Sheena’s childhood was a typically imaginative one.
“I wrote from the age of nine,” she says, “and I always loved reading. I’d take a book to birthday parties in case I got bored.”
She was always interested in Irish history too.
“This came from being a child of a mixed marriage living on a loyalist estate in the seventies,” she says. “My mother, who was Catholic, said if someone asked my religion, I should say I was nothing.”
Sheena taught English at Methodist College in Belfast for nineteen years, but became increasingly frustrated at how prescriptive teaching was becoming. And when her first two YA novels had won awards, she gained a substantial Arts Council Award that allowed her to give up teaching.
“I ended up with numerous jobs, like teaching at Trinity College Dublin. I earned less, but loved it.”
Sheena has written eight YA novels; five gritty contemporary ones, and a historical trilogy before deciding to write for adults.
“In lockdown, I found it hard to concentrate on reading,” she says, “and that was a shock. So in April 2020, I started to write the sort of feelgood feminist book I wanted to read.”
Who is Sheena Wilkinson?
Date of birth: 1968 in Belfast.
Education: Victoria College in Belfast; Durham University, English. PhD in English.
Home: South Co Derry, on the shores of Lough Neagh.
Family: New husband, Seamus. Two dogs, Stroller and Daisy.
The Day Job: Fulltime writer – with a lot of different writer jobs.
In Another Life: “I’d love to have performed as an actor or on radio – or to have gone into journalism or publishing.”
Favourite Writers: Noel Streatfield; Dorothy Whipple; Sarah Waters; Kate Atkinson; Maggie O’Farrell; Margaret Forster.
Second Book: “I’m working on a sequel.”
Top Tip: Read, write, and observe life as much as you can.
Website: www.sheenawilkinson.com Twitter: @sheenawriter
The Debut: Mrs Hart’s Marriage Bureau. Harper Collins Ireland: €15.99. Kindle: €8.66
When, Irish girl, April McVey lands in 1930’s Britain, and gets a job in a marriage bureau, her boss, Martha has qualms. But after a rocky start, the duo prove to be an excellent matchmaking team.
The Verdict: I absolutely adored this. It’s an intelligent and nostalgic read, with depth and surprising plot twists.
Published in the Irish Examiner on 4th March.
© Sue J Leonard. 2023.