Thursday, September 11, 2014

Interview historical and women's fiction author with Sydney Avey

I have an interview today with Sydney Avey about her newest book, The Lyre and the Lambs. This is the sequel to her first novel, The Sheep Walker’s Daughter, which won an honorable mention from the Center for Basque Studies (University of Nevada, Reno) in their Basque Literary Contest.

Sydney Avey is an author of historical and women’s fiction set in California. Sydney has a lifetime of experience writing news for nonprofits and corporations. Her work has appeared in Epiphany, Foliate Oak, Forge, American Athenaeum, and Unstrung (published by Blue Guitar Magazine). She has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley and has studied writing at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. 

She lives with her husband Joel the Sierra Nevada foothills of Yosemite, California, and the Sonoran Desert in Arizona.

Visit Sydney at and sign up to receive her monthly News for Readers and Writers.

Welcome, Sydney. Please tell us about your current release.
The Lyre and the Lambs tells the story of a mother and a daughter, both newlyweds, who decide to set up housekeeping together. Dee and Valerie move with their husbands into a modern glass house Valerie built in a proudly rural Los Altos, California neighborhood. When their relatives start showing up and moving in, the neighbors get suspicious. Then a body is found in the backyard and the life they are trying to build comes undone.

Father Mike is back to guide Dee through a difficult time with humor and grace, even as his own life is unraveling. Now he's going to have to take some of his own advice about love.

This sequel to The Sheep Walker s Daughter moves the family from the Fifties to the Sixties and explores the passions that draw people together and the faith it takes to overcome trauma.

What readers are saying:
The 'kids' were all delightful, and refreshing. Loved the places in Los Altos I'm familiar with also. And the Eichler house, how fun! Great read!

… not an in your face portrayal of the ideal Christian family, but a realistic portrait of doing life, and the problems that crop up, and how one solves them. 

Sydney Avey has a beautiful writing style that weaves luscious imagery with emotion. 

Dee is so believable and familiar that I am thoroughly hooked. I hope there is a follow-on planned soon!! I want to grow old with Dee!!

What inspired you to write this book?
Readers inspired me to write this book! Although I left the door open for a sequel to The Sheep Walker’s Daughter, I wasn’t committed to writing another book about the Moraga clan until readers started asking to know what was in store for Dee, Valerie, and Father Mike.

Excerpt from The Lyre and the Lambs:
Valerie had fallen deeply in love with Ander Ibbara, a young attorney she met when I deeded my Uncle Iban's house in Bakersfield to her. Valerie and Andy's sister, Pilar, cooked up a plan to turn the house into a Basque Cultural Center, and that's when Valerie got her first taste of organizing and managing something. She served on the Board of the Center, commuting back and forth between Palo Alto and Bakersfield. That’s where Andy, the community's rising young politico, weekend cowboy and most eligible bachelor, opened his arms to her. But Valerie and Andy could not come to terms with where to live. Of course, it goes deeper than that. Where to live is really not as difficult as how to live. Andy was firmly planted in the Central Valley. He had a thriving law practice to manage and a horse ranch to play with. Valerie was a Bay Area girl with a PhD in Spanish Literature, a publisher, a university teaching contract, and property of her own to play with. Valerie let Andy go. Freedom to live the life she chose seemed like a good trade-off until the day she got word that Andy had married someone else.

My saddest day was when Valerie celebrated her thirtieth birthday curled up in a fetal position on my bed in the Carmel duplex, Puffy wedged up under her arm. After Gibert finished his hospital residency at the San Francisco Medical Center, he promptly asked Valerie to be his wife.
"Mom, it would have been perfect if I could have said yes," Valerie sobbed and gulped air, trying to fit her words in between hiccups.

"Why couldn't you say yes?" I knew why, but I let her tell me.

"We both could have had a career." She calmed down, sat up on the bed, and started down her list. "He loved the property in Los Altos. We could have lived there."

I lowered my chin, raised my eyes to look at her, and waited.

"But he cheated on me!"

There it was. What I was expecting.

"And, I want children and he doesn't. Not American children."

Okay, that one I wasn't expecting. I'd given up on ever having grandchildren. I was very proud of Dr. Valerie Carter, Professor Valerie Carter, and novelist Valerie Moraga Carter. I was amused by Valerie the land baron and neighborhood irritant, but the day Valerie gave her engagement ring back to Andy, I put away my dreams of ever hearing a child call my child Mommy.

That moment was not the time to suggest to Valerie that she couldn't have it all. She understood that she was up against a clock that can't be adjusted to fit ambitious agendas. She'd made her choices and now the pain of emptiness overwhelmed her.

"Oh baby." I sat down on the bed and gathered her in my arms and we cried together.

What exciting story are you working on next?
My third novel tells the stories of a young man with unrecognized genius who flees rural poverty for the California coast, the mother who abandoned him, the older man with questionable motives who mentors him, and the young woman who helps him find his purpose in life.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When my first poem was printed in the Palo Alto Times. I was in the third grade.

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?
Writing is my full-time occupation. When I decided to becomes a novelist, I cleared a lot of volunteer work and social life off the deck, but I balance my writing with time with family and friends and a few church and community commitments. I like to write in two to four hour blocks of time in the morning, and then I spend time on other writing-related activities such as blogging and reviewing books. To feed my soul, I take yoga and aerobics classes, visit the Farmer’s Market, see a movie or play with my husband, or head to the coast to visit my kids and grandkids.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I have a habit of slipping off to write, like a kid stealing candy when no one is watching. As I write this, I should be upstairs getting dressed to go see a play with my daughter and my granddaughter!

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I thought I wanted to be a teacher. I did teach for a season: First grade to migrant children, pre-school, Sunday school, English as a Second Language in Germany, GED to soldiers, and now, writing seminars.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Thank you, dear readers, for your passion for stories.

Sydney Avey Author on Facebook
@sydneyavey on Twitter

Thanks, Sydney!

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