Daughter of a Methodist minister from Cork, Sheila kept moving as a child, from Cork to Birr, in County Offaly, then to Donegal, before arriving in Belfast, where her mother was from.
Sheila was a librarian in Belfast and then in Omagh, where she met her husband, and settled, living there for 25 years.
“My husband was the head of Omagh Academy. The schools had to buy books from English publishers and adapt them for the Northern Irish curriculum. He and his colleagues then wrote books for Northern Ireland, and in 1993, we set up Colourpoint Creative to publish them. My two sons are now running it.”
Always writing, Sheila has won prizes, and has written poetry, stories and articles for papers and magazine.
“Six years ago, I told my son I’d love to write a novel, and he said, ‘Why don’t you?’ I’ve written one unpublished novel. My debut is the second one.”
Who is Sheila Turner Johnston?
Place of birth: Bandon in West Cork.
Education: Methodist College; Queen’s University, English and Ancient History. Post grad in library and information studies.
Home: Bangor, Co Down.
Family: Husband, Norman. 2 grown sons, Wesley and Malcolm, and 7 grandchildren.
The Day Job: “I’m retired, but I help out in the business a little.”
In Another Life: “I’d love to have been more musical, but I can’t hold a note.”
Favourite Writers: David Park; Joanna Trollope. Jodi Picoult. Anita Shreve; Sebastian Barry; Sebastian Faulks.
Second Novel: “I’m working on one. It’s contemporary, based on a particularly unusual relationship.”
Top Tip: “Give yourself permission to write rubbish; you can always come back and improve it. And give yourself time to let it marinate in your head.”
Website: www.sheilaturnerJohnston.com Twitter: @SperrinGold
The Debut: Maker of Footprints. €8.95 € Kindle: €4.87.
When Jenna meets her boyfriend’s brother, Paul Shepherd, she is intrigued by him. He’s sophisticated, sharp, difficult, and unsettled – everything that the minister’s daughter, Jenna is not. And he’s married. Will his influence blast her out of her safe, comfort zone? Does she want it to?
The Verdict: I was pleasantly surprised by this book and found myself increasingly drawn to it. A thoughtful, character-based debut, with a sure sense of place, it lingers in the mind.
Published in The Irish Examiner on 21st September.
© Sue J Leonard. 2019.