Monday, September 25, 2023

Interview with Author Phyllis Clark Nichols



1. What inspired you to write this book? This book is the fifth book in the Rockwater Suite series. I wanted to write a story about real people struggling with real life issues—people who persevere and overcome. This includes a young pianist whose life was shattered and a musical savant who captures all our imaginations. It was their relationship that changed the trajectory of both their lives.


2. What exactly is it about and who is it written for? While this book is the fifth in the series, it is a stand-alone book as it continues the story of Gretchen Silva and her longing to return to her homeland after thirty years of being assumed dead by her family. Gretchen is finally free from her abusive husband and has settled into her new home at Duke University, where her savant granddaughter, Bella, is being educated and studied by the psychologists. But Gretchen has a yearning to return to Austria where there are secrets that, once unearthed, cannot be buried again. This book would appeal to young and more mature women.


3. What do you hope readers will get out of reading your book? Readers give all our stories life as the characters and places become 3D in their imaginations. While some readers will find a pleasant escape to a simpler place and time with characters that are lovable and a bit quirky, other readers will enjoy being taken to a new place, perhaps a place where they’ve never traveled. This series is set in the South, and yet I take the readers on a sweeping tour of Austria and the Danube. This is a book about “home.” What is it? Where is it? And why we long for it? And I hope that readers will find those answers, their own answers, as they read Gretchen’s story.  


4. How did you decide on your book’s title and cover design? Searching for the Song is a book about yearning, and Gretchen is on a quest to find her family. The word song is a metaphor for that indescribable thing in our lives that makes our lives worth living. It is the spark, and Gretchen wants that spark back. Now about the cover. I happen to be married to a brilliant portrait artist, but he also paints stellar still lifes. We have a ritual at the end of my writing day—I read to him what I have written. Over the course of a few months, he has gathered mental images of the setting and the story, and he paints a picture for me as a gift when I finish the book. He nailed it with this painting. And we chose it to be the book cover.


5. What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow writers – other than run!? Well, that brought a chuckle. No, never run away from writing. My advice is simple—read and write. Then read and write some more. And write something every day. I find it necessary to have a comfortable writing space, and fortunately I have a room with wide windows looking out on the sprawling Texas Hill Country. Somehow that expansive view gives me a capacious feeling inside and gets those creative juices flowing. And of course, I have a few other necessary elements—my chair that hugs me, a keyboard that knows my touch, and my chairside table with my notepad and a steaming cup of tea.


6. What trends in the book world do you see -- and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading? Oh, how I wish I knew the answer to that one. Truly the publishing industry is an anomaly. I just know there will always be readers and people with stories to write, and somehow, someone will find a way to make money providing those stories. Who that is remains the big question, doesn’t it?


7. Were there experiences in your personal life or career that came in handy when writing this book? This series sings, and my experiences as a classically trained musician enabled me to make these stories lyrical in a way that will appeal to other musicians but not off-putting to those who aren’t. Also, my work in the cable industry offered me rare opportunities to meet so many differently abled people, and being a musician, musical savants captured my thinking and my imagination. Thankfully, with the brain initiative programs launched several years ago, I had access to rich information as I was researching. It was most important to make this character authentic. And at my age, I’ve had plenty of life encouters—shattered dreams, loss, successes. These experiences have given me the emotional well to draw from when I write create my characters and their struggles and stories. 


8. How would you describe your writing style? Which writers or books is your writing similar to? I am a Southern writer to the “bless my heart” core of my being. I was born and grew up in the South and proud of it. My books are character-driven and slower paced, and food is almost a character in each of my books. Food is my love language. And when there a lots of feet under the dinner table, the stories abound. I have drawn from so many of those stories as I have written my own. Oh, and did I mention secrets? What Southerner doesn’t have a few secrets? I write in the style of Eugenia Price and Jan Karon.


9. What challenges did you overcome in the writing of this book? While writing this book, I was also care-giver to my husband during cancer treatment and surgery. Some days were extremely difficult physically and emotionally. Interestingly enough, I found that I was not depleted. Somehow, my own grief, yearning, and longing gave me the deep emotions I needed to write Gretchen’s story.



10.  If people can buy or read one book this week or month, why should it be yours? People live hurried, stressful lives, and we all could stand to slow down a bit and breathe. Just breathe. This book will give the reader a pleasant place to do that as I describe the gardens at Duke University, a cruise down the Danube in Austria, or in Gretchen’s cottage kitchen. The reader will be drawn again to these characters, their pasts, and their present. As I deal with some deep personal questions we all have, I work hard to give the reader some new things to ponder. If you want to be entertained, moved to laughter and tears, challenged, and inspired, then read this book.


About The Author: Phyllis Clark Nichols, a retired cable television executive, is an award-winning writer who weaves her faith and her Southern culture into her writing and speaking. She is a seminary graduate and a classically trained musician. She enjoys art, books, music, nature, cooking, travel, and stories about ordinary people who live extraordinary lives. She is the author of nine character-driven novels that bring hope and light as she explores profound human questions. Phyllis and her husband live in the Texas Hill Country.  For more info, please see:


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