Welcome fellow RNA member, Sheila Norton...

1.)              What was your first job? Did you like or dislike it? Why?
My first job was with Hodder & Stoughton  (Publishers) in London, where I worked as a secretary to the Sub Rights editor. This was the 1960s and jobs were relatively easy to get for school leavers with A levels and secretarial qualifications.  I had no idea what I wanted to do apart from ‘being a writer’ and had a naïve idea that working in a publishing house would in some way turn me into a novelist. I didn’t dislike the work – to be honest it was an easy job – but I quickly realised it wasn’t going to be a magical route to anything! I was already engaged to marry my husband and decided the money spent on train fares to London would be better saved towards our first flat. So after a while I looked for a local job in Essex. I ended up working for the NHS for most of my life (and writing in my spare time of course!).

2.)              Do you have a pet peeve? If so what is it?  Hmm, I have a few! Probably the thing that gets to me most is people saying that they’d write a book too, ‘if only they had the time’.  I always point out that I wrote my first six published novels while working full-time at a demanding job, keeping house for a husband and three teenage daughters, a dog and two cats. I did my writing in the evenings instead of watching TV. To make time for something, you have to give up something else – we all only have 24 hours in each day!

3.)              Would you describe your style as shabby chic, timeless elegance, eclectic, country or ___­­­_?   To be honest, mostly shabby without the chic! Since retiring from the day job I only change out of jeans and Tshirts if I have to go somewhere that calls for any degree of smartness. I don’t go in for frocks or frills, make-up or even much jewellery. But I do have ‘best’ jeans and decent tops!

4.)              Tell me about your book Charlie the Kitten Who Saved a Life and where you got your inspiration for it? 
Charlie is a mischievous and loveable little tabby who adores his ‘human kitten’, Caroline, and would do anything for her. He’s not too thrilled about being taken away on holiday by his family, but neither is Caroline, who is bored and misses her friends. So when she disappears from the holiday home, he has no choice but to follow her and try to save her from possible harm.
This is a sequel to Oliver the Cat Who Saved Christmas which was published last year – and which was commissioned directly by my editor at Ebury Publishing. I’d been self-publishing contemporary women’s fiction for a few years (and before that, had eight similar novels published by Piatkus), so these animal stories are a huge change for me but I’m really enjoying writing them. The stories are told from the cats’ point of view and a lot of my inspiration comes from having had three cats of my own, and now watching my daughters’ cats. The seaside element of Charlie’s story is a direct result of spending lots of time at beautiful Torquay in Devon – which always inspires me!

5.)              Who is your role model? Why?  My mum. Not that she was a writer – she was actually a talented artist but didn’t take it up until she was retired. She left school at 14 and worked hard to rise out of a poor East End background.  But most of all, now that I’m a grandmother to my six gorgeous grandkids, I look back fondly to what a lovely Nanny she was to my own three daughters when they were little, and try my best to be as kind and patient as she was, now that I’m ‘Nanny’ myself.

6.)              How much of your book is realistic?  Well, obviously I have to accept that in real life cats don’t understand Human language – much as I’d like to believe they do! – and don’t communicate with each other quite as eloquently in ‘Cat’ as I portray my feline characters doing.  But apart from that,  I have tried to make their behaviour reasonably realistic. I have a local vet (Sharon Whelan from Clarendon House Vets in Galleywood, Chelmsford) who checks any ‘medical’ scenarios for me, which has been very helpful, and of course I check other facts from reputable animal care websites.

7.)              What are your ambitions for your writing career?  My current contract with Ebury is a 4-book deal, of which Charlie is only the first. So I’m working on another animal story now, and there will be another two to follow after that. This is keeping me pretty busy so I’m not looking beyond these books at the moment. But Ebury is a great company to be with so I’d be very happy to continue in a similar vein if I get the opportunity. Other than that, my self-published books (which include the back list of my original Piatkus titles) still sell well, so I’d have no hesitation in returning to write more contemporary women’s fiction at some stage. 

8.)              Share one fact about yourself that would surprise people.  I’m a vegetarian – that’s not particularly unusual, although it’s because I don’t like meat, rather than for any ethical reason. But I absolutely can’t stand fish, to the point where I can’t bear to look at it on anyone’s plate, the sight and smell of it revolts me so much. I have to control my disgust when eating with other people but I do find it hard.  However, I love swimming and snorkelling among fish in the sea – live ones don’t seem to worry me!  Writing about my cat characters eating their fish meals wasn’t the most pleasant part of my work!

Charlie the Kitten who Saved a Life by Sheila Norton - blurb

What could I do? I was just a little cat and nobody ever listened to me. I made a promise to myself that I’d do everything I possibly could to save her, whatever the danger to me, and no matter how many lives I lost in the process...

Charlie the kitten would do anything for his human. Just having recovered from a debilitating illness, eleven-year-old Caroline isn’t feeling her best, and the arrival of a new baby only makes her feel even more left out.

So when Caroline decides to run away, Charlie follows, vowing to protect her at all costs. But, for such a little kitten, it’s a big and scary world outside the comfort of the cottage – how far will he go to save his greatest friend?

Sheila Norton
Sheila Norton lives near Chelmsford in Essex with her husband, and worked for most of her life as a medical secretary, before retiring early to concentrate on her writing. Sheila is the award-winning writer of numerous women’s fiction novels and over 100 short stories, published in women’s magazines.

She has three married daughters, six little grandchildren, and over the years has enjoyed the companionship of three cats and two dogs. She derived lots of inspiration for Charlie the Kitten Who Saved a Life and its predecessor Oliver The Cat Who Saved Christmas from remembering the pleasure and fun of sharing life with her own cats. Sheila is convinced cats can understand Human and that we really ought to learn to speak Cat!

When not working on her writing Sheila enjoys spending time with her family and friends, as well as reading, walking, swimming, photography and travel. For more information please see

1 comment

  1. Thank you very much, Rachel, for inviting me to 'talk' on your blog.