Please share about your background (where you were born, where you grew up, siblings/family dynamic, career background, where you live now, etc.) I had several dreams when growing up in Philadelphia: to be a magazine editor, to live in England, and to have a novel published. And I’m fortunate enough to have made all three things happen. I worked my way up from a copyeditor at Vogue to the editorial director of several trade magazines. Editing a trade magazine enabled me to get a job in England, where I lived for three fabulous years before returning to the States in 2010. And now I’ve published my novel Beyond Billicombe, which takes place in the area of England—North Devon—where I’d lived.
When did you begin your writing journey? I wrote my first short stories when I was in second grade; even then I wanted to be a writer. I studied journalism in college, and I’ve made my living as a writer and editor ever since. I wrote my first novel after graduating from college, but while I had an agent for that book and two subsequent novels, they were never published.
What inspired you to write this book? For years I’d had the seed of a plot about a young woman searching for her older brother, an addict who’d gone missing, though originally the story took place in Philly. But when I was living in North Devon, I wanted to set a story there, as I love the area—it’s familiar yet foreign, at least to me, being somewhat rural and remote. So that seed took root in Devon. The characters changed significantly, though, and the story became as much about the relationship between the sister and the brother, and between the sister and a man she meets while looking for her brother, as it is about the search itself.
Please share about your book. Suzanne, a former child actress trying to make the transition to adult roles, travels from L.A. to Billicombe, a faded English resort town on the Bristol Channel, to find her older brother. A recovering addict, Jax had moved to Billicombe after completing rehab, but it’s been six months since Suzanne last heard from him. While searching, she meets Richard, a local man who is on a quest of sorts of his own: A car accident the previous year had cost him some of his memory, and he’s desperately trying to find a way to proceed with his life despite being unable to rely on always knowing such elemental facts as what year it is and where he is. Suzanne’s quest for Jax and Richard’s attempt to put his life back together collide in ways neither could have expected.
How did you decide to publish this book? Why? I went the usual route of trying to find an agent, but while I received positive feedback about the quality of the writing, the consensus was that the book wasn’t commercial enough. I’d gone through something similar with my three previous novels, and I knew that the publishing zeitgeist had only grown more restrictive since then, so after doing some research, I decided I might as well publish it myself.
What is your advice to beginning writers? Only write if you enjoy it, but if you do enjoy it, keep plugging away. There’s no point in writing if it doesn’t bring you pleasure. There are enough other things we have to do; writing should be something you want to do.
Most writers are readers. What books are on your “must read” list? So many! Books that I consider must-reads include just about anything by Richard Price but especially Bloodbrothers, Ladies’ Man, Clockers, and Samaritan. I also love The Three Musketeers and its sequels; The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll; Judith Merkle Riley’s fanciful historical fiction; A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell; John MacLachlan Gray’s Edmund Whitty books; Wuthering Heights; The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton…
Where can readers find out more about you and your book? You can buy the book at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Billicombe-Sherry-Chiger/dp/1479217328/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1349100294&sr=8-1&keywords=Billicombe.
My blog is http://sherry_chiger.blogspot.com.
And I’m on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sherry_chiger; come by and say hi!
Question for fun sake: What was your favorite childhood meal and why? Chicken croquettes at Howard Johnson’s followed by ice cream cake roll with chocolate sauce. I’m not sure what that says about me, though!
Bio: A writer and editor for more years than she cares to admit, Sherry Chiger has worked for and had articles published in magazines in the United States and the United Kingdom, ranging from Vogue to Retail Leader. A native of Philadelphia, she lived for three years in North Devon, the area of England where Beyond Billicombe takes place, and where she dreams of returning—much to the dismay of her husband and daughter, who are quite happy with their current residence in Litchfield County, CT. (The family dog doesn’t much care where he lives, so long as there are treats available.) In addition to Beyond Billicombe, she’s the author of two nonfiction children’s books and a contributor to Walford State of Mind, a book about the long-running British soap EastEnders.