By Rox Burkey
Today I am delighted to share my special guest with you. She is a creative author of multiple genres, cooking artist, and devoted to her family. Roberta Cheadle, or Robbie from our first meeting, is a master chef at stories coupled with scrumptious eats. Trust me her recipes are fun, doable, and delicious.
Robbie, let’s start off by sharing a bit of your fascinating early years, and your migration to South Africa.
Hi Rox, Thank you for inviting me over to your lovely blog, I am delighted to be here.
I was born in London in the UK. When my biological father died, leaving my mom alone with a three-month-old baby, we moved back to my mother’s hometown of Bungay, Suffolk in the UK. When I was nine-months old my mother made the decision to move to South Africa. Her older sister, Wendy, lived in South Africa and she offered to look after me while my mother worked. We travelled by ship and arrived at the port city of Durban in December of that year.
My mother got herself a job in a busy hotel in Johannesburg and when I was 18 months old, she met my dad, Dean. They were married when I was two years old.
I attended high school in Johannesburg and took a job as a junior bookkeeper after I finished my matric year. I was 17 years old, a year younger than my peer group. I enrolled to study at The University of South Africa, a correspondence university, and studied a Batchelor of Accounting. I passed my three-year course with distinction and in 1997 I started my three-year article period at KPMG in Johannesburg. The firm paid for me to continue my studies part time and obtain the necessary Honours in Accounting degree. I then did my board examinations and at the end of 1999 I qualified as a CA(SA). I completed my qualification in six years instead of the usual seven.
After my articles, I moved into corporate finance with a focus on stock exchange related work. I trained to become a reporting accounting specialist and an approved executive for the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. I also learned about other stock exchanges all over the world. This is currently still my career.
I met my husband in my first year of articles and we were married in 2001. We now have two lovely sons who are both teenagers and who are currently attending high school.Was there a specific event that occurred which convinced you writing was a good direction for you?
Robbie, was there a specific event that occurred which convinced you writing was a good direction for you?
Corporate Finance is a ‘feast or famine’ job. I am frantically busy for nine to ten months of the year and the other two to three months are slower. During the slower periods I find other endeavors to keep me occupied. During this time, I wrote several publications for the firm about listing in Africa. I researched the largest stock exchanges in Africa, including the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Ghana Stock Exchange, Stock Exchange of Mauritius, Zimbabwe Stock Exchange and four other ones. I did a comparison of their sizes and the ease of doing business in these countries. The first publication was well received so I expanded into focusing on different elements of investing in Africa including the mining industry, bonds and debt, and even the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on Africa. I did comparisons with other developing and transitional economies and also first world countries stock exchanges.
During this time, I was fortunate enough to work with the firm’s marketing department and I learned all about producing a publication for design to editing and proofing as well as distribution to the market. It was during this time, in 2015, I started writing with my son, Michael, who was six years old at the time.
What or who is the biggest inspiration to your writing?
As a young girl I was a big reader. I started reading at the age of four years old and never stopped. I read absolutely everything I could get my hands on. One of the books that inspired me to write was Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables fame). Emily’s father is a poet, and he encourages her to write. When he dies and she goes to live with her two aunts and an uncle, and she continues to write. She discovers that her Uncle Jimmy also makes up poetry, although he doesn’t write it down. After reading this book, I also started writing descriptive prose and poetry. I was about eleven years old at the time.
My determination for Michael to overcome his learning barrier and learn to love reading and writing were the big inspiration for my first book, Sir Chocolate and the strawberry cream berries. Michael came up with the fabulous idea of a little man made of chocolate who lived in a world where you can eat everything. Michael has a vivid imagination. I took his ideas and converted them into rhyming verse and he then wrote the stories down into little books.
Your success in children’s books is built on Sir Chocolate, will you create more in this series?
There are currently ten Sir Chocolate books. Seven are published and include recipes. There are intended to be first recipe books for children. The other three are available as free rhyming verse stories on Robbie’s Inspiration here: https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/free-sir-chocolate-stories-for-download/. There are a few other free stories also available on that page.
Michael is now nearly fifteen years old and, sadly, his interest in Sir Chocolate waned a few years ago. There won’t be any more Sir Chocolate books.
Which of the Sir Chocolate stories are your favorites?
A very tough question, Rox, I enjoy them all. A few of the books are slightly more male orientated, for example, Sir Chocolate and the strawberry cream berries and Sir Chocolate and the Condensed Milk River, which both feature trolls. Sir Chocolate and the sugar dough fairies and Sir Chocolate and the Ice cream Rainbow fairies include several fairies which may appeal more to girls. If I have to choose a favorite, I think it would be Sir Chocolate and the Fondant Five as I loved making the various African animals that feature in this book.
You have branched out to other genres, what made this a direction you wanted to pursue?
My original goal with writing for children was to create fantasy stories that would appeal to younger children and which would also stimulate their imaginations and encourage baking as an activity. I wanted to produce a book that was a fun story and also provided other entertainment options for parents.
I wrote Silly Willy goes to Cape Town because I loved the My Naughty Little Sister series of books by Dorothy Edwards. The little girl featured in these books is naughty but it is harmless naughtiness and doesn’t involve disrespect towards parents, teachers or grandparents or destructive behaviour. Some of the books my boys read when they were young worried me as they seemed to advocate behaviour I don’t agree with like defying parents or shouting at them. I wanted to create a modern version of the sort of books I loved as a young girl.
While the Bombs Fell is a fictionalized memoir of my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in Bungay, Suffolk during WWII. It aims to tell the day-to-day life of children at that time. There was hardship. especially the bombing, rationing and food shortages, but there was also a strong sense of community and family and the children enjoyed lots of wonderful outdoors activities too, despite the on-going war.
Through the Nethergate came about due to my interest in reading supernatural and horror fiction. One of my blogging friends hosted a horror short story challenge and one of the benefits was that the selected stories would feature in a horror anthology. I wrote my first every horror short story, The Willow Tree, for this challenge and it was selected. I got a lot of wonderful feedback on this story from the blogger, who is an accomplished writer. I was asked if I’d like to contribute a second story and I did that, producing The Haunting of William.
The inclusion of these two short stories in this anthology, which did very well and is still doing well, gave me the confidence and courage to try my hand at a supernatural fantasy story. The ghostly characters who feature in this book are all based on real people who died in a famous inn that I have visited in my mother’s hometown of Bungay. I came across all the recorded hauntings of this inn by over twenty ghosts while I was doing research for While the Bombs Fell and my interest in their various stories resulted in the outline for Through the Nethergate.
Subsequent to the publication of Through the Nethergate, I’ve had short stories included in five other anthologies in the murder mystery, paranormal and horror genres and I’ve also just finished proofing the printers copy of my new paranormal history book, A Ghost and His Gold. This new book focuses on the Second Anglo Boer War (now called the South African War) and I really enjoyed the research and writing process.
Robbie, I enjoyed Through the Nethergate. I featured it on my blog, in case readers what to check out the details.
Do you find the research for completing these different genres harder or easier than creating recipes for Sir Chocolate?
Writing for adults is much more effort than the Sir Chocolate books as I’ve been on a huge writing learning curve for the past three years. Researching historical information is hard work because often the information from different sources conflicts and I had to delve much deeper to ensure my story is factually accurate. This was more of a problem for my recent book as many of the accounts are biased, depending on whether you are reading from a British or a South Africa point of view. I wanted to include more information about the native African concentration camps and participation in this war, but the research was incredibly difficult. There was not much recorded about the plight of native Africans during this war, so I had to pick up the relevant facts from personal accounts and/or diaries. I have tried to make this a balanced account of the war from all perspectives and one of my themes is the impact of war on the societies and civilians in war-torn countries.
The Sir Chocolate books are time consuming to create because the development of the recipes and creation of the fondant, cake and biscuit illustrations takes a long time. I work on each Sir Chocolate book for about six months despite the stories all being under 600 words (the word maximum for children’s picture books).
Speaking of recipes, what was your favorite character created in fondant? And what inspired it?
My favorite characters are not created in fondant but are imaginative experiments created from other food products. I created the toffee Valentine cupid out of toffee. It was quite a challenge as toffee is very sticky and difficult to work with. I made a man on the moon out of a variety of different cheese. The Roundy twins are made of candy-coated Easter eggs and Sylvia Honeylegs is made from honey and seed bars. My personal favorites are the nougat clowns, Hoot, Toot and Flute who are made from mini ice cream cones and nougat bars.
You mentioned that Michael, your son worked on the children’s books, but now he is a teen. Who works with you on the others?
My writing is a bit of a family affair. My older son, Greg, helps me with my YouTube videos. I haven’t done any new ones for the past few months as he has been studying relentlessly for his year end exams. This year is important for him as he uses these results to apply for university. Greg is academic and achieves all distinctions.
I wrote While the Bombs Fell with my mother. We are just starting to work on a sequel called After the Bombs Fell which tells her story after the D-Day landings until the rationing ended in England. My mother is amazing, she is an 82-year-old breast cancer survivor, but she is highly active, and she reads all my books and stories. She is my biggest critic and tells me when I’m being too convoluted or highbrow for readers. I can over complicate my writing with unnecessary detail because of my own interests in things like genetic engineering. She tells me to take a lot of information out of my books.
My husband, Terence, helps me to proofread a lot of my work before I submit it for challenges or anthologies. He also proofread the whole of Through the Nethergate. He does this for me at the end of the process, after my books have been developmentally edited and proofread by a third party and my publisher.
You are a busy mom with a family and household, when do you find time to write?
Teenage boys sleep late during weekends and I am an early riser. I am also a person who grabs any opportunity to write, even if its only 30 minutes, and that is how I add word count. If I’m waiting for a meeting, I’ll jump on my laptop and write down ideas or even a new paragraph.
South Africa is quite lovely as I understand it. What is your favorite local place or event, and why?
South Africa is a beautiful country with lots of amazing natural wonders. My favorite place is Cape Town in the Western Province. I love the ocean, although the water is very cold in Cape Town and I don’t swim. Table Mountain is stunning, and we enjoy driving up the mountain passes, or going up in the cable car. We also walk up sometimes, and the views and scenery are incredible. There are also the wine farms to visit and we have been to a chocolate making factory, cheese making facilities and even watched glass blowing.
Outside of the children’s books, do you have a favorite character that you have created, and please describe them and where I might find them?
Elsie, my mother, in While the Bombs Fell, is my favorite character. I loved writing this book with my mom it was such a fantastic bonding experience for us. I learned a lot of new information about my family and her childhood. It was an experience I will never be able to replicate other than through the writing of our sequel.
Are your characters created from people you know?
Other than Elsie, the characters in my books are largely fictional. Grandfather in Through the Nethergate has a lot of my dad’s characteristics as he is hands on, clever and passionate about family.
My main character in A Ghost and His Gold (out of those characters who are not ghosts – smile), Michelle, has some of my characteristics. She is also a chartered accountant and so is her husband, she likes to bake and write, and she loves antique furniture. Her husband, Tom, is nothing like my husband. Terence is a calm and rational person who rarely gets phased by anything life throws his way. I am the highly strung, emotional, and excitable one in my family.
What other genres are you hoping to write in?
I have written a Cli-fi (climate change) story for a new anthology and plan to write a few other short stories in this genre. I have a new children’s book, Silly Willy goes to Cape Town, which is three quarters finished and I have started a new paranormal history book about WW1. I also have After the Bombs Fell to write and I would like to write a collection of short paranormal history stories about other South African events. The 1820 settlers from England is one such event that I have an idea for and there are many other interesting ghosts hanging around in our mountains and bushlands that are crying out to have their stories told.
I also started a memoir about my life with two chronically ill children. It’s called There’s No Return to Sender but I found disturbing some of these memories so upsetting, I’ve shelved it for a while.
Like most authors, I presume you enjoy reading. Do you have a favorite genre?
I do enjoy reading and spend between 60 and 90 minutes a day reading. I read a large range of fiction including a lot of classic books, my current favorites are The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane and The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. I also read memoirs, I love reading about different people’s lives, religion and culture, and biographies about famous writers. I enjoy science fiction, fantasy, cozy mysteries, family dramas and paranormal, supernatural and horror books. I also read children’s books and a lot of poetry. I’ll read the odd romance although its not generally a favorite genre of mine and I’ve even read a few Westerns lately. I’ve never been a big reader of series, but a lot of people write them and so I’ve read a few lately. I usually have one poetry book, one novel and one audio book on the go at the same time.
Recently, I’ve been asked to Beta read a few books for fellow writers. I don’t consider myself an experienced writer and I am still learning, but I’m always happy to help others and so I do my best to give useful feedback. I think Beta reading as a good learning opportunity, and I’ve gained knowledge through doing it.
You and your husband are hosting a luncheon. You have invited two authors to join you (Doesn’t matter if they are living or not). What questions would you pose to each of them and why?
I would definitely invite H.G. Wells. I would love to know what gave him the idea for the time machine, given that it was published in 1895. The utopia he describes, a world where there is no illness, poverty or starvation and also no winter, is quite amazing when linked with the concept of mankind declining intellectually as a result of this ideal lifestyle through a lack of intellectual and physical challenges and stimulation. I would ask him what provoked this intriguing line of thought? I would also ask him about the Morlocks, or slave race, and whether his idea of their living underneath the ground, caring for the equipment that kept the utopia running, but feeding on the upperworld inhabitants was based on circumstances he experienced during his lifetime or if it was a purely fictional concept.
I would also like to meet Stephen King. His style of writing has changed a lot lately and I’ve wondered whether he know has a ghost writer writing his books. I would ask him if that is the case. I would also tell him that I was disappointed that IT turned out to be a [spoiler] giant spider of all things. Such a letdown. I would ask him why he thinks an advanced extra-terrestrial would assume the form of a spider and not an advanced man like in Terminator 2 or maybe a multicolored energy force that could shape shift. It would have been my favorite of his books if he hadn’t ruined it with that ending.
Robbie, it was so kind of you to join me. I like your honesty and transparency. You special family is just as lucky to have you as your are to have them. May your holiday season be delightful. I can’t wait to see what you’ll cook up next. Best to you, and thank you!
WHERE TO FIND AND FOLLOW ROBBIE/ROBERTA CHEADLE
SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS:
Roberta Eaton Cheadle
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