The first author interview of 2014! Welcome Sheila Busteed, writer of romantic fiction in exotic locales. You can find more about Sheila on Goodreads here: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7393822.Sheila_Busteed
1. What first inspired you to write?
Writing has been a part of my life since I was six years old, when I started dabbling in poetry. I guess you could say I was always meant to follow this path. However, specifically creating “Sunsets in Oia” was inspired by a few things.
Firstly, publishing this novel was my way of fulfilling a life goal I set when I was eight years old. Back then, I thought 30 was a really old age, so I figured I could do something big like become a published author by that point. But those years flew by, and during the first week of 2012 I realized, “If I don’t start working toward that goal now, I’ll never pull it off.” So that wish from my childhood turned into a New Year’s resolution, and the thrill and challenge of the whole experience kept pushing me forward to today. Now I can say I’ve fulfilled that goal from twenty years ago, and I’ve done so ahead of schedule.
Secondly, I wrote “Sunsets in Oia” as a way to incorporate all of my life’s passions – music, travel, food, wine, family, and the unpredictability of love – into one project. It was also my way of offering a commentary on a trend I’ve observed among people in my generation. I, like many young adults, have felt disappointed in the working world once settled into it. We’ve reached a point now where we know we can’t expect the same luxuries our parents enjoyed. Our world is very different from the one in which they grew up. And, for me, the monotony of a 9-to-5 desk job seemed to poison my soul a bit more every day. I wholeheartedly believe that a job needs to be about more than just the money. I’ve chosen to turn my passion into a profession, and I can’t bear the idea of wasting away years of my life doing something that doesn’t make me happy. That’s why the year 2012 was a turning point for me: I was finally determined enough to leave a job that bored me, leave my home country behind for a new adventure, and carve my own unique path through life. That’s why I wrote this book, and why my main character, Selene, goes through what she faces in its pages. I think it takes a lot of guts to do something artistic, something unusual, which goes against the mainstream.
Lastly, once I knew that my novel would focus on a romance, I felt inspired to break with conventions associated with the genre, to raise the bar and write something that felt relatable and real. Romantic Santorini also seemed like a logical choice to me. That place oozes inspiration. Sitting out on the veranda of a traditional villa every day, sipping local wine, listening to Greek folk music and writing for hours at a time brought me profound peace. I couldn’t have asked for a better writing retreat.
2. I understand you write travel adventures/romance. What about this genre appeals to you?
To be honest, not much in the general romance genre appeals to me, since so few of the stories are real to life. I need to connect with the characters in a deep way to truly be engrossed in a book. But I’ve read several travel memoirs that focus on the writer achieving a level of personal growth or clarity about life, and such messages really impacted me. I can completely relate to their experiences, the feeling of being out of your element and discovering what you’re truly made of while travelling. I figured, if I could blend the appeal of romance with realistic travel experiences, the hybrid might just be able to stand out in the saturated marketplace. Plus, the idea of setting the story on Santorini granted me the opportunity to return to the island, and I’d been longing for that chance for years.
3. Tell me about your book.
“Sunsets in Oia” is a contemporary adventure romance novel that offers a snapshot of a summer on the Greek island of Santorini in 2010.
The story follows Selene Doherty, whose excitement from the successful tour with her Wellington-based band is cut short when she learns that her parents were killed in the Athens riots. After the funeral, she escapes to her bequeathed summer home in Santorini’s village of Oia (pronounced EE-ah) to recover from the tragedy. She is haunted by the loss of her family, which leaves her with a feeling of unshakeable disconnectedness.
But a chance reunion with a man from her past brings new romance and hope to her life. He helps her rebuild her strength and reconnect with her roots. In the process, Selene begins a journey to redefine her life.
4. What made you decide to self-publish?
I tried for months to go the traditional publishing route, sending out countless pitches to agencies only to be met by rejection. I was well aware when I started this book that it didn’t exactly fit into a single genre, so I wasn’t really surprised by those setbacks. However, I didn’t want the project to drag out for years and years with potentially no result. I guess I was a bit impatient, but as a first-time author I also knew the deck was stacked against me. I’ve always been an extremely independent and ambitious person, and I wasn’t about to let those rejections stop me from achieving my goal of publication.
Eventually, I decided to take my fate into my own hands and make it happen my way. The flexibility and creative control I experienced was a welcomed surprise and completely worth the monetary investment. Seeing my book in print for the first time was truly a priceless moment.
5. Who is your favorite writer and why?
Oddly enough, I don’t really have a favourite writer. More like favourite books. I like to read lots of different genres and styles of writing, and try to learn from each of the authors. But I’ve been really intrigued in recent years by the work of Edward Rutherfurd. His level of detail and dedication to research were really inspiring to me when I was working on my own novel. When I read his books, I feel completely transported into the worlds he recreates. It’s masterly.
6. What are you working on next?
I recently finished writing a satirical essay, which I’m now pitching to magazines. I’m also starting to compile ideas for a possible sequel to “Sunsets in Oia,” but I haven’t decided yet if I want to write that book next or develop something completely different. I’m debating between several book ideas right now, so things are a bit up in the air.
7. How do you balance research about a setting like a Greek island with the plot of a novel?
The role that Santorini plays in “Sunsets in Oia” is similar to the role of Manhattan in “Sex and the City.” The story revolves around the characters but also within a very unique environment. I had to be careful, though, not to let the book sound like some sort of extended tourism promotion. To strike that balance, I made sure to keep the focus on the characters, describing the surroundings as if they were observations, and have them move through the environment as a way of showing it off. But, at the end of the day, the story is about Selene and not Santorini.
8. What advice do you have for other writers?
This will probably come off as idealistic, but the best piece of advice I can offer to other writers is to hold true to who you are creatively. It’s so easy to be swayed by the business of publishing, but we all have to accept the reality that having a book hit the bestseller list is as likely as winning the lottery. Know where you want the story to go from the beginning, be organized and follow through to the end. Once you reach that point, hope that you can be happy with your own creation. If you focus on the quality of writing and not a quantitative sales goal, the reputation you’ll build is much more valuable.