Shelley was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. She began her writing career as cub reporter on the local Evening Post where, among other assignments, she was the angling correspondent and the ‘bird’ who flew a Piper Cherokee plane. She knew nothing about either fishing or aeronautics but learnt she was good at making things up. This served her well when she finally set out to write novels. That was much later, in London, after she had worked as a feature writer, edited pop psychology books, written market research reports, copy for American Express and features for the John Lewis Gazette.
Her first novel, A Sisters Tale, was published in 1991 to critical acclaim. The Last Honeymoon followed, then The Joker, Arnost and The Audacious Mendacity of Lily Green. Short stories appeared in anthologies including Winter’s Tales, The Slow Mirror, Valentine’s Day, Mordecai’s First Brush With Love, and on BBC Radio 4. Two books, published by the Guardian (Writing Your First Novel and Writing Short Stories), succinctly convey Shelley’s sought-after advice for new writers.
Teaching and mentoring
Guiding and enabling fledgling writers has always been an essential part of Shelley’s work. As a sought-after tutor and mentor, she teaches courses for the Faber Academy, Guardian Masterclasses, and Skyros Writers’ Lab. She is a mentor on the Gold Dust Mentoring Scheme and a trusted reader for The Literary Consultancy. Shelley has taught on the Creative Writing MA at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, as well as for Birkbeck College, the Open University, the Taliesin Trust, the British Council in Israel, and Durham University Summer School. She was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Middlesex University and the University of Westminster, followed by an appointment as Advisory Fellow.
Listen to the following audio recordings, made for the Royal Literary Fund: