Maker of Footprints by Sheila Turner Johnston, #AuthorInterview

I am so happy to be bringing you an interview with Sheila Turner Johnston today, in celebration of her contemporary novel, Maker of Footprints. Before we meet her, let's find out a little more about the book:

Meeting him was easy. It was knowing him that burned bone.

Paul Shepherd is dangerous. He crashes into Jenna’s life like an asteroid into an ocean. Willful and exhausting, he stirs feelings that make her confront all that has kept her safe – and bored.

Relentless and determined, he needs Jenna with a desperation she does not understand. Jenna discovers that, although she can try to hide from Paul, there is nowhere to hide from herself.

But he is married...

What do you do when you discover you are not the person you thought you were?

Welcome to Books, Life and Everything, Sheila.

Would you like to start by telling us a little about yourself and how you started as a writer?

Hi Pam! Lovely to talk to you and many thanks for being a stop on the blog tour for Maker of Footprints.

I was born in west Cork in southern Ireland and grew up in a manse, because my father was a clergyman – an experience I have drawn on in Maker of Footprints. We moved about throughout Ireland wherever he was stationed, but most of my life has been spent in Northern Ireland. I graduated from Queen’s University in Belfast and moved to Omagh in Co Tyrone for a job and met my future husband there. Marriage and two fabulous sons followed. I live in County Down now. 

I’m honestly not sure how I started as a writer. I’ve just always been one! I used to write stories about my pets and loved the challenge of a free writing task at school. There is an endless list of things I’m hopeless at, but I always seemed to have an ear for language and I love the rhythm and beat of words well put together, and how the sound and length of a sentence can carry as much significance as the words in it. At school I couldn’t run, sing, play a musical instrument or do anything that so many of my schoolmates excelled at. So my creativity and desire for achievement was poured into words on the page. I was also a bit of an introvert and didn’t make friends easily and I suppose that drove me into living inside my own head a lot of the time.

What was your inspiration behind Maker of Footprints?

My novels are character driven. I got the characters of Jenna and Paul first and they stayed in my mind for months. Slowly they developed as people and I began to wonder how they would interact when confronted with difficult situations and choices. I like to explore the grey areas of life, to challenge stereotypical ways of looking at life and living it, and this is how the story of these two individuals and everyone around them unfolded, like a film, in my head. 

I also find locations inspirational. This is particularly true of Rossnowlagh Strand in Donegal. It’s a place I love and remember from early childhood when my father was stationed close to it. When writing Maker of Footprints, I mentally placed my characters there for some critical scenes. The place was like another character, and the story flowed.

Can you tell us a little about Maker of Footprints without giving the plot away?

Well, one of the lines on the back cover says: “A story of irrevocable change, tragedy and indestructible love”! A Goodreads reviewer said it was about “love, desire, relationships and passion”. At the heart of it is a love story, but it is much more than that. Through the interrelationships of four main characters and their desires and fears, the tension between want and need, between selfishness and generosity and between anger and forgiveness, plays out. But as I said, the heart of it is a love story.

I understand you also write poetry. Do you prefer poetry or novel writing?

When I was a student, poetry was my main method of expression. I don’t know what that says about those formative years! I still write poetry occasionally but somehow it doesn’t come as easily as a creative outlet now – although I did win an Association of Freelance Writers poetry competition recently, to my great surprise! I moved on to really enjoying short story writing, but now I love the space to breathe that a novel gives.

Do you find you write on similar themes within your poetry and novels or are they quite different?
Mostly the themes in my novels are different to those of my earlier poetry. I think life experience adds depth to the well you draw from when creating fiction. As a student I was more idealistic, wanting to change the world. Creative expression reflects that psyche. Now I find that I’m more fascinated by how characters deal with imperfection, both in themselves and in the flawed world in which they must find their place. This is especially true of the characters in Maker of Footprints. They are all flawed in some way, but could anyone really judge them on the different paths they chose?

What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?

I wish I had a proper writing routine! I’m always promising to take myself in hand and Get Organised! I’m very easily distracted and fight to focus. But once I get started and am really in deep, I can write for hours and not know the time going. Writing is the only thing that makes me forget to eat – and that’s serious! Just as an example, I crawled into bed at five o’clock in the morning after finishing chapter 14 of Maker of Footprints! I didn’t feel the night passing but I got the scenes carved out. I’m still fond of that chapter! My desk is in my sitting room, but quite often I write in an armchair with my laptop on my knee. This foils the best efforts of my elderly cat Fudge, who persists on sitting on the keyboard, purring into my face when I am at my desk. She has even managed to highlight and delete a whole paragraph by walking across the keys!

What do you like to read when you are not writing?

Lots of stuff. I like the occasional tense drama like Harlan Coben’s books. Nothing too violent or gory though! I have enjoyed and admired the complex plotting of Robert Goddard and the stunning prose of Sebastian Faulks, David Park and Sebastian Barry. Books by Amanda Prowse, Claire Allan, Lisa Jewell are all on my kindle. My favourite genre is historical, especially as far back as Greek and Roman times. At the moment I’m reading Imperium by Robert Harris, about the Roman politician and orator Cicero. I’m a bit of a reading gypsy really!

Finally, Do you have any writing projects on the go that you can share with us?

I have another novel in the final stages of revision and I hope it will be fit to be seen in the not too distant future. I have a working title for it but it’s so awful I’m not going to mention it! It is set in Belfast and follows the mental and emotional journey of two very different people who form an unusual bond as they find a way to forgive and to be forgiven for events in the past. And no, it has nothing to do with the Troubles!

That sounds fascinations. Thanks so much for telling us a little about your writing life. 

About the Author

Sheila Turner Johnston was born in west Cork, Ireland and spent her childhood in different counties the length and breadth of the country, as the family moved wherever her father’s job took him. She attended Queen’s University, Belfast, and apart from managing to graduate against all her expectations, one of her best experiences was reading her poetry to an audience that included Seamus Heaney.

Sheila has won prizes for both fiction and non-fiction, and has written many articles for both local and national publications. She and her husband Norman founded the publishing house Colourpoint Creative Ltd, which is now owned and managed by their two sons.

You can follow Sheila here:  Goodreads

Book links: Amazon UK

Thanks to Sheila Turner Johnston and Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for a place on the tour.

                                                        Check out the rest of the tour!


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