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Tony-SheppardAn Interview with Tony Sheppard

Conducted Sept 2009

Q. The photograph, with the ancient typewriter and the candle, suggests that you conform to the popular notion that writers work in garrets. (Tony laughs)

A. Like Handel, when producing the Messiah. Yes, but seriously: I live in a first-floor flat, which has a terrific view from a wide bay window. Perfect for looking at the dark mysterious world outside when, having woken in the middle of the night with what happens next clear in my mind, I needed to write.

Q. You say you had the sudden urge to write a novel. Can you expand on that?

A. Sure. After the July 2005 London bombings, I wandered about in a daze like most people seemed to be doing; then, on the Sunday morning, I felt that I had to go to church. The church was packed, and people seemed to be aware of other people around them, which I thought was unusual in modern society:  The atmosphere was hot and thick, and testy, as if the congregation were holding their breath in defiant anticipation. During the service, the preacher did not mention the atrocity directly; he just asked the congregation to remember the families of the dead in their prayers. Later, when a long queue formed after the communion rail became full, I became convinced, not only that ordinary people in this country would never allow terrorists to win, but that they would queue to give their lives to prevent it, if necessary: As I left the church, sunshine burst through the clouds and I had a strong urge to write a novel extolling Christian virtues; Twelve months later,‘Splinters’ was published.

Q. You assure me that the characters and the extraordinary situations are true to life, but some of it must be based on your experiences. And what inspired you to write Splinters?

A. I have either known all the characters in Splinters, or read about them; as in ‘Pythagoras’ the druid, who believed that Man’s soul transmigrates into other things at the point of death. But there is a little of me in all of them, I guess. What inspired me to write Splinters? Frustration.

Q. Because you’d retired and needed something to do?

A. No. Frustration, both with society, which I feel has descended in to secularity, and myself who did not turn out to be the perfect husband and father I wanted to be. An underlying theme in Splinters is that there are consequences for selfish living: Consequences that may come back to haunt one later in life.

Q. Splinters is full of emotion, complex relationships and characters. The picture of Esther, your main character on the Home Page of your website: Why can’t we see her face?

A. Hmm. People are complex characters. Esther? I decided to let the reader imagine what she looks like because she represents potential. The forces in the splinters inhabiting her represent the opposite ways a woman’s conscience pulls her in every decision she makes. Esther, like every woman, grows up full of hopes and dreams, but vulnerable and totally unaware of the setbacks she is bound to face in life. More than that, though, Esther represents the sort of woman I think society clearly needs. Mothers shape our children’s lives and attitudes in ways no legislation can.

Q. What’s the significance of the great oak tree, and the splinters? The fantasy element.

A. Metaphors: The tree represents life in general, the splinters outside influences, or temptations, and the souls the inner self we debate with when making decisions. ‘The curse of our clay’, is how Lord Byron described selfishness, I think.

Q. Why donate a portion of the profits to J.M.A.?

A. Some children don’t get the chance in life they deserve. J.M.A, does a great job of helping give them a good start.