[Interview] Sheila Roberts

Sheila Roberts lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and three children.

She has been writing since 1989.

Her debut novel, On Strike for Christmas was released from St. Martin’s Press late this year..

Currently, she is working on a second novel.

In a recent interview, Sheila Roberts spoke about her writing.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I don’t know that I ever officially decided.

I was writing stories in the third grade. As an adult, I was still writing. I probably realized I wanted to be published when I was in my early twenties.

How would you describe your writing?

Women’s fiction probably describes it best.

I definitely write for women since I write about things that are important to women, like relationships. And chocolate. You can’t forget chocolate.

I’ve written all kinds of things over the years under different names, but On Strike for Christmas is my debut in women’s fiction, and I’m very proud of it. I think St. Martin’s Press did a lovely job on it. I think a lot of women will identify with this story about a group of friends who go on strike for the holidays and put their men in charge of everything.

Women often go into holiday overload this time of year. Maybe it’s time we all took a step back, deleted a few things from our to-do list, and relaxed a little more.

Do you write everyday?

Yes. The amount of time varies -- anywhere from two to four hours. Sometimes longer. I don’t keep set hours. When I start, I start. When I’m done, I’m done.

Who would you say has influenced you the most?

Hmmm. When I started writing I wrote a lot of Regency romance because that was what I loved. I devoured Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer books. But who has influenced me the most? That’s actually hard to say. I think that, as writers, we all have other authors we love, but as for influence, our own life experience, our own unique outlook and brand of humor are what turns our pens one direction or the other.

I often find myself writing about things that intrigue or irritate me or that I’m struggling with. On Strike for Christmas grew out of a conversation I had with my husband, who didn’t seem to be sharing my Christmas spirit. My next book with Saint Martin’s Press, Bikini Season was inspired by some of my own diet adventures. It's also about men, women, diets and cheating.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

Probably what concerns most writers: can I keep coming up with new book ideas? Can I pull them off? Will anyone want to read what I have to say?

Growing as a writer and building my career, juggling writing, promoting, and managing all the business aspects of a writing career can be a challenge. But I love it all. I need a few more hours in my day. I wish I could clone me! If I did that, though, my husband would probably run screaming into the night. Heck, I’d run screaming into the night. Probably one of me is enough for anybody, including myself.

How do you deal with these challenges?

I work hard. And then I reward myself on a regular basis with playtime with my girlfriends.

Which aspects of the work that went into On Strike for Christmas did you find most difficult?

This is probably going to sound silly -- but the hardest part was working on the recipes that are included in the book. Not coming up with them, but getting the measurements and directions just right. I’m a “by guess and by gosh” cook and not the world’s best detail person and making those recipes reader-friendly turned out to be much harder than I thought.

Which did you enjoy most?

Re-reading and editing what I’d done.

Story telling really is great fun. Sometimes I’d read something and chuckle, and say to myself, “Oh, I’m good.” In other words, I kept myself highly amused. Hopefully, I’ll keep readers amused, too. Putting a fun story out there is a little like telling a joke -- you want other people to “get it” and share the laugh also.

What sets the book apart from the other things you have written?

This book has a large cast of characters and a lot of story lines. I found myself with a lot to keep track of.

It's similar to the others in, well, humor. I hope that is a thread that will always run through my writing.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

I once wrote a devotional for women all about spiritual lessons I learned through everyday interaction with my children. Sadly, it’s long out of print, but I got more positive reactions to that than anything else I’ve ever written. I think it was because that little book offered women advice and encouragement. I hope to be able to do more of that in the future. I want to touch hearts. And lives.

Being able to help people with my writing is huge for me. And the only way for a writer to touch people is to spend a lot of time writing, which I have done and will continue to do. I don’t think anyone else would look at my writing life and consider me “there” though. I’m not there yet. I’m a long way from “there.” But maybe I will be someday. I’m certainly not done writing yet. I hope!

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