Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Interview with Phyllis Schieber, author of Willing Spirits

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Phyllis Schieber to Diary of an Eccentric! Phyllis first visited my blog back in January as part of her Promo 101 Virtual Blog Tour for The Sinner's Guide to Confession. (You can read my review and Phyllis' guest post here.) This time, she's stopping by to promote Willing Spirits. (You can read my review here if you haven't already.)

Welcome, Phyllis! Thanks so much for taking time to answer my questions. What inspired you to write Willing Spirits?

My friendships with the women in my life inspired me. I felt a need to celebrate those relationships and to pay them tribute.

How long did it take to write the book?

I would say about three years with rewrites. I don’t write full-time though I hope to some day.

Do you have a special place where you write?

I like to write in my office at home. It’s very comfortable. We created an office for me in the garage. The office has a separate entrance, and it is filled with books and photos and artwork that I like.

What are your top 5 favorite books?

I think this list changes, but today, I would pick the following:

—Carol Shields
The Fat Woman’s Joke—Fay Weldon
Madame Bovary-Gustav Flaubert
Dinner at Homesick Restaurant—Anne Tyler
Ordinary Love and Good Will--Jane Smiley

What book is on your nightstand right now?

I never read one book at a time. These books are on my nightstand. I’m sure because I checked!

Gwen John, A Life by Susan Roe
Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
A Year in the Merde by Stephen Clark
The Beck Diet Solution by Judith S. Beck
The Republic of Love by Carol Shields

Are you working on another book? If so, any hints as to what it's about?

I am working on another book. I don’t really want to go into too much detail, but it’s very much the same and very much different from what I’ve written before.

With regard to writing, what's the best piece of advice you've received?

I’ve received much good advice from very wise folks, but I always return to Letters to a Young Poet by Ranier Maria Rilke. In the first letter, Rilke responds to the young poet’s question about whether or not his work has any merit. Rilke suggests that there is only answer to this question:

“There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple 'I must,' then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your while life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.”

What else is there to say beyond that? Write because you must. It is the only reason to write.

Phyllis, thanks again for stopping by Diary of an Eccentric. I wish you much success!


About Willing Spirits:

Jane Hoffman and Gwen Baker, both teachers and in their forties, have a friendship that helps them endure. Years after Gwen is abandoned and left to raise two sons alone, she finds herself in love with a married man. After Jane is humiliated by her husband’s infidelity and Gwen must face her own uncertain path, the two women turn to each other.

Now, as each is tested by personal crisis, Jane and Gwen face new challenges—as mothers, as daughters, as lovers. And in the process, they will learn unexpected truths about their friendship—and themselves.

About Author Phyllis Schieber:

The first great irony of my life was that I was born in a Catholic hospital. My parents, survivors of the Holocaust, had settled in the South Bronx among other new immigrants. In the mid-fifties, my family moved to Washington Heights. The area offered scenic views of the Hudson River and the Palisades, as well as access to Fort Tryon Park and the mysteries of the Cloisters. I graduated from George Washington High School. I graduated from high school at sixteen, went on to Bronx Community College, transferred to and graduated from Herbert H. Lehman College with a B.A. in English and a New York State license to teach English. I earned my M.A. in Literature from New York University and later my M.S. as a developmental specialist from Yeshiva University. I have worked as a high school English teacher and as a learning disabilities specialist. My first novel , Strictly Personal, for young adults, was published by Fawcett-Juniper. Willing Spirits was published by William Morrow. My most recent novel, The Sinner’s Guide to Confession, was released by Berkley Putnam. In March 2009, Berkley Putnam will issue the first paperback publication of Willing Spirits.

Win A Free Book from Phyllis Schieber – Free books will be awarded during the tour.
Each comment on any of the blogs in the tour will offer a chance to win a free copy of Willing Spirits or The Sinner’s Guide to Confession. A couple of people who make a real impression on Phyllis during the tour will be chosen to win a free book. We’ll see you on the virtual blog tour trail.

For full details about Phyllis Schieber’s virtual tour, visit her tour home page here.

Order Your Copy here –
Penguin Publishers

You can visit Phyllis Schieber here.


Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

Great interview. I have Unless in my tbr bookcase, so I am glad to hear that it is good.

Phyllis Schieber said...

Hi Nicole! Read UNLESS immediately! It's gorgeous. I aspire to write like Carol Shields. She was a master.

bermudaonion said...

Great interview! I love Anne Tyler's work but have somehow missed Dinner at Homesick Restaurant. I need to find a copy of that.

Phyllis Schieber said...

It's an early work, bermudaonion, and it's brilliant!

Unknown said...

I really want to read Willing Spirits! I love a good heartwarming novel:)

Anonymous said...

That was a great interview! I loved the concept of an office in the garage with books and stuff! Phyllis, you should share a picture with us sometime! And since I haven't read any book in your favorites list, my wishlist has just grown by 5 books now!:)

Phyllis Schieber said...

bridget3420: I look forward to hearing from you after you read WILLING SPIRITS! Thank you fro stopping by.

Oh, Ramya, you're wonderful! I'm glad you enjoyed the interview. And, yes, do read those books. They're gorgeous. I have an even longer list of favorites. If you look at my video,you will see many of the items in my converted garage!

Phyllis Schieber said...

If you go to this link and type in my name, you can see my Naked Author interview! And you can see my handsome son!

Blodeuedd said...

I really must read some of those books you mentioned :) and of course yours

Serena said...

great interview. Thanks for sharing Phyllis' thoughts with us.

Darlene said...

Great interview. A woman after my own heart--I never read only one book at a time either. It's kind of like tv for me-different books, different episodes. lol.

Phyllis Schieber said...

Thanks, Dar! I like to go from book to book, especially if one is non-fiction.

Bookfool said...

Great interview!

You seem to be doing pretty well at posting, for a computerless chick. :)

Anna said...

~Phyllis: Thanks so much for letting me interview you and for stopping by to answer comments.

~Nicole: Thanks! I'd love to hear what you think about Unless.

~Bermudaonion: I've read only one book by Tyler, but I'm definitely going to check out the one Phyllis mentioned.

~Bridget: I hope you get a chance to read the book soon!

~Ramya: Glad you enjoyed the interview!

~Serena: Thanks!

~Dar: Thanks! I sometimes read more than one book at a time, but not often. I'll either have problems keeping the stories straight, or I'll get too involved in one and not want to read anything else until I've finished it.

~Bookfool: Thanks! I've been sneaking in some blogging time during my lunch break at work. And Serena very generously let me use her computer over the weekend, and I took advantage of the automatic posting feature! ;)

Wendi said...

Your interview has been added to About the Author - An Author Interview Index! ~ Wendi

Anna said...

Thanks, Wendi!