Self Published Sunday: Interview with Sherry Chiger
January 27, 2013
This week Big Book Little Book is delighted to introduce Sherry Chigerauthor of Beyond Billicombe. Suzanne has come to Billicombe, a faded English resort town on the Bristol Channel, for one simple reason: to find her adored older brother. A recovering addict, Jax had moved to Billicombe after completing rehab, but it’s been six months since Suzanne last heard from him. Her search, however, turns out to be anything but simple. For one thing, Suzanne is a former child actress, well known for her role on a long-running TV series, and she needs to avoid being recognized while exploring Billicombe’s seamy underside. For another, Richard, a local man Suzanne turns to for help, has problems of his own stemming from a car accident that cost him much of his memory. Suzanne’s quest for Jax and Richard’s attempt to put his life back together collide in ways neither could have expected. Are any elements of your book based on real-life experiences/people?
While the narrative isn’t based on anything I’ve experienced—thank goodness!—I do have a friend who suffered from memory problems similar to Richard’s, though otherwise the character isn’t like him at all. And of course I’ve had friends who struggled with substance abuse, either themselves or within their families. The book’s fictional towns of Billicombe and Boutport, though, were inspired by the towns in North Devon where I worked and lived for three years, Ilfracombe and Barnstaple. Because of the nature of the story, Beyond Billicombe focuses on some of the seamier aspects of the area, but I hope it also reflects my love of North Devon’s beauty and of the friendliness of the people. For the record, I’d move back there in a nanosecond if I had the chance! What is your writing process?
I prefer to write away from home. I work from my home office most of the week, so a change of venue helps to keep me focused on the story at hand, rather than having my mind wander back to my paying gigs and everyday concerns such as what the hell I’m going to make for dinner or where my daughter’s missing textbook is. Luckily there’s a fairly neglected park, complete with picnic benches, near my house. When it’s not pissing down rain or unbearably hot or cold I head out there first thing in the morning with my laptop and try to get at least a solid hour of writing or revising in before heading back to begin my workday. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Keep writing—unless you’re not enjoying it, in which case, stop. And I’m not talking about one day in which writing is more pain than pleasure. If overall you’re not enjoying relating the story, spending time with the characters, puzzling over the optimal turn of phrase, just stop. There are too many things in life we have to do that bring us no pleasure. Writing shouldn’t be one of them. What books have inspired you?
So many! Jim Carroll’s Basketball Diaries and the novels of Richard Price, for illustrating the beauty and poetic possibilities of everyday language. John Wray’s Lowboy, for showing the importance of the quest in plotting a novel. The Three Musketeers and its sequels and Joan Aiken’s Wolves Chronicles for making me want to create characters as vivid and memorable. Wuthering Heights for introducing me to the concept of the unreliable narrator. If your book had a soundtrack, which artists would feature on it?
The band James feature a few times in Beyond Billicombe, so obviously they would be on the soundtrack, and there are references to Squeeze and Justin Timberlake as well (though for the record, I’m not a Timberlake fan, but one of the secondary characters is). “One for the Road” by Ronnie Lane would appear near the end, as its blend of melancholy and stubborn defiance is perfect for the protagonist Suzanne at certain points—plus it’s one of my all-time favourites. Sherry Chiger has worked for and had articles published in magazines in the United States and the United Kingdom, ranging from Vogue to Chief Marketer. A native of Philadelphia, she lived for three years in North Devon, the area of England where her novel Beyond Billicombe takes place, and where she dreams of returning, although her husband and daughter are quite happy with their current residence in Litchfield County, CT. (The family dog doesn’t much care where he lives, so long as there are treats available.) In addition to Beyond Billicombe, she’s the author of two nonfiction children’s books for Scholastic and a contributor to Walford State of Mind, a book about the long-running British soap EastEnders.
To learn more about Sherry and her work check out Sherry’s Amazon author page,Sherry’s Blog, her Goodreads author page or converse with her on Twitter.