Today, I’m delighted to share an interview I did with Sylvia Ashby a little while ago. I recently read The Treachery of Trains, and reviewed it on my blog last week (you can read my review here if you’d like to) so it’s lovely to get to know more about Sylvia.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I’m a mum, a wife, a thirsty traveller (for wine, mainly) and a very reluctant sailor. I’m bilingual, but I don’t live in the countries I speak the languages of. So I’m learning a couple of more languages. C’est la vie.
How did you first come to be a writer?
When I was fifteen, I wanted to become a journalist, but my father opposed to the idea. He would sit me down in front of the television every evening to watch the news. When a bunch of reporters surrounded a politician or a government official for questioning, he’d point at them and demand to know: “Is that what you want to do for the rest of your life?”
At the time, I had no idea there was a difference between a reporter and a journalist, so I gave up on my dream. I became a graphic designer instead for a number of years; then I owned four shops selling and designing women’s clothing. That went on for a decade and I loved it, but when the economy crashed in 2008 I needed to get out.
I looked at what I wanted to do next and writing was, literary, the first thought that went through my mind. So I became a journalist (not a reporter!) and a writer at the ripe age of thirty-five. It’s the best decision I’ve ever made.
What is your book about?
The Treachery of Trains is about a girl that’s lost. To begin with, she’s only lost metaphorically – Sky’s mum has died three years ago and her best friend has left London without as much as a backward glance. Sky feels abandoned by everyone dear to her heart. Then she gets lost literally. That’s when the fun really starts.
I can’t say more because I’d spoil the plot, but I could tell you that on her first day in a new city Sky rings the doorbell of a stranger who gets the door dripping wet and in a skimpy towel. Then both of them get locked out of their respective flats.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
People, ideas, observation, imagination.
I was standing at a busy bus stop once (by Selfridge’s on Oxford Street) observing a beautiful Japanese woman struggling to get her child’s pram off the bus. She managed to get to the pavement safely only for the bus to close its doors preventing her husband from getting out. The woman panicked. She had gotten separated from her partner and was terrified. A well-meaning stranger told her that the bus would take the corner of the crossroad and stop again. She could meet her husband there.
The woman vanished in the crowd. As soon as I lost her from my sight I thought: what if they never meet again?
What if twenty years later there is this diminutive, aging Japanese man standing alone at a busy bus stop in London, hoping to find out what happened to his wife and child?
That’s a whole crime novel right there.
What is your writing routine?
I never got the hang of procrastination (the guilt is killing me!) so I have a fairly regular routine. I get children and husband out of the door in the morning, make myself a pot of tea and I start writing. I keep it up (with various success) until 4 pm when the kids get home. Then I cook. We have dinner. We do family stuff. That’s pretty much every weekday.
I don’t go out of the house much, which has knocked back my social skills by decades. I feel like a teenager again, awkward and terribly self-conscious around strangers.
What’s your favourite book that you’ve read this year?
I started the year chuckling and shaking my head at Very British Problems and I can’t seem to stop. They are so keenly observed I see them all around. It’s hilarious.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m plotting my next novel, so I’m reading Into the Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them by John Yorke. It’s written about the structure of drama on television, but I’m amazed how helpful it is for plotting books as well. It’s given me heaps of insight into what works in a story and how to master cliff-hangers and punchlines.
Is there a question that you wish an interviewer would ask that you’ve never been asked? What’s your answer to that question?
Question: What talent would you like to possess?
Answer: To be able to slow down time.
If you were to be stranded on a desert island, which three things would you want to have with you and why?
A goat, so I can have milk and cheese. A book about making cheese. My husband, so we can discuss at length the merits of having your own goat and making your own cheese.
How can people connect with you on social media?
I use Twitter excessively (according to my husband; I think I’m totally fine). Talk to me on @bysylvia_a
I also have a writer’s platform where I write book reviews, recipes, and other random stuff. Visit me at seawriting.wordpress.com
About the Author
Her second, The Treachery of Trains, is about finding love in unlikely places.
She lives in Belgium with her family.
About the Book
So she gets on a train…
What happens when it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year?
Sky Candy is about to find out.