I’m often asked why I choose to write about strong female characters. The answer is easy – I think women are amazing. In fact, most of the women I’ve ever known could be described as ‘strong female characters’.

I Could Be You

I Could Be You

During my teenage years, at an all girls’ boarding school, I simply accepted that my friends were the most important people in my life. Later, as I moved through university and various jobs, the friendships I made along the way continued to sustain me and enrich my life in ways I never could have imagined.

Then I had my first child. And my world view shifted. There were two reasons for this. First, the shock of labour and childbirth. Days of induced labour, followed by a violent delivery in a hospital theatre, surrounded by open-mouthed medical students. Childbirth changed my perspective on what it means to be a woman. I didn’t know I had the strength to get through something like that. Or to cope with the damage to my body afterwards. But I did. And so did all my friends who had babies around the same time.

Second, I had to come to terms with the knowledge that I’d been sold a lie. I’d been brought up to believe that women of my generation could have it all – a family and a career. I thought it would be easy. I’d have a child. I’d take some maternity leave and, after a suitable length of time, I’d go back to work and my life would – more or less – continue as it had before.

There isn’t enough time in this article to explore all the reasons why, in 2001, this wasn’t possible for myself or other women I knew at the time. Most of us ended up going back to work part-time, giving up our career aspirations while we juggled family life and our part-time jobs. Never feeling we were doing a good job with either.

It was this experience that led to the creation of my first female protagonist, Ellen Kelly – a single mother, trying to balance the conflicting demands of a career and caring for her two children.

Nineteen years later, I’ve started a new crime series featuring another ‘strong female character’. Her name is Dee Doran. She’s fifty years old, recently divorced and living alone in Eastbourne, my adopted home town. She is the lead character in I Could Be You.

Like Ellen, Dee is inspired by all of the brilliant women in my life. She is smart and clever and funny and brave. She’s opinionated and stubborn. She’s a loyal friend, always on hand to listen and offer support, usually over a glass (or two) of wine.

Over the last few years, I’ve had a lot of difficult things to deal with. I would never have got through it all without the love and support of my friends. They make me laugh, they hold me while I cry. They’re always there for me.

They were at the forefront of my mind when I created Dee, which is probably why I love her so much. I hope, if you read my book, you’ll love her too. I Could Be You by Sheila Bugler is out now in ebook and paperback.