Hey people, it's my pleasure today to introduce you to a new voice in the kind of fiction we love: a character-rich thriller with plenty of heart. Barbara Taylor Sissel also has the same agent and editor and web designer as me, and I got to read an early copy of her book! - so you might say we're two peas in a pod.
Barbara's offered to give a copy of her book away to a randomly chosen commenter. From the book jacket: "With a voice that resonates with stunning clarity, Barbara Taylor Sissel delivers a taut and chilling mystery about a mother's love, a wife's obsession and the invisible fractures that can shatter a family." Read on to learn more!
SWL: What turned you into a writer - and when?
BTS: The love of reading. Growing up books were my refuge, one of the few constants in my life. We moved a lot, but wherever we landed there was always a library within walking distance or a bus ride. I remember being around eleven, or so, reading Wuthering Heights, and so immersed in the story, just taken out of my world, and at one point, I looked up and thought, I want to do this. I want to give this gift of escape into an imaginary world to others. I have always felt I learned more, too, from reading fiction than non-fiction. I think if you want to teach someone, if you want them to remember something, tell it to them in a story.
SWL: You had a few indie books under your belt before you acquired an agent and a book deal. Has your workday changed at all since then?
BTS: I have more time for actual writing. With indie publishing, you wear all the hats, author, editor, publisher, publicist. I’m so grateful for the opportunity, for all that I learned, but the writing is what I love best, and I feel it’s what I do best, and so, although I work the same amount of hours, or perhaps even more now, I’m glad to spend more of it on the creative side rather than the business side.
SWL: What does a good writing day mean to you?
BTS: It’s a couple of things. I can relate one perfect example from writing Evidence of Life. I wrote myself into one of those corners that I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how I was going to find my way out of when, one day, a certain old man came to life all on his own and showed me the way. It was like auto writing. In all the novel’s incarnations, I scarcely ever changed a word. For me, any day that something like that happens, it’s a fabulous writing day. But I’m pleased, too, when I do whatever number of words, and they’re reasonably coherent, something I can work with. If I can come back to the work the following day and not rip them all out and start over, I’ll take that. It’s all good.
SWL: Texans seem so exotic to us Californians - what do you love about your state?
BTS: Well, to be honest, I’m a (mostly) midwestern transplant, and it took me a while to love anything about Texas. It was flat and hot on my arrival, and it pretty much stayed that way. The gardening here is hard. I can’t grow lilacs or peonies the way my mother did. But that said, the state and I have made a kind of peace, especially ever since I was introduced to the Texas Hill Country. I loved setting my novel, Evidence of Life, there, and writing about it. There really is some kind of magic there, at least for me, and I know I’m not alone. Most people are affected in some way when they visit. I can’t decide if it’s something in the air, or the sky or the scenery, which is absolutely gorgeous in spots … it’s hard to put your finger on, but it’s one of my favorite locations out of all the places I’ve been.
SWL: Tell me something that few people know about you.
BTS: Well, here’s one thing that popped into my mind: When challenged by a nutty co-worker to a belching contest several years ago at the office where I was employed as an admin assistant, I actually participated. My youngest son, David, who worked for me after school at the time, participated too. He won. It was an unfortunate case of the pupil (him) exceeding the teacher (me) and I’m still mad about it!
SWL: What's the next big dream on your list?
BTS: To write a better book. That’s always first. But another big dream I have is to join my son in the Hill Country, where he has bought land and is planning to open an aquaponics farm. For anyone who isn’t familiar, aquaponics is a sustainable, food production system that combines a traditional aquaculture (raising fish in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment, ending in the eventual harvest of both vegetables and fish without the use of harmful chemicals or the depletion of water resources. As a graduate of Texas A&M’s School of Horticulture, David is following his dream of supplying healthy, organic food to grocery stores and restaurants as well as to individual food shoppers. I’m looking forward to helping him with that, particularly since I finished reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal Vegetable, Miracle, about the year her family spent eating food that they either grew themselves or that was locally grown. In addition, I want to design and build my own house to live in there, using as much salvaged material as I can.
Learn more about EVIDENCE OF LIFE at Barbara's site. For a chance to win a signed copy, please leave a comment or question for Barbara!