Novel by Baildon gran, 73, hits the shelves

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Shirley Heaton with a copy of her first novel, a romantic suspense story she wrote when she retired Buy this photo » Shirley Heaton with a copy of her first novel, a romantic suspense story she wrote when she retired

A grandmother who started writing romantic fiction when she retired has had her first novel published, at the age of 73.

Shirley Heaton, of Baildon, describes her romantic suspense, Relative Strangers, as a “story of sexual attraction and biological intrigue” and says she has been “open-minded” about writing the love scenes.

“It’s written for a modern readership, so I’ve used language people use these days,” said the grandmother-of-four.

“I’ve used swear words I’d never use myself! It took about six months to write and I sent a synopsis to Pegasus, not really expecting a reply, as it’s so difficult to get a book published – unless you’re a celebrity, or JK Rowling.

“To my surprise, Pegasus wanted to read it all. I was delighted. Now I’m writing my second novel, about a girl and a soldier serving in Afghanistan, and Pegasus are interested in reading that too.

“I spent donkeys’ years sending drafts to agents and got nowhere, then Pegasus took me on without an agent. It’s very exciting.”

Relative Strangers, launched at Baildon Hall this week, is about a French student, Danielle, who leaves her country to study at Edinburgh University.

When she falls ill, tests reveal she has a rare blood type and, in an urgent mission to find a donor, her devoted stepfather hires a private investigator who unlocks the past and unravels family secrets.

Shirley did some research at Bradford Royal Infirmary, where she worked as a medical secretary in the haematology department.

“I had lots of support from Professor Liakat Parapia, consultant haematologist,” she said.

After having her children, Shirley trained to be a teacher, aged 30. She taught English at Buttershaw and Beckfoot schools. “I started writing as a child. When I retired ten years ago, I decided to write a book,” she said.

“I’m a member of the Romantic Novelists Association, which advised me to write a shorter novella to start with. I wrote a 30,000-word story, sent it to Thomson Publishing and ended up with three novellas published by Thompson and by Thorpe, specialists of large-print books. My stories were sent to libraries and are available in Australia and America!”

Shirley enjoys reading romantic fiction, with an edge of suspense. “I start with a character and the story flows,” she said. “I travel a lot and listen to what people are saying, it’s all valuable material for a writer.”

- Shirley Heaton will be signing copies of Relative Strangers at Waterstone’s, Bradford, on Saturday, February 20, at noon.

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