Author Priscille Sibley Says To Write Your Heart Out

You won’t be surprised to learn that I met Priscille Sibley on Backspace. You might be surprised to learn I read her novel when it had a different title and before Priscille had her current agent! How exciting it was for me to read it again in its final form.  Another exciting thing is to introduce to you THE PROMISE OF STARDUST, which has a male protagonist (OH NO) but is clearly being marketed as women’s fiction (TRUE)!  It’s was a real treat for me to ask Priscille questions about her novel and her process and to learn new things after knowing this author for so long. Priscille is also one of my Book Pregnant friends!

Please welcome Priscille Sibley to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

Author Priscille Sibley Says To Write Your Heart Out

Amy: What is the most important part of THE PROMISE OF STARDUST to you, as its author. Having nothing to do with its plot, what is the book about? Maybe some would refer to that as its theme.

Priscille: Although my story deals heavily with reactions to grief, I believe that ultimately the novel is about hope and resilience. Here is a line from the book: “There is uncertainty in hope, but even with its tenuous nature, it summons our strength and pulls us through fear and grief – and even death.”

Amy: Your novel holds a moral dilemma threaded together, and torn apart, by a love story.  What was your favorite part of the novel to write? And I know that doesn’t mean it was the easiest.

Priscille: The backstory was more fun to write, lighter, essential to leaven the main story. About a quarter of the book’s chapters occur in the past. Elle is alive and healthy in those chapters, and Matt is much happier. After her accident, he is grieving. It was painful to climb into his head some days.

Amy: Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication, and perhaps the most surprising part of that journey?

Priscille: I am an unlikely writer. I didn’t study literature in school. (I have a BSN in nursing.) I was very fortunate that once I did start writing, I quickly discovered a number of online writer communities. I found a nurturing critique group. That said, I made plenty of blunders, too. After a couple of years, I realized my first manuscript contained fatal flaws. I put it away and started fresh with a new idea.  A year or so later I found a literary agent to represent me. Alas, manuscript number two didn’t sell. My first agent and I parted ways, while I was polishing my third manuscript. By the time I was ready to query The Promise of Stardust, I had a much better idea of what I personally needed from a literary agent. Fortunately, I was really blessed when my manuscript resonated with an agent who fit my new description. With her insights, I dug in and made more revisions. When she sent it out to publishers, it luckily found several interested editors and a home at William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins.

Amy: Do you have a favorite character in the book? Or is that like asking you to pick a favorite child?

Priscille: Having spent an entire book inside Matt’s head, he should be the one I favor right? I love him. I admire his devotion to Elle. He is flawed and I don’t think he completely sees himself or the situation clearly, but I like the way he loves her. I also love Linney and Elle. I even liked Adam (hush, don’t tell Matt.)

Amy: Even though your protagonist is Matt, who is clearly not a woman, you’ve mentioned that it’s thought of as women’s fiction.  What is your definition of women’s fiction and how do you feel about your novel being considered part of that genre?

Priscille: Clearly. Matt is a Matthew and not a Matilda. I chose to write the novel from his point of view somewhat reluctantly, but Elle, his wife, has suffered a horrible brain injury. She is in a persistent vegetative state. So to tell their story, I climbed into his head, determined to make him authentically male. By most definitions, women’s fiction is about a woman’s journey. More and more I realized the story was about Matt, even though his focus is very much on her. I think the main reasons people describe TPOS as WF is that Elle is pregnant. Babies are still women’s turf. Moreover, The Promise of Stardust is an emotional story. (I keep hearing reports about tissues, and I’m never quite sure how to respond to that.) Author Keith Cronin, who has been here at Women Fiction Writers, said something women’s fiction being about the emotions conveyed in the story. I truly wish I had the quote because I think he nailed the definition.

Amy: What is your best advice to aspiring authors of women’s fiction?

Priscille: Write your heart out. Really, put your heart in there. Take something that troubles you or resonates and turn it into something someone else can feel.

Amy, thank you so much for having me. I love this blog!

A few people always know what they want to do when they grow up. Priscille Sibley knew early on she would become a nurse. And a poet. Later, her love of words developed into a passion for storytelling.

Born and raised in Maine, Priscille has paddled down a few wild rivers, done a little rock climbing, and jumped out of airplanes. She currently lives in New Jersey where she works as a neonatal intensive care nurse and shares her life with her wonderful husband, three tall teenaged sons, and a mischievous Wheaten terrier.

Please visit Priscille’s website or follow her on Twitter @PriscilleSibley.

Read Big Girls Don’t Cry by Priscille on The Book Pregnant Blog.

Readers And Writers: When Did You Fall In Love With Books?

I am so happy to have Priscille Sibley here with us on Women’s Fiction Writers today.  I’ve known Priscille for years.  We were Backspace babies, in a way, cutting our teeth on the forums, sucking in information, learning to share, finding our way.  I read Priscille’s novel when it had a different title, before it went through more edits, before she had an agent and before THE PROMISE OF STARDUST sold to William Morrow.  Priscille’s debut will be published next year (I’ve heard January rumblings, but that’s unofficial, don’t say you heard it from me).  

Please welcome Priscille Sibley to Women’s Fiction Writers. Show her a little WFW love in the comments, would ya? 

Amy xo

When did you fall in love with books?

by Priscille Sibley

I was seven when my grandfather moved in with us. Dan Dan, as we called him, brought only a few things from his old house: a blue chair that went into our living room, an upright piano which he played in a speakeasy during Prohibition – and books. So many books! Beautiful books. There were over a thousand volumes he treasured enough to bring with him. Some were older than he was, a few from the 1800s. As we unloaded the crates, I felt like I’d moved into a library, and the sensation was elevating.

The books he brought were all well above my reading level at the time. They had titles like Les Miserables and Ulysses, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and The Descent of Man. There were old bound National Geographics with maps from exotic parts of the world. He brought with him science and fiction and history. He brought with him his love of books.

His son, in other words my father, was an avid reader, too. When my father was a boy, he suffered from rheumatic fever and he spent an entire year in bed unable to stand the so much as the pressure of a sheet on his legs, missing school but not missing out on his education. He always had a stack of books, mostly ones he borrowed from the library, but books were not a luxury out of reach. They were a necessity and as important as food and clothing.

I grew up believing books were virtually sacred. So when I fell in love, it was no surprise I found a man who feels the same way I do about books. My husband and I have no spare bookshelf space in our house (and we have a load of bookshelves.) Each one is double stacked. And my kids have stuffed bookshelves in their rooms as well.

I think Emily Dickinson said it best: “There is no frigate like a book.” With a book and our imagination we can transport across time and space and into the heart of someone very different from ourselves. Isn’t the possibility of transporting a reader one of the most heady experiences of a writer has?

For me the two most enjoyable parts of writing are the research and the times when the characters come alive in my imagination. Suddenly I’m there with these people who are not real to anyone else but me.

When someone, your first reader, your beta reader, your agent, your editor, when someone else tells you your story swept them up, that you transported them to someplace else – that is an amazing feeling. One person told me she read my entire book in one sitting. Wow, I thought. My little inner world became someone else’s if only for a little while.

You see, that is the power of a book.

Neither my father or grandfather is still alive, but I believe each of them would have been thrilled that my novel will be published. And I am grateful to them for instilling a love of books in me.

So…when did you first fall in love with books?

Priscille Sibley is the author of the upcoming debut novel THE PROMISE OF STARDUST (William Morrow, 2013). THE PROMISE OF STARDUST is a love story about a family torn apart by a medical crisis and the ethical dilemma of keeping a pregnant woman with no chance of recovery on life support for months in an attempt to give her unborn baby a chance.

A few people always know what they want to do when they grow up. Priscille Sibley knew early on she would become a nurse. And a poet. Later, her love of words developed into a passion for storytelling.

Born and raised in Maine, Priscille has paddled down a few wild rivers, done a little rock climbing, and jumped out of airplanes. She currently lives in New Jersey where she works as a neonatal intensive care nurse and shares her life with her wonderful husband, three tall teenaged sons, and a mischievous Wheaton terrier.

You can visit Priscille’s website or follow her on Twitter @MarcilleSibley (no, that’s not a typo).