Get to know Sheila…

Sheila Turnage lives on a North Carolina farm with her husband, a blind dog and an ill-tempered cat. A native North Carolinian, she’s spent most of her life surrounded by the poetry and humor of rural NC.  She writes books, articles and poems, and enjoys writing about the South in general and NC in particular. Her books include Compass American Guides: North Carolina and Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Three Times Lucky is her first novel for kids. It’s set in the fictitious town of Tupelo Landing, NC – population 148 minus one (murder). To learn more, visit her website and Facebook.

Let the conversation begin!

How did you choose the genre you write in?  

It’s funny about that. Three Times Lucky is an MG novel but believe it or not, I didn’t start out to write a novel for kids. It’s just that this scrappy, eleven-year-old girl in plaid sneakers kept kicking at the door of my imagination and saying things like, “Hey, I’m Mo LoBeau.  You got a minute?  I got a story to tell.”  

And boy did she.  

A murder, a kidnapping, a lost mother, a dog named Queen Elizabeth II.  I started writing.  As I followed her story, I met her best friend Dale Earnhardt Johnson III and the other residents of Tupelo Landing. Mo’s stand-in parents: the flamboyant Miss Lana and the amnesiac Colonel.  The melt-down gorgeous racecar driver Lavender, who Mo hopes to go out with in just eight more years.  Mo’s arch enemy, Atilla Celeste…  

I thought Mo’s story was great, but I didn’t know it was a novel for kids until my agent told me.  

Is your material based on real life experiences or purely imagination?  

Three Times Lucky is set here in easternNorth Carolina, where I live.  But it takes place in the imaginary town of Tupelo Landing.  

As I wrote the book, many elements of my world – small town cafes, slow dark-water creeks, hurricanes – morphed into Mo’s world.  The rhythm of the language here moved from my world to hers, too.

Specific characters aren’t based on anyone in particular, though.  And the plot is way more exciting than my day-to-day life!  I don’t have a detective agency, for instance.  And I haven’t solved a murder.  So Mo and Dale are way ahead of me in that regard.  

What is your very favorite part of the day? 

Early morning. I love sunrise, and waking up with the sound and color of a new day.    

Are there certain characters you would like to return to? 

Sure! I’d like to return to Mo and Dale, the main characters of Three Times Lucky. They’re vivid, engaging characters and to me they’re flat-out funny. Plus they’re fun to write.  I’d also like to meet more of Mo’s friends… 

Best writing advice you’ve ever received? 

Don’t wait to feel inspired – write! After all, I can always rewrite. And really, if it goes badly what’s the worst that can happen? I can always start a fire in the fireplace…