LINDAS BOOK OBSESSION INTERVIEWS BARBARA TAYLOR SISSEL, AUTHOR OF “WHAT LIES BELOW’
What inspires or motivates you to write your novels?
I’m always looking for answers to the reasons for things, why people act in ways that they do, or make the decisions they do. I write to find answers, to see situations and circumstances from a different perspective. It’s like getting to experience something without having to go through it in particular if it’s related to some kind of trauma. Writing lets me try out a different way of looking at life.
How do you get your ideas for your characters, and are they based on any people you know.?
I think I’m always influenced by people I know, but I don’t consciously write that person(s). It’s like a recipe, maybe. Take a little of this and a little of that and see what happens. Most of my characters evolve out of my imagination and they kind of settle into their personality so that at the outset of a story, I might think they will do a certain thing, react a certain way to a twist in the plot, but when I get there, they have become individuals and they surprise me by going off the track so to speak.
What are your goals for your readers to take away after reading your novels?
Oh, I love this question! I really hope my stories will cause a conversation, that they’ll be a vehicle to talk about the harder issues such as addiction, crime, betrayal, dishonesty, divorce, forgiveness … those issues that are so hurtful and hard to get over, hard to talk about on a personal level. When I was raising my kids, I read the books they were reading and we discussed the stories, how we felt about what the characters did, whether or not in the same situation we would make different decisions and why. It was a great way for me to keep tabs on how and what they were thinking and feeling and they also taught me a great deal about how and what I was thinking and feeling! That’s what books have always done for me, opened avenues for discussion, for testing and teaching myself, for finding out about others, for sharing a dialogue. I want to write in a way that will open doors for people.
How do you keep a balance in your life, being an author , family member, etc?
It’s much easier for me now that my children are grown and on their own. I do have to remind myself to get up from my chair, to go do something else, think about things other than my plots, though! Writing can be all-consuming.
When you have downtime, what are your hobbies?( pets, books, decorating, cooking, gardening, etc)
I love to read. I also love to be outside in a garden with my hands in the dirt. I love creating vignettes, whether in the house or in the garden, little scenes that tell a story. Miniature gardening is a passion. I even have created a miniature potting shed out of an old drawer. In the evening, I cross stitch. Something about the repetitiveness is meditative and I often sort out things for my stories while I stitch. I currently have a cat. Jezebel is a rescue Himalayan. She’s a beautiful girl, but now quite elderly and frail. I’m hoping once we get our property fenced I can get a dog. Out here we have foxes, rabbits, and deer and so many kinds of birds. All of them come to the birdbath. The foxes come to the bird feeders, eating the spilled sunflower seed. I love watching them.
What genres do you prefer to read?
I read what I write … mostly domestic and literary suspense. Or straight commercial fiction. I do love the occasional historical novel or an extraordinary love story. I also read, or try to read, books about earth and space, quantum physics, that sort of thing. Currently I’m working my way through a huge biography that covers the life of Joseph Campbell. I often have 2-3 books going at once.
Do you have any writing projects on your agenda, and can you share something with us?
I’m nearing the finish on novel # 10. Tentatively titled, TELL NO ONE, it is the story of a woman who goes in search of her father from whom she has been estranged for nearly thirty years. She’s hoping to find him in time to reunite him with his sister, her aunt, who is dying. But what she discovers about him along the way will unearth a secret that once exposed will have the power to shatter more than one family.
What is a typical day for Barbara Sissel ?(author)
I try to be at my writing post by 8 and then work four hours till lunch. I might come back after lunch for a bit to clean up something I wrote that morning, or to do other author-related things. But then I take off outside to work in the garden, or more likely right now to work on finishing the little house I’m building.
Of all your wonderful books, which is your favorite?
Oh, thank you! But I don’t think I even know. All the characters still walk into my brain, popping up unexpectedly as if they’re real. I still wonder about them, even the ones I created years ago. It must sound strange, but at the risk of seeming as if I’ve gone off the deep end, they really do seem like family to me.
Can you describe your experience with your new home?(decorating, etc)
Several years ago I began to see a trend toward tiny houses as well as a trend toward building with salvage rather than new material. Both ideas appealed to me. I’m lucky in that I have an extremely talented son (Well, actually, I have two talented sons but only one of them loves working with the old salvage!) who has helped implement my vision, building my tiny house, I’ve christened the Bee. The foundation was poured 2 1/2 years ago, and the work went relatively quickly until we started on the interior, cleaning up all the old wooden floorboards and the beadboard, detacking and then cleaning and sanding it before installing it. That was where things slowed way down. The walls and floor took endless hours of work. But the house is so unique, just a beautiful little jewel. I can’t walk inside without thinking how lucky I am to have had the opportunity to build her.
How would you like the readers to connect with you?
I have a website: barbarataylorsissel.com
My author email address is firstname.lastname@example.org