I’m pleased to welcome Cheryl Smith to the blog today. I met Cheryl last year at an event I was taking part in for Book Week Scotland. She shyly asked me afterwards if I’d consider reading her book, Being Mrs Smith. You can order a copy online here. It has taken us a while to get organised but I will be reading and reviewing it next month. In the meantime, let’s get to know Cheryl a bit better.
First of all, would you tell me a little about yourself?
My biography in ‘From the Lighthouse’, an anthology from Tyne and Esk Writers, published last year, reads:
Cheryl Smith’s love of writing began early; her first memory is of making marks on paper and ‘reading’ them to her dolls. She studied philosophy, language, history and ethnology, and worked for many years as an adult educator, occasionally writing and having work published here and there. She has been blogging on health and wellbeing since 2010, and her first book, Being Mrs Smith, was published in June 2016.
Cheryl lives in Roslin, where she loves walking in the glen with her dogs… unless it’s raining, when she prefers a sofa, a good book and a purring cat. Sometimes she knuckles down to writing her second book.
What inspired you to start writing?
It was so long ago, I can’t remember. I’ve always found the act of getting things down on paper therapeutic – it’s a kind of meditation, really. I’d been threatening to write a book for years, till finally, the story of Being Mrs Smith demanded to be told and I couldn’t not write it.
Tell me about your journey to publication
Almost immediately after the events recounted in Being Mrs Smith, I returned to my regular blog, and, encouraged by readers and mindful of the promise I made to Mr Smith to write it all down, I was determined to have this story published no matter what. I had no clue about how to make a pitch to a publisher, but I had a go and it does seem to have worked!
In a nutshell, what is your book about?
It’s been described as a Hero’s Journey, an adventure story and a modern romance. It’s about a couple who go to extraordinary lengths in response to a very common life situation. It moves from doctors’ consulting rooms in Europe to the depths of the Amazon jungle, and every word of it is true.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
I tried on lots of options. Brown Dirt Road to Home was favourite for a while, till a very honest friend told me (and I quote), ‘That title sucks… what’s wrong with Being Mrs Smith?’ I’d been blogging at beingmrssmith.com for a couple of years before that, and I had wanted a different title for the book, but the more I sat with it, the more it fitted.
How did you celebrate publication day?
The day itself (24th June 2016) wasn’t really memorable (and Amazon had released it on the 1st so it turned out there wasn’t really a defined publication date). But I had a lovely time at the launch at Blackwell’s bookshop in early July. Claire Askew, one of my writing mentors, hosted the evening and generally, and quite beautifully, looked after me. After that a few close friends followed me home for cocktails. It was all quietly celebratory, and I loved it.
Do you have a work in progress just now?
Yes. Well, sort of. I have more than one – I’m just trying them out, playing with genres and exploring possibilities.
What’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past few months? Or favourite three if you really can’t choose!
I’ve recently discovered Maggie O’Farrell – I’ve only read one of her books so far (The Hand That First Held Mine), and am childishly excited that I have a New Favourite Author whose other works I can look forward to. Also, my writers’ group, Tyne and Esk Writers, has produced some diverse and impressive publications over the last year or two, and I’ve been enjoying work by Claire Askew, Catherine Simpson, Stella Hervey Birrell, Moira Cormack and RL McKinney. (Sorry, that’s more than three but I couldn’t leave any of them out!)
What are you reading just now?
I’m writing this in the lull just after Christmas, when everything slows down and I’m drawn to gentle, undemanding reading material. I’ve been dipping into a collection of short stories by AL Kennedy. She’s the kind of writer who’s inspiring and daunting in equal measure. Daunting, since she writes in a way that makes you doubt the value of your own work. She conveys everyday intimacies and unconscious truths with exquisite simplicity – which, of course, isn’t at all simple. (Edit: I’ve just seen her read from her new children’s book, and it seems she’s also a hilarious performer. Which is delightful, if a bit unfair…)
If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?
I’d get into a dither and end up not being able to choose. How do you choose just one? There are lots of books I haven’t got round to reading yet (and there’s never going to be enough time), so I could choose one of them, but what if I didn’t like it? Or I could choose something I’ve read before, but I do prefer something new and fresh. I think I’d have to do a lot of research, picking up recommendations and making lists of pros and cons. I’d probably end up running out of time and panic-grabbing the nearest thing available – which may or may not turn out well.
Is there a book you’d like to see made into a film? Who would be in your dream cast?
At the risk of self-promotion (and of being obvious), the first thing that comes to mind is Being Mrs Smith! But when I think about it (and of course, depending on how high-profile the film is), I’m not sure I’d be prepared for the life changes that would bring. As I mention in the book, Mr Smith and I entertained the fantasy of Ewan McGregor and Kate Winslet for the lead roles. It has been suggested (by a family member who loves me enough to tell me the truth) that they’re both too young, and Helen Mirren and Timothy Spall have been suggested instead. I do think Timothy Spall is wonderful, but he’s not my leading man. Kate and Ewan will just have to play older – I’m sure their skills are equal to it.
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?
As a child I wanted to be Jo March from the Louisa May Alcott books. She was feisty and independent with a tender heart, and one of my earliest role models. She definitely influenced me in my early years, but to be honest I’m happy now that I’m not her – I’d rather be Mrs Smith!