It’s another hot and sunny day and sitting round my pool is the talented and lovely Sheryl Browne. So please help your self to one of the special cocktails my waiter is mixing, relax on a recliner and enjoy the company of my wonderful guest.
Sheryl, thank you for taking time out of your manic schedule to come down here and have a chat, it’s been ages since we did this and I’m dying to find out about your new book. So let’s start. I have read two of your books, which I loved, you are now publishing a brand new novel. Learning to Love, an intriguing title, tell us about it.
Hi, Pauline! Lovely to be here, sipping cocktails around the pool (I love your waiter!)
Ah, the title. I was originally torn over that. I’d written a short, entitled The Memory Box, which was accepted by the
as part of their Anthology. The Memory Box tells the story of a withdrawn young
boy encouraged to grieve the loss of his mother. Collecting those things that
remind him of her together in a shoebox, photographs, her perfume and such
like, the boy is able to dwell on the happy memories, rather than the sad. Birmingham
As the story grew around the short, however, Learning to Love seemed a more fitting title. As mentioned, at the heart of Learning to Love is a little boy who is grieving the loss of his mother. Angry and withdrawn, ten-year old Jake blames his dad for the death of his mother. Dr David Adams, Jake’s father, is carrying the heavy burden of guilt around the death of his wife, who had Lymphatic Leukemia, and was pregnant with their second child. For all his training as a doctor, David had been as ill-equipped to deal with her decision to delay anti-leukemic treatment for the baby’s sake, as he is to deal with his son’s grief. Before his wife died, he made a mistake, a terrible mistake, causing their fragile family to fall apart. He feels Jake is right to blame him and, now alone with his son, he has no idea how to reach him.
Andrea Kelly, David’s neighbour, mum of three and carer to her dotty mother, is forced by circumstances to take refuge at David’s house and becomes instrumental in bringing this lost little boy and his equally lost father together. Andrea, too, has relationship issues and, as her attraction to David grows, she wonders whether she can love a man who is, by his own admission, flawed.
Learning to Love therefore explores the fragility of love, life and relationships. Can David learn to laugh again, to love again? Does he deserve to? Can his son learn to love him, to forgive him?
Your books often have a hidden moral in the story as they focus on some of the issues that life throws up and you always deal with them sensitively and always with sense of humour. Is this intentional?
I like to write romantic comedy because I hope to allow people a little escapism and also to leave the reader with that all-important feel-good factor. I think when we laugh at characters in a rom com, we’re actually laughing at ourselves, because it’s a familiar, comedic or embarrassing situation we could – maybe have – found ourselves in. I also believe there are highs and lows and humour to be found in most life events, albeit they might be traumatic at the time. Basically, I want to write about real people, dealing with real life events, someone the reader identifies with and wants to get to know. A story portraying characters readers can relate to and hopefully laugh with as they fall over life’s obstacles – because the reader is empathising with the character, because they’ve been there. So, yes, I do like to look at situation that might need a little more emotional exploration.
In Somebody to Love, for instance, again I had a single father, this time of a special needs child, who had a lot riding on any relationship he entered into, for obvious reasons. This snippet from a review, one of several reviews of which I am extremely proud, tells me I achieved what I set out to: This fabulous book is a Rom Com with a difference. It’s funny, its heart-breaking, and it will either make you sigh with contentment or scream with frustration. At times it made me weep. The special needs thread running through this book will tug at your heartstrings and give you a greater understanding of what it’s like trying to find love when your life is full of complications. Through this book, Sheryl Browne has captured the essence of love, life, family and the fear of giving away your heart. She has also perfectly captured the highs and lows of parenting a special needs child.
Many, many thanks to JB Johnston of Brook Cottage Books – and all the lovely reviewers who give selflessly of their time.
You have written five books are all of them published with Safhat Publishing how did this happen?
I certainly do – and I’m chuffed to bits! Long story, short, although I’ve previously been published in the
I struggled to get published here in the . Two of my books got picked up
by an agent but, sadly, they didn’t get picked up by a publisher. UK
The bug, however, had bitten. Being a passionate soul who would wither and die without her writing, I kept at it, enlisting editorial help, drafting and redrafting, taking on board feedback; using every piece of criticism constructively and – the dreaded part of the writing process – submitting. Eventually my current lovely publisher, Safkhet Publishing, read some of my work, liked my style and commissioned me to write my debut book, Recipes for Disaster (Sexilicious Romantic Comedy combined with Fab, Fun Recipes)!
I was so nervous waiting for their initial feedback I’d almost bitten my fingernails down to my elbows. And then they said Yes! They loved it! Music to a writer’s ears. Needless to say, I was euphoric. Thanks here to Snoops, co-writer and superstar of Recipes for Disaster. Safkhet then went on to read my other books and loved my work so much they opened a whole new imprint and Safkhet Soul was born. Yay!
Have you plans for more books?
Breaking news here: Safkhet have also accepted another of my books, a thriller(!), to be published under their Safkhet Select imprint. I am totally thrilled that my babies have found a safe home, to say the very least.
I do also have another two WIPS – and another burgeoning idea. I really do think I’m seriously afflicted and, alas, there is no cure. I have to write!
When you are not writing what do you do to relax?
I love to read, everything and anything. I love to read mostly whilst out boating. Preferably when we have lots of sunshine and no locks!
What is your favourite drink?
Tea. I’m a little tea-belly – by day (green tea first thing). By night, I have a wee glass of white wine or good rose.
If you won the lottery what would be the first thing you would buy?
A new boat and a dog rescue centre. Maybe I could buy a huge, big boat and have an on-board dog rescue centre? Hmmm?
A Huge thanks to Sheryl for talking about her writing and here is a little more about this lovely lady.
A little about top selling author, Sheryl Browne
Sheryl Browne brings you Fabulous, Funny, Heart-breaking Romantic Comedy! Her novel Recipes for Disaster, commissioned by Safkhet Publishing, was shortlisted for the Innovation in Romantic Fiction Award. Sheryl now has five books published under the Safkhet Soul imprint -
Recipes for Disaster - Sexilicious Romantic Comedy combined with Fab, Fun Recipes.
Somebody to Love – Sigh with contentment, scream with frustration. At times you will weep.
Warrant for Love - Three couples in a twisting story that resolves perfectly.
A Little Bit of Madness – White Knight in Blue rescues The Harbour Rest Home.
Learning to Love – Exploring the Fragility of Love, Life and Relationships.
- and has since been offered a further three book contract! A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Sheryl grew up in Birmingham, UK, where she studied Art & Design. She works part-time in her own business and is a mum and a foster mum to disabled dogs.
Here is the blurb for Learning to Love
Learning to Love
Exploring the Fragility of Love, Life, and Relationships
Widower, Dr David Adams, has recently moved to the village – where no one knows him, ergo there’s no fuel for neighbourhood gossip – to start afresh with is ten year old son, if only he can get to a place where his son wants to speak to him. Angry and withdrawn, Jake blames his dad for the death of his mother, and David doesn’t know how to reach him.
Andrea Kelly has too many balls in the air. With three children and a “nuts” mother to care for, her fiancé can’t fathom why she wants to throw something else into the mix and change her career. Surely she already has too much on her plate? Because her plates are skew-whiff and her balls are dropping off all over the place, Andrea points out. She needs to make changes. Still her fiancé, who has a hidden agenda, is dead-set against it.
When Andrea’s house burns mysteriously to the ground and Andrea and her entourage are forced to move in with the enigmatic Dr Adams, however, the village drums soon start beating, fuel aplenty when it turns out someone does know him – the woman carrying his baby.
… and here is an excerpt
‘Jake?’ David knocked on his son’s door.
Would he answer this time? Probably not.
David reached for the handle, only to find the door yanked open by Ryan.
‘Hi. How’s it going?’ David smiled at the gangly teenager, who, far from being the bad influence David had worried he might be, seemed to be sprouting a halo along with some actual stubble—and who David reckoned deserved a medal for looking out for Jake.
‘Yeah, good. Just helping Jake sort some stuff out.’
‘Oh?’ David glanced past Ryan into the room, to where Jake sat cross-legged on the floor, no PlayStation control in sight, amazingly. ‘What stuff would that be then, Jake?’
David waited, but took his cue when Ryan motioned him on in.
‘Off to get some more Pepsi, mate,’ Ryan said diplomatically. ‘Want some?’
Jake nodded, but didn’t look up.
‘Back in ten.’ Ryan drooped out, skinny fit jeans still clinging to hips and looking every inch the typical allergic-to-anything-strenuous teenager, which belied his caring attitude. David owed the kid, that was for sure.
He owed Jake, too, big time.
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 of 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 … He’d 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 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.
Sheryl is a Loveahappyending Lifestyle Author and Feature Editor.
Other fabulous sites hosting Sheryl's Blog Tour
21st July 2013
DizzyC’s Little Book Blog - www.dizzycslittlebookblog.blogspot.com
Brook Cottage Books – www.brookcottagebooks.blogspot.com
Patricia Sands - http://patriciasands.wordpress.com/
Mandy Baggot – www.mandybaggot.com
Shani Struthers - http://shanisite.wordpress.com/
Melanie Robertson-King - http://www.melanierobertson-king.com/wp02/
Angela Williams - http://chaoticbookcorner.blogspot.co.uk
22nd July 2013
Wendy Chartier - http://theauthorandreaderspotlight.blogspot.co.uk/
Zanna Mackenzie - http://www.zannamackenzie.blogspot.co.uk/
Donna Trinder - http://donnasroomforreading.blogspot.co.uk/
Julia Hughes - http://www.wordspi.com/
Carol E Wyer- http://facing50withhumour.com/
Brook Cottage Books – http://brookcottagebooks.blogspot.com
Silvy Silvana - http://books-are-my-life-silvy.blogspot.com/
Joan Hill - www.romanticfiction.org
Nikki Mahood - http://nikkimahood.wordpress.com/