Q&A with Eileen Wharton

Today it’s my third turn on the SpellBound blog tour for International Women’s Day. I’m sharing a Q&A with Eileen Wharton, author of Shit Happens. My post is shared with thanks to Zoe O’Farrell for inviting me on the tour and to Eileen Wharton for answering my questions!

Have you always wanted to write?

Oh yes. When I was a child I was always telling stories. I told the other kids in my class that Batman was my uncle and I was related to the Six Million Dollar Man. I made my own books out of paper and pins (I didn’t have a stapler.) And I stole Enid Blyton’s characters and gave them new adventures. Binkle and Flip and the Human Bean was a genius creation. How I haven’t been picked up by the BBC before now, I’ll never know!

What were your previous jobs? Have they helped you with your writing process?

I had my own business called Trump’s Toupé. We made wigs for orange people. It was very fulfilling. I’ve done a few different things. I’ve worked in shops and factories, been an Ann Summers agent, been a residential social worker, a teacher’s assistant, a teacher … Everything helps with the writing process. Everything is material. Whenever something bad happens I take from it what I can. I just keep telling myself, ‘it’s all material.’ It helps.

What was your inspiration for Shit Happens?

I was living in poverty with my four children. The phone had been cut off because I couldn’t afford to pay the bill so I sat down and wrote the first chapter. I used my last fiver to enter it in a competition run by writer, Wendy Robertson, and my entry was highly commended and caught the attention of a top publisher. 

How do you construct your characters? Do they have traits of people you know?

I hear voices. That’s how all my characters begin. Then I have to tell their story. Many of the subsidiary characters are composite characters made from people I know. Rose’s father is based on my friend’s dad and the Dexters are based on real people.

What does your writing process look like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I am very much a pantser who longs to be a plotter. I’m improving at plotting I think but it isn’t something which comes naturally to me. Shit Happens was very much written like a patchwork quilt. Stitching it together was murder! 

How did you research Shit Happens? Did you enjoy it?

I took a trip to Amsterdam and enjoyed it very much. I didn’t smuggle any drugs back but I think the ex might have had a stray spliff in his trouser pocket. I went to the Costa-del-Sol too. That was also extremely enjoyable. Working in the pizza shop was less fun but being an Ann Summers agent had its advantages. Contrary to what you may have been led to believe, no priests were harmed in the making of this novel.

Who are your favourite writers? Are you influenced by them?

I have so many favourite writers. I was inspired by Pat Barker as she is a northern woman who wrote about people from council estates. Union Street and Blow Your House Down were the first books I ever read that featured people like us. It made me realise I could be a writer. I love Mo Hayder’s novels and I love Emily’s Bronte’s Wuthering Heights

If you could invite three people, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be and why?

I’d invite my fiancé, Stephen, my mam who died when I was fifteen and Stephen’s mam who died suddenly in 2016. And now I’m crying because we can never have dinner with them again. 

Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with and why?

Any of the government but particularly JRM, Johnson or Gove. Then again it might give me the opportunity to vent some of the anger I feel at them.

Who would play the main character/s in a film version of Shit Happens?

We have so many amazing British actors. I’d rather it was someone northern, as opposed to someone putting on a northern accent. I’d also rather it was an unknown I think. Stevie Devlin is a talented northern actor and she already has the right accent. She’s a little young but I’ve offered to let her spend a week with my teenager which will age her a few years!

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Spare time? What’s that? I enjoy spending time with the family and friends. I like nothing better than being with my kids and grandkids. Love being around the elderlies too. They’re so entertaining. I love travelling, seeing new places, eating the food and sampling the wine.

What is next for you?

Fame and fortune hopefully. A series with the BBC, a Netflix deal, Hollywood. A girl can dream. And so can a middle aged woman.

Favourites:

Book? Wuthering Heights.

Film? Moulin Rouge/ Staying Alive/ The Bridges of Maddison County.

Band/Singer? Christy Moore/ Led Zeppelin/ Pink Floyd.

TV show? So many. Any crime show. The Responder is bloody brilliant and Tony Schumacher is a lovely man so I’m chuffed it’s been so successful.

Colour? Red and green.

Place? Barcelona and Seven Stories (The National Centre for Children’s Books in Byker Newcastle) 

Biscuit? Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer.

***

Shit Happens is available from Amazon.

You can follow the rest of the blog tour here:

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