Many thanks to Rachel @ Rachel’s Random Resources for arranging the following interview with Shelly Berry…..
Author Photo credit Bianca Kirby.
For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book(s) please?
I’m Shelly and I’ve always worked with people in the voluntary or public sector. I got back into writing in my twenties having loved writing stories as a child. I started off by blogging before taking some short courses in writing fiction. I came up with the concept of Outreach quite early on in my writing journey, but put it to one side for a while whilst I pursued other projects. Outreach is heavily influenced by my day jobs, but it really came out of my curiosity about what would happen if someone developed a crush that they were unable to let go of, even if all the signs suggested that they should…
Where did/do you get your ideas from?
I get my ideas from life – people I meet, my own experiences and my interest in what makes people tick.
Are any of your characters based (however loosely) on anyone you know?
I’d be lying if I said my characters weren’t influenced by people I’d met. There’s a bit of an old manager in Eric, the Service Manager where Emily works, and Fran her colleague has traits that I have witnessed from a number of people I have worked with. There are probably fragments of a lot of people I have known in my characters, including Emily, but none of them are based exclusively on any one person.
How do you pick your characters names?
I don’t really have a set way of picking names for my characters. I think about their background and age to come up with a few ideas. Then I think about what suits them – I have a picture of them all in my head! I’m careful not to use names of people I know well for obvious reasons, although since writing Outreach I have started working with an Emily….
Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?
First I like to flesh out my story. I use post-it notes to create a flow chart that I can easily change to develop my plot. Then I spend some time thinking about my characters and the places that they find themselves and create spider-grams that I can refer back to throughout the writing process. Then I set a weekly target and get started, and keep going until I get to the end!
Who are your top 5 favourite authors?
I’m a big fan of contemporary female authors – Zadie Smith, Donna Tartt and Margaret Atwood are all up there. Helen Fielding and Marian Keyes are fantastic too – I love Bridget Jones and really admire how Marian can write about serious and sad issues with such humour.
If you could meet any author, who would it be and what would you ask them?
Whilst one of the above is tempting to pick, I’d perhaps want to go back in time and talk to Sylvia Plath, Iris Murdoch or Virginia Woolf. I’d want to ask them about their world, and what it was like for them being female writers in such different and changing times.
Were you a big reader as a child?
Absolutely – I loved Roald Dahl and Brian Jacques. Anything fantastical with talking animals.
When did you start to write?
I wrote a story called The Diamond Mistress when I was about 6. There were sequels… and then quite a gap until my mid to late twenties when I started to blog and signed up to an evening class. I haven’t really stopped since.
If you could re-write the ending to any book what would it be and what would you change?
This may be controversial and more than a little ambitious, but I think I’d have a bash at re-writing one of those Shakespearian comedies where characters rebel against societal norms… but seem to conform in the end. Maybe some of Jane Austen’s novels need similar treatment….
Is there a book you wish you had written?
I recently read Normal People by Sally Rooney and really admired her fresh style.
If you wrote an autobiography, what would your title be?
Long Tall Shelly (I’m pretty tall)
If you could invite any fictional character for coffee who would it be and where would you take them?
Offred from The Handmaids Tale. She is such a strong woman. I’d take her back in time so we could visit a café that used to be open in the middle of Clapham Common – a real hippie shack with brightly painted tables and chairs outside that served the most amazing lentil soup.
What are you working on right now?
A series of short stories that I intend to bring together into a novel made up of entwining tales that bring the characters together. They are based around a council estate in central London that has a lot of problems which they all become involved in in one way or another.
Do you have a new release due?
Outreach was released on 28th September, but nothing else is due… as of yet!
What do you generally do to celebrate on publication day?
At the stroke of midnight on the publication day of Outreach I was in a nightclub. My boyfriend pointed out the time and I had another vodka and tonic!
How can readers keep in touch with you?
I’m all over social media – ShellyBerryUK on Twitter and ShellyBerryOriginal on Facebook and Instagram. Alternatively they can visit my website shellyberryoriginal.co.uk which has a contact page. Come say hi!
Is there anything else you would like us to know?
My book is available to buy at https://www.bookguild.co.uk/bookshopcollection/fiction/contemporary/outreach/ – enjoy!
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Shelly! 🙂
When Emily was offered a new job in London, she was sure that her life was about to change – new friends, a career in the big city and the boyfriend she always wanted.
Her new life turns out to be more complicated than she expected. Her flat mates don’t understand her. Her colleagues mock everything about her. Even her father doesn’t support her. The only person who offers her any encouragement is David.
He’s married. He’s her manager. To Emily it’s clear that they have something special. As their relationship develops, everyone seems to want to sabotage their chances.
But some things are meant to be…
Author Bio –
Shelly Berry lives in Waltham Forest, London. Having gained a BA Joint Honours Degree in Visual Art and Sociology at Keele University and a Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling, she has since worked in the public sector with vulnerable adults and children – including those affected by mental illness, drug and alcohol misuse, disability, criminal behaviour, homelessness and domestic and sexual abuse. During this time, Shelly developed and nurtured her love of writing. As well as writing fiction, she has previously written for a number of blogs and now writes for the Waltham Forest Echo.
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happy reading 🙂