What happens when the relationship you have taken for granted suddenly ends?
Ava Connors is comfortable with her life just as it is, still living in the tiny terrace house where she was brought up by her grandmother, Maggie, seeing her long-term boyfriend, Finlay, and working in a florists.
But Maggie’s health is declining and Finlay is fed up waiting for Ava to make a commitment.
Ava has never really known her mother, Scarlett, and when she inherits an old and dilapidated house it ignites an interest in the mother who had abandoned her as a child.
Why did Scarlett leave her to be brought up by her grandmother?
Soon Ava begins to ask this question and in turn sets off a series of events that will change her life forever.
A Posy of Promises looks at the relationships we have and the questions we ask of those we love.
Describe your working day.
No two days are the same. I try to concentrate on writing during school hours as this is when I seem to work best. I do like to have complete quiet, but usually I slip back to my office while the homework is being done. Sarah, my youngest daughter, is eleven now so she is very good with getting on with her work independently. We both stop to compare notes and catch up on the day.
Where do you write?
I have an office or study on the ground floor of my house, sandwiched between the family living room and the utility room. It is totally my space, though everyone uses it from time to time. I have three deep, long shelves to hold some of my favourite books, lots of folders and box files. I also have several plants on the shelves. I choose purple velvet curtains with a floral pattern and then make the room really cosy. It is somewhere between being a utilitarian office space and a cosy snug.
Are you a kindle reader or a paperback girl?
Both. I have been a kindle convert for a few years. I love reading in bed at night, using the kindle app on my IPad. I have a black screen with white typeface and it is so soothing on my eyes. I still can’t resist a paper back. Usually if I read a book I love on the kindle, I buy a paperback copy too. I adore rummaging in second hand bookshops for old editions and quirky finds that I may have missed when they were first published.
What advice would you give someone who wants to write?
Just do it. There is no magic formula, no quick fix. It is hard graft, and writing is a craft that has to be honed. No one expects a musician to suddenly compose a fantastic piece of music overnight. Read lots and write lots. Talk about books. Think about what you like about whatever you are reading. Consider why it works and how the writer has achieved that thing that keeps you reading. In other words, read like a writer. Join writing groups or take a workshop. Find other like-minded people and make it happen.
What comes first plot or character?
Character usually. Plot is a device to help you tell a story better. You manipulate events to heighten tension and drama, to allow the story to unfold in a satisfying way. Character is where the magic of writing happens. You create these imaginary people who you place in difficult or challenging circumstances. Sometimes it feels like really hard work, and other time the words just fly out.
How important do you think libraries are?
I grew up in a working-class area of Belfast during the 70s and 80s. N Ireland was a strange land of terror and trauma. My local library was my sanctuary, giving me an escape and a sense that my experience of the world did not have to be limited to what I saw on the streets. Libraries are such a tremendous resource for communities. I am so lucky to live extremely close to my local library. If my childhood self had known just how close I live to it, she would have thought, wow, you’ve made it in life!
How exciting is it to see your books in bookshops?
Oh, it never grows old. When my crime novel, Little Bird, came out I made a point of wandering into Waterstones to check if they had it in stock. I was shocked and delighted to it find on display as part of a selection of ‘Emerald Noir’ recommended reads. That was such a buzz, as my book was in a great position surrounded by other books by writers I have admired for years. It was a pinch me moment. My local independent bookshop, No Alibis, is like a magical cave of books and interesting people. They support local writers and have great events. Having my book stocked there was a career highlight.
Is it lonely being a writer?
Writing can be a lonely profession, if you allow it to be. By actually saying, I want to write and this is what I have done, I have been amazed at the community of support on offer. You have to force yourself to go out there and find other writers and readers. It is never really lonely as you have your characters to keep you company. Then there is always twitter and Facebook – the water cooler equivalent of the office.
Tell us about your new book A Posy of Promises?
It is very much a book about a grandmother and a granddaughter.
Ava Connors is comfortable with her life just as it is, still living in the tiny terrace house where she was brought up by her grandmother, the formidable Maggie, seeing her long-term boyfriend, Finlay, and working in Blooming Dale’s Florists. But Maggie’s health is declining and Finlay is fed up waiting for Ava to make a commitment.
Ava has never really known her mother, Scarlett, a singer-songwriter who chased her dreams. When she inherits an old and dilapidated house it ignites an interest in the mother who had abandoned her as a child. She begins to question her background, wondering why her mother left her to be brought up by her grandmother, Maggie.
Maggie is confined to a nursing home following a stroke. She finds it increasingly difficult to communicate but then again, she wasn’t always forthcoming about Ava’s mother. Some things in families are just not talked about.
When packing up their family home Ava discovers a box of memories, a scrap book full of newspaper clippings, an old album and a stack of photographs. On top of the keepsakes, Ava finds a letter from Maggie, supposed to be read following her death, explaining everything.
Ava’s mother Scarlett had moved to London and then Los Angeles chasing a dream to become a singer. One day she returns home with a baby girl, Ava, and asks Maggie and her father to look after her. Maggie agrees on the understanding that she raises the baby herself, hoping to force Scarlett into staying. The book explores what happens when you start questioning your childhood, the choices your parents make for you and how you find your place in the world.
A Posy of Promises is Sharon Dempsey’s first contemporary women’s fiction novel.
Sharon is a Belfast based writer of fiction and non-fiction books, with four health books published. He crime debut Little Bird was released
July 2017 with Bloodhound Books.
She facilitates therapeutic creative writing classes for people affected by cancer and other health challenges, and runs a creative writing group for young people, called Young Scribblers, at the Crescent Arts Centre. She is a creative writing tutor at Queen’s University and Stranmillis College. Sharon studied Politics and English at Queen’s University, and undertook a newspaper journalism post grad at City University, London. She has written for a variety of publications and newspapers, including the Irish Times.
Sharon is working on the follow up to Little Bird and a collection of
dark short stories.
A Posy of Promises is the first in a trilogy.