connect with Sheila here.