The Sheep Shed is a place where things happen. Life begins, develops and ends there. And the whole business of this involves relationships between people, animals, birds and most importantly, occasional reflections on who we are and what it’s all about. So perhaps this is an unusual but not absurd title for this press.
"I like to use words like a camera lens focusing in on scenes, situations and characters – perhaps to touch things that seem just out of reach. There needs to be places, people and events to do this. For these I find inspiration in the natural world, landscape, animals and birds and of course, most importantly, people"
The Strange Woman will delight readers of historical fiction, modern romance, and magical realism. The Strange Woman and her friends are accused of being witches, in a remote Yorkshire valley, in the early seventeenth century. But accuser Edward Fairfax has picked on the wrong woman.
This novel moves from the dark days of the early seventeenth century with its witch hunts, trials, and privations to the way we live now. Stephanie Shields writes with a strong sense of place, and pace, and casts a humorous and often satirical eye over life and aspirations in the same Yorkshire village, four hundred years on, uniting past and present in a gripping and dramatic finale, as a demon returns.
The Strange Woman is a tale about passion, obsession, and friendship spanning four hundred years, played out in a place where past and present meet.
Available from 2nd November 2020 from amazon.co.uk and also from Waterstones, Foyles, Barnes and Noble, or your local bookshop.
Cover design by Jacky Fleming
Star Rating: 5 stars
‘A magical story, dark with just a hint of humour. Very enjoyable.’‘All in all, it's a bit of a gem. Enjoy!’
The Strange Woman is, in many ways, a strange novel. It is a mix of so many things, from witchcraft to the life of the inhabitants of the Washburn Valley in Yorkshire. It also brings forth a mix of feelings from the reader; there are moments of laughter and moments of horror. But hroughout the novel, from its 1600s beginning to the present day, it is always superbly written with a strongly crafted plot and interesting, often charismatic characters.
From the opening – and very powerfully written – first chapter, this is a compelling narrative. The plot is cleverly constructed, the Timble setting is splendidly described, and the pacing is spot on. In terms of writing style, the author's very talented. She works well with speech, and she knows when to keep a sentence short; this is not an author who's fallen into the trap of purple prose. I was particularly impressed by her ability to develop her characters through speech – the Yorkshire dialect I know so well - and also the extent of her knowledge of the Yorkshire setting.
So now to the important bit. Who is this novel for? Well, if you are interested in the county of Yorkshire, specifically the witch trials of the 17th century, you will probably find this a compelling read. Also, if you enjoy strong characterisation and depth to a novel’s historical setting, this is very much for you. It’s the sort of book that would go down well in a book club; the sort of book that stays with you after you finished it; the sort of book you discuss over coffee and recommend to others. And, to top it all off, it’s often ‘darkly’ funny too.
All in all, it's a bit of a gem. Enjoy!
A ‘Wishing Shelf’ Book Review - www.thewsa.co.uk
Join poet James Nash as he interviews Stephanie Shields about her new novel The Strange Woman.
This features a fabulous 3D animation of the Jacky Fleming's crow cover, by 3D animator Ben Woodcock, The Timble Witches inspiration, the novelist's love of the Washburn Valley, and the underlying themes of farming, feminism, the power of nature and hope.
Her short story, The Watershed, was selected by Sarah Waters for the Jane Austen Bi-centenary collection, entitled ‘Dancing with Mr. Darcy’, published in 2009 by Honno Press and Chawton House in the UK and later by Harper Collins in the USA.
Her short stories have been chosen for broadcast on local radio. Her poems have been included in various literary magazines and anthologies.
Her flash fiction and poetry have been well-received both in national and international competitions.
Stephanie’s short story collection, ‘Swan Landings’, was published summer 2017 - Available at amazon.co.uk
This title belongs to the first story.
It is a three-part collection based on the three ages – Swan Pairings (people coming together), Cygnets on the Flow (the challenges of childhood and adolescence) and Swan Landings (falling from grace, with a few compensations).
Cover design by Jacky Fleming
" These stories are full of wisdom and humanity. Infused with a strong sense of place they jump from the page alive with quirky characters and messy lives. There are wonderful moments of poetry and hard-won philosophy which shine brightly in a terrific collection. "
James Nash, poet and writer.
Listen to me read my story The Last True King of England on Chapel FM’s Wordybirds programme. Click here
You can read one of my short stories on-line. Click here to sample my story Heading North, published by Words for the Wild.
This one is set in the foothills of Pendle Hill at a sheepdog trial, where the behaviour of one man sets in motion a dramatic chain of events.