Sydney Avey lives in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Yosemite, California and the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and a lifetime of experience writing news for non-profits and corporations. Her work has appeared in , and (published by ). She has studied at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival.
Sydney blogs at sydneyavey.com on topics related to relationships, legacy, faith, and the writing life. Her novel, , was released from HopeSprings Books in December 2013.
Ane invited me to answer some questions about my writing journey. We all struggle to make sense of our beautiful, terrible world, to reframe damaging experiences and identify what brings lasting joy. I believe that faith is a process of discovery, and that when we share our stories with open, honest hearts, we practice our faith. Writing is the way I work out my faith, with the requisite fear and trembling!
I call my writing Christian Lit with grit. I write for people who experience dark nights of the soul and are looking for light. My own journey from daughter and granddaughter to mother, grandmother and finally family matriarch has equipped me with an endless supply of stories: tension in the interplay between generations; legendary characters held up as good or bad examples; festering secrets that threaten to undo us; bonds of affection that nurture us; These are the experiences I dig into for what they reveal about God.
My own story is not unique; a family secret about my heritage; curiosity about family legends; dismay over past events. When my mother passed away shortly after revealing the secret she had kept, I sat down and wrote a book about what we lose when family ties unravel and how the best of what we inherit from the people we came from is a legacy to cherish.
My debut novel The Sheep Walker’s Daughter was released by HopeSprings Books in December 2013. I drafted it in NaNoWriMo in 2010. It won runner up in FaithWriters.com Page Turner contest in 2011. I work-shopped sections of the manuscript in a course at Stanford University called Gripping Reads, made numerous revisions, had it professionally edited, and submitted it to a small publisher listed on American Christian Fiction Writers’ website. That led to a contract and valuable collaboration with Lynellen Perry to bring the book to market, an experience I thank God for.
What’s next? I’m putting the finishing touches on the sequel, The Lyre and the Lambs. This book moves Dee and Valerie, mother and daughter, from the idyllic Fifties to the turbulent Sixties, where they re-define family. And, I’m delving into the book that a set aside four years ago after deciding I’d better learn how to write a novel before I tackled the complex theme in On Edge. My third novel is about a young man born into poverty who has a genius IQ. The story explores the motivations of those who help him become successful and the mentor who causes the young man to stumble at every turn.
All writers are readers. Some read for entertainment, some to experience, learn and grow. I like books that take me to places I love or want to go, like Edward Rutherford’s Paris. I like authors who reference the classics and address spiritual, moral and ethical issues—writing that makes me think,like John Updike and C.S. Lewis. I admire authors who write about complex, flawed characters with love and respect: Elizabeth Berg, Jeannette Walls, Tobias Wolff, and many others.
Ane asked about writing instruments. I have an antique Smith Corona typewriter I used to bang on that belonged to my grandmother and a fond remembrance for the Olivetti portable typewriter that got me through college. I doubt I will remember any of my computers as fondly, even though they helped me be incredibly productive. Why is that? I have a passion for pens. I have traded jewelry to waitresses so I could keep quirky pens they gave me to sign the tab. I almost always have a pen in my hand. If you lend me a pen, you probably won’t get it back.
Ane, thanks for the fun of being your guest.
A Korean War widow's difficult mother dies before revealing the identity of her daughter's father and his cultural heritage. As Dee sorts through what little her mother left, she unearths puzzling clues that raise more questions: Why did Leora send money every month to the Basque Relief Agency? Why is her own daughter so secretive about her soon-to-be published book? And what does an Anglican priest know that he isn't telling? All this head-spinning breaks a long, dry period in Dee's life. She might just as well lose her job and see where the counsel of her new spiritual adviser and the attentions of an enigmatic ex-coworker lead her.
The Sheep Walker's Daughter pairs a colorful immigrant history of loss, survival, and tough choices with one woman's search for spiritual identity and personal fulfillment. Dee's journey takes her through the Northern and Central California valleys of the 1950s and reaches across the world to the obscure Basque region of Spain. She will begin to discover who she is and why family history matters.