Saturday, December 18, 2010

'Priscilla The Great' author, Sybil Nelson

Today I’d like to welcome Sybil Nelson, recently published author, as my guest. Welcome Sybil. So…let’s jump right in, shall we? Do you remember the first book you ever read?

I’m pretty sure it was Green Eggs and Ham. I’d have to ask my mother though.

Can you tell us what was one of your favorite books as a child? As an adult? Why?

Just one? I don’t know if I could pick just one. I know when I was in middle school my favorite author was V.C. Andrews. I just loved Flowers in the Attic. I recently re-read the entire series. I still love it. In high school, I loved Jane Austen, but I think my favorite book was Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. I went through a huge European literature phase. Currently, I think my favorite book is I am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe. If you can’t tell, I love books with female main characters. I always find a way to relate to them in one way or another.

What made you want to become a writer?

Honestly, I wanted to become a writer because so many books I read did not feature any black female characters. I used to find that books were either all black or all white. I wanted to write books that were diverse and featured a mix of characters.

How do you handle writer’s block?

I do math homework. I’m studying to get my PhD in biostatistics and I find that I get my best ideas while I’m doing something that’s as far away from writing as possible. Doing math fits that.

As a writer, what types of stories and characters do you gravitate towards? As a reader?

I usually like to read and write books that have a romantic theme. I’m a sucker for a love story. But my debut novel is a superhero kids’ book. It’s actually not my thing, but it’s what came to me so it’s what I wrote. I do have a couple of romantic suspense novels written under my pen name, Leslie DuBois. I’m also a big fan of historical fiction, oddly enough. I love Philippa Gregory. I’m not likely to find any black characters in those books, that’s for sure. But I still love them!

As a writer, what responsibilities do you feel toward your readership, if any?

I feel that I have to let the character tell the story. Sometimes I don’t agree with what the character says or does, but I feel I have to be fair to both the character and the reader and tell the story the way it’s supposed to be told.

What book are you reading now?

I’m reading A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon. I loved The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by him and decided to give one of his other works a try. So far, it’s fantastic.

As a reader, what are some of your pet peeves when reading a published book?

I know I’m bound to have typos in my book. Some always slip through the cracks, but I hate glaring errors, especially with continuity. I once read a series of books that had tons of grammatical errors. I let those errors slide and made it to like book four, but when book four mistakenly reported something that happened in book one, I was done. It was like a different person wrote the book and didn’t know what happened in the previous books.

You’ve recently published 'Priscilla the Great'. Congratulations! Can you give us a quick synopsis?

Priscilla the Great is about a spunky twelve-year-old who learns that she can shoot fire out of her fingers as well as a bunch of other cool powers. With the help of her genius best friend, Tai, they figure out that one of her parents was a genetic experiment and that she inherited certain gifts. When her parents’ identity is discovered, Priscilla has to come to the rescue and save her family.

What was your inspiration for this story?

The original book was called The Adventures of PMS Girl and Priscilla got her powers along with her first period. The book went through three revisions with a major publisher and they convinced me to take out the period angle. Even though that publisher eventually dropped me, I don’t regret the changes. I think it’s an even stronger book.

Oh, I remember that! At the time I remember thinking, “What a fantastic premise!” I think these behind-the-scenes book negotiations are fascinating, but also help writers see things from the perspective of the publisher. So, what was their reasoning for taking out the menstruation angle?

They didn't think a story about the menstrual cycle would appeal to kids. They thought it was too embarrassing for the age group. I agree to a certain extent. I think it would be a great concept for an older audience. I think I might try to turn the idea into a chick lit novel one day.

I think you should. I love the idea. So, on that note, what are the challenges and/or differences in writing for a YA audience?

I think all ten books that I’ve written could be considered YA. I don’t think I know how to write to an adult audience. I love the innocence and the open-mindedness of Middle Grade and Young Adult readers. I remember when I was that age, I would read anything and everything. Older readers tend to have a specific genre they gravitate towards and mainly stick to that area.

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m working on a Young Adult Historical Fiction novel about an interracial couple during the 1917 race riots in St. Louis

That sounds interesting. We'll look forward to hearing more about it and your other work soon. Again, congratulations on the publication of Priscilla the Great!


Sybil Nelson is represented by Uwe Stender of TriadaUS. Her debut Novel Priscilla the Great was published on December 15th, 2010 by WorldMaker Media. She is currently a PhD student at the Medical University of South Carolina and has a master’s degree in mathematics from the College of Charleston and bachelor’s degrees from Washington and Lee University.

Her Websites:

1 comment:

  1. Great interview. Wishing you every success, Sybil.

    By the way there is a black character who plays a major role in one of Phillipa Gregory's novel (A Respectable Trade). You might want to read that one.