Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Phyllis Schieber, author of Sinner's Guide to Confession

I am so pleased to be able to interview
Phyllis Schieber about her new book,
The Sinner’s Guide to Confession
I hope you enjoy the interview, and
take the time to ask Phyllis questions and
make comments about her interview. ~Sue

Sue: What event(s) sparked the idea for The Sinner’s Guide to Confession?
Phyllis: No one event sparked the idea for The Sinner’s Guide to Confession. Over time, it just became evident to me that we share different details of our lives with different people. I don’t share all of the details of my life with all my close friends. I choose my secret keepers with great care. I don’t think that is very unusual. On the other hand, I’ve met people on a train or while waiting in line and within minutes, we are sharing confidences. That leads me to believe that secrets are revealed when it is their time and not before.

Sue: What are your writing habits? Special room, specific time, etc.?
Phyllis: I have an office in my house. The office is a converted part of the garage. The space is very nice. It has floor to ceiling bookcases that are overflowing with books. And the room is filled with lots of framed posters, photographs and other items that I find pleasing. I like to write in the morning, I need to be alone. If my family is home, I need to work before they get up; otherwise, I can feel them breathing through the walls. Solitude is critical. I love to take a mug of hot coffee, put on a CD that I will listen to over and over all day, even all week, and just write. I’ll stop for a quick breakfast, write some more, and shower and dress before I am scheduled to see students. Occasionally, I might write at night, but that’s the exception.

Sue: How do you handle or avoid interruptions while you are writing?
Phyllis: I screen my calls. If I am working and get a call from a close friend, I’ll say, “Are you okay? I’m working.” My friends understand and respect my time. I always take calls from my son and never tell him that I’m working. He comes first. It’s the only way I’ve been able to navigate being a writer and a mother. Of course, I take calls from my husband, but I am more likely to tell him that I’m working!

Sue: Do the three women in The Sinner’s Guide to Confession resemble or were they based on women in your life?
Phyllis: Oh, no! Not at all. At least not their actions or their problems. Nevertheless, there are certainly aspects of their personalities that others feel are reminiscent of me or can be attributed to someone I might know. I don’t really know anyone like Ellen, but Barbara has some of my cynicism and humor. She also has some of the qualities of a good friend of mine. On some levels, I can see myself in Kaye, especially her background, but she also reminds me of others women I know. Bit and pieces of Ellen have been lifted from people I’ve met or heard about. Her eyelashes, for example, were taken from a story I heard about someone. Most of my characters are drawn from overheard conversations, newspaper articles, or are just creations of my imagination. For the most part, however, most of the emotions in the novel are autobiographical. I know how it feels to be in love, to be betrayed, to desire something I can’t have, to be disappointed, etc. All of the feelings are real. Writing fiction simply allows you to exaggerate or to diminish the intensity of the feelings as you see fit. It’s a lot of power for one person!

Sue: Of the three main characters of your book, which is your favorite? Which one was the most difficult to write?
Phyllis: The most difficult character to write was Barbara because I had to write erotica, and that was a challenge. Moreover, I had to write it the way Barbara would write, not the way I would. Barbara needed to be kept in check more than the other characters.
Ellen was a little more difficult to write because she changes the most. She really turns her life around and takes on the challenge of finding her child and becoming a mother and a grandmother all at the same time. Ellen had to handle a lot in a short time: her dreadful mother, her despicable husband, her family and its mixed messages, and her friends’ expectations. That’s a lot, and I believe she handles it all rather well. Still, it was a challenge to integrate her struggle and her growth with how she eases into her relationship with Faith and her children.

Sue: How do you keep track of your characters and story thread?
Phyllis: I keep a notebook and tab sections for each characters. That helps me stay a little organized. I write down whatever comes to mind about the characters as I go along. Initially, I develop character sketches. I write down everything about the character from the most detailed physical descriptions, to educational background, religion, family dynamics, birth order, quirks, likes and dislikes. I may not use all of the information, but it helps me develop the character.

Sue: Do you name your characters or do they tell you themselves who they are?
Phyllis: I name them. They don’t tell me anything—I tell them who they are and what to do!

Sue: What do you find as the most challenging aspect of writing? The most rewarding?
Phyllis: The most challenging part of writing is finding enough time. I also have another job, as most writers do, so I have to juggle, as most everyone does. It is also a challenge to make people understand that writing is a job—it’s not a hobby or a pastime. It’s hard work that requires consistency and commitment. I write because I have to, not because I imagine I will get a spot on Oprah or make a lot of money. I am a writer. That brings me to the most rewarding part of writing. When someone tells me that she laughed or cried or was moved by my words, it always amazes and thrills me.

Sue: Do you have any additional comments you would like to make?
Phyllis: I always have more to say! I want to thank you for taking the time to read The Sinner’s Guide to Confession and for the opportunity to meet new readers. That means a lot to me as a writer, especially since given a choice, I would be more likely to stay holed up in my office writing all day!

Sue: Thank you, Phyllis, for allowing me to interview you about your book, The Sinner’s Guide to Confession. I received my copy yesterday and I can’t wait to read it. For all you readers don’t forget to scroll down and find out how you can win your own copy of Phyllis Schieber’s book, The Sinner’s Guide to Confession. Again, thank you to Phyllis for being here with us.

About The Sinner’s Guide to Confession:
Kaye and Barbara are longtime friends, now in their fifties. Ellen, who is several years younger, develops a friendship with the other two women years later, solidifying this close-knit group. The three women are inseparable, yet each nurtures a secret that she keeps from the others.

Barbara, a widowed mother of three grown children, is an accomplished romance writer, who also has a secret persona as a celebrated erotica writer—an existence she feels compelled to keep from everyone. Kaye, a practicing psychotherapist and the mother of two, finds her marriage stable, but joyless. When she becomes involved with another man, she keeps her affair secret from her friends, too conflicted about her duplicity to expose herself. Ellen, a successful interior designer, childless and the seemingly perfect modern woman, harbors the most profound secret of all.

After her beloved husband betrays her, leaving her for a woman half her age who is also pregnant with his child, Ellen must face all her losses anew. First, there is the pain of the children she could never conceive with her husband. More importantly, however, there is the haunting memory of the child she had at sixteen and was forced to relinquish at birth. Estranged from her family, Ellen is reluctantly thrust back into contact after the death of her father, and learns that if she is ever to find her lost daughter—now a grown woman herself—she will have to confront her shame--and share her secret with her two closest friends.

About Author Phyllis Schieber:
The first great irony of my life was that I was born in a Catholic hospital. My parents, survivors of the Holocaust, had settled in the South Bronx among other new immigrants. .In the mid-fifties, my family moved to Washington Heights. The area offered scenic views of the Hudson River and the Palisades, as well as access to Fort Tryon Park and the mysteries of the Cloisters. Her first novel, Strictly Personal, for young adults, was published by Fawcett-Juniper. The Sinner’s Guide to Confession, was released by Berkley Putnam and in March 2008, Berkley Putnam will issue the first paperback publication of Willing Spirits.

Win A Free Book from Phyllis Schieber – Its very easy to be entered in a drawing for a FREE book by Phyllis Schieber. Post comments on any blogs during the virtual tour and you will have a chance to win a book from Phyllis. One random person will win – but we are also asking visitors to share a secret and one secret will also win a free book. As a bonus the blog owner that hosted the winning comments will also win a book. Share some interesting stories and questions with Phyllis Schieber during her tour – and have a chance to win a book.

For full details about Phyllis Schieber’s virtual tour, visit her tour home page -
Visit Phyllis at


Phyllis Schieber said...

Good morning, Sue!
Thanks so much for hosting me. I enjoyed answering your interview questions. I look forward to hearing from readers!

mare said...

The book sounds rather interesting. I do hope it will be in public libraries.
Phyllis's office sounds neat with all the bookshelves and books, etc. A place where it all comes together. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

sounds really interesting I will have to check it out for sure!

Marguerite said...

interesting article and the book sounds like something I will have to check out!

Anonymous said...

This book sounds like a book that not only one that I would be interested in but, one that I would very much enjoy reading.


Phyllis Schieber said...

Hi Mare,
I'm sure you can the book in your local library. If the library doesn't have it, ask them to get it.
I look forward to hearing from you after you read it. My office is pretty cool!

Glad you stopped by Marguerite. I'm glad you enjoyed the article. I hope you are able to read the book soon. WILLING SPIRITS will be out in March!

Helen, I think you will enjoy reading THE SINNER'S GUIDE TO CONFESSION. Let me know, please!

mary said...

Great interview. I write, because I have to be... as well. It's the best part of the day, when I put in my ear plugs, turn on my computer, pop in my CD, and enter Andrew and Skye's world. To see what kind of day they are having. The best part to them is "What happend next?" and from there my choices are endless.

Keep up the good work.
Mary Woodruff, Authoress

Phyllis Schieber said...

Hi Mary,
I'm so glad you enjoyed the interview. Visit tomorrow. It's the last stop on this tour, and I have a guest post on writing that you might find interesting. My novel WILLING SPIRITS will be released in paperback on March 3, and I hope you will stop by and visit.
Good luck with your writing!

Author Cynthia Vespia said...

I really enjoyed Schieber's answer to the first question. That is so true about secrets having their own time and place to be released. I must be a really good listener from the amount of crazy secrets I've had the fortune of hearing.

-Cynthia Vespia

Phyllis Schieber said...

Hi Cynthia,
I'm so glad you stopped by. I had to laugh at your comment. I seem to be the one everyone likes to confide in as well! I store it all away for future reference.
I plan to take a look at one of your books. It's not the genre I usually read, but I will try now, especially after seeing all the great reviews. Good luck to you.

Sue D. said...

Thank you, Phyllis, for allowing me to host an interview on your blog tour. I learned so much about you and the art of writing. I look forward to reading your book.
Blessings from my spirit to your spirit!

Phyllis Schieber said...

Sue, I am indebted to you for your terrific interview. I really enjoyed it. I am eager to hear from you after you read SINNER'S. I'm sure we will meet again. . . kindred spirits always do.
I thank you for your blessings and return them in kind.