Our interview today is with Sydney Avey. Thank you for being here today Sydney and for agreeing to do this interview.
Answer: After I raised my children and retired from Hewlett-Packard Company, my husband and I moved to a rural mountain community near Yosemite National Park. When my parents passed away, I felt I could finally take the time to write novels. Writing is a demanding lifestyle. I was active in church on the Deacon Board, praise team and choir, I served on the board of our senior center, and we have a very active social life.
My husband and I talked through the lifestyle changes I would need to make. We negotiated over what I would give up to write—a lot of volunteer and social life, cooking, entertaining, and hobbies I’d held onto but was never very good at (like gardening and sewing). I agreed not to keep strange hours and I make an effort to be available to friends enjoy time with my husband and family.
It is family stories that have inspired me to write; the legends passed down through the generations. My husband is my biggest supporter, cheering me on through the stages of bringing a novel to publication. My church and my community have been supportive as well, working around my schedule so I can continue to participate in meaningful ways.
Question: What do you think prepared you or qualifies you to write in your chosen genre?
Answer: I’ve spent my life preparing to be a novelist. My poetry appeared in the Palo Alto Times when I was in the third grade; I was feature editor of the high school newspaper, an English major at U.C. Berkeley and a news writer and editor for twenty years with HP. I’ve written drama’s that have been performed in church and short stories that have been published in literary magazines. Most of all, I’m a reader and I study the craft of writing. I realized a dream in the summer of 2013 when I spent a week at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival.
Writing is my spiritual practice. I wrestle with questions by giving them to my characters and watching God show up in unanticipated ways. I really did not know how my character Delores in The Sheep Walker’s Daughter would ever be able to forgive her mother for the secret she kept. Forgiveness evolved as I wrote the book, in Dee’s heart and in my own.
Question: Tell us about your newest book. Make us want to read it.
Answer: My book, The Sheep Walker’s Daughter, ask the question, does knowing your family heritage matter? Dee is a Korean War widow whose difficult mother dies before revealing the identity of her father or his people. As Dee sorts through what little her mother left, she unearths puzzling clues that raise more questions: Why did Leora send money every month to the Basque Relief Agency? Why is Dee’s own daughter so secretive about her soon-to-be published book? And what does an Anglican priest know that he isn’t telling?
The Sheep Walker’s Daughter pairs a colorful immigrant history of loss, survival, and tough choices with Dee’s search for spiritual identity and personal fulfillment.
Answer: The purpose of most all my writing is to weave faith and spirituality into stories as an integral, part of life, not a separate set of beliefs people put on or take off like clothing. I want to show that faith is a mystery that grows slowly over time. I don’t think there is anything I write that does not consider where people place their hope.
Question: What’s your next project? Tell us so we can’t wait for it to come out!
Answer: In the sequel to The Sheep Walker’s Daughter, Dee and Valerie redefine family when they move bag and baggage into a modern Eichler compound in sleepy Los Altos, California in the 1960s. The newly-wed mother and daughter and their husbands attract young relatives from out of town: Danel from Navarre, a leader and charmer; David from Israel, an intellect and driver; and Addy from New York City, full of spirit and energy.
It’s not long before this tribe of misfits raises the suspicions of their neighbors. When City councilman Schwartz takes up the neighbors’ cause, Dee, now the family matriarch, must protect her flock. Once again she will turn to Father Mike for help.
Father Mike is more than willing to come to the aid of the Moraga clan, but he has his own problems. The city has exercised eminent domain over St. Matthew’s and the popular rector is now without a church. More troubling than that, the Anglican priest finds himself attracted to newly widowed Laura, a state of affairs for which he is ill prepared.
The Lyre and the Lambs explores the passions that draw people together and the forces that drive them apart.
Question: Are there characters/stories/scenes/etc based on anything in real life?
Answer: Yes. My generation was born after WWII to a generation of people who kept secrets. The secrets in my family are different from the secret Leora kept from Dee, but they are tied to family heritage. Many adult children in Europe are just now discovering that they were adopted and that they are Jewish. This is not the case with Dee, but it’s a situation that informs her story.
Strong, secretive women are legend in my family. And, I’ve had some Father Mike’s in my life that gave me very good spiritual guidance.
Question: What are your future projects?
Answer: I have an anthology of YA/New Adult stories called Pastor Jerry and Jesus at the Beanpunk Cafe I would like to publish. Some of the stories have been published separately. When I finish The Lyre and the Lambs, I want to tackle a bigger novel I’ve had on the back burner. It’s about a boy named Edge who comes of age in the Ozarks. He has a genius IQ that goes unrecognized but for a conflicted teacher who both helps and hinders him. There is little in Edge’s background that predicts the ultimate success he will experience, but at a cost.
Question: What is your writing style?
Answer: Jan Ackerson described my style as moody literary. I love that. I lean toward literary fiction, but I work hard to make the poetry and metaphor serve the story.
Question: Have you done anything writing-related, but besides your books, that seemed to get a lot of positive response?
Answer: I write for my community newspapers and people tell me they like my style. I write a blog. This year I am reading a short story a day and summarizing my reading in a weekly posting. Each week has a different theme. I explore genres, literary devices such as a writer’s use of detail or dialogue, or themes such as kindness—that one was a hit.
I’m very encouraged when I have an opportunity to write about faith in a way that helps people gain understanding. I’ve written commentary on Bible passages for our church. Next year, my pastor is going to let me be creative and write what the temptation of Christ might look like in the internet age. I wish more pastors would use artists and writers to help them communicate the gospel.
Question: Tell us about things you enjoy — what you do for fun or personal satisfaction?
Answer: First I need to tell you my definition of fun. It’s anything that engages my heart, mind, and spirit. I need physical and emotional refilling after writing, so I find exercise classes fun. Singing in the choir fills me with joy. I love to travel and my husband and I are regular movie and theater goers.
Sydney Avey lives in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Yosemite, California, and the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and a lifetime of experience writing news for non profits and corporations. Her work has appeared in Epiphany, Foliate Oak, Forge, American Athenaeum, and Unstrung (published by Blue Guitar Magazine). She has studied at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. Sydney blogs at sydneyavey.com on topics related to relationships, legacy, faith, and the writing life. Her novel, “The Sheep Walker’s Daughter,” ISBN 978-1-938708-20-6 will be released from HopeSprings Books on December, 2013.
About The Sheep Walker’s Daughter
A Korean War widow’s difficult mother dies before revealing the identity of Dee’s father. As Dee sorts through what little her mother left, she unearths puzzling clues that raise more questions: Why did Leora send money every month to the Basque Relief Agency? Why is Dee’s own daughter so secretive about her soon-to-be published book? And what does an Anglican priest know that he isn’t telling? The Sheep Walker’s Daughter pairs a colorful immigrant history of loss, survival, and tough choices with one woman’s search for spiritual identity and personal fulfillment.
The Sheep Walker’s Daughter by Sydney Avey. ISBN 978-1-938708-19-0 (paperback), 978-1-938708-20-6 (ebook), 978-1-938708-30-5 (audiobook). Publication: December 3, 2013.
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I enjoyed your interview, Sydney!
Thanks Katherine! I had no idea the worlds that would open up when I became an author. Connecting with people and growing relationships are the most heartwarming of all. If you haven’t subscribed to my e-newsletter, For Readers|For Writers please do. It’s where I get a chance to be a bit more personal. Signup is on http://www.sydneyavey.com/blog Thanks for commenting.