Sunday, March 8, 2015

Interview With Author Sheila Dalton

Author Sheila Dalton was born in London, England and emigrated to Canada when she was six. She began writing early in life and when she found a talent for English, she "went for it." In High School she won a prize from the Daughters of the British Empire and was lucky enough to win another prize in a playwriting competition at the University of Toronto in Canada.

Hello Sheila! Tell us a little about your novel, Stolen.

Stolen is the story of a young woman, Lizbet Warren, who comes home to find her village ravaged, and her parents abducted by Barbary Corsairs. She sets off for London with the only other survivor of the raid, Elinor, from the Workhouse for Abandoned and Unwanted Children. As women alone, they are both in  danger.

In what way?

In all the usual ways, but complicated by the situation in Britain at that time. My novel begins in 1633. The population of England had doubled from 1520 to 1630. There simply was not enough work or food to go round; consequently, there was a huge increase in poverty and vagrancy. Slums were spreading in the cities and, in some areas, as much as half the population lived on or below the poverty line. At the same time, British colonies in the Caribbean and North America were in desperate need of labourers. This combination of factors meant that any person perceived as a beggar, vagrant or petty criminal was in real danger of being transported across the sea as an indentured servant - a position as bad as, or even worse than, slavery. Slaves were a life investment; bonded servants were not as valuable, and were treated accordingly. Many died in transit; many more died of their labours once they arrived.  As women alone, Lizbet and Elinor were prime targets for transport.

How does your main character, Lizbet, survive?

With great difficulty! She is soon separated from Elinor, picked up as a vagrant, thrown into the New Prison, and sentenced to a public whipping. What saves her is intervention by a Frenchman, a privateer for the English monarch. He is a rather strange character who not only desires Lizbet, but intends to keep her under lock and key.  She is later taken captive by a British pirate, who sails her to the court of the Moroccan sultan, where she believes her mother has been taken.

There seem to be a lot of references to captivity and slavery of various kinds in your book.

That’s true. Slavery was endemic to the times. During the seventeenth century, the Barbary pirates carried off many European Christians and sold them as slaves. The women sometimes ended up in the harems of the wealthy - a fair woman was seen as treasure to them; the men often helped build the temples and palaces of Morocco. Meanwhile, the trade in slaves from Africa was growing apace, though white indentured servants (not enslaved Africans) comprised the main source of labour in the tobacco fields for the entire century.

What prompted you to write Stolen?

I had visited both Morocco and Devon, had seen the dungeons where the white slaves were kept in Meknes, and the caves and coves where the British pirates operated in Newton Abbot. I was intrigued by the idea of how a young woman would survive after losing those she loved in a pirate raid. I wanted to tell the story of someone who had to fight against the prejudices and attitudes of the time to find her own way.

Stolen is available as an ebook or print for the Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iTunes. On sale today at Amazon.

Read a sample or download Stolen by Sheila Dalton with iBooks


Sheila Dalton
Author of The Girl in the Box, Trial by Fire, Doggerel, and others.