What: Author of over a half-dozen novels, including the thriller FLOWERTOWN and the sci-fi drama, DAMOCLES. A former radio host, Sheila now spends her non-writing time traveling and arguing with her cats about traveling. Her latest novel is AT RISK.
Where: West Virginia
Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.
Congrats on your fantastic new novel, AT RISK. Can you tell us a little about how this one came about?
AT RISK is a departure for me from my previous thrillers. I gravitate toward protagonists who are less traditional—women with occasionally questionable hygiene, a love of profanity, and a warm flirtation with substance abuse. (The first person who says “Write what you know” gets punched in the face.) As you know, writing is all about trying new things, pushing yourself a little farther. I didn’t know if I could write a protag who was, by all appearances, pulled together. Colleen is polite, reserved, tasteful. On the inside, however, she is a complete disaster, the core of her confidence beaten to pieces by her violent first marriage. She challenged me and surprised me.
On a sad side note, from which I promise I will pull back, I finished this book as my mother was dying. I didn’t know if I could do it. In some ways it felt as if I was writing on scabs. On the other hand, I reaffirmed that writing really is my solace. Still, there are parts of this story that feel alien to me, written by some part of me that writes on when everything else is falling apart. On the up side, I think my mother is delighted that I finally wrote a hero who is comfortable in sweater sets and pearls.