Skye, thank you for visiting Bobbing Around for a public chat. During our recent email exchanges, I discovered how similar our thinking is in many ways, despite the differences in our writing. Instead of sending you a list of questions, I’ll ask them one at a time, and form the next question on the basis of your answer. Isn’t that how a real conversation goes?
OK. One of the things I admire about your website is that you have an obviously contemporary photo of yourself there. I know many women, including writers, who hide behind a 30-year pic. I see you as being unashamedly an old lady, and proud of it. Can you please comment?
I could go on about how ridiculous women my age look with vibrant blonde, red or darkly brunette hair with or without surgical removal of wrinkles and aging and under heavy layers of make-up, but the truth is I have too much fun being me, just the way God made me and no time for that nonsense.
It’s wonderful when we can feel comfortable in our skin — however wrinkled it may be (or however many aching bits it holds together). I see you being honest and rational about other issues as well, like wealth. What do you think of a current fashion for romances in which a billionaire falls in love with an ordinary girl?
I refuse to read any book that mentions wealth as one of the attributes of the hero (or the heroine for that matter.) I’d much rather read a romance about a soldier or a fireman, or a contractor who takes pride in the houses or bridges he builds. Once upon a time I read Regency Romances, but they’ve lost their appeal, too. I like historical novels and I’ve even written a few (one in print — Iain’s Plaid) but even there, I prefer ordinary people doing extraordinary things. People who read novels read partly to enjoy a great story, but there’s an element of escapism. Some might think reading about billionaires is escapism, but I’d rather read a story that I can actually feel like it might be me falling in love, or pulling off some fantastic adventure. I want to read about people I might know and call friends or invite over for dinner.
Skye, you remind me of Dick Francis. His formula was to have an ordinary person put into the furnace of a crisis, and come through it as a hero. I wish he were still alive to write a book a year, but maybe you can take over!
But in my opinion, wealth in itself is not the problem, but addiction to wealth is. Serving the master greed is worse than the master cocaine, or gambling, or anything else, because it consumes everything.
There is actually strong research evidence that people who suddenly become wealthy don’t gain in happiness. So, I agree. When the point of the story is that you fall into wealth and live happily ever after, it’s encouraging the same craziness that’s driving people to unhappiness: wanting, wanting, wanting.
I feel so fortunate that when I look through a sales catalog or walk around in a store, I look at all that stuff and simply don’t want it.
So, OK. Suppose tomorrow you get a major inheritance from a long-lost relative. What will you do with it?
Well, the first and easy answer is that I have a bunch of grandkids that I currently have 529 college plans for. I’d add to all of them so each of my grandkids would have their choice of college or education path without worrying about the finances.
But beyond that, I’m pretty happy with my life as it is. I might spend some fixing up my beach bungalow (but can’t see me moving to a McMansion), and set aside some to augment my current income, but there are so many projects I would love to be able to support that spending the rest wouldn’t be all that difficult.
I currently support in my modest way a group dedicated to training dogs as service animals for soldiers with PTS and other issues, St Jude’s, the USO, a hospital dedicated to children with brain injuries, a reading program for disadvantaged kids and others. Just think how much more good I could do with such an inheritance.
But I’d like to add a comment to your observation that wealth doesn’t bring happiness. Another thing I see wealth doing is blinding those who have it to the realities of how the rest of the world lives. Especially those in power who make our laws. If you haven’t lived on welfare, you’ll never really understand how the current laws (at least here in the US) trap people who would otherwise want to get out. Also, men and women who are born to wealth will never “get” what it’s like to have to budget and make choices between the things one wants and the things one needs.
Wow. I expected inspiration and wisdom, but this bowls me over. But I don’t want us to get too serious. Skye, what gives you joy?
What gives me joy? There have been extreme moments of joy in my lifetime: falling in love, giving birth, watching my children grow and seeing them succeed among them, which is probably why I love writing — I can create characters I relate to and then relive all those experiences again in my novels. I’ve had moments in life of extreme exhilaration like jumping out of airplanes, and moments of unutterable pleasure like gazing at the face of my nursing infant. Moments of achievement like the hugs and tears of the children I knew in Tonga when it was time for me to leave and realizing that in spite of mistakes I might have made along the way, I have four amazing children who are loving, respected, and confident and in some small way, I am responsible for that. I love to travel and experience new things, meet new people and enjoy different places. But I also find joy in my ordinary life here on a barrier island in Northeast Florida where I can look out at the ocean’s endless march to the shore and walk on the beach every day.
Tonga? Could you please tell me about that experience?
I was already a widow when my last child graduated from college. My coworkers had the year before thrown me a birthday party with all the usual joshing about everything being downhill now that I was 50. I assured them that this was the first day in the “second half” of my life. So, I looked around me and asked, okay, so what is the second half of my life going to be like?
Not being independently wealthy, but wanting to see more of the world than I had up to that point, and having given at least some of my time, talent and efforts as a volunteer for various non-profit organizations, I chose to join the Peace Corps. It’s hard to say how amazing my two years in Tonga were here in just a few words, but it was a challenge I will always be thankful I answered.
I lived in a very different culture, community oriented, welcoming and nurturing. I was challenged to learn how to bring my American work ethics to a very different work environment, how to measure my opinions that were more likely to be accepted as gospel rather than one person’s views.
I taught children English in a totally different way than they learned it at school and there was I think my biggest impact, because rather than rote memorization, I taught them how to “use” the language.
I worked with a local women’s handcraft co-operative and helped them understand their market better, and with a newly formed Red Cross committee, organizing their new office and getting programs for things like CPR and AIDS awareness.
In return, I was cared for as if I was one of them. For all the advantages of living in the United States, my own country cannot boast that there are NO homeless, NO unwanted children, NOone goes hungry, and everyone who needs it is looked after. The adage, “It takes a village” is more true there than anywhere I’ve ever been. Tongans are hungry for knowledge, yet they are smart, resourceful and capable. And as much as I gave of myself and my skills, I received so much more in return. Working in a culture so different from my own brought many frustrations, but they were still two of the best years of my life.
If you or your followers would like to read more about my adventures in Tonga, check out my essays (previously published in my hometown newspaper) on my website
Skye, wonderful. I’ve also found that volunteering gives more benefits to the person doing it than the recipients. The more you give, the more you get.
If we could get the whole world to follow the example of compassionate, community-oriented living, humanity would have a chance. As you know, that’s the theme of all my writing.
Do you have a theme as well? A value system you are aware of, and that imbues your writing?
I don’t consciously include any themes of values in all my writing, but I know that my personal values do color it. All my characters are creations of my psyche, therefore it’s inevitable that bits of me are a part of them, even perhaps my villains. While my books could hardly be characterized as inspirational (I had to clean up the sex and language when they came out in hard cover with Thorndike), all my heroes and heroines have been Christian. Some are Catholic as I am, some from other denominations. I don’t preach, and there are no “lessons” to be taken away, but in their day-to-day lives, they go to church, say grace at meals etc. Most of my heroes and heroines in some way give back to their communities in some volunteer capacity, such as part time-volunteer fireman, or EMT, youth group leader etc. I’ve also featured service men and women which in a way is the ultimate volunteer job, offering to put your life on the line for a cause, for your country, and for what you believe in.
Skye, how many books of yours have been published? Go for it, say a little about the ones you want people to look at.
I currently have 6 books published and available in both e-book and print.
One of the first books I wrote ended up being the most recently published. Iain’s Plaid was set in my favorite period of American History, and was inspired by my own trip out to explore an island off the coast of Maine that was a thriving community long before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620. It was vibrant enough to be harassed by the British leading up to the American War for Independence, and had only been abandoned when the lobster industry took a nose dive in the 1950s. By the time I got my first rejection letter, I was well into the next book and it remained ignored for many years until I dug it out, did some serious editing and revising and submitted it to my current publisher.
The first book I sold was probably the hardest to write. The Candidate is set against the backdrop of a presidential campaign, but it’s not a political story as much as one man’s struggle with memories that came back to haunt him in the middle of his bid to be elected president. When I first pitched this book, I was told there wasn’t enough tension in the story and I realized that having told it solely from one man’s point of view was part of the problem. By the time I was halfway through revisions with three equally strong candidates, and all with their own desires and haunting pasts, told from five different points of view, I felt like a had a tiger by the tail. I still consider this my best effort so far.
I also have a four book contemporary romance series, The Camerons of Tide’s Way: Falling for Zoe, Loving Meg, Trusting Will and Healing a Hero.
Available for free are two short stories on Amazon and Barnes & Noble: Mike’s Wager and Loving Ben. There is also a related short story (not a romance) posted on my website: Saving Just One.
You can check out Skye’s website for more information.
Where to buy Skye’s books:
The Camerons of Tide’s Way: Contemporary romance series