Author Interview: Cheryl Burman / Keepers


JMR-Welcome to the Books Delight, Cheryl. Tell our readers where you live, what you do for fun and what does the perfect day look like?

CB- Hi Jeanie, thanks for having me here! I live in the Forest of Dean, in the UK, a beautiful place which is thought to have inspired Tolkien’s Middle Earth and is now popular with film makers including Star Wars. I’m originally from Australia, but not lived there for some time.
Fun? What’s fun? I’m retired, so I try to make sure that everything I do is at least what I want to do and mostly enjoyable. Doesn’t always work that way of course, but I’m much involved in my local community especially where it comes to history and to writing.
As for the perfect day, that would be a long walk in the Forest with the dog, spotting deer and perhaps some young wild boar, a coffee at the 17th century Speech House hotel with friends, and an afternoon with the fingers flying over the keyboard as my new novel takes shape.

JMR-What’s your favorite historical time period? Why?

CB- I’ve written about the mid-late 19th century and my new release is set in the mid 20th century. I read historical books set in many time periods, including Mantel’s Wolf Hall (16th c) and Andrew Taylor’s Ashes of London series (17th c). But I suspect medieval times are what I enjoy most, especially stories of women. One of my favourite books is Anya Seton’s Katherine, about her relationship with John O’Gaunt – pretty old now, but a classic.

JMR-Who is your favorite historical figure? Why? If you could ask them one question, what would it be?

CB-Queen Victoria, for the way in which she shaped the monarchy as a woman, keeping the men – even her beloved Albert – in their places. My question to her would be: how did she keep going after the various attempts on her life? (There were eight in all.) It could only have been that she was totally driven by duty as she understood it and would not be cowed. A remarkable person.

JMR- How did you come to be a writer of historical fiction?

CB-By accident! My first books are an MG fantasy trilogy and I have a prequel half-written and a sequel plotted. But on an online peer review platform one day, I fell across the story of a woman hanged in Australia in 1863, along with her ex-pirate cook and a young, love-sick groom, for murdering her abusive, alcoholic husband. She was 23 and the mother of two little boys. The woman who posted the piece is now a great friend and we have co-authored a novel based on the story. It’s waiting for a publisher … please note, agents and publishers!

JMR- You co-authored a book with another writer. What was that experience like? Hardest part? Lessons learned?

CB-As noted above, yes, I did! We worked on the book over several years, passing work back and forth. Essentially, my co-author, Emma, is a fantastic historian (and has lovely imagery at her fingertips too) but struggled to structure the story. That’s where I came in. It was great being able to talk to someone about the book who was truly interested, and not our mothers/husbands being polite. The hardest bit was forever saying to Emma: No, we don’t need that extensive amount of historical detail, so no, we can’t put it in. Sometimes I relented. I learned a lot about novel writing in the process, and still learning of course.

JMR- You belong to a mentoring program to foster the creative spirit in children. What have you learned from today’s young readers/writers?

CB-Dean Scribblers has been a real learning experience for me as well, I hope, for the young people involved. We work mostly with 10-11 yr olds, although our last pre-Covid project was with a small class of young people aged about 15, all of them on the autistic spectrum. In every case, I have been thrilled with the emotional maturity of the students and their imaginative interpretations of events and themes. Put a wild spin on things and there you go! Great stories!

JMR- Cheryl, tell us about your new book, Keepers.

CB- In post WW2 Australia, Raine’s family must move from the country to the city for medical treatment for Pop. The housing shortage sees them living in a noisy, draughty Nissen hut on a migrant camp in the flat, arid suburbs. Raine hates it. And while she loves her work as a legal secretary in the city, a colleague burdens her with suspicions that a bum-patting partner is involved in black marketing.

Then Raine meets Cockney Blitz survivors, the cool, languorous Teddy and his friendly, sweet childhood mate Alf. Both have feelings for her but show it in very different ways. As for Raine, she’s unsure where her heart belongs. It might not be with either young man.


JMR-It sounds like your characters are loosely based on your parents. When did they take on a life of their own? Do you think your parents would recognize themselves?

CB-Loosely, yes. I suspect many novels are based on family, on our own lived experiences, and some not so loosely as others. My parents did meet on a migrant camp, my mother was Australian and my father a Cockney. But while there are a few snippets of family lore/history included in the book, the tale told is a long way from being biographical. The characters, however – well, I think both parents might recognise bits of themselves in there, and bits of other people too. (Fact: my mum, aged 17, really did punch a bum-patting manager at work, when she worked for News Corporation. Her male colleagues cheered.)

JMR-What projects do you have in the pipeline?

CB-Too many! I’ve just finished draft one of a new novel, this one set here in the Forest along the banks of the Severn, about a farm girl who talks to the river and watches the river nymphs play tag with the nets and oars of the fishing boats. I’ve promised my granddaughter I will finish the prequel mentioned above and she can be my alpha reader (but I have final say on plot!). I want to put together a slim collection of my short stories as a gift to newsletter subscribers, and I have a list of several competitions I want to enter with flash fiction and longer, all of which seem to be due now!  That’s just the writing projects.

JMR- Tell our readers how to find you on social media and the web.


website:  which has book links, stories, book reviews, and past newsletters so you can see if you’d like to sign up. Oh, and a blog with writing tips and other stuff.

Twitter  @cr_burman


JMR- What question were you hoping I’d ask but didn’t?

CB-Has my dog written a book? Yes, and it’s very popular (see my website!)

JMR- Cheryl, that's for a great chat, good luck to your and best wishes on your books. Readers I have included a link to Cheryl's book. 


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