Somebody To Love

Somebody To Love

Please can you give us brief synopsis into each of your books Somebody to Love, Warrant For Love, Recipes for Disaster and A Little Bit of Madness?

Recipes for Disaster

The shortest way to a man's heart

She's a single. He's a widower. She wants him. He wants her. She wants to impress. So does he. There's just one catch – she can't cook. To get him, she needs to get past the big fish – his mother. Lucky her, she's got an Ace up her sleeve and all she's got to do is impress this one time. Bad luck, though, her new guy can't cook either, her dog Rambo is on the loose and now they've got to pull off the big lunch at the club. Will it be a match made in heaven? Will they be able to pull off a culinary miracle? Will their combined efforts result in love at first bite? Or is it simply a Recipe for Disaster?

Somebody to Love

How do you tell her?

After that idiot of a husband ran off with that broomstick of a girl, single-mom Donna thinks there's no sunshine in her future. What she needs now is a hunk of a guy who loves her and her three-legged dog with no complications.

Solution? Call the police.

Mark is a single dad with two big worries – protect and serve, and his autistic son Karl. Desperately he wants someone who'll love him and his son without question and with no complications. He's been hurt before and Karl needs stability – not short dates. So he'll do anything for his kid – even lie to protect him.

Can these two get it together and get together? Is Mark the hunk Donna needs? Is Donna the rock Mark can lean on? If they look hard enough, can they find Somebody to Love.

Publisher’s Note: Somebody to Love has been made with love... love of animals. Sheryl Browne has done excellent research on assistance dogs, specifically their use with autistic individuals. With a focus on romance with police officers, appealing to all readers who love our boys in blue, the author's "teasing but not telling" style makes this read appropriate for anyone, including young adults and older teens.

Warrant for Love

- three couples in a twisting story that resolves perfectly.

Life for Paul is like a typical country song.  He comes from a broken home, his wife is divorcing him, he's got no place to live, he's losing custody of his son, and his sergeant, who's sleeping with his wife, is a loud-mouthed bully who won't let up on him – not even at work.

Before Leanne can give her cheating boyfriend what for, she's wrongfully arrested for soliciting – by Paul.  There’s an undeniable attraction though and things could be looking up for Paul, except for Leanne's friends, who have it in for her ex.  Leanne wants closure, Paul wants a home, Nicky and Jade want revenge. Blackmail, lies, adultery, entrapment.  Will it work out in the end or will Paul uphold the law?

A Little Bit of Madness

No rest for the wicked

Saving Charlton hall will burrow into your heart.

Celia Summers, intrepid mother of two, is too cuddly for sweatpants, she suspects. But then, her class at The Harbour Rest Home are similarly clad. Celia loves her work as an art therapist. She’s proud that she gives her elderly independents something to look forward to, even if her partner, Martin, disapproves of her efforts. He also has other things on his mind - telling complicated lies to Celia so he can sell Charlton Hall, his mum’s house, to pay off his debts.

Meanwhile, Celia fights to secure gallery space for her geriatric charges’ artwork, and to keep The Harbour from being closed. She’s even ready to abseil from a church steeple to bring attention to the plight of her old people, no matter that she might fall and end up splattered all over the flagstones. When she does fall, however, it’s much more painful - in love with PC Alex Burrows. Will he be her white-knight-in-blue and ride to her rescue?


Somebody to love:

Tell us about your research process into assistance dogs for the handicapped.

I think most writers draw from personal experience and then go on to do a great deal of research, determined to get the detail right and never to trivialise emotive issues. My writing, though romantic comedy, has been described by an agent as funny but thoughtful, because I feel drawn to look at the relationships of people whose lives may be little more complicated than most (someone parenting a special needs child, for instance).  Somebody to Love, which has a single father and his autistic little boy at its heart, was inspired by ‘a lost little boy’.  An autistic little boy, who was on a mission, it seemed, to throw his shoes over my garden fence in order to facilitate a meeting with my three-legged dog. Through subsequent meetings with the father (a single dad), I discovered that he had applied for an Autism Assistance Dog for his son.  I was fortunate enough to learn through him how a specially trained Autism Assistance Dog can transform a child’s life (and that of those parenting or caring for a special needs child).  For information, one in one hundred children in the UK is diagnosed with Autism. Many of these children will have a tendency to bolt and wander off which can obviously be very distressing and dangerous. Autism Assistance Dogs are trained to provide safety and companionship, helping to bring independence for both the child and their family.  The dogs have been shown to reduce stress, promote positive changes in behaviour, provide comfort for children and even suppress behavioural outbursts.

Obviously, I also did a good deal of research through organisations such as the National Training Centre, gaining access to the stories of children’s lives that have been improved by Autism Assistance Dogs (ATTs) and Our Dog Publications.  Writing and researching the book was definitely an eye-opener for me, in particular to the challenges facing those parenting autistic children.  I do have personal experience of caring for someone with special needs but, still, I was nervous about getting the detail right.  I was thrilled to bits therefore when the book was reviewed so fabulously by JB Johnston of Brook Cottage Books (as featured on Female First) who is the parent of an autistic child herself. 

How important are animals in your life?

Extremely important, as you may have gathered from my previous answer. Sadie, my three-legged dog, despite undergoing major surgery for cancer, provided unconditional love – as dogs do – and comfort not just to me, but to many of the people she came into contact with.  She accompanied me on visits to an old people’s home, providing the tactile stimulation and comfort sometimes only an animal can. I wouldn’t be without a dog in my life. They are my shoulder, my ear when I need one (yes, of course they listen, totally attentively) and they also make sure to take you out on regular walkies, thus ensuring you get some all-important exercise away from your desk.

The book is appropriate for teens and adults alike, so how have you captured a writing style that spans across the generations?

My stories tend to be character-led and multi-generational, obviously therefore spanning all ages. I feel children/teenagers have just as valid a voice as older people. If I can’t actually incorporate that voice, I tend to try to get into the mind-set of the younger person and portray their point of view. Does that make sense? Two of my books are included in a Worcestershire school library, which I’m really pleased about, and I’m also reading from Somebody to Love at the school during National Share a Story month.  A short from my work-in-progress is also to be included in the Birmingham City University anthology, which is really fabulous. 

Recipes for Disaster:

The book is about a couple who can’t cook together or apart, so is this any reflection on your own culinary expertise?

Uh, oh, I’ve been found out.  Let’s put it this way, I once served up Mississippi Mud Pie at a dinner party.  It looked very pretty.  However, we finally resorted to slicing with an electric meat carver.  I blame the recipe.  Was it my fault the dark muscovado sugar ended up in the base and the caster suger ended up…?  Um, actually I’m not quite sure where, but clearly the recipe was wrong.

We once decided to have a Murder Mystery dinner party, as in how many guests I would murder by the end of the night and what with.  I kid you not.  As a side dish, I served Prawns with Garlic Butter.  One bright spark peered at the dish, curled a lip and asked for a fishing rod.  I suspect I might have overdone the olive oil and butter bit.  You don’t want to know about the Stuffed avocado with Serrano Ham and Allioli.  In fairness, you would have to admit that hot chilli powder is a similar colour to paprika.  I suppose you could say then that my dinner parties are renowned, unfortunately more for the entertainment value than the excellent cuisine.  Fear not, however, Kim Maya Sutton’s recipes are truly scrumptious.  Her Drunken Chicken ~ one of the fabulous recipes in Recipes for Disaster ~ really is to die for, in the best possible way. 

Your books often feature new couples after lost love, often through infidelity or divorce, so why is this something that is important to you for your characters?

As humans most of us have experienced the pain of loss or heartbreak.  It’s at times like this, I think, that we tend to reflect and examine ourselves, learn from our mistakes and (hopefully) move forward and grow.  Love is universal and timeless.  Love inspires, art, music. Love, particularly unrequited or lost love, can also drive us to passionate acts of despair or even madness. Through love we see all human emotion.  For me love, and the joy/pain surrounding it, is fundamental to a story about people. If it was good enough for Shakespeare…

A Little Bit of Madness:

What is it about the boys in blue that appeals to you as a writer and your readers?

It’s the uniforms! Am I supposed to say that?  Actually, it’s a little bit more than that. I suppose I’m aiming to show that the people under uniform (no pun intended) are real people too.

Why did you want to explore the profession of and art therapist for this book? Is it any reflection on your background in art and design?

It is, absolutely.  I love to paint and sculpt and had decided Art Therapy was something I wanted to do with my life.  I didn’t want to teach in the traditional sense.  I wanted to share art in a more hands-on way.  Personally, I found art (sculpting, in particular) hugely therapeutic and I could see how it would benefit people with learning/physical difficulties, also people with dementia. Unfortunately, the post-grad course was postponed due to my own mother’s early onset Alzheimer’s.  Looking back, my first attempts at novel writing were possibly a catharsis to that loss in my own life. Losing my mum so young was devastating, of course, but I found my way of coping was to remember the hysterically funny moments we had (and we did, much to the bemusement of my father, who just didn’t get women’s quirky SOH).  I think the seeds were sown for A Little Bit of Madness back then.

Warrant for Love:

How difficult was it to write about the relationship of three couples rather than only one?

I didn’t find it difficult at all really.  I think we are all multi-faceted creatures and, though we would prefer to put out best front forwards, there are times when we might be sad, angry, lonely, feisty, quirky, have a touch of the old green-eyed-monster.  Human beings come with a whole gamut of emotion, after all.  I think I’m generally a happy, bubbly person (mainly because I’m happier when I’m happy, if you get my drift), but sometimes life’s little mishaps or obstacles have caused me to be any of the above.  I draw from that, and also from the personalities of people around me, male and female, alike.  When you write, your characters become very real to you.  You tend to take on their persona, so slipping into character didn’t present too much of a problem. Where did your inspiration come from for each of the stories?

As mentioned previously, mostly from real life situations or experience. Somebody to Love: from that autistic little boy, to whom I dedicated the book.  In A Little bit of Madness, my own life experiences in mind, I aimed for a multigenerational read.  Alongside my hunky but flawed hero and my feisty yet vulnerable heroine, I therefore starred a cast of people of the Queen’s generation, or as Celia – our heroine – prefers to call them, her elderly independents: people who have life skills you couldn’t possibly learn from a book and who still have lives to live and something left to give.  Warrant for Love, I think was inspired by the lives and love tribulations of my girlfriends.  Recipes for Disaster, however, I was commissioned to write!  Fab, isn’t it?  Safkhet Publishing loved my writing enough to commission me to write a whole book for them. The inspiration behind it (apart from Kim Maya Sutton – thank you, Kim) was Snoops/aka Rambo, the star of the book:

Or so he thinks!

How difficult is to not to succumb to the sterotypes and cliches of the policeman characters in each of your books?

I’m writing about people first and foremost. The fact that they wear a uniform perhaps influences some of the decisions they make, their instinctive reactions to, say, a situation where someone may be in danger, but it doesn’t define them

What is your writing process?

Dog-walking demands tend to kick off the day, along with making sure everyone else is up and at it!  I then try to spend an hour or so on social media (which is part and parcel of being a writer nowadays) and then buckle down to do some actual writing.  It’s back to social media late in the evening and then I have a read before bed.  Reading other authors is essential in order to grow your own writing but, sadly, sometimes the frenetic agenda many writers have means that reading slips by the way. I make an effort to try to fit it in, though, because I think it’s hugely important if you’re not to stagnate.  The ideas process is a little different.  Like many people, my ideas tend to come in the wee hours (why is that? Does the brain work better when you’re horizontal?), so then I spend half the night scrambling around for my pencil and pad.  Oddly, until you hit the wall, i.e. fall over from lack of sleep, jotting those ideas down in the dead of night is really productive, fuelling your writing for another day.

What is your favourite book?

Marika Cobbold’s, Guppies for Tea. It’s one that I read many years ago, loved and still remember.  That was the book that made me think, I wish I could write like that.

Which authors do you think have influenced your work over the four books?

I’ve recently read The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger. I’m not sure it has actually influenced my writing, but it has certainly made me bear in mind sub-text (not making dialogue too ‘on the nose’, i.e. more subtle).

You are a member of the Romantic Novelists Association, so what does this entail?

Getting to know lots of other authors who are passionate about their writing!  The Romantic Novelists Association (formed in 1960) promotes the various types of romantic and historical fiction and encourages good writing in all its many varieties. As a member of the RNA you are able to attend a wide range of activities and events and also regular meetings, where expert speakers share their knowledge and experience of the writing industry.  The Association runs an annual conference, where members discuss publishing trends and tips. My own experience of the RNA has been very positive, getting to meet likeminded people at the various social gatherings, who are always ready to share experiences, support and offer encouragement. I actually turned to the RNA in regard to editorial help on Warrant for Love and they referred me to an excellent editor whose advice was invaluable and very much appreciated.

The RNA also encourages aspiring writers by offering the New Writers’ Scheme, which gives upcoming writers a chance for a personal evaluation of their work by an experienced author or editor in that particular sub-genre.

What is the attraction for you to write Romantic Comedy?

I like to write romantic comedy because I hope to allow people a little escapism and also to leave the reader with that all-important feel-good factor. I think when we laugh at characters in a rom com, we’re actually laughing at ourselves, because it’s a familiar, comedic or embarrassing situation we could – maybe have – found ourselves in.  I also believe there are highs and lows and humour to be found in most life events, albeit they might be traumatic at the time. Basically, I want to write about real people, dealing with real life events, someone the reader identifies with and wants to get to know.  A ‘boy meets girl, boy gets girl, despite all obstacles’ story portraying characters readers can relate to and hopefully laugh with as they fall over life’s little ‘obstacles’ – because the reader is empathising with the character, because they’ve been there. 

You are a foster parent to disabled dogs, so tell us about your extended family!

Well… it all started when I adopted a dog that was so badly grieving the loss of her mate, the poor girl was on sedatives. When she became skeletal from not eating, I knew I had to do something fast. I decided to put her in the rescue centre. No, not permanently! Just over a few days to try her out with different dogs.  So, fingers crossed, that’s what I did - and every time I rang hopefully thereafter, I was told, ‘Not happening. They’re fighting like cat and dog.’

Then we tried one last dog. I rang the next day, my heart in my mouth, and they said, Yes!  Apparently, they were sleeping together like little bookends.  I’ll take her, I said. What make is she? Cross Rottweiler, they said (Eek!).  This was our beloved Sadie, who also stars in Somebody to Love.  It turned out she had cancer and I had to make the huge decision whether to allow her surgery, which might save her or kill her.  She survived and loved life.  Thereafter, I decided I would take the OAP or disabled, ‘special needs’ dogs, permanently from Rescue Centres or short-term whilst owners holidayed, etc.  Snoops (aka Rambo!) was brought in by the police, who’d rescued him from youths playing football, unfortunately using Snoops as the ball.  He was blinded in one eye, the other also damaged, so he has very little sight, but…  Well, do I need to say he’s happy and healthy now – and that I love him to bits?  One of my other fosters, Max, also sadly recently lost, came to me at age thirteen, supposedly so doddery he came with a Zimmer frame. That boy lived until he was eighteen, again healthily and happily.  My latest addition is Odi, who is a bit of an enigma.  He has psychological/behavioural problems, but also has a spinal problem and two damaged discs. He also has popped knees, poor boy, so guess who gets to carry him up and down steps?  We’re not too sure about his history, but we persevere.  Are they worth it? Yes, absolutely. They just give so much back.  

What is a normal day like in your world?

I don’t think I have normal days anymore.  I do seem to spend a lot of the time running to catch up with myself.  However, I’m doing what I most want to do in life. I’m writing!  What’s more people are reading and loving my books. Some of the reviews have been so lovely (written by people who’ve given freely of their time, which is humbling).  It’s been a long haul getting here, but I’m grateful!

What advice can you give to other aspiring novelists who want to write in your genre?

Romantic comedy is one of the most difficult genres to break into.  There are so many fabulous authors out there.  I would suggest people read those authors.  Often you can learn so much more from reading other people’s work than from a ‘How To’ book.  Also, do take on board criticism and advice (when it makes sense), particularly if that advice comes from an agent or publisher. Remember, they have bazillions of submissions to wade through, so if they have taken the trouble to reply, even with only a snippet of advice, it’s because they’ve read your work and possibly think it has merit.  On which subject, do make sure your work is as professional as it can be before submitting.  Seek editorial help if you can (as mentioned, I found an editor through the RNA).  Getting other obliging people to read your work is also a good idea (but only if they are prepared to be honest).  Oh, and read your work out loud, into a tape recorder, if possible.  It allows you to catch all those glitches.

Which author would you have dinner with and why?

Marian Keyes, an Irish author whose first book Watermelon I simply loved (along with her subsequent novels).  Why? Because I think she’s a fabulous writer.  Her books tend to deal with modern ailments, but are always written with compassion and humour.  Also because I admire how she fought and overcame personal battles and continues to write.  I’d love to chew the fat with Kathy Lette (think Mad Cows and Foetal Attraction), too, who I imagine would have some hilarious anecdotes about the business of writing! 

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