Annie Daylon was born and raised in Newfoundland. She studied music at Mount Allison University and education at both the U of MB and UBC (M.Ed.). After thirty years teaching, she delved into her passion for writing.
Annie’s first novel, Maggie of the Marshes, is available on Amazon Kindle. Her second novel, Castles in the Sand, is available in ebook and paperback at Amazon and is the mainstream genre winner of the 2012 Houston Writers Guild novel contest. Currently, Annie is in the editing stages of her third novel, Book I of a historical trilogy titled Of Sea and Seed. In addition to novels, Annie writes short stories, many of which have appeared in literary magazines and anthologies in Canada and the United States.
Annie lives in the British Columbia Fraser Valley, with her husband, David, and their dog, CoCo.
Hello Annie! Congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion for your book, Castles in the Sand. How did you discover indieBRAG and what has been your experience with self-publishing thus far?
- I discovered indieBRAG on Twitter. Another author tweeted that her book was a BRAG Medallion recipient; I was curious so I followed the link to indieBRAG.
- A steep learning curve, that of self-publishing. At times I felt as though I were scaling a vertical wall. I had to learn (am still learning) not only the business of writing, but also the use of technology. (Three years ago, I didn’t have a website, didn’t know an analytic from a hashtag, etc.) I sacrificed writing time to acquire skills in both these areas; unfortunately, that was necessary. But now, writing comes first and I squeeze marketing and tech into whatever time is left.
Please tell me a little about your book.
Thirty-eight year old Justin Wentworth loses everything when his entitled lifestyle slams into a collapsing economy. Alcoholic, homeless, and living on Vancouver streets, he has one desire: to regain the love and trust of his wife, Sarah, and his little boy, Bobby. Help arrives when twenty-something Steve Jameson, a graduate student researching the homeless, rescues the mugged Justin from a Dumpster and offers food and shelter in return for Justin’s story. As Justin reveals his journey—from happy childhood to family man to drunken indigent—he begins to trust his Good Samaritan but soon discovers that all is not what it seems with Steve. Can Justin persist on his path back to his family, or are darker forces at work against him?
Castles in the Sand is a poignant, character-driven tale of tragedy and hope, one that will win the hearts of readers everywhere.
The themes in your story are of a sensitive subject for many…did you face challenges writing about them? If, so you could explain a little about that?
The idea for Castles in the Sand came from a twenty-four hour short story contest. The contest provided prompt and a word count limit (1500 words.) The prompt included a theme word: castle. I played a word association game with that word…King of the castle, castles in the sand, a man’s home is his castle… and the last one hit. I knew that my main character would be homeless. Yes, this was a sensitive subject. The main challenge was not writing from the point of view of a homeless person, but writing from the point of view of a thirty-eight year old man. Believe it or not, I found it helpful to listen to sports radio. At times, when I was uncertain as to how to phrase something, I asked for input from my husband. I finally came up with Justin’s voice which is fragmented, like his life. As for the homeless aspect, I researched online. I read many books centered on the subject, including a Pulitzer Prize winner titled Ironweed by William Kennedy. I walked Robson Street in Vancouver, the street on which my character lived, and I paid attention to every detail around me. As I learned a lot about the homeless in Vancouver, I learned something about myself; subconsciously, I had always equated the word homeless with the word lazy. I know better now. Homelessness can happen to anyone; it is as near as your heart beat.
Why did you choose Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 2010 (during Winter Olympics) as your setting and period?
When I first moved to British Columbia, I lived in downtown Vancouver, near English Bay. It’s a beautiful city, but I was troubled by the juxtaposition of wealth and poverty. I think in the back of my mind I always wondered how people wound up lying on a sidewalk. I chose the Olympic venue because it was a time when there was magic in the air in Vancouver; it felt like Disneyland. I think the setting highlighted the plight of the main character.
Please tell me a little about Steve. What are his strengths and weaknesses?
In the short story that I mentioned earlier, and in the first draft of the novel which, by the way, was written during NaNoWriMo, there was no Steve. I discovered Steve when I was walking on Robson Street and saw a young man with cropped blond hair wearing a white puffy jacket. I noticed him because he stopped and talked to a homeless man. I eavesdropped. “Can I help you, sir?” he asked. “Would you like to go to a shelter?” Ping! There was Steve, the Marshmallow Man. As for his strengths and weaknesses, they are unveiled as the novel progresses. (No spoilers here.) In the eyes of the homeless Justin, Steve is Savior… maybe. Justin wonders throughout if Steve is what he appears to be.
Could you please share an excerpt?
Happy to! Here is the opening of Chapter One, where the aforementioned Marshmallow Man turns up:
ON THE VERGE
have to stay on the verge of sleep. Just on the verge. Can’t let my body slip over the threshold. Too damn scary.
My long-held conviction—that the homeless are a stationary lot, staking out territory on a corner, steadfast until some third party herds them along—is gone. Vanquished my first night on the street when fear goaded me into motion. Since then, I meander at night, all night, seeking the security of daybreak.
This night, however, is different. Hungover and exhausted, I am motionless, lying on the sidewalk, my very marrow impregnated with cold despite the heating vent beside me. On the verge of sleep. Trying to convince myself that the concrete is a pillow-top mattress, that Sarah is sleeping next to me, and that our Bobby is down the hall, dreaming of Dory and Nemo . . .
“Hey, you! What do you think you’re doing?”
My body jumps and my eyes pop open. Some guy in a puffy, white jacket hovers over me. A marshmallow. A goddam talking marshmallow. My heart pounds. The watch. Do I still have it? I grab for my wrist. Yes. Still there. Relief gushes, and I yank at my sleeve until the watch is hidden. It’s safe, my gift from Sarah, safe. My heart rate slows, but not much; the marshmallow lingers.
I squint to shield my eyes from the streetlight. “I’m trying to sleep. What does it look like I’m doing?”
“Not here, bud. There are shelters, you know.”
Great. Another Good Samaritan determined to clean up Vancouver streets. Damn city’s going all out to prevent Olympic tourists from tripping over the homeless. I glare at this latest do-gooder and stifle a comeback. Then I drop my gaze to the pigeons strutting the sidewalk. Huh. The little bastards have red feet. Never noticed that before. The way they dart around, seems they’d get crushed by all these people. Yep. The beautiful people are here, scurrying to the office or the Skytrain, or the bus stop. I take a deep breath so I can suck in the Starbucks. Love the smell of Starbucks. The beautiful people all carry Starbucks.
Wind rushes my face as a city bus passes. The bus engine grumbles, preparing to halt at the next stop. Whooosssssh. Air brakes.
Damn. The city is awake.
Won’t be long before the bolts on the door of the shoe boutique behind me twist open. Three bolts. Every morning. Like clockwork. Click. Click. Click. Pretty soon, the whole fleet of designer shops flanking Robson Street will reel in the first cash of the day.
Might as well move. No point in arguing with the marshmallow. Sighing, I scramble to my feet and linger over the heating vent, my heating vent that was hard to find, harder to claim.
“Way to go, bud,” says Marshmallow Man. “Do you need any help?”
I ignore him. Help, my ass. Saw the way you looked at me, bud, with the corner of your mouth pulled up in contempt. Screw you. I choke back the urge to spit at him. My mouth is so dry I probably couldn’t form a spit wad anyway. I deliberately stick my butt in the direction of his face as I bend over to gather my stuff.
I heft my backpack over my shoulder, turn toward Stanley Park, walk about a block, and then do an about-face. The park washrooms are at least twenty-five minutes away and I need one now. I pick up my pace.
Marshmallow Man is still talking at me as I hurry past. Idiot. I push up my tattered sleeve and glance at my watch. Seven-thirty. It’s a dangerous time for alleys but my bladder won’t wait.
At the next corner, I veer around a bakery and go toward the green Dumpster at the back. I hide behind it, take a leak, and let out a long sigh. Relief doesn’t last; as soon as that need is met, before I can zip my jeans, my stomach growls. Time to hunt.
The smell of fresh-baked bread wafts up my nose. My mouth waters. Bakeries throw out stuff. Day-old stuff. Easy pickings. I dislodge my backpack and conceal it in the bushes nearby. Then I scramble up the side of the Dumpster, jump in, and fumble through paper and plastic. At the sound of voices, men’s voices, I freeze. Am I safe here? The hair on my neck stands up. I slowly lower myself to my haunches and hold my breath. The voices get louder.
What is an example of the suspense in your story?
The suspense in the story is encapsulated in the relationship between the homeless Justin and his Good Samaritan Steve. Justin is uncertain as to whether or not he can trust Steve but Steve is his only chance to regain his family. Justin is stuck.
How much time did you spend writing your story and where in your home do you like to write?
- I spent two years writing and rewriting Castles in the Sand. During that time I was also entering many short story contests, researching another novel, and struggling with technology and marketing.
- I write in what is called the computer room, but which is really my office. My computer is housed in an armoire which I like to lock up occasionally. Writers are always working (hard to shut that brain down), but occasionally I like to pretend I’m on vacation. When I do that, I hang a closed sign on the door of the armoire.
As I understand it, you have written short stories. Could you please tell me a little about that?
I started entering story contests as a method of honing my craft. I still love to write short stories because I love the sense of accomplishment that comes with completion. For me, a short story is a sprint; a novel is a marathon.
How much time do you spend writing and what is your process?
- My daily goal is to spend three hours writing. Sometimes it is more than that. The key to getting the writing done is just to show up.
- My process, once I have an idea, is to write straight through a chapter or a short story. I find this to be very liberating. As all writers know, all writing is rewriting. I go back later and edit and edit and edit…
Tell me about when you first began to write and what you have learned over the years of the craft.
- I first began to write in my final year of teaching. I was always going to write someday, but it was when my husband became ill, when we both realized how important and how short life is, that someday became today.
- I think when I started I was caught up in the romance of being a writer. The reality is that writing is hard work. Because I have applied myself, my craft has improved and will continue to do so. Writing is my passion but it is also my job. I think every writer has to develop a routine: schedule time, show up, just write. Be passionate. Be persistent.
The historical trilogy you are currently working on sounds really interesting…and I LOVE the title. When can readers expect to hear more about that and when do you plan for its release?
Thanks for saying that you love the title. It took me a long time to come up with Of Sea and Seed. I believe it is appropriate because the sea is a metaphor for the main character, matriarch and ghost, Kathleen Kerrigan, and the word seed refers to her offspring. Of Sea and Seed is a trilogy, historical suspense, set on the island of Newfoundland in the east coast of Canada, as far away from the setting of the novel Castles in the Sand as I could possibly get. Newfoundland is my homeland and I have always been caught up by the island and the sea. Readers can expect to hear more about Book I of this trilogy in the next few months, leading up to its release.
Where can readers buy your book?
Castles in the Sand is available, both in e-book and print copy, at Amazon
Thank you for chatting with me, Annie!
An absolute pleasure! Many thanks to you.
A message from BRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Annie Daylon, who is the author of, Castles in the Sand, our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Castles in the Sand, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.