Today’s special guest is Sylvia Sarno to tell us a little bit about her writing life, and particularly her new novel, Sufficient Ransom.
Since I was a child I've been fascinated with stories. When I was about six years old, my father started reading classic stories to me and my sisters at bedtime. He read (in a theatrical way that kids love) Gulliver's Travels and a number of Shakespeare's plays, simplifying the language and condensing the stories so that we could understand them. When I got older, I considered a career as a writer. But the thought of writing a book seemed so arduous to me, though I loved to read and discuss them. I wanted to work in business. In college, I majored in English because I loved the subject. I planned to learn about business by working in companies, not by studying them. After working in commercial real estate, investment banking, and in my own recruiting firm for years, I decided I really wanted to write novels.
Welcome, Sylvia. Please tell us about your current release.
Sufficient Ransom is a mystery/thriller about a mother’s hunt for her missing child. Searching for her son, Ann Olson throws caution to the wind. Soon, she finds herself enmeshed in the seedy world of Mexican drug dealers who operate just across the border in Tijuana. Does Ann, an atheist, embrace Christianity despite her husband warning that her pastor friend is more interested in converting her than in finding her son? Does she make it out of the drug tunnel alive, or is her rashness her downfall? And is her son’s disappearance related to that of other recently missing children in San Diego? A story of a mother’s love, courage in the face of evil, and her unexpected journey of self-discovery along the way.
What inspired you to write this book?
When I was a child living in Turin, Italy in the 1970’s, there was much talk of kidnapping. The heir to a business fortune had been kidnapped in Rome. My parents talked about the situation a lot in front of me and my sisters (maybe they shouldn’t have because it is a scary subject). We were attending an American school and many of my classmates came from wealthy families. Some of the children were driven to school by their bodyguards. Years later, those fearful emotions came back to me and inspired Sufficient Ransom.
Snuggled against Travis in the hotel bed, Ann checked her phone again. She had left Richard several messages and emails urging him to return home early from Hong Kong. Terrified Kika would make good on her promise to take Travis, she couldn’t stand the thought of the next days without her husband. It was nearly midnight and he still hadn’t responded. She imagined his days and nights were jam-packed with meetings, as usual.
With Richard’s heavy travel schedule lately, she and Travis were alone much of the time. It seemed more so since the whole CPS thing started. Ann knew she had to find a new school for her son. She had interviewed a few prospective places, but she wasn’t in any hurry after the disaster of the last school. She cherished their leisurely meals together, their playtime, and visiting all their favorite places, like they used to do when Travis was very small.
Travis had been born four weeks early—small and helpless. Nothing she had read in the books prepared Ann for the awe she felt in the presence of this perfect little person whom she and her husband had created. Terrified something would happen to him, she didn’t take Travis out of the house for the first two months of his life. On their inaugural outing, fearing an accident, she admonished her husband to drive slowly. When they arrived at their destination, an Italian restaurant in Del Mar, she had clutched Travis in his car seat as she ran for the door, afraid the hot sun would burn his delicate skin.
When the waitress bent down to take a look at Travis, sleeping in his seat, Ann threw a blanket over him, fearful germs would somehow reach him. “I’m sorry,” she said to the startled woman. “I’m a little nervous. You see. It’s his first time out.” The waitress, a mother herself, understood, as did the many others whose eager hands Ann had gently turned away. The world, women especially, love to touch a baby. As Travis grew, she relaxed more. But that feeling of vulnerability remained.
What exciting story are you working on next?
My second novel is loosely based on a real-life conflict that occurred in World War II Italy. I am excited about this project because it has enabled me to explore my southern Italian heritage. The rise of fascism is an eye-opening and captivating subject. I’ve always been fascinated by how average people survive in a totalitarian society. The Italian variety under Mussolini was unique in so many ways. Reading about the ingenious ways people devised to cope with the crazy stuff the elite foisted on them has made me appreciate the Italian people all the more.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I sold my first book to a stranger.
Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I write while my kids are in school. When they’re not in school, I spend my time with them and on other tasks like cooking, cleaning, shopping, etc. So I guess I would say that I write part-time and am a housewife the rest of the time.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I prefer being completely alone in the house to write. People noises (voices, talking) distracts me and sets me day dreaming. I wear earmuffs when others are around.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a psychiatrist. I’ve always been fascinated by people. I wanted to help those with problems.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I like to eat, at restaurants especially. And I have a sweet tooth that I try—and often fail—to curb. Italian pastries are my favorite. I think I’m addicted to chocolate. I can’t have just one piece—I have to eat the whole bar!
Thank you so much for the opportunity to address your readers, Lisa. I’ve enjoyed it!
It's been my pleasure, Sylvia. Thank you so much for stopping by!