Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Author Interview: Sheila Busteed: Author of Sunsets in Oia: Life - Fleeting: Precious: Tricky

taken by Marli Janse van Vuuren

Sheila Busteed is the author of Sunsets in Oia. She's a Canadian writer currently living in South Korea, so you’re probably wondering why she's greeting you in Greek. No, she does not have Greek heritage, but her book does. Sunsets in Oia was born on the Greek island of Santorini in the stunningly beautiful village of Oia (pronounced EE-ah). She went there to write her book and fell in love with so many things about the island. Now, she gets to share its wonder in the pages of her debut novel. I hope you enjoy it!

Welcome Sheila Busteed!

What’s your real name and pen name?

My real name and pen name are one and the same: Sheila Busteed. Growing up, everyone struggled to remember or pronounce my name because it’s a bit unusual. I love my name for its uniqueness. Based on a Google search, I’m likely the only Sheila Busteed in the world, and I think that’s awesome.

taken by Marli Janse van Vuuren

Please share some of the best memories of your childhood:

My favourite childhood memories all involve being on the road for family holidays. When I was a kid, we did at least two road trips every year throughout Canada and the U.S. My parents loved being able to show me and my sister new places, give us new experiences and help us learn new things through our travels. I certainly owe my sense of curiosity and wanderlust to those moments.

Tell us about your education:

After finishing high school, I left my hometown of Tecumseh to move to Ottawa. I studied journalism for four years as part of a joint program between the University of Ottawa and Algonquin College.

What career did you plan during your education days?

I’d always wanted to be a professional writer, but I knew I also needed a practical job that could pay my bills. I’m a fiercely independent person and I hated the idea of taking money from my parents after graduation. I figured journalism was a way to get paid to do what I love. I started working as a freelance journalist while still in high school. Unfortunately, as the years passed and technology continued to throw my industry into upheaval, the perceived marketplace value of my skills dropped and I realized journalism wasn’t as sustainable a career path as I’d originally hoped. That’s why I got my TESOL certification and am now teaching English abroad.
Sheila with actor Geoffrey Rush. She met him in 2009 after his Broadway debut performance in "Exit the King."

What languages you can speak and write?

Shamefully, I’m only fluent in English. I know a bit of French from my early school days, can recall a few phrases in Scots Gaelic, and have managed to pick up a small bit of Korean while living in Busan. Sadly, I’ve dedicated so much of my life to English that it’s now difficult for me to abandon its rules and structure in a way that allows me to absorb another language.

What is your biggest source of inspiration in life?

Life itself offers great inspiration to me. There is always so much beauty around us everyday. I find getting away from the city and being in nature really inspiring. But what influences me the most is art in all its forms, from music and paintings to sculpture and architecture. I feed on the energy of other creations.

What hurts you most in this world?

I find a lot of things sad and hurtful: dishonesty, violence, sexism, racism, animal abuses, and the destruction of nature by ungrateful and money-hungry people.
Picture of Sheila's dad (Dennis Busteed), mom (Pat Busteed), sister (Erin Busteed) and herself - feeding giraffes at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park during a trip to California in 2011

If you had to live a day of your life as one of the living or a dead personality, who would it be and why? 

It would be cool to go back and experience life in Elizabethan England, to check out life at court, and be a muse for William Shakespeare. If I were to inspire a sonnet written by him, that would be so romantic! I don't desire to be a famous person from history; I would rather get the chance to meet those people and get to know them.

What is your favourite genre and why? 

I love reading historical dramas that are well researched and full of rich detail. This is probably one of my favourite genres for TV shows and films, too. If they're done right, I feel like I'm travelling through time.
Sheila  in Busan's Gamcheon Culture Village

When did you start writing? What is the purpose of your writing? 

I started writing poetry when I was six years old and have since branched out to write short stories, lyrics, novels, articles and essays. Poetry and fiction novel writing continue to be my favourite writing styles. Writing has always felt like a natural form of expression for me.

Which of your work has been published so far? Would you like to share a synopsis of your work? 

My debut novel Sunsets in Oia was published in November 2013. The story follows Selene Doherty, whose excitement from the successful tour with her band is cut short when she learns that her parents were killed in the Athens riots. After the funeral, she escapes to her bequeathed summer home on the island of Santorini to recover from the tragedy. She is haunted. The loss of her family leaves her with a feeling of disconnectedness that is unshakable. But a chance reunion with a man from her past brings new romance – and hope. Drawing strength as he helps her get in touch with her roots, Selene begins the journey to redefine her life.

What are your forthcoming writings? 

I'm currently doing research for my second novel. It'll be a historical romance epic based around a serious natural disaster from 3600 years ago.

How much real life goes into fiction writing? 

A lot of real-life events helped inspire aspects of Sunsets in Oia. I did things and met people on Santorini that were very inspiring while I was writing the first draft of the book. The story wouldn't have been the same if I didn't do those things or hadn't met those people. The island itself and the village of Oia are depicted in real-to-life fashion through about 99% of the book. I took very few liberties with the environment because it's hard to improve on a place so majestic.

Is a high level of imagination important to have as an author? 

Authors without a strong and highly active imagination probably shouldn't be authors, in my opinion. Imagination is crucial to a writer's life.

self-portrait of Sheila holding the paperback and hardcover copies of her novel

What's your dream destination on Earth? 

That's a LONG list for someone who lives to travel. Near the top of my list are New Zealand, Bali, Egypt and basically any country in the Mediterranean region. It'll be hard to beat Santorini. It remains the most amazing place I've ever seen.

Your origin of birth and other countries you have visited/ stayed. What are the best things you liked about these countries around the globe? 

I grew up in the small Canadian town of Tecumseh, which is near Windsor, Ontario. When I was 18, I moved to the capital and ended up staying there after graduation for nearly 6 more years. I've been lucky in life to have the chance to travel so frequently. As a kid, my family did road trips to Canada's East Coast and throughout the United States. I've visited almost every state east of the I-75, plus a few more places like Chicago, southern California and Arizona. We even crossed into Mexico briefly during one of those trips. As an adult, I've travelled abroad to Cuba, the Netherlands, Scotland, Greece, Italy, Croatia and Turkey. I currently live in Busan, South Korea, and enjoy travelling around the peninsula. Some of my favourite memories are strolling along the beach at night and swimming in a water-filled cave in Cuba; travelling solo around Scotland by train and developing an appreciation for Scotch; eating pizza margherita in Napoli at one of the restaurants that helped invent pizza; and getting filthy from head to toe at the Boryeong Mud Festival here in Korea. And, of course, the absolutely blissful 10 days I spent writing my book on Santorini are filled with wonderful memories, like hiking on an active volcano, touring the ancient city of Akrotiri, sipping fantastic local wine every day, and meeting a man who became my muse. 
taken by Marli Janse van Vuuren

What's your favorite time of the day?

I love late afternoon and the sunset.

What's your zodiac sign?

I'm a Pisces.

What's your favourite color and why?

I have two favourite colours. First is red because it's bold, eye-catching, and is the colour of passion. Secondly, I love dark, royal purple for its richness and elegance.

What's your favourite book and why?

My favourite book would probably have to be Round Ireland With A Fridge by Tony Hawks. This book had me laughing CONSTANTLY!!

What's your favorite movie and why?

My favourite movie is Almost Famous. The cast is sensational, the music is classic, and the storyline reminds me a lot of my days as a music journalist.

Who's your favorite celebrity and why?

I have a lot of respect for Johnny Depp. He embraces his quirky uniqueness and is fully devoted to his art, but hasn't gotten caught up in his own celebrity status. He doesn't even watch his own films for fear he wouldn't like his performance in the final product. Plus, he's GORGEOUS! 

What's your favorite food?

When it comes to pleasing my stomach, it's a three-way tie between a) garlic alfredo fettuccine topped with grilled asparagus, cherry tomatoes and fresh cilantro, b) almost any kind of cheese, especially feta, and c) dark chocolate, consumed in almost any form (especially cheesecake).
taken by Marli Janse van Vuuren

Some quickies (choices have been underlined): 

Sun or Moon
Laughter or Smile
Morning or Evening
Coffee or Tea
Mountain or Sea
Long Drive or Short Drive
Silence or Conversation
Water or Fire
Air or Earth
Mars or Jupiter
Tulip or Rose
Red or Blue
Left or Right
Glance or Stare

What three words come to your mind for each:

Technology -- confusing, tool, leash
Life -- fleeting, precious, tricky
God -- stranger, control, Who?
Humanity -- Earth's looming doom
Terrorism -- stupidity, brain-washed, cruel
Racism -- unnatural, unnecessary, judgement
Childhood Abuse -- scar, barbaric, evil
Love -- complicated, enduring, arousing 
Parenting -- noise, messy, shit
Old Age -- next stop: death!

The last line of your autobiography would be…:

Who knows how long I've got left or how I'll go when I do. But if I had a choice, it would be while home in bed and in the arms of my beloved. I'm not necessarily asking for death by orgasm here (although that's a pretty sweet option), but having the comfort of my love will help me embrace the unending unknown.

Twitter handle: @SheilaBusteed
Facebook page:
Goodreads author page:
Amazon link: 

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