Burnham-On-Sea author, 96, celebrates the publication of her first novel

Burnham-On-Sea’s oldest author is celebrating the release of her first book in paperback this month.

Sheila Rainey, 96, who is visually impaired, has enjoyed writing for years and has now published her latest novel, Innocents In London, after encouragement from a friend.

We reported here that Sheila’s novel has sold enough copies on Amazon’s Kindle service to be published in physical book form – which has now happened.

“I’ve always loved to write – it keeps the mind sharp – and this is my first published book,” she told Burnham-On-Sea.com. “It’s very exciting to have my work available in book form and on Amazon.”

The historical novel, which Sheila worked on for about six months, is set in the 19th century and is a tale of hope and adversity. It follows a five year old boy whose mother died and he is abducted from his father’s country estate and finds himself ’employed’ as a climbing chimney sweep in Georgian London.

Sheila, who has lived at the Kathleen Chambers House care home in Burnham for over five years, was celebrated with a celebration by staff and friends this week to mark the release.

“A dear friend and editor Logan persuaded me to get published after enjoying what I had written.”

Judy Davies, a friend of Sheila’s, adds: “It is a wonderful book – a real game changer, fascinating, very exciting and a most extraordinary story. She is a remarkable woman.”

The 282-page book is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

A music lover, Sheila has worked with major orchestras and conductors including the Philharmonia, the English Chamber Orchestra and the BBC Academy, accompanying them at all concerts in the UK and abroad.

During her time at BBC Publications she prepared, commissioned and edited printed programs for concerts. A lifelong lover of literature, she wrote articles and stories for house and local magazines in her spare time.

A traffic accident in 1981 resulted in serious leg injuries and an inability to work for several months. She then got a job as a receptionist at the naturalist Gilbert White’s museum in Selborn. During the winter months she cataloged the Holt White archives, including the series of letters from Gilbert White’s niece Mary to her brother Thomas Holt White. She prepared a transcription of the letters for an M.Phil. Degree awarded in 1990.

Sheila moved to Eastbury, near Lambourn, where she worked freelance for a Newbury publisher, Countryside Books, editing, proofreading and indexing. Poor eyesight forced her to give up this job.

It was in Eastbury that she began her Shefford series of crime novels. After moving to Froxfield she continued to write the Shefford novels and it was here that Innocents in London was born.

Sheila now lives at Kathleen Chambers House, a care home for the blind and visually impaired. Despite having vision problems, she continued to revise Innocents in London and the Shefford series during the Covid lockdowns, writing ‘Alec in Blunderland’ – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland seen by a grumpy, complaining old man!

She hopes to celebrate her 97th birthday in August and plans to continue writing as long as her wits and eyesight allow.

Click here to order a copy of the book from Amazon

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