Priscille Sibley On Writer’s Block And How Writing Is Like Nursing

priscille sibley-portraitName: Priscille Sibley
Author’s Website
Hometown: Maine – I’ll always be a Mainer at heart. You can take a girl away from the rocky Maine coast, but you can’t take it out her soul.
Currently Based In: New Jersey—which isn’t all the NJ Turnpike or the Garden State Parkway or the Jersey Shore.
Education: Bachelor of Science in Nursing
Briefly: Gee, I’m not sure where to start; there are so many… kidding. In publishing – The Promise of Stardust is my first novel. It was published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins and it will be translated into eight foreign languages. It was an IndieNext Pick and Target’s Book Club pick for February 2013.
Favorite Read: This time I’m serious; there are too many favorite books to list. My first book love was Les Miserables – the book, not the musical, but I love everything from The Great Gatsby to Harry Potter to The Kite Runner.
Author Crush: Again, it’s hard to narrow this down. I adore Barbara Kingsolver and did you see Ann Patchett on Steven Colbert? It takes her shade of brilliant to make that funny guy speechless.
Pet Peeves: I believe aunt is not pronounced like the insect ant.
Fiction How-To-Book You’d Recommend: I have a full bookcase full of how-tos. Early on someone recommended Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I wasn’t ready for it then, but these days, her wisdom makes a lot of sense to me. I think what you need is probably out there, but it depends on where you are in your process. Sometimes it just takes studying books you like and really analyzing them. How to Read Literature Like a Professor is insightful.
If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be…I would be a nurse. I am a nurse. It colors how I see the world, but I’ve always needed a creative outlet as well.
What You Have Lined Up Next: I can’t give you a tagline yet. I’m still writing. I don’t mean to be glib; it’s just I’ve had a few false starts and I’m still figuring it out.

Growing up, did you ever wish your name was Priscilla?

I embrace Priscille. I was named after a beloved relative of my father’s. Still, I wish I didn’t have to explain my name to everyone.

The Promise of Stardust. Now, that’s poetic. What inspired the book’s title?

Stardust is a metaphor for the story. Nothing in the tangible universe is more enduring than stars. The other constant in the book is love. Matt, the protagonist says, “My faith was in her, in the love we shared, that it was as durable as the light coming from a distant star, crossing space, enduring through the void expanses of time.” Everyone is trying to do the right thing on behalf of Elle. They’ve each made her a promise, but they interpret what she’d want done differently.

The book has such an interesting premise. A girl and a guy in love. The girl goes into a coma. The guy wants to take her off life support until he finds out that she’s with child.

I probably wouldn’t characterize the story quite that way. It is, in many ways, a love story, albeit a tragic one. But these kinds of end-of-life decisions are, for the ones left behind, about honoring the love a family shared. Matt and Elle have loved each other since they were children. They were friends, then lovers, then friends again, and finally they have committed their lives to each other. They are family in every sense of the word. The Promise of Stardust is about a family grappling with a medical crisis. The narrator, Matt, can’t fathom how he can survive in a world without Elle, and yet he is willing to let her go after she suffers a devastating brain injury – even if it kills him – until he realizes that she is carrying their baby. Suddenly—it seems—he believes this one thing he knows terrified his intrepid wife, the idea of a slow death, is something she would bear for the sake of a child. Through his eyes, the reader comes to understand his point of view except his conviction may be colored by his own inability to let go.

Has the reception that the book has received so far put a little anxiety in you about what your fans are expecting for your next novel?

Yes. People talk about branding. Readers want the same – as long as it’s new.

A reviewer for The Kirkus Review compared you to romance novelist Nicholas Sparks.

The quote was: “A literate and incandescent Nicholas Sparks-like love story complicated by intense moral and ethical
questions.” I really loved the words literate and incandescent. Particularly incandescent. I can die happy now. I’m not Nicholas Sparks. I have seen a couple of the movies based on his books, but I honestly haven’t read any of his works.

As a first time author, what do you wish you had known before you released your novel?

I wish I knew how to control the weather. A blizzard hit the day I was supposed to have my book launch.
priscille sibley-book cover

What do you feel is the most effective way to deal with writer’s block?

If I truly figure it out, I’ll let you know, but I do think Anne Lamott is one smart cookie; write one scene at a time – Bird by Bird.

How can an aspiring author get better at writing?

Write. Write. Write. Read. Read. Read. And don’t be afraid of killing off your little darlings.

So you are an intensive care nurse! How is writing a little bit like nursing?

Empathy is key. What I do as a nurse is both very technical and very human. It is a highly skilled profession. We see people at their best and at their worst and at everything in between. People carry a huge burden when they are dealing with a crisis. As nurses, empathy allows us to help with whatever the outcome is, survival or loss. As writers, we must understand our characters in order to make them real to our readers. They must have souls. If we can’t understand and empathize with what brings our characters to life, our readers won’t be able to either.

Do you think an author’s mailing list should be an essential part of her—or his—marketing initiatives?

I have a mailing list started, but honestly I have not sent out a single newsletter yet. At some point I will, probably not until my next project is about to birth. If you enjoy The Promise of Stardust and would like to read my next book, sign up! I’ll let you know.

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