Posts Tagged ‘Canary Islands’

Great Pictures

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Check out the amazing pictures Sheila Crosby made of a small church on the island where she lives. She has them on her blog.   Look for the March 4 entry

Interview with Author/Photographer Sheila Crosby

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Can you give us a brief bio?

I was born in Leeds, in the north of the England in the early middle ages.  I was a bit of a geek at school, which made me stick out like a huge zit on the end of a nose.  I was actually told, “You can’t do physics.  You’re a girl.”  Surprise, surprise, this made me keener,and I eventually got a degree in Mechanical Engineering, and then worked as a software engineer for fifteen years.  I got bitten by the

photography bug in college, and I’ve never recovered. Half way through that I moved to La Palma in the Canary Islands (part of Spain, but off the coast of Morocco) to write software for the Royal Greenwich Observatory.  I’d planned to stay for three years, but I fell in love with the island between getting off the plane and the airport arrivals hall (for one thing, it’s extremely photogenic).  Then I fell in love with a local, and got married.  Then we had a son, and bought a house. So now I expect to stay here for the rest of my life.  I got downsized from the observatory job after eleven years.  Since then, I’ve taught English, translated, done a bit of tour guiding and earned money from writing.  Itsheila3 keeps me so busy that I rarely get time for myhobby of cleaning the house.

When did the writing bug bite and in what genre(s)?

It bit seriously at high school.  I wrote a bit of almost everything, but my favorites are speculative fiction and thrillers.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish.  Is there a message you wanted readers to grasp?

Mostly I just want the fun of writing, but I do love it when I can persuade people to be a little nicer to each other.  For years I’ve had the gut feeling that kindness and wisdom come down to the same thing really.

Briefly, tell us about your books?

Unpublished!  I’ve sold over 30 short stories, but no books yet.  The stories tend to be quirky, and often very short.  In fact the shortest one I’ve sold so far was just 19 words. I’m currently writing a non-fiction e-book; a guide to the observatory on La Palma. It was such a fascinating place to work, first as a software engineer, and then as a tour guide.  And of course I know all sorts of surprising details about the place.

How do you develop characters?  Settings?

Characters’ main traits are usually inspired by someone I know – frequently someone who’s annoyed me.  Then I exaggerate that trait, add bits and pieces of other people and a dash of imagination and stir.    I try to include something a bit surprising, since real people are a bunch of contradictions.

Settings are mostly taken from real life, or places I’ve read about.  For example, I’ve used the observatory twice, and I really fancy setting a story on a comet core.

What’s the most unusual/most likable character?

Secret Agent Hammer is a genetically modified hamster, who does all the James Bond action stuff, like jumping out of a burning building, using knickers as a parachute.  He’ll happily take on cats, human terrorists and snakes, but he’s terrified of his lady-hamster boss.

Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?

Read it over, find it doesn’t work, swear, rewrite, repeat.

Do you have a specific writing style?  Preferred POV?

I try to use whatever style and PoV best fits the story.

Share the best review or a portion that you’ve ever had

My story “Scream Quietly” was in the first issue of Farthing, and Ursula Le Guin said the magazine was “Cooler than Azimov’s.”

What’s the most unexpected thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

My unfinished thriller, Mirrormaze, takes place in an observatory very like the one I used to work at.  So a colleague found me poking around the big tank which they use to re-coat the main telescope mirror with aluminum.  Seeing as the tank was expensive, delicate, and nothing whatsoever to do with my work, he asked me I was doing there.

I said, “Oh I’m just looking for a murder weapon.”

And he helped me to find one.

SC-Cover_smallWhat are your current projects?

Too many, as usual.  I’ve got about five short stories on the go, plus the thriller set in the observatory here, plus a nonfiction guide to the observatory which I’ll release as an e-book.  Plus my website is overdue for a major overhaul, and I’m the webmistress for Heroic Stories.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

At my website,

What type of writing do you do?

Sitting at a keyboard.

What is the best thing about writing?

Getting paid for daydreaming.

Is there a specific time of day that you write?

Whenever my family leaves me alone.

What is the most interesting book you ever read?

Probably “The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents” by Terry Pratchett.  On one level it´s an adventure story but there’s a bunch of very thoughtful stuff about good and evil and leadership and what fiction means to people.

Favorite authors?

Terry Pratchett, Ursula Le Guin, Ian Rankin, Neal Stevenson, Neil Gaimen, Peadar Ó Guilín, Theodore Sturgeon, Kurt Vonnegurt, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen.  Oh yeah, and Hank Quense is pretty cool, too.

Any parting words of advice for writers?

Read a lot and write a lot.  There’s no substitute for actually writing.  So on the days when you’re in the mood, you write 500-2,000 words, and on the days when you really can’t face it, you write 100 words anyway.  Even if they’re crap.  Especially if they’re crap, because it stops the story going off the boil.

What type of pictures do you prefer to take?

Anything with a simple composition and unusual colors.  The colors can be either really bright, or really muted, or almost all shades of one color.

What type of equipment do you use to take pictures?

People always ask that, but I’ve seen fantastic photos taken with a cookie tin.  Literally a cookie tin, with photographic paper inside and a pinhole in the front.  An expensive camera doesn’t make you into an artist, but it gives you wider options and less chance to make a mistake.  At the moment I carrry a point-and-click digital compact pretty much everywhere.  If I’m hoping for a serious photography fix then I take my Pentax K10D digital camera and three lenses. When I

bought my main camera, it was worth more than my car.  Mind you, the car was old enough to vote at the time, and I’ve replaced it since.

To print or edit the pictures?

These days I usually edit the photos before I put them on the web.  I find 10 mpix prints up to letter size just fine.   Of course the older photos which I took on slides will print up to 24”x16”.

You can see some of my pictures at  They make great Christmas presents.

If anyone has comments or questions for Sheila, leave them here and she’ll respond.

Click on the subscribe button in the upper left to see my new posts