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Author Interview: Sam Skyborne Chats about Eye of the Storm

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Get ready to learn more about the book Eye of the Storm in this discussion with sapphic author Sam Skyborne.

Join us for an exclusive peek behind the scenes as we quiz Sam Skyborne about Eye of the Storm, writing, reading, and more.

This book is part of the Starting Over Romance category in the 2024 IHS Reading Challenge.

Why did you write Eye of the Storm?

I realised a number of people, including quite a few friends, were coming into their ‘second life’ for one reason or another. Some people wanting a change in career, some about to retire, some having suffered a traumatic break-up. The reasons might differ slightly but the result is the same: needing to make a change—a fresh start. Such a decision can be very daunting. I wanted to write this book to remind my readers that usually such a move or shift in life, no matter how daunting it is, is possible. Not only that, it is usually for the better. When in doubt – Do it.

Also, this novel revolves around an animal sanctuary. In the real world, on the island where this story is set, there are currently a number of wonderful women working very hard, devoting their time and energy to improving the lives of countless animals that are either suffering or that don’t have homes in the Skala Eressos area. I wanted to celebrate these women. Their jobs are not easy and often can be heart-breaking, yet they persevere because it matters.

Who is your favorite character in the book?

Ooo, difficult question! I really grew very fond of almost everyone in the cast, because each of them turned out so differently and yet I could empathise with all of them. They were all trying to do the best they could under sometimes hard and difficult circumstances. They all demonstrate a huge amount of courage.

Pat – I like her because of her strength. Although this is a multi-cast novel, I see it as being mostly her story, her journey from losing everything to making a new, different but happy life for herself.

Robin – The book is also about her journey, starting a new venture and even though it does not go well to start with, she had the courage to fight for it tooth and nail, sometimes in ways that shocked and awed those around her.

Méli – Her loyalty and quirkiness. She is definitely the type of friend I would want in my corner, especially since she doesn’t back down when she thinks Robin is being a t***.

Zee – Well, Zee, so much to say about her. She definitely dances to her own drum and I really admire her for that—her ability to be exactly who she wants to be, wounds, wonders, warts and all.

What was the biggest challenge writing this book?

The medical and veterinary research. I am not a vet or a doctor. Thankfully I had a doctor and a haematologist on call. They literally saved fictional lives, including the mother donkey, and the unfortunate turtle who liked to play peek-a-boo under parked cars. If it was down to me, I’m afraid this book would definitely have ended up an unintentional tragedy.

I also had a lot of fun and headaches related to making the plot twist work. [NO SPOILERS]. Please, let me know if I succeeded. =)

What part of Eye of the Storm was the most fun to write?

I truly enjoyed writing a number of the scenes, especially the ones between Pat and Robin. One way or another the sparks always seemed to fly. However, if I had to choose only one favourite, I would probably say the scene at the barn when Pat comes to confront Robin about the errant bull.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

There is a particular scene, actually there are a few key turning points in the novel, which take place as the result of an epic storm. A fierce, dramatic storm as one only sees in places like Skala Eressos during autumn. When I’ve been there during such storms, it always surprises me how, even though the heavens are raging outside, the inside of a small tavern or someone’s warm cosy sitting room in front of a fire can still seem like an idyl. Or sometimes not. “Eye of the Storm” echoes those moments. It also reflects the inner calm required when everything around you seem to be falling apart—a common experience amongst the main characters of this book.

If you’re planning a sequel, can you share a tiny bit about your plans for it?

This book is one of four books (so far) in my lesbian love story series, set on the island of Lesvos, specifically in the small village of Skala Eressos, which is said to be the birth place of the ancient poet, and alleged lesbian, Sappho. Each book tells the story of a different couple and their journey on love’s path, all set at roughly around the same time.

I regularly spend time in Skala Eressos, where I have met amazing and inspiring people. All have their own stories of how they came to be on the island, how they fell in love in this magical place. Their stories create a rich reservoir of ideas and inspiration for my love stories. So yes, I am working on a few more ideas as we speak.

Where do you usually write, and what do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?

In my room or study, although technically I can write anywhere as long as I am focussed and not distracted. I like to take myself off to different places, ideally back to the location of my current work in progress, for self-imposed isolated writing retreats, especially if I am struggling to focus or finish a particular project.

Another tiny tip that has also proved ground-breaking for me and my writing routine, is to have a separate writer profile on my laptop. When I login as Sam Skyborne it tells my unconscious, it is time to write. I like to furnish this profile with a backdrop of images related to the work in progress.

I also benefit from the supervision of my greatest fan and biggest critic; Twinkle-Toes, my cat. She is a tubby tabby with a plethora of fluff and the whitest of white paws. In personality, she is more guard-dog than feline. She, very helpfully, sits on my lap, pinning me down most days until I have finished my writing tasks for the day.

What’s your favorite writing snack or drink?

Coffee, black, and I drink copious amounts of it, that is when the cups don’t go cold, untouched, because I’ve dived too deeply into a fictional world. Not a recipe per se, but advisable to enjoy while hot.

Is there a particular genre you would love to write but only under a pseudonym?

I do in fact have a few pseudonyms. The purpose of these is mainly to help tell readers what they will find under the hood of my books. I didn’t always do that and I found readers got confused. My primary pseudonyms are Sam Skyborne for my love stories like “Eye of the Storm”, and S.M Skyborne for my detective thriller series, including “Risk” and “Finding Alice”.

While writing “Sealed with a Kiss”, one of the love stories in the Lesvos Island Collection, one of the characters, Jacquie Lyon, walked off the page, so to speak, to write a book about Sappho—a sapphic retelling of the story of the poet Sappho. So yes, she is now one of my pseudonyms for the alternative historic fiction novel, “The Sappho Romance”.

What has helped or hindered you most when writing a book?

The little voice in my head… The one that tells me I can or I can’t. She is also the one who makes good and bad suggestions for my stories.

On a more practical level, I’d say research. Falling down rabbit holes can sometimes be the most fun, rewarding and enlightening experience (ask Alice), but it is also one of the most time consuming and difficult traps to pull oneself out of (also ask Alice).

Have you ever cried when writing an emotional scene?

Yes, I find that I get very attached to my characters: their wishes, dreams, goals and aspirations. They become very important to me. So, when a dream gets thwarted and even when they finally get what they desire, it affects me. “Eye of the Storm” was a particularly emotional book for me. I am never very good when people or animals suffer. Sadly, this is life. I guess because there is so much invested in my character’s journeys, when finally, their dreams are realised, I cry with joy and relief. (Probably also with relief that the book is almost written by that stage.)

What books did you grow up reading?

As a child of the 70’s, I was subjected to books that generally had a very slanted view of women and their roles in society and in fiction. I remember being thrilled to find Enid Blyton’s George character—at last someone I could vaguely identify with! It was exactly that need for fiction and central characters that reflected my demographic in positive, energetic and pro-active ways—of which there were very few—which started me on my writing career.

I also want to say thank you to all the other authors who have picked up the mantle, or the pen, and helped to invent new worlds with new possibilities for women; especially of and for women who love women.

What book do you wish you had written?

The short story called “All You Zombies” by Robert A Heinlein. I love it because it is everything in one: a marvellous adventure, with a brilliantly satisfying twist ending, centred around a beautiful love story, with a narrative that breaks so many rules, not least those of time. It does what I think the best stories do; it challenges the readers’ perception and assumptions. It surprises and delights.

Would I have liked to have written the book? Absolutely.

Would I retell it as a sapphic novel? No need to, it has it all.

Describe your favorite reading spot.

In warm dappled shade on a sunny day or on the couch in front of the fire.

Meet Sam Skyborne

Sam Skyborne is the proud author of a number of award-winning novels and currently lives & loves in London (UK) while happily going on writing adventures across the globe … or as far as the mind will travel.


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Author Interview