10 September, 2019

Maker of Footprints By Sheila Turner Johnston Book Spotlight and Interview! @SperrinGold

Maker of Footprints
By Sheila Turner Johnston
Genre: Contemporary women's fiction

Meeting him was easy. It was knowing him that burned bone.

What do you do when you discover you are not the person you thought you were?

Paul Shepherd is dangerous. He drops into Jenna’s life like an asteroid slamming into an ocean. Willful and exhausting, he stirs feelings that make her challenge the boundaries that have kept her safe – and bored.

Relentless and determined, he needs Jenna with a desperation she does not understand. Jenna discovers that, although she can try to hide from Paul, she cannot hide from herself.

But he is married...

Set in Belfast and the beautiful counties of Down and Donegal in Ireland, this is a story of irrevocable change, tragedy and indestructable love.

“Maker of Footprints is a beautifully written novel about love, desire, relationships and passion…The book reminds me of Wuthering Heights crossed with Jodie Picoult. It was unputdownable. You can feel the passion, almost smell the sweat and tears and the descriptions of the beautiful beaches of Donegal has you licking the salt off your lips. It’s a treat for the senses. A must read!
Trudy Hodkinson on Goodreads (quoted with permission)
It is my pleasure to have Sheila Turner Johnston, author of Maker of Footprints with an interview! Welcome, Sheila!
What do you find most challenging about the writing process, and how do you deal with it?
Distractions! I never should have loaded some solitaire games onto my laptop. They are just so clickable. 
Seriously, I lead a fairly busy life but I do have control over how I use my time. The well-known phenomenon of displacement activity is one that I have got down to a fine art. Self-discipline isn’t my strong point and I really do have to make myself sit down, shut up and WRITE! The ironic thing is that, once I get started, I can write for hours and not even notice the time going by. I have written almost all night on one occasion when a particular set of events was coming clearly into my head. If I had gone to bed the whole mood, scenes and dialogue would have vanished. Actually, it was Chapter 14 in Maker of Footprints!
Lack of confidence comes a close second as a challenge. I sometimes think, “Who do you think you are? You can’t write for toffee.” Then I put the kettle on and read a few good reviews to get back on track. But it can be quite a disabling emotion and I think most writers have moments – or days – like that. Chin up!
When and where do you do your writing?
I write at any time of the day but I do find that my imagination is most free in the evening. Even if I’m tired, there seems to be a loosening of the mind in the evening. I tried to explain how Jenna, in Maker of Footprints, experiences this as she watches Paul sleeping. “It was late, that time of night when the imagination is loose and strong when restraints are weakened by the need to let go of the day and dream along the path to rest.” 
So I suppose I can create the most emotionally intense and demanding scenes in the evening – like Chapter 14! – but I write at any time of day. Revisions and edits are best done in the day time. I do need long periods of time to write. I mean stretches of days, not hours. I would love to be able to write in odd moments, lunchtimes, on the train etc but that doesn’t work for me, unfortunately.
I write on my laptop on my desk in my sitting room. Occasionally I decamp to the local library for a change.
What have you learned about promoting your books?
Target, target, target! At first, I made the mistake of a scattergun approach and wasted a lot of time and effort. I heard a creative writing tutor say that you shouldn’t spend 50% of your time on an activity or strategy that sells only 10% of your books. Find out what brings in favourable responses from readers and see how you can maximize that.
I have also found that we shouldn’t overlook the local and personal. I have gone wide in publicity through social media, blogs and web sites. But some of the most satisfying and pleasant experiences I have had are in speaking to very local readers’ groups and getting interview slots on local radio. If readers feel they know you and are local, they are the perfect ambassadors to spread the word to their friends, and that chain can go wide without any more effort from me.
What are you most proud of as a writer?
I have been really encouraged by responses, especially to Maker of Footprints, from readers who have been deeply moved, even to tears, by something I have written. I feel I have succeeded as a writer if I have made the reader not just see but feel the emotions of the characters I am creating. Good writing gets into the head of the reader and messes with it. So I suppose comments such as “It’s hard to find sufficient words to describe my feelings for this book. It floored me, completely unexpectedly… It really is a beautiful book” (https://thereadingnook.home.blog) make me feel a wee bit proud! To discover that I have made a difference to someone, that something I have written has enhanced the experience of a reader, is a high.
If you could have dinner with any writer, living or dead, who would it be and what would you talk about?
Oh my goodness. Can I pick only one? I’m going to stick a pin into the long list and come up with one. I’m interested in history, especially ancient history, including Greek, Roman and Biblical times. I like authors like Lindsey Davis and Ruth Downie. So I’d love to have dinner with Titus Flavius Josephus (37 – c. 100). He was a Jewish scholar and historian who fought against the Romans in the First Jewish War but became Romanised under Emperor Vespasian. His writings illuminate the first century and are particularly interesting to anyone wanting to study the environment of early Christianity.  
I’d ask him about his remarkable and varied life, crossing the cultural boundaries of Rome and the Jewish world. He would have so much juicy insider gossip to relate! It would be lovely to dine reclining on a couch in his triclinium!
About the Author
I was born in west Cork in southern Ireland and as a young child lived in various counties the length and breadth of the country as my father, a Methodist minister, was moved around. Most of my life, however, has been lived in Northern Ireland. 
I attended Queen’s University, Belfast, and apart from managing to graduate against all my expectations, one of my best experiences was reading my poetry to an audience that included Seamus Heaney
Marriage and children silenced the writer by the effective weapon of exhaustion. Then one day I blew all my spare cash on a typewriter (anyone else remember those?!). I was going to WRITE! From then on I wrote and published articles and short stories and researched and wrote a biography of Irish Gaelic League activist Alice Milligan. It is still in print – https://amzn.to/2ZpYt9z.
I have lived my entire adult life through the Troubles in Northern Ireland and this has influenced my outlook on life. Experiences such as, amongst many, being woken by a bomb exploding close by and wondering if you have just heard a death does tend to send the mind down paths it might otherwise not travel.
I have won prizes for both fiction and non-fiction, and have written many articles for both local and national publications. I and my husband Norman founded the publishing stable Colourpoint Creative Ltd, which is now owned and managed by our two sons.
Maker of Footprints is my first published novel.
On Twitter: @SperrinGold
On Amazon: https://amzn.to/2w8VfL5
“I’ve always felt that.” She walked away, embarrassed now. “Sounds silly, doesn’t it?”
“It sounds about right.”
She turned and smiled, her arms folded against the cold. The light was fading rapidly and the air was damp on her face.
“I think you took some good pictures in there,” she said.
“You weren’t the worst group I’ve had to deal with.” 
“You managed to get even Luke to cooperate.”
He walked past her to examine the bedstead. He gave it a push with his foot. “When you’re taking family portraits, there’s always one person who’s the key. If you can identify that person and make a connection, you’ve got a great portrait.”
“And Luke was the key?” said Jenna. “Mum and Dad think he’s the problem.”
He turned and raised a finger playfully. “Ah! But the problem is often the key.”
“You’re talking in riddles.”
“Then think in riddles!”
“Because it’s the way to the answers. Riddles make the world go round.”
“I thought love did that.”
“The biggest riddle of all.” Suddenly he kicked the bedstead, sending it crashing onto its side. “Why is there always a bloody iron bedstead? Can’t people leave anything to rot without putting a bloody bedstead in it?”
“Anyway,” said Jenna calmly, watching the rusty springs shudder to rest, “you weren’t just making a connection with Luke. You were talking about something you’ve experienced yourself. Something true.”
He said, almost carelessly, “The truth is the only connection worth making.” His feet scuffed the loose floor as he turned again. “Did you go away to university?”
“No, I stayed here.”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. It was easier, I suppose.”
He folded his arms and put his head on one side. “And unlike Luke, you always do what you're told.”
She bristled. There was mockery in his tone. “No, I don’t!”
“Yes, you do.” He nodded towards the house. “I didn’t even have to look at you in there. Within minutes of seeing the four of you together, I knew who would be the hardest subject and who would be no trouble at all, because she’s a good girl and she always does what she’s told, sometimes even before she’s told it.”
A faint scrabbling of raindrops on the tin roof turned into a deafening batter as the rain began in earnest. 
Jenna raised her voice, annoyance pawing at her. “You don’t know me at all. How can you say that?”
He cocked his head. “No, I don’t know you. Who are you? Apart from my brother’s girlfriend?”
This was ridiculous. “I’m Jenna!”
He was relentless, his eyes intense. “Who’s Jenna?”
“Me,” she said, the sound of the rain drumming into her skull.
“Who’s ‘me’?”
She stopped. Truth is the only connection worth making, he had said. She looked up at the rust and cobwebs of the tin roof above. The rain pounded the roof as she turned her eyes back to him, her own words surprising her. “I don’t know. I don’t know who I am.”
He planted his feet apart, stood immovably in front of her. “Are you good? Are you bad?”
“I’m not bad.” The rain was beating louder, a breeze wrapping damp and cold around them, weaving through the gaping holes in the building.
“Are you good?”
She raised her voice again and made a fist, low at her side. “I don’t know!” 
He kept going. “Am I good?”
“I don’t know.”
“Am I bad?”
“Only you know that.”
“But, Jenna, I don’t know that.”
“Then how can I know?”
He stopped. Then his shoulders dropped and he spread his hands. “Well, well. It’s an uncertain world we live in. Isn’t it?”
He walked back to the window and leaned his shoulder against the worn wood. Raindrops flew through the opening, dappling his coat. Jenna felt as if she had been rolled across thorns. Who the hell was he, anyway? Apart from her boyfriend’s brother? She took a deep breath.
“It’s an uncertain world all right.” She looked at the back of his head, stilled as he watched the waves of rain sweep the field outside. “But that’s OK, Paul,” she said suddenly, unsure why the sight of his hair ruffling in the wind should make her want to say this to him. “It’s OK not to know.”
He turned slowly and faced her. Even against the light, she could see the sadness in his shadowed eyes. “No it’s not,” he said. “It’s not OK at all.”

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