Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Guest Author, Charlotte Chalmers

Today's Guest Author is the effervescent Charlotte Chalmers, whose romantic comedy The Madness of Celia Summers is guaranteed to make you smile. Charlotte writes with a wit and poignancy that is impossible to resist, and once you pick up the book, you won't want to put it down. (Can you tell it's on my keeper shelf?)

My thanks go out to English teachers everywhere who praise their students' work and offer encouragement in a world where that seems at times to be an anomaly, but special thanks go out to those who encouraged Charlotte, because if they hadn't, we wouldn't have this gem of a book to enjoy. Welcome, Charlotte, and belated Happy Birthday!

Who are you?

Who am I? Good question. Well, at the moment I feel as if I have an identity crisis, as must many women, who are mothers/writers/workers and all round busy bees.

As women, I think we are nurturers by nature—I certainly am, with my son, who’s had some health problems recently, and my damaged rescue dogs to care for—and, I suppose sometimes, we tend to be cheerleaders for those people in our care. If you’re a mother, wife or significant other, perhaps a daughter to ageing parents, it’s easy to see that as your role and to neglect celebrating your own achievements. So, you’ve made me think, what have I achieved?

Well, I have an art degree, and I’m currently studying for a higher diploma in animal behaviour and psychology (vis-à-vis boarding sick or older animals in future). So, I suppose I’d class myself as a doer. I think most women are. Those who write certainly are—multi-tasking a must! If a room needs decorating, I do it. If a floor needs tiling, I do it. It took a while for me to realize I had some things I needed to do for me. For instance, I was terrified of spiders. Totally! We’re talking someone who backed so far away from one eight-legged fiend, she fell over the banister at the top of the stairs and landed in a heap on the hall floor. My son wasn’t impressed. So, I took a cognitive therapy course, and…OK, I don’t love spiders, but I can live with them now. I didn’t like heights, I threw myself out of a plane. Um, that jump was made with a parachute though. Son was, I have to say, impressed this time. I wanted to write, I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. The submission bit…ugh! There were many times I thought my heart would break. But I kept at it. And I did it, and here I am, after almost twenty years. Motto of story: Be proud of your achievements, be they big or small.

What type of stories do you like to write and why?

I like to write humorously, therefore I tend to lean more towards romantic comedy, basically because I think there is too much sadness in life sometimes and we all need to smile. That said, I do strive to write about things I care about. About real people with the whole gamut of emotions—including men, they being human too :), real situations, good or bad, happy or sad, because often, when we stand back from what might have seemed like a tragedy, we see the comedy. How often do you see—if you stop to look, and I do—people perhaps remembering someone at a the saddest of family gatherings, start to smile at their shared memories. Then, before they know it, they’re laughing. Okay, it might be humour tinged with sadness; they might laugh until they cry, but no-one can deny that laughter is wonderful therapy when a wounded heart needs lifting.

And, what do I care about? Those pushed aside, abused or neglected or rejected by society, be they man or animal.

What type of stories do you like to read and why?

I think I can read anything that has good characterization. I have to believe in the characters--protagonists/antagonists, male/female—utterly. Identify with them and be able to absorb myself in them. Obviously, as I write romantic comedy, I do tend to read a lot of it, but if you look at someone like Marian Keyes--whose first novel Watermelon made me hoot, despite the diabolical predicament the heroine found herself in—she has the ability to do just that: bring you into the character. The novel mentioned was one of a series based around the lives of the sisters in one family, so a bit of family saga going on there. I love a good family saga, looking at the real dynamics of the family unit.

I can’t write it (maybe, one day!), but romantic suspense I can’t get enough of, especially where an author has the ability to splice in snippets of humour that make you smile at, and with, the character.

I also adore historical romance. I’m always in awe of author who can allow you to let go of your trials and tribulations and lose yourself in another era.

When do you write?

I’m self-employed, so I try to work straight through on “work” days, leaving late—with grand ideas of putting fingers to keyboard when I get home, once I’ve fed the dogs, and cooked and got changed, and … Ye-es. That doesn’t work too well! Being self-employed though, means I can steal time all to myself on non-work days--family crises, doggie illnesses, parcel deliveries for the neighbours, washing machine breakdown, and nervous breakdown permitting.

The thing that really annoys me is that—like many writers—ideas pop into my mind while I’m drifting off to sleep. Or worse, while I’m starkers in the bathroom, obviously, therefore, without the implements with which to write them down. Oooh, the frustration.

When do you read? Where?

Lately, I read late at night with my book perched on my Jack Russell. Sometimes, during the day, if I really want to read something. But then, I always feel guilty. Why is that, do
you think? Because I’m indulging myself, I suppose, when there are so many other scintillating things to be done, like cleaning the bathrooms. Oh, and don’t get me on the oven subject. I pretend I haven’t got one.

Where do you go to think?

I go to the park—or the woodland—with my dogs, though walking is a bit of problem with Snoops, who is blind and sometimes, sniffing something on the air, refuses to walk. So, I tuck him in his baby-sling…yes, I know, completely crackers—total bag lady…and carry on regardless, whatever the weather. It’s not so much my thinking time though, I find, as my freeing-my-mind time. I get mentally exhausted. Too much going on in there and not necessarily productive writing stuff. Family problems, work problems, as well as writing problems, can be a massive drain on your energies. So, I might not come back full of ideas and ready to write, but I do come back invigorated.

Why do you write?

In short, because I’ve tried not to, and I can’t! Seriously, I came from a large family. I was always the one at school with the hair parting that wasn’t straight, one sock up, one down, you know (cue violin music). Anyway, I tended to think I didn’t excel at anything much, and if I got noticed, it was usually to be told to pull my “sock” up. So, when My English teachers (one in particular, who gave me 10+ out of 10 for an essay—God bless Mr Tenby) started to sing my praises... Well, once I’d finished looking over my shoulder to see who they were talking about, I picked up my pen and started to realize I could write. Even better was the realization that I enjoyed it. And that, at the end of the day must be what it’s all about, because if you don’t enjoy it, there is absolutely no point. What use is something that becomes yet another chore?

Charlotte Chalmers is a mum, works on a self-employed basis in financial services and is an author, currently published with The Wild Rose Press Charlotte has been writing seriously for almost twenty years. She lives in the small town of Droitwich, in the UK--where she strives to stop her witty son typing – THE END – halfway through her manuscripts, and to keep up with the demands of her rescue dogs. Charlotte has a degree art, and is currently studying for a Higher Diploma in Animal Behaviour and Psychology with a view boarding sick animals in future.


Cindy K. Green said...

Happy Birthday Sheryl! Loved your interview. :) I agree we need more humor in our lives. Too much drama in reality. Take care,Friend.

Francesca Prescott said...

I love your luminous personality and great sense of humour, Sheryl. Gosh, did you really jump out of a plane???!! I'd rather tickle a spider's tummy than do that!

Big Swiss kiss,

Kathy Otten said...

Happy Birthday! Funny story about falling over the banister backing away from the spider. I'm not real fond of them and will never kill them, but I've never been that scared. Sounds like you have a very busy life. Congratulations on having accomplished so much.

Emma Lai said...

I love books with humor in them. You're right, we all need a smile! I can't believe your Jack Russell lets you prop your book on him/her. Mine would steal the book and take it to her lair to hold ransom for a treat. She's also a rescue dog with issues, but we've managed to work with her and she's the sweetest dog...well, except for the kleptomania.

Mona Risk said...

Liana, I think I am becoming a regular on your blog.

Sheryl, you are a very, very, VERY brave person to jump out of a plane. I am terrified of height. I love romantic comedy, especially if you turn a sad background into a fun situation through a lot of humour. I try to do that in my writing. I am taking note of your title to get it. Happy birthday.

Sheryl said...

Aw, thank you so much, Cindy, Francesca, Kathy, Emma, Mona and LIANA. What a lovely interview. Well, yes I know it’s mine, but presented rather professionally, don’t you think?

Francesca, spiders’ skeletons are on the outside, btw, did you know? I don’t think they have actual tummies! My therapist did tell me to imagine them with yellow Wellingtons on their eight feet though. That helped! And, Mona, about that plane, I’m not really that brave, just a little crackers. It helps sometimes, when life seems out to beat you.

Emma, Snoops is just trying to hog the attention, y’know?

Thanks, again, guys!

liana laverentz said...

You're very welcome, Charlotte, and Mona, I'd love to have you as a regular. If any of you would like to do a guest spot, contact me offline and I'll set you up. Cindy's already done one, this month, in fact, so you can still click on it, and I have all sorts of space open after April.

Miss Mae said...

Sheryl, my dear, I have to hear through the grapevine that you're tangled over here hanging by a thread in a spider's, um, wait, I think that's my story, isn't it? Ooops!

Oh yes, that's right. You're hanging by the rapidly frizzling string of a parachute! And oh dear, you're aiming straight for the tower of Big Ben...but who is that clinging to the wall? And whose rock-muscled arms are those reaching to save you? Dare I say, "Spiderman"????

Seriously, fantastic interview. You are one terrific gal, Sheryl, and I'm proud to know you and to learn even more of your wonderful crumbly crackered life! :)


Sheryl said...

Hugs back, Miss Mae. You made both me and Liana laugh. Liana thinks you are a creative writer and might make a great interview! No, not Spiderman, btw. Batman aka George Clooney! OK, that film wasn't so good, but, hey, who was looking at the plot!

Debra St. John said...

Hi Charlotte and Liana. Thanks for a great interview. It's always interesting to get a peek at the person behind the author! (If you know what I mean!)

Celia Yeary said...

Well, hey, Sheryl--I didn't know you were over here on Liana's beautiful blog. I like to just look at it, don't you? That appealing picture on the main page? Now I know more about you besides being smart, funny, witty, and creative, oh, and yes, kind to a fault, and to dogs and little old ladies. Over at the Spa, we've had questions, questions, questions.Fun day--but my eyes are bleary. Extrememly lovely post--love, Celia

Mary Ricksen said...

Nothing works better to cheer you than a good laugh.
You really jumped out of an airplane, in the sky, up, up there?
You have more guts then I do. Was there a spider in the plane to make you want to jump? Because it would take the "Alien" or the "Predator" to get me to do it.
The heart attack on the way down would probably kill me.
God I love a person with a good sense of humor.

Maggie Toussaint said...

Charlotte, I can just picture you out taking the dog for a walk in his doggie sling. I love the way you phrase things, too. There's so much zip in the Brit slang, like when you say "starkers" in the bathroom. Maybe all Brits talk like this, but you and Jane are the only Brits I know...

I've very impressed that you threw yourself out of a plane. I'm not good with heights, but I would have a serious panic attack if I had to do that.

I'm a fan too. I love your "Madness" book. Now get going on the next one! You have a fanbase, my dear.

Laurel Bradley said...

Happy Birthday! I can relate to the spider thing. I duct taped over a hole in the wall of my college dorm room because a "friend" sent me a list of all the types of spiders that might live inside.
I really enjoyed The Madness of Celia Summers. It made me laugh.

Diane Craver said...

Hi Sheryl,
Happy Birthday. Great interview. I love humor in my books too.

LK Hunsaker said...

Charlotte, great interview! I love how you worked at conquering your fears. For me, it's mice, and also heights. I forced myself to go on a bungy swing with hubby to try to defeat the heights phobia and it really did help, to an extent, enough it's only a fear now and not a phobia. I did the same kind of thing with public speaking. The funny thing is ... fighting any fear helps with others, don't you think?

I have your book and am anxious to manage time to read it! I adore romantic comedy.

Nell Dixon said...

Great interview! I'll know who to call to get rid of my spiders now!

Adelle said...

I don't think some teachers realize the impact they have on our lives. I too had an English teacher who was majorly great at stroking my writer's ego.
Great interview, ladies.
Wishing you Miles of Smiles on your Birthday, Sheryl!

Sheryl said...

Thank you all so much for stopping by.

That’s the real me, Debra, slightly daft, slightly dotty!

Celia, yes, it is beautiful. Did you realise that’s George and moi on honeymoon? Ye-es. Sweet dreams are made of this.

Mary/Maggie, it was the spider who was starkers! Is why I leapt. Oooh, cover yerself up, you fiend!

Laurel/LK, I can totally relate. I actually moved house once, so scared was of the things. And yes, I still have the fear, but it’s not debilitating. I really do think it’s a case of “Feeling the Fear and Doing it Anyway”. Finding the nerve to fight that initial scary thing, fired me up to fight the next, and the next. Keep fighting, girls!

Diane, thank you so much. Humour is the best medicine, I think, by far. I’d much rather be laughing, or smiling, than crying.
MILES of SMILES back Adelle!

Nell, the therapist I used is here in Droitwich. Give me a yell, and I’ll hold your hand!

Thanks, again, guys. And THANK YOU, Liana. I loved how you presented me so beautifully!

Hywela Lyn said...

All behind like the proverbial horse's tail (Again)Sorry Sheryl. I really enjoyed your interview,

Belated happy Birthday. I loved the story about the spider (I don't dislike them but don't go as far as my sister who gives any she finds in her home a name!)

I could just picture you with your little dog in his sling! Having adopted a rescued Jack Russell myself I know how they work their way into your heart and your two are obviously a huge part of your life.

And I agree with Mona - I think you are VERY brave to jump out of a plane - I've thoght about it but don't think I could actually do it!

Thanks again for a great interview, to you and Liana