Janet has wanted to be a writer since she was 5 and discovered books. Starting as a trainee journalist, finding it didn’t suit her, she moved to Northern Ireland and worked as a community volunteer.
“I wanted to make a difference during the troubles, and help children.”
Deciding to become a primary school teacher, she trained back in Scotland, then spent seven years teaching in Belfast, before giving herself a year out to become a writer.
“By the end of the year I had published a lot of poetry. From then on, I taught creative writing working with children in continuing education and in prisons. And I carried on writing. I wrote short stories; two were shortlisted for a Hennessy Award.”
Janet has published two poetry collections; The Aphrodite Stone in 1995, and Eve Complains to God in 2004. She wrote one, unpublished, novel, before settling on the debut.
Who is Janet Shepperson
Date of birth: The fifties, in Edinburgh.
Education: Private school in Edinburgh; Aberdeen University, English. Aberdeen; Teacher’s Training.
Family: Husband, a recently retired lecturer of social policy; one daughter, at Glasgow University studying English Literature.
The Day Job: Fulltime writer.
Interests: Bird-watching. Getting out into nature; walking; theatre.
Favourite Writers: Jane Austen; the Brontes; Thomas Hardy; Colm Toibin Anne Enright; John McGahern.
Second Novel: “I’m about half way through.”
Top Tip: Focus time to write, when you can disappear, completely into an imaginative world. And read a lot.
The Debut: Vinny’s Wilderness. Liberties:€13.99. Kindle: €12.05
Vinny, a frazzled single mother, arrives home one day to find her glorious wilderness of a garden bulldozed to extinction. Who is responsible?
Meanwhile, Vinny is asked to coach Denzil Masterson, an imaginatively creative boy, who is struggling with the demands of his parents, and the eleven-plus exam.
This gentle novel of friendship, fractured relationships, and the other divide in Northern Ireland – that caused by class and the eleven-plus exam, is written with poetic style.
“Discussing the eleven plus in the staff room one day, a woman said, “I passed, but my best friend failed, and she never spoke to me again” Her words stuck with me.
The Verdict: I loved it; and learned a lot about the iniquities of a rigid education system.
Published in The Irish Examiner on 30th April.
© Sue Leonard. 2016.