Interview with author Sheila Bugler

Find out how author Sheila Bugler decided to start writing after a lightbulb moment, and how she finds time to write around home schooling her younger child.

How did you come to be a fiction writer?

Like a lot of writers, I had several careers before I started to write.

After my second child was born, I had a light bulb moment. I realised I didn’t want to be lying on my death bed thinking ‘if only I’d done that…’ So, I started writing.

At the time, I naively believed I write a novel while I was on maternity leave, it would be a huge best-seller and I wouldn’t have to go back to my day job. 

It took a bit longer than that, and I still have the day job, but things are certainly heading in the right direction!

Is there someone who in particular who inspired you write fiction?

The inspiration to start writing (that ‘lightbulb moment’) happened after a friend of mine gave up a successful career to start her own business. She made me realise the importance of being brave enough to follow your dreams.

What kind of support network do you have? And how important do you think it is for success to be supported by others? 

Early on in my writing career, I was lucky enough to win a year’s mentoring with crime writer, Martyn Waites. This experience taught me so much, and gave me the confidence to believe I could really do this. Martyn was a great mentor and, like every other crime writer I’ve ever met, he’s a lovely person. 

Over the last few years, I’ve become a mentor myself. It’s so rewarding to share what I’ve learned and know it’s helping someone else.

You have a family and additional work commitments as well as being a writer. How do you maintain balance?

It’s not easy. Alongside two jobs, I’m home schooling my younger child who’s recovering from a serious illness. Like all working mothers, I often feel overwhelmed by how much I have to do each day.

Being organised is key. So is getting lots of sleep. On a good day, I get up about 5.30 and get two hours writing in before the day begins. I then spend the rest of the day juggling work commitments with supporting my daughter. 

I’m lucky to have a supportive husband who also makes it possible for me to write at weekends.

And I have the BEST group of friends. Over the years, I’ve shared laughter, tears, good times, bad times and many glasses of wine with these amazing women. We love and support each other because we understand that none of us can be Superwoman all the time.

Do you consider it necessary to promote yourself as well as your work, and how do you approach this?

Yes, I consider it necessary. Plus, meeting readers is one of the joys of being a writer! 

I do a lot of author events and I genuinely I love meeting crime fiction fans. More often than not, our conversations are less about my own books and more about the genre itself. We’ll share recommendations and talk about our favourite authors.

So, if you’re a crime fiction fan and you’d like to get in touch, please do!

The main character in your book has been through a divorce and career setbacks. Did you consciously seek to write a character at this stage of life? 

Yes, I consciously decided to write a character at this stage of life. I turned fifty last year and I wanted to explore issues that are relevant to me now – the menopause and all its inglorious side effects, the sense of becoming ‘invisible’ as a woman when you reach a certain age, etc.

With the exception of Ann Cleeves’ Vera novels, female protagonists in crime fiction tend to be women in their thirties, or younger. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against younger women (I was one myself a long time ago!). But their experiences and challenges are different to those of women my age.

My character, Dee Doran, is a fifty-year-old, menopausal divorcee struggling to find work after being fired from her previous job as a journalist. She’s a composite of all the brilliant women I know, and I love her for it.

Do you think career is still as relevant to women in their fifties?

Damn right I do! Too often, I hear stories of women over fifty struggling to find jobs because of their age. Women like Dee  – amazing, talented, clever women with years of experience behind them – are still being discriminated against in the workplace. It’s sad and it’s wrong. Plain and simple.

If you offer one piece of advice for someone starting out in their writing career, what would that be?

Chisel out a little bit of time to write each day – even if this means getting up an hour early or going to bed an hour late. Once you’ve started, keep writing and don’t give up. 

You can find out more about Sheila Bugler on her website. Sheila’s latest novel, I Could Be You is available to buy now.