A Day in the Life of…Sara Sheridan
Sara Sheridan writes the popular Mirabelle Bevan Murder Mysteries set in 1950s London and Brighton as well as historical novels set in 1820-1845. Fascinated particularly by female history she is a cultural commentator who appears regularly on television and radio. In 2014 she was named one of the Saltire Society’s 365 Most Influential Scottish Women, past and present. The Mirabelle Bevan Mysteries are currently being developed for television and the fifth in the series, Operation Goodwood, is out in the UK this April. On Starlit Seas, set in 1820s Brazil and London, will be out in the UK in July.
“Intelligent, interesting, accessible writing”
Sara has two books out in 2016: the 5th Mirabelle Bevan Mystery, Operation Goodwood and an historical novel set in the chocolate industry in Brazil and London in 1825: On Starlit Seas. Busy year!
In the last few weeks… STV Productions optioning the Mirabelle Bevan Mysteries for TV, the series launching in the US, a portrait of Sara by Sophie McKay Knight on display at the National Gallery of Scotland, being voted onto the CWA committee and being named as one of Scotland’s 365 most influential women, past and present, by the Saltire Society.
I wish I had a typical day! I suppose the unifying factor is that I’m generally busy. I tend to get up around 8am and do my emails, read the news and check in on social media. Then it depends. On writing days, I grab my laptop, curl up in a corner (or go back to bed) and just get down to it. I don’t usually write for more than 4 hours or so. I can concentrate really well for that length of time. I try to turn out 1000 words a day on average but sometimes there is a lot on and I end up writing my weekly count over a couple of days.
If I’m not writing I might be researching. I’m an absolute swot. I love finding things out. I visit art galleries, archives and for the Mirabelle Bevan Mysteries, I use a lot of vintage photographs and film footage. I am a fashion nerd so it’s important to me that the details of Mirabelle’s outfits (and those of Vesta, her sidekick) are spot on. I’m also quite practical. I was once caught at the back of a mews flat in Belgravia, trying to figure out if Mirabelle would be able to break in (in heels) by shinnying up the pipe. The owner shouted ‘What are you doing there?’ and I had to come clean and explain I was a novelist. I’m not sure he believed me.
Events and more generally, publicity are a big part of a writer’s job these days.
Over the summer I book festival hop. We have 155 book festivals in the UK and they are all different. I love meeting readers – it’s a great way to guage how things are going. In the winter the focus tends to be on corporate, bookshop and library events. I am a poor driver. I get teased a lot by my family about my lack of spatial awareness. So I tend to go everywhere by train. I love writing on the train. It feels very classical. Though I have to say getting home at midnight after a long day, can be pretty wearing.As well as books, I also write blogs – mostly for the Huffington Post, the BBC History site and the Guardian. I cover loads of subjects – some historical but also about creative life and the raw deal writers are given in the current publishing model. I feel strongly that writers are a community. I’ve served my time on the Society of Authors in Scotland committee and now sit on the board of the writers’ collective, ‘26’. We promote our members through collaborative exhibitions and events. Earlier this year I was part of an exhibition at the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh but I’ve taken part at the V&A, the National Museum of Scotland, the Story Museum in Oxford and the Writers’ Centre in Norwich. So some days I’m chatting to writers and liaising with museum curators about that kind of thing. I also mentor fledgling novelists for the Scottish Book Trust. It’s easy to get focused on your own career or be sucked into what you’re writing so it’s nice to be part of the wider picture too. I firmly believe that writers need writers. Our careers are crazy compared to the average professional person. I’ve been helped hugely on my way by generous writers who are further along, and I try to pay that back where I can.
It’s not all writing though or even writing related, in my day. I run two small companies from my study – one is a property company and the other is a new business I’ve been developing called Urban Reivers. I got the idea at a book festival down south, last year from the way that myself and other Scottish writers were representing our identities. We have a fascinating and diverse cultural history in Scotland and there we all were, either insisting our work was international or almost hamming up our Scottishness. How could we represent the brilliant Scottish culture I know and love? I decided to open a shop online and develop unique products in collaboration with other Scottish creatives. I’ve always been collaborative in outlook – a lot of work I’ve done at 26 has been based on creatives working together. Last year I teamed up with Scottish painter, Sophie McKay Knight. Sophie painted me and the picture ended up on display at the National Gallery of Scotland. It was fascinating to see how she created an image on the canvas – we’re both riveted by identity. Anyway, working together is natural to me and I’ve been working with lots of creatives to make gifts we can be proud of. No tartan purses! All the products are based on historical movements or stories – icons or heroes of mine. I am making a perfume inspired by the Jacobite women – it’s called Damn Rebel Bitches – and have licenced old road maps of Scotland to print onto silk scarves. It’s exciting – we launch this autumn. This means, often during my day I’m chatting to suppliers, box manufacturers or website designers. I’m learning a lot.
I usually wind up at my desk between 7 and 8 in the evening. I cook something to eat and hang out with my husband. I call him the Greatest Geek. Basically he’s a mathematician though he works in the computer games industry. We might watch a movie after dinner or sit reading. Sometimes (I’m such a swot) I do a jigsaw. Other times we walk up the road to the pub and have a drink. Then bed and off to sleep so I can start it all over again.