Hello I am Sheila Johnson and welcome to my website and blog. If you want to learn more about me visit the About Me page.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

What's in a name?

What's in a name? Plenty I've now come to realise. We are now in the final month before my novel is published. It was to be called 'Tarureka' - Maori for sweet grass or meadow herbs - but now all of that has changed. Why? Because some of my New Zealand relatives felt it deviated too much from the true history of their and my forebears.

This can be a real stumbling block for the historical novelist even if, like Phillipa Gregory, when challenged about the veracity of her historical facts, declared 'I'm writing a story, not a history'.

Of course, this is not to argue that the historical novelist can ignore history and put in facts that are clearly out of the time, no, the historical novelist must always write his/her story based on history, but based is the operative word. To try and get the facts correct but not write a  true history. Whoever heard of a real person's story being made up of page-turning facts? Occasionally but rarely.

The other problem for the historical novelist, no, for any novelist, is that the characters have to necessarily be based on real people that the novelist knows, knows about or has met. What else can any of us do but write from what we know even if our characters are made up of composite people? The writer can only cover himself/herself by putting a disclaimer at the start of the book, something like - 'this story is entirely fictional. Any similarity to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental'.

So now 'Tarureka' has become the fictional place of WAIREKA which is Maori for 'sweet waters' given that the mythical river WAIHAHA or 'noisy river' has a tributary flowing through the land which is near the fictional town of Frampton.

Based on history indeed but also a story. Will that appease those who have been upset by the original tale? Maybe. But at the end of the day, a writer has to write a story they can believe in themselves. 

I would particularly like to thank my publisher for their support at what has been for me a rather difficult time. Thank you www.emeraldhouse.com and I look forward to publishing my new book, WAIREKA very soon.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Happy New Year!

To all my friends and followers. I hope you all had a great Christmas break. I did, although it's funny but life doesn't always turn out quite as we'd anticipated or planned for! 

2017 Christmas was to be my son's fiancee's first UK Christmas (she's American). I had hoped to cook a special Christmas dinner and show her other great British traditions and foods. However, on 20 December, just before my husband, Angus, and myself were about to go to a party, I tripped and fell and managed to impale my left hand on one of the spindles in the open dishwasher, fixing me to the ground in some pain. There ensued a trip to hospital by ambulance, an operation and lots of recovery time over Christmas. So, no cooking or cleaning for me (luckily I had written all the cards, wrapped all the presents and done most of the cleaning). Instead of me impressing Kelsey with my cooking skills, she ended up preparing the vegetables she was going to eat, and my husband, Angus, had a very busy Christmas cooking, washing and cleaning. He's gone back to work now for a rest!

But what did I learn from this? 
  1. Things don't always work out according to your plans but God is still in the every day.
  2. Miraculously although the spindle was in towards half of my hand no bones or tendons or anything vital was damaged. He is still a God of miracles!
  3. God is gracious. It was my left hand and not my dominant writing right hand.
  4. Even if our plans change we can still have a good time.
Perhaps there is a lesson here for our writing as well as life. We may not produce that bestseller that rocks the world but God is still in our writing. Also, not only have I got a great story to tell people, perhaps I now have the germ of another potential book? Nothing is wasted. May God continue to use us all in 2018 in our lives and in our writing.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Happy Christmas to all my followers!

Happy Christmas to all my followers. It's only 12 December today as I write this blog but it is just 13 days until Christmas day and we already have the weather. Not that our Zak is enjoying it that much at his age!

This scene seems a million miles away from our first cruise to the Caribbean islands and down the Amazon river in Brazil. Here people were fainting from the heat!

We also saw an amazing selection of strange creatures on the Amazon including the little biter below!

But the heat reminded me of New Zealand temperatures where it is summer at Christmas time. Going on my first cruise also made me think of the heroine of my book, Elizabeth and how strange it must have seemed to her to set sail for the first time. I'm sure she wouldn't have had the comforts we experienced on our cruise. She certainly wouldn't go as fast as we did powered by diesel rather than sails like her. 

Plus, I expect, no swimming pool! But we did experience our sea legs and that made me identify with Elizabeth somewhat. TARUREKA -to be published March 2018. Until then, I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and I'll see you in 2018. God bless you all. Thanks for following!

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Women's issues

No woman can be unaware of sexual predators - Harvey Weinstein, currently in the news, or Jimmy Saville in the past. Times change and we are told we are becoming more advanced in so many ways but in this particular way, nothing has changed since Roman times! Women still remain vulnerable, the only difference being that we are now more aware of it.

Our church, St Andrew's had a women's day last Saturday (14/10) when the charity, Restored was invited. Their purpose is to help end violence against women in the form of domestic abuse, be it physical or emotional. They can be found at www.restoredrelationships.org

My book, Tarureka, in its final editing stage at present, deals with the issue of rape in the church but rather than ending there and showing just the negative side of the church, which so often happens in the press, it also deals with hope and acceptance in the church too. The issue is, I hope, dealt with sensitively but always with God and restoration at the centre.

I hope my blog followers will want to buy a copy when it is out in the next few months and also enjoy a story of romance set against nineteenth-century New Zealand life.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Family Connections

We nearly all belong to families, or if on our own, most of us are part of friendship groups or even interest groups.

July and August was a time for my family of catching up with old friends and family and sharing memories and experiences.

There were friends from afar like our New Zealand and Australian cousins -

And then there was catching up with our sons and our old friends -

My current novel 'Tarureka', which I am currently working on, explores family relations and connections against a pioneering background. But although the background and life experiences are very different from ours, the emotional struggles and family ties that bind them together are similar to ours. It's interesting and absorbing writing in a past historical time but basically, human beings and their relationships remain unchangeable.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Peaks and Troughs

Our lives are often full of peaks and troughs and it is therefore right that our literature should reflect the same contrasts.

July has been very much a month of peaks and troughs. My youngest son, Luke, not only qualified as a doctor and we were the proud parents at his graduation but he also got engaged to a lovely girl called Kelsey from America.

Note the lovely ring! That happened at the very end of June and then just a few days later, the graduation.

Just a picture of the South Bank Centre stage in London, I'm afraid as all the good pictures of Luke and Kelsey are official!

These events, of course, are highs, things to celebrate and enjoy. But then, just as we were getting ready to go to London for the graduation and a few days lovely break, I heard of the death of a dear friend and lovely lady of prayer. Of course, this too is a reason to celebrate in many ways, as we know she has gone to be with the Lord but also sad as we will miss her lovely singing voice and her commitment to prayer. She was always someone who would support and encourage others. Indeed, she came to my first book launch of 'Alpha Male' and was glad to buy a copy. What a privilege to have known such a person!

It got me to thinking, as I said earlier in our post, that our writing should reflect life. My first book, Alpha Male, had a happy ending and that's great. That kind of romance is real escapism which we all need from time to time. But 'Tarureka' which I am working on at the moment, one editor called too tragic. I make no apology for this. It is written in the early pioneering conditions of New Zealand. Life was hard, children died and tragedy happened. But like life, in all of this, my characters have their moments of celebration and joy.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Writing is my calling

I really should post here more often, although I hate to post when I have nothing useful or interesting to say!

I have just returned from an inspiring Lydia prayer conference. Lydia is an organisation of women and we meet to pray for this nation of the UK. I am also a writer as well as a praying woman, prayer is my God given responsibility, writing is my calling. I was inspired while away to read a post from one of my colleagues on the association of Christian writers www.christianwriters.org.uk talking about rejection and how it really hurts each and everyone of us at some time or other. Of course, this is true but I got to thinking about this and this is when I thought that as a Christian I am more than just a writer, this is my calling but I am also a spirit filled Christian. Therefore, although it still hurts I am able to rise above it because my writing isn't everything to me. God is.

I also have a real reason to be grateful today too. I have signed a contract with a publisher for my second book, Tarureka, a book about New Zealand in the nineteenth century and the first pioneers.
What a beautiful land and what a privilege to write about it. So, whether it is successful or not, it's still a privileged calling for which I am very thankful and I look forward to working on the book.