I am please to present a very short interview with my blogging friend, Silvia Villalobos, whose first novel, Stranger or Friend, was published recently and that I devoured a couple of weeks ago. This story is a murder mystery set in a small town in Wyoming. The protagonist, attorney Zoe Sinclair, returns to her home town to assist her aged and ailing mother. Since Zoe now lives in Los Angeles, she is transported back to small town attitudes, both good and bad, and encounters new people and the mysterious death of a friend.
MDC: How in the world did you think of writing a mystery novel, Silvia?
SV: In a mystery, reality falls away and we become part of this fictional world that’s captivated the imagination; a world in which the reader is invited to come along, even participate. I love mysteries for this reason, a feeling of being close to the story. Looking for the murderer, albeit from a safe distance. In a mystery, we find ourselves instantly involved in the characters’ lives, seeing what they see, experiencing their emotional journey.
Stranger or Friend began as a journey for the character who returns home to care for her ailing mother. I very much identify with the idea of going back home, seeing as I moved from Romania to the U.S. in 1992. For Zoe Sinclair, the character in Stranger or Friend, it is what she finds at home, what had transpired in her absence, that makes the mystery itself, but the journey is part of the overall theme.
MDC: Well, I was captivated by Zoe and her reactions to all the changes and events that occur on her journey home. Of course, I can relate to Zoe’s independence and resolve, as well as her initial reactions to some of the new people in town and in her mother’s life.
Speaking of the mystery, since hints left for Zoe were left for her in a code, do you like to play word games and do crosswords, etc.?
SV: I love doing crossword puzzles. Writing keeps me busy at the moment, but there is something immensely satisfying about sitting with a crossword puzzle and engaging a different part of the brain. As a kid, I played word games; hence the reference to palindrome games in Stranger or Friend, but not so much anymore. However, I look forward to the time of games once more.
MDC: I really appreciate the Zoe Sinclair character and can’t wait to read some more about her. Will there be another book about her or will you do something completely different?
SV: There will be another Zoe Sinclair novel, absolutely. She is a complex character with a mixture of views and traits that come from both nature and experience. Her sense of normalcy has shifted completely out of order in Stranger or Friend. She has a lot more to say, but the way in which she will say it changes in the next novel.
MDC: I am intrigued with knowing what the changes will be and cannot wait to read your next in what might hopefully be a series.
When I was reading Stranger or Friend, I felt like I had a map of the town to look at as I was reading. Did you actually sketch something out? Have you been to Wyoming in the winter?
SV: I’ve been to Wyoming in the fall, late October, and it felt as cold as winter. The setting in the novel is as much real, taken from memories of my time in the most rural part of Wyoming, as it is a space in the character’s heart and mind. So, I had to make sure she is deeply immersed in her surroundings, after the immediate shock of being back home, then go back to my memories and put it all together. Several revisions later, I felt I had it.
MDC: And that reminds me that revising is probably the most important part of your writing journey! I am sure you could speak more on revisions and how important they were to your final work.
You really can write about some other geographical locations besides Wyoming since you choose to continue to write about Zoe. Which would you prefer to write about–a setting in California or New York City?
SV: Most definitely California -– Los Angeles –- since I’ve lived here for 23 years and know the mood, the hidden spots known only to locals. But I would also like the next Zoe Sinclair novel to have an international aspect to it, so I might take certain characters out of the U.S. for a bit, and/or have other characters bring stories from their old countries with them. Stay tuned.
Thank you for having me on your wonderful blog -– a fun visit. And good luck with the rest of the alphabet letters 🙂
MDC: Thank you, my friend, for agreeing to answer a few questions at such a busy time. Not only is the A to Z Challenge happening, but you have been doing radio and other interviews, as well as some readings to promote Stranger or Friend. I wish you continued success in your writing journey.
Important links for Silvia Villalobos: