Sheila Skillman started writing stories at the age of seven, inspired by the adventure stories of Enid Blyton. The love of writing that the stories of the Famous Five first instilled into Sheila has strengthened over the years. In conferences and workshops she always has her notebook and pen handy, so she can write down the names of everyone attending, and whatever details they share about themselves.
Sheila studied English Literature and Linguistics at Lancaster University, and her first permanent job was as a radio production secretary with the BBC. Other jobs have included working for the British Council Visitors Department, the Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, Queen Mary College, University of London, and the Church Mission Society. She has also worked in the Chairman's office at the Kent Messenger Group, and in the European School of Osteopathy. Other employers include the University of Warwick, the Church Pastoral Aid Society, the Warwickshire County Council Social Services, and the NHS - far too many for Sheila to contemplate, and these don't include all her various temp jobs.
Sheila once had a temp assignment with a company which lost its opportunity to change the course of history - a firm in Tunbridge Wells which supplied ceiling tiles and partitions to the Middle East, and which had supplied and fitted a suspended ceiling to one of Saddam Hussein's palaces just before the Gulf War. One of the directors said to Sheila, "We should have installed a device up there which emitted a poison gas..." They were subsequently to discover how they might have changed the course of world history over the next two decades.
On another occasion, whilst working as a shop assistant at Swan & Edgar department store in Piccadilly Circus during the Christmas rush, Sheila accidentally threw the till off the counter onto the floor. The impact reverberated around the entire festive gifts department. Sheila's line manager, a prototype for Mr Humphries, picked it up and replaced it on the counter with smoothness and panache, and said to her, "Don't you like this till?" They then carried on serving customers as if nothing had happened.
The first job Sheila ever had, at the age of fifteen, was a school holiday job on the assembly line at Morphy Richards factory in St Mary Cray, Kent. Sheila was one of the team making pop-up toasters. Her job was to put the spring in that actually created the "pop-up". Despite the fact that she had been given a dexterity test before getting the job, every so often she lost her grip on the springs and they would ping across the aisle, in through the entrance to the ladies toilets.
The best job Sheila ever had was at the BBC, where she worked with lively and witty producers, presenters, broadcasters, scriptwriters, actors, studio managers and all kinds of creative people and had great fun recording programmes both in studio and on location. The worst job was as a temporary secretary in a company called "Imported Meat Trades Ltd" (Sheila is a vegetarian). After the first day she was asked not to come back again.
Later, Sheila lived for nearly five years in Australia, during which she worked for the University of Queensland, and for the Brisbane City Council. Upon her return to England, she met her future husband David. Subsequently, they married and then moved to Warwickshire, where they now live with their two teenage children.
Sheila completed two comic novels before writing "Mystical Circles". She has always been fascinated by the interaction of different personalities, and enjoys observing people and seeking to understand motivation and gain insight into human relationships. She is now nearing completion on her new novel, another romantic suspense story called "A Passionate Spirit".
And Sheila's advice to anyone who wants to be a writer? "Read a lot, listen to people's conversations, closely observe every aspect of their personalities, be fascinated by human behaviour and interaction in groups, and be persistent, stubborn, single-minded to the point of obsession...never give up, always believe in yourself despite all evidence to the contrary, and hold out for what you first dreamed of."