Sybil: TALISMANS started from a few stories that I wrote years apart. I realized that the stories were about the same person, and I was interested in learning more about her, so I continued to write more stories about her.
While the collection does have a narrative arc that one often finds in a novel, I found that Elise’s life, which in many ways is fragmented for her, was best told through individual stories from different periods of time.
Sybil: The stories don’t reflect my own life journey in terms of my relationship to my parents. My father died a few years ago and my mother is still alive. My parents had a long enduring marriage as well.
I did draw on my experience of living and traveling abroad for twelve years and growing up in suburban Virginia. I used some of my own impressions of place as a starting point for Elise’s journey.
Caroline: You did a lot of travel for research. What was your favorite place you visited? Least favorite? Why for each.
Sybil: It’s hard to have favorite and least favorite places. The place that has haunted me the most is Cambodia, probably because I could feel the legacy of the Khmer Rouge in such vivid and raw ways. I loved all the countries, but because I lived in Korea for twelve years, I feel that is the country I have the most intimate relationship with.
Caroline: Did you travel alone and did you encounter any danger in your travels?
Sybil: Unlike Elise I did not travel alone. I was married at the time, so my experiences in that sense were different than hers. I did meet and know a fair amount of women who were traveling on their own, and seemed to do okay.
The biggest “danger” I encountered was in Cambodia. We had to pay a person to drive up with us in a jeep to one of the ruins. He had an AK47 in his lap—ambushes happened infrequently, and one tourist had been killed for her watch. Nothing happened on our trip though.
Caroline: This is not your first publication. Tell us about your previous work(s).
|The Life Plan|
Caroline: What is your current WIP? Is it contracted?
Syblil: I’m currently finishing up a polished draft of a novel about two sisters, one an adopted Korean, who go to Korea to uncover some family secrets. I won’t think about agents or publishers until the book is in its final form, which I hope to be soon.
Caroline: Do you have a day job or write full time?
Sybil: I’m an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. I teach primarily creative writing along with some literature and humanities courses. I love teaching and my job, but it does unfortunately take away from writing time during the semesters.
Caroline: But what a great job, inspiting creativity and love of literature in students! Do you write each day? Do you set goals?
Sybil: I don’t write each day although I’d like to. Some parts of the semester are just too busy for me to write, although I try to make up for it on the semester breaks. A few years ago my husband and I went to Jamaica for the winter holidays, and I spent most of the days holed up in our room revising THE LIFE PLAN! This year we’ll be in Florida, and I’ve already warned him I’ll be at the computer for much of the day revising the latest novel.
Because I can’t write every day, I do set goals. For example this winter holiday I plan to have that draft of the new novel finished so that I can send it to a few readers for feedback.
Caroline: Are you in a critique group or do you have a beta reader?
Sybil: My first beta reader is my husband. He gives me constructive first draft advice. When I think a book is as revised as I can get it, then I send it to a few readers—usually my sister-in-law and some writer friends for feedback.
Caroline: Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you? Links?
Sybil: I’m on Facebook and Goodreads. I like to go to book groups and other clubs and talk about my experiences traveling and writing. My brother is an engineering professor in Turkey, my husband is South African. Although I grew up in the DC area and lived in Korea for twelve years, my roots are Southern—both sides of my family go back to pre-Revolutionary War. You can learn more about me at http://www.sybilbaker.com/ or check out my blog on traveling and writing at www.sybilbaker.blogspot.com
Thanks for having me!
Caroline: Thanks for being a guest.
Readers. one person who leaves a comment will receive a copy of Sybil’s book, TALISMANS. When you comment, be certain to leave your email so I can contact you in case you are the lucky winner!