Thanks for inviting me to your blog, Joey. I enjoy reaching out to readers—it’s one of the perks of being an author! My name is Sylvia May, and Turquoise Morning Press published my first novel, THE UNRAVELING OF ABBY SETTEL, in 2011. I was thrilled when it was awarded a Reader Views Reviewers Choice Award. My second women’s fiction novel, BREATHING SPACE, is scheduled for release by the same publisher in November of this year. In between these two books, I coauthored three mystery novels under the pseudonym Lucy Arlington. THE NOVEL IDEA MYSTERY SERIES is published by Berkley Prime Crime. All three of these books were on the New York Times Extended Bestseller list.
I consider myself fortunate to be living in Bermuda, having moved here in 2009 because of my husband’s job. It’s a beautiful island, with a wonderful climate (although the winter winds can be brutal!), gorgeous azure seas, and colourful flora. There’s nothing I enjoy more than riding my bright red scooter around the island on a warm sunny day, unless it’s scuba diving with the fish in the sea. This is a very inspiring place to write, but my island life presents me with many distractions, so I often struggle to make myself sit at the computer when the sunshine calls to me.
However, I love to write and to tell stories, so I do manage to ignore those distractions at times to spend time with my fictional characters.
THE UNRAVELING OF ABBY SETTEL is the story of a woman in transition. Abby’s average life is turned upside down when her husband loses his job and they have to relocate to a different country, leaving behind two teenage children and aging parents in crisis. The book tells the tale of how Abby copes (or not) with family issues from afar, and her struggle to redefine herself in a place where she knows no one.
Reinvention of oneself is a theme that hits close to home for me, as I had to go through a similar process three times in a span of four years. Abby’s story is loosely based on my experiences.
Reinvention is also a theme in my second women’s fiction novel, BREATHING SPACE. This book tells the story of Lydia, who after a week’s vacation on Hyde Island, is so captivated by the island that she decides to stay indefinitely, turning her back on her husband and adult daughter. During Lydia’s time on Hyde Island, she attempts to reinvent herself by taking on a new persona, and in doing so makes one questionable choice after another. In the process, she undergoes a painful self-examination and begins to understand the real reason she stayed behind.
BREATHING SPACE is in the hands of the publisher, but won’t be available to readers until November 2014. However, THE UNRAVELING OF ABBY SETTEL can be purchased in both print and e-book format at the links below.
Turquoise Morning Press
I’m currently exploring a couple of ideas for stories set in Bermuda. People are intrigued by the fact that I live on this island and are curious about what it’s like. Telling the stories of fictional characters is a great way for me to show that ordinary life and its issues and crises exist even in paradise. Stay tuned.
If you could go back in time and have five minutes to speak with a much younger you, what would you tell yourself?
Oh, the wisdom that comes with age! It’s not just wisdom, however, but understanding yourself and feeling more confident in your strengths (and weaknesses). I wish I had that confidence twenty-five years ago. If I could speak to my younger self, I would tell her to believe in her abilities, just go for what she wants without worrying about failure or what people are going to think, and to aim high no matter what anyone says.
When and where do you do your best writing?
I would like to say that I do my best writing at my desk, which is in a corner of our living room set aside just for me. (Incidentally, I had to move it from where it was before, near a window overlooking the ocean, because I spent more time staring out the window than at my computer screen.) But actually, I do my best writing when I am held accountable, so when I take my laptop to a coffee shop or library I am much more productive than at home. Writing in one of those places gives me the illusion that I am in a place of work, and that people are looking over my shoulder and will call me out if I’m on Facebook or puzting on the Internet too much. Strange, isn’t it, that I am my most productive in a public place? As for the best writing time, I figured that out through hit and miss. I am a morning person and regularly get up between 5:30 and 6:30 am. You would think that because of this, the morning is my most productive time. (I did.) But it isn’t, because there are so many other tasks to be done, that I spend most of my morning doing them and can’t settle down until I’ve completed them. So now I find that my best time to write is in the afternoon, between lunch and dinner. It is the time of day when the household chores are completed, emails tended to, laundry done, and I can be quiet and think and write.
When people discover you’re a writer, chances are good that they’ll pepper you with questions. What is the hardest question to answer?
This is an interesting query. I do get peppered with questions, including the usual ones like: “Where do you get your ideas?” or “What is your writing routine?” I would have to say that the hardest one for me to answer is “Can you tell me about what you’re working on now?” The reason for this is that the process of formulating ideas and characters and playing with plot ideas is continuous, even when I’ve written several chapters. Whatever book I’m currently writing is such a work in progress that can change from day to day, that I find I’d rather not divulge too much about the story. It’s still so new and unformed that I like to keep it to myself. (But once I have finished a book, I have been known to go on and on in response to that question!)
Worst job you’ve ever had?
When I was in university, I had a summer job as a cleaner at a large insurance company. I filled in for regular cleaners on vacation. I pushed a cart equipped with a trash bag and cleaning supplies and wore a mustard coloured uniform dress. When I had the office shifts, I didn’t mind so much because that involved dusting desks, tidying, picking up trash and vacuuming, although I did have some demoralizing encounters with patronizing office workers. However, I hated getting the bathroom shifts. The messes I had to clean up in those bathrooms were disgusting. (A positive thing to come out of that experience, however, is that I have a deep respect for any cleaning staff anywhere, and always leave any bathroom stall in as clean condition as possible. I’ve even been known to wipe the counter around the sink in a public bathroom.)
Best vacation ever?
By far, the best vacation I’ve ever had was one I took with my family about fifteen years ago. Our three kids were teenagers (aged 16, 15, and 13), we had a pop-up tent trailer and a van, my husband booked five and a half weeks off work, and we drove across Canada from our home in Ontario all the way to the west coast. On the return trip we drove through various states in the U.S. We saw amazing sights, camped in fantastic parks, and bonded in a way that can only happen with five individuals cooped up in a car and tent trailer for five weeks. People are amazed that we survived it, but it was a special time for our family. Our kids still consider it one of their best experiences, and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
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