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Sheila Agnew was born in New York and grew up in Dublin with her sister and two brothers. They liked to pretend to be the children in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
Although Sheila couldn’t quite make it to Narnia, she set out to experience what she could of this world. After graduating from UCD., she practiced as a lawyer in London, Sydney and New York and got to work in such far-flung places as Accra, Cairo and Bratislava.
Sheila has wanted to be a writer since she was seven and fell in love with Danny, the Champion of the World. In 2002, she took time-out from her legal career to write and to travel around Asia. In 2011, she moved to Argentina to learn Spanish and work on a horse farm. The following year, she relocated to Dingle in County Kerry where she wrote Evie Brooks. Sheila based the character of ‘Ben’ on her own black-and-white spaniel of dubious lineage.
Sheila now lives and writes in New York City.
A Q&A with Shelia
1. Where did the idea for ‘Evie Brooks’ come from?
In my bedroom, I had an old, art deco vanity desk that I bought at a fire sale from a Broadway theatre. Generations of actors had sat where I now sat, preparing themselves for the thrill and fear of the stage. One February night, as a blizzard raged, I sat at my desk, blow-drying my hair. Evie’s story kind of leaped out at me from the mirror. I started writing. I enjoy the idea that my desk is a humble relation to the wardrobe that opens into Narnia; maybe they were made from trees in the same forest. But I think it’s much more likely that I was too lazy to finish drying my hair!
2. If you could go back and visit yourself at Evie’s age what advice would you give her?
You might want to rethink your blue eyeliner phase. I’m serious! But also, try not to overthink too many things. To rehash advice from a much wiser woman, the author, Iris Murdoch, “much of what seems important is less important than whether it is raining in Patagonia.”
3. What are you working on next?
I want to get moving on the third book in the Evie Brooks series. She’s got travel plans.
4. What are you reading at the moment?
I’m reading Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure, a biography written by Artemis Cooper. I am fanatical about classic travel literature and Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts is one of the best of its kind. In the children/young adult genre, I recently finished Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. Loved it! Weird, smart and funny: that’s a difficult combination to beat.
5. You really like to travel and have been to a lot of places! What’s your favourite place that you’ve visited so far?
I loved living in Buenos Aires because it felt thrillingly foreign and as familiar as home at the same time. Strangers on the street often asked me where I came from. I’d reply, “Irlanda.” If they looked puzzled, I’d say,
“From the same place as Che, Che Guevara, because his father said, ‘…in my son’s veins flowed the blood of Irish rebels.’”
That I was claiming kinship with their beloved national icon, Che, always made them snort with laughter. The people of Buenos Aires are a lot like us. They love to laugh. We would choose them for our team!
6. If you had one wish what would it be?
I was at a retreat for writers and artists in France last year, writing my young adult novel, Before, We Were Aliens. A new friend asked me, “If you could be doing anything in the world right now, what would it be?” I said, “This.” So I’ve been very lucky. I had my wish.
7. What books did you read as a child?
I loved all the usual suspects like the Chronicles of Narnia and the Roald Dahl books. I didn’t want to live in a royal castle. I wanted to live in the caravan with Danny, the Champion of the World, and his Dad. Although I love stories with humour in them, the book that had the strongest impact on me didn’t have any humour in it at all. It was I am David by Anne Holm.
8. Which author do you most admire?
That’s a tough one because I would feel like a traitor to pick out any one author. But the writing I admire most is Winston Churchill’s trilogy of speeches of May and June, 1940; We shall fight on the Beaches, Blood, toil, tears, and sweat, and the This was their finest hour speech. At a time when Britain stood alone against the Nazis, one man used his pen to make a difference in the fate of a nation and the world. Writing doesn’t come more powerful than that. I’ve read the speeches so often that most of the words are seared in my brain. When I’m in a down and out and stuck place, I read them in my mind and they usually offer me comfort and perspective and a feeling of awe.
9. What is your favourite word and why?
My favourite words are thank you. It’s impossible to overuse those words so long as you mean them.
10. What are you proudest of?
As a child, I formed a tight bond with my sister and my two brothers. Although we lead very different lives in different countries, it’s the kind of bond that can laugh in the face of a storm and never be broken. I’m proud of the four of us for that and of my parents too for all that they are and for all that they have given me.
A warm-hearted new adventure for Evie, star of Marooned in Manhattan. Having moved from Ireland, Evie is now settling in well into her life in New York City where she lives with her uncle Scott who is a vet. Not making a fool of herself at school is Evie’s biggest headache – or so she thinks – until her father suddenly turns up. Can he really get custody of her this time? And is that what she wants? Evie loves her uncle Scott and the vet practice. And she’s busy with friends and even- possibly – a boyfriend. Where does her father fit into all of this? Evie tells her own story in the convincing voice of a teenager. A Piece of Passion from editor Helen Carr I came on board as editor for Sheila Agnew’s second book in the ‘Evie Brooks’ series, Central Park Showdown. I was a real fan of her first book, Evie Brooks is Marooned in Manhattan, so I was delighted to get the chance to work with her, and I wasn’t disappointed. The ‘Evie Brooks’ books do so many things well. First, there’s the exciting side of Evie’s life with her Uncle Scott, a New York vet; she explores Manhattan, makes new friends and helps out at his veterinary clinic (where Sheila has great fun inventing the weird and wonderful clients – both animal and human). But as well as the fun storylines, the books deal with more difficult themes – Evie has moved to New York from Dublin, Ireland, after the death of her mother; just as she begins to settle down with Scott, her father turns up and she becomes embroiled in a custody battle. I think Sheila handles these ups and downs with real sensitivity and lightness, and in Evie she has created such a sparky and credible heroine that working on the books is a real pleasure. I look forward to working on more!
What a great way for a 10+ year old to discover New York City. Join Evie Brooks through her ups and downs of a summer in the Big Apple. Speckled with humour throughout it is also an incredibly moving story and a real page-turner. After Evie Brooks' mother dies, she is forced to move to New York to live with her uncle Scott. Never owned a pet more substantial than a goldfish, Evie is intrigued by Scott's NYC veterinary practice, and before long, Evie is working as an assistant in the clinic. Between the pets, their owners, Scott and his lawyer girlfriend, the Summer quickly becomes a whirlwind of change and activity! And then Evie has to make a huge choice: will she stay in New York, or return to live in Ireland with her godmother, Janet?
New York City. Evie Brooks had seen it on the TV, but suddenly finds herself leaving her home in Dublin and moving to Manhattan to her American uncle Scott, after the death of her mother. Never owned a pet more substantial than a goldfish, Evie is intrigued by Scott's NYC veterinary practice, and before long, Evie is working as an assistant in the clinic. Between the pets, their owners, Scott and his lawyer girlfriend, the Summer quickly becomes a whirlwind of change and activity! And then Evie has to make a huge choice: will she stay in New York, or return to live in Ireland with her godmother, Janet?