Sheila Quigley burst onto the literary scene a few years ago with her dark tales sent against the tough North East of England; so after 4 novels in the bag she changed publisher with her latest novel The Road to Hell. I seem to have been bumping into Sheila Quigley a great deal recently, and she kindly agreed to let Shots know a little about her work, following her first appearance at Shots, why she enjoys the writing life and why the North East of England features so prominently in her gritty thrillers -
I first started writing stories as soon as I learned how to read and write. I suppose though, I was writing them in my head long before then. Not content with one imaginary friend I had half a dozen. I soon cottoned on to the fact that it was so much easier when asked who I was talking too, to say with a smile, “The dog.” It still works to this day.
Writing was a hidden dream, how could some one like me, from a council estate without a grammar school education dare to dream that they could ever write a book! Trust me I have met up with this school of thought, more than once. But I had an even bigger dream. Mountains, I wanted to climb mountains. Well there was no way that was ever going to happen, living in a small pit village, where did you go in the sixties to learn how to climb a mountain?
So back to the writing dream, I was sending stuff off on a regular basis for thirty years and just as regularly it came back, I learned to recognise the thud as it dropped through the letter box, there is nothing like the echoing sound of rejection. So much for an overnight sensation, there’s no such thing in my opinion. People try and try, some give up but I was blessed, or cursed with a mile long stubborn streak. Finally it happened. In 2004 Run For Home was published. It was a fantastic time, at last I had achieved my dream, the very first time I saw Run For Home in the bookshop window I cried.
A year later Bad Moon Rising followed, then Living On A Prayer, and in 2007 Every Breath You Take. I loved writing the books, Lorraine Hunt, her sidekick Luke Daniels and the rest of the Seahills mob, took up residence in my head and refuse to move out. The Seahills is set on a huge empty field opposite the estate where I used to live I only left because they were pulling it down around me.
Everything was going great then half way through The Road To Hell. I went blind and found I was on my very own road to hell. Terrified to have the operation I put off and off until I was walking into walls and apologising. Faced with no other option but to have the operation I went, or was dragged there, can’t really remember I was so terrified. I do vividly remember four hours later when my son Michael took the bandage off and I screamed, the worst had happened, I could see nothing. Then he said in a matter of fact voice. ‘It would help mam if you opened your eye.’
We prised it open, and the world, thanks to the marvelous surgeons at Sunderland eye infirmary, was back so bright and beautiful. A few weeks later the other eye was done, again a fantastic success. And with it - returned the dream. I finished The Road To Hell but by this time most of the publishing people I knew had moved on, so I went with a new Northern publisher Tonto Books. It was a risk, but it has turned out brilliantly we are on a fantastic ride together. I am so proud of the beautiful book Stuart Wheatman has produced, and because of his faith, and that of my large print publisher Diane Allen at Magna, who insisted in the darkest of times that The Road To Hell was a truly great book the Seahills saga continues.
(c) 2009 Sheila Quigley