Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Today I have the pleasure of presenting Sydell Voeller, another Avalon writer who has branched out and is offering her stories in different places. Sydell speaks best for herself, so I'll just get right to the questions and, more importantly, her responses:

When did you first know you were going to write professionally?

I had an inkling that I wanted to write professionally back in the early 80s, even though I was employed part-time then as a R.N. My three-year-old son had just been diagnosed with Legg-Perthes Disease (a non–congenital hip condition). I’d kept a journal throughout the entire ordeal, which eventually ended in major orthopedic surgery for him. Later I composed excerpts from the journal into an article and submitted it to a column in Redbook, naively thinking I’d get it published. I didn’t, of course—but that led to my deciding to turn to another journal instead for inspiration—the journal I’d kept during high school. I started writing YA romance and after finding a professional critique group, attending writers’ conferences, and a lot of hard work, my books started being published.

That's an interesting path. You turned a frightening experience into a creative journey. Good for you! What part of writing do you find the most satisfying?

I love it when an idea or inspiration seems to hit me from out of nowhere and it just “clicks,” or when a scene comes together in an unexpected way. That’s always an ah-ha moment for me!

Ah, yes - inspiration - the ultimate high! What part do you find most difficult?

Time management has always been the most difficult part of my writing. When my children were growing up, there were always family obligations, of course. And now that I’m teaching writing for a long-distance learning program, spending a great deal of time promoting my books, and selling on a fairly regular basis for True Story magazine, I often feel my writing is a juggling act.

That's a common problem for a lot of writers, especially women writers. Congratulations for having mastered the juggling act. What comes first for you? Characters? Story? Setting?

Often a combination of these. For instance, when my family and I were on vacation on an island off Vancouver Island several years ago, we stayed at a seaside lodge with a dock and a marina. The seascape was remote and pristine—a great setting, I thought, for a romantic intrigue story. Also, on several mornings, I noticed a good-looking guy emerge from his sailboat that was docked on the bay and saunter up the hill to the resort. It soon became apparent he was living on his sailboat. I figured he’d serve as a mysterious hero who had fled to the island for any number of intriguing reasons. In that instance, a combination of setting and characters sparked what was eventually to become The Fisherman’s Daughter.

That combination of elements must be one of the reasons your books read so effortlessly. Are your books based on personal experiences or are they completely fiction?

While all of my books are fictious, little bits of “me” shine through from time-to-time. For instance, back in the case of my first published YA romance, Merry Christmas, Marcie, Marcie played the violin, and so did I many moons ago. And while as a child, I loved going with my dad to see the circus, I was never in love with a circus performer. Also, you’ll see my love for cats portrayed in several of my novels. I’ve been a cat-lover ever since (according to my parents), I was old enough to crawl and scooted across the living room floor to pet the family cat. Finally, the “Star Parties” I’ve portrayed in more than one of my books was born from personal experience.

Do you do a lot or research?

That depends on the individual novel, of course. But yes, many of them have required extensive research, everything from interviewing veterinarians, police officers, zoo keepers, State forestry managers to talking with a former circus clown that trained at the Ringling Brothers Clown School in Florida!

I thought that must be the case. I read Summer Magic and really felt that I was backstage at a circus. Tell us a little more about The Fisherman’s Daughter.

I think the best way to give you an idea about this story (and hopefully whet your appetite to read it!) is to share the blurb: Psychology professor Vanessa Paris receives word that her father has disappeared from his fishing boat in Puget Sound and rushes to her childhood home in the San Juan Islands to try to help find him. Tragedy has been no stranger to Vanessa--years ago her mother died and more recently, her brother. The possibility of losing her father now is almost too much to bear.

But when Vanessa arrives at the family owned tourist lodge, she meets Lowell Maxwell, who offers to help her search for her father. Back in high school, Vanessa harbored a secret, unrequited crush on Lowell. Now, he's a tough, jaded cop on leave from L.A., working for her father as a carpenter on a temporary basis, and even more dangerously appealing.

Vanessa and Lowell are like sunshine and darkness. Despite her losses, she focuses on positive action and the good in people. Lowell, however, chases down the bad guys, flirts with danger, sometimes even death--and he's determined he'll soon return to the force in L.A.

Is there still a chance of finding Vanessa's father alive and well? Can she take a chance on loving Lowell, risking the possibility of his dying too? And what is the dark secret that has driven him back home, a secret that has convinced him there's no longer any room in his heart for love?

It sounds like a fascinating story, based on timeless themes. Is this book different from your Avalon releases? If so, how?

Yes, this book is a romantic intrigue, whereby my Avalon books have been exclusively contemporary romance stories. In other words, the external plot is built around the mystery concerning the heroine’s missing father, while much of the internal plot is connected to the romance.

Nice - a little extra something added to the mix. What other authors do you especially admire?

I admire Nicholas Sparks and LaVyrle Spencer, both excellent romance authors.

Good choices. What do you do when you’re not writing (or teaching writing)?

I enjoy reading, of course, crocheting for the Prayer Shawl group I head up at church, spending time with my four delightful grandchildren, trips to the beach, and being with my 18-year-old kitty. I’ve also spent considerable time dabbling in amateur astronomy. There’s nothing more fascinating to me than viewing the heavens on a clear, starry night!

Are you a pantster or plotter?

I’m a combination of both. I always make sure my story begins with a strong conflict—both external and internal—which my heroine will need to solve by the end of the book. I also know how the story will end. Additionally, I usually plot the major turning points, but I often let the “punster” in me lead me through the mid-portion of the story.

What refreshes you creatively?

Seeing new places and doing new things. Also, reading a work from one of my favorite authors and listening to music can get my creative juices flowing.

To learn more about Sydell, you can visit her website:

Thanks, Sydell, for taking time to answser my questions. I feel that I know you a little from having read some of your books and spend time with the characters you create, but it's nice to learn something about real person behind the fictional characters.


Ann Herrick said...

Great interview and look into the writing process!

Cara Marsi said...

Sydell, great interview. I read Her Sister's Keeper and loved it. I've just downloaded Free to Love on my Kindle. The Fisherman's Daughter is next. Your stories are so heartwarming. I like how you began writing.

As a one-time Avalon author, it's nice to be on the Avalon blog and see some familiar names. Good luck in your writing.

Elizabeth C Main said...

Hi, Sydell. Wonderful interview. I already knew we had much in common, but you've added some new layers. We'll have to talk sometime when I'm in Tacoma. I wish you continued success with your writing.

Gina/Katherine said...

Thanks, Sydell, for taking time out to share with us. And thanks to Sandra for the great questions. Kudos, ladies!

Sandy Cody said...

Thank YOU, Gina, for stopping by and for taking time to let us know you were here.

Leigh Verrill-Rhys said...

Thank you, Sydell and Sandy. I once has a crush on a young man named Lowell, so I'll have to read The Fisherman's Daughter for that among other reasons. All the very best to you both.

Sandy Cody said...

Oh, Leigh, you made me laugh. Isn't it funny the residue left in our hearts by those old crushes? Thanks for sharing.

Beate Boeker said...

I've finally managed to read your interview, Sydell. I love stories set on coasts, so I'll look out for this one (hopefully Amazon will soon turn it into an e-book!)