| by Winter Lawrence |
I’m gearing up to teach creative writing workshops again, so I’ve been reading a lot about writing. It’s one of my favorite topics! In between though, I always make time to dive into some cool fictional worlds, and of course, I have my Author Spotlight segment each month, so I always have a great book handy.
This month, I had a chance to chat with Sylvia Hornback, so I grabbed my copy of “The Mallard Conspiracy” and I was immediately sucked in. As a writer and an avid book reader, I know the importance of a stellar great first chapter, which Sylvia has, but what I found particularly magical in her book was that in the first chapter the reader immediately becomes emotionally invested in the story.
Folks, the end of chapter one was so moving, I cried. Like, literally. That’s unheard of for me, but Sylvia chose the perfect place to begin her story—in the midst of a home invasion where several of the homeowner’s pets and livestock are slaughtered. If you’re an animal lover like me, that stuff will hit you right in the gut, and Sylvia did an amazing job of weaving together a tale that had me rooting for the good guys right from the start.
Needless to say, I was so glad that she was up for some candid questions about her work, because I wanted to know all about “The Mallard Conspiracy” and what inspired her to write it. Here’s what she had to say…
(Q) Sylvia, thanks for volunteering to participate in this month’s Author Spotlight. We’re delighted to have you! To begin, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to become an author.
(A) Thank you for inviting me to be on Author Spotlight. It is my pleasure to talk with you.
I have always been writing something throughout my life, however, I like to tell people that I became an author by accident or by challenge. I am a storyteller, which is the preamble to becoming an author. My family members are storytellers with great enthusiasm and embellishment. On long trips in the car, when music and games as entertainment are exhausted, I would begin stories with, ‘What if …” and on it would go. Once, during the story of what ifs, I said we should write a book about it and my husband agreed. “We should,” he said. Then at a dinner with friends he announced that we were indeed going to write a book. I nearly fell out of my chair! So, there was the challenge and I started writing and within a week I realized my husband was not going to participate in this new venture. I learned how much fun it was and eventually I had completed the project. I am writing my third book now and have ideas for eight more in the making.
(Q) You begin your story with a very intriguing prologue, but it was the first chapter that got me hooked! Was it difficult to write such an emotionally taxing scene? And do you have any advice for writers on the best ways to approach those situations that may make them uncomfortable to write?
(A) I think every author wants to get the reader hooked in the first chapter. If not, they won’t read the rest of your story. I approach the story with the reader in mind and try to become that character and feel what that person might feel. If the writer is not passionate about the story, neither will the reader become involved and passionate about the story. Writers are actors on the stages in their minds.
(Q) Your book touches on some social justice themes, like water conservation and environmental concerns. Were these issues at the forefront of your mind when you envisioned this story, or did you have another type of inspiration that just so happened to take you down this path?
(A) Water rights and environmental concerns are part of the underlying messages in “The Mallard Conspiracy.” I wanted to make people aware of the possibility of being held hostage for their very life when faced with water shortages. We can only survive for approximately ten days without water. Think of that power if someone controlled the only source of water. So, this is the system side of the conflict.
On the bright side, I love the idea of having ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary feats of courage and survival as did Sam and Georgia in the story.
(Q) In “The Mallard Conspiracy” you have a huge cast of characters, all from vastly different walks of life. Do you have a process to keep track of everyone? And who was your favorite character to write in this book?
(A) I do have a system to keep track of the characters. First, I list my characters and describe them. I elaborate by listing personality traits and what they look like. Often the characters evolve when writing a scene and move the story along with the emerging personalities. When writing the outline for the book, I divide it by chapters and then in each chapter I list who appears in that chapter.
My favorite character in “The Mallard Conspiracy” was Lynnette. She was in turmoil and fought the battle of right and wrong throughout the book. She was also a survivor. So much so that she will become the protagonist and main character in the sequel.
(Q) The majority of your book takes place in Texas, with different characters traveling all over the Lone Star State. Have you visited the majority of the locations you’ve written about, and what advice do you have for authors who want to write about far-off locales that they’ve never been to before?
(A) I have visited the places mentioned in the book. I have lived in Texas and New Mexico. Seeing and visiting a place does make your writing richer and more authentic, however, I believe thorough, in-depth research can also help any author create authentic settings.
Sylvia! Thanks again for joining my Author Spotlight! It absolutely warmed my heart to learn how you came up with the idea for your book! And I love the idea of a husband-wife writing team. It's so sweet!
Readers, if you happen to be in the area, Sylvia has an upcoming book signing on July 20, 2019 in Angel Fire, New Mexico, at the Chamber of Commerce. She also has a new book coming out in early October called “Jeanne.” It’s about a young girl coming of age on a farm in west Texas. It takes place from 1940-1945 during WWII and is a historical fiction dealing with abuse and abandonment.
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Enjoying her third profession, Sylvia Hornback splits her time between her Texas home and travels across the US in an RV with her husband and rescue dog, Pepper. Before she became a full-time author, she had a career as an entrepreneur and educator. Storytelling and writing started at an early age while living with her grandmother. Family stories varied ranging from railroad station masters, WWII bomber pilots, flying the hump to China to tenant farming in West Texas. Stories were always present during a career that progressed from educational research and technical writing to business owner.
Readers, to keep up with all of Sylvia’s upcoming stories and adventures, be sure to visit her online at: