BookView Interview With Author Annie Seyler

Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.

Recently, we interviewed  Annie Seyler about her writing and recently released novel, The Wisdom of Winter,  a deeply moving tale that beautifully depicts the intricacies of family ties and relationships. (Read the review here.)

At various times, Annie has lived in a train car, studied at an Ivy League university, dumpster dived, traveled with governors’ spouses, hand-milked goats, lost hope, kept secrets, and seen ghosts. She lives in Vermont.

Connect with Annie at annieseyler.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/people/Annie-Seyler-Author/100087396933758/

Tell us a little about how The Wisdom of Winter first came to be. Did it start with an image, a voice, a concept, a dilemma or something else?

I’d been working from home for a few months after covid hit and had grown accustomed to meeting on Zoom wearing dress shirts on top and cut-off shorts and flip flops on the bottom. One morning, I had to appear in person at the office and when I flung open my “work clothes” closet, I froze. All the clothing looked fake. Like a costume. An act. But for whom? My colleagues? The strangers I passed in hallways? I remember slumping to my knees in disbelief with a knot of panty hose in my lap, surrounded by treacherous high-heeled shoes. I had thought I loved those shoes, but I hadn’t. I asked myself, “What else have I been pretending to love? Who have I been pretending to be?” Of course, Beatrice grapples with much larger issues of identity, but the question that seeded the story—who we choose to be and why—came from a very simple moment in my closet.

The Wisdom of Winter takes place alternately in small-town Vermont and San Francisco. Did you feel the need to choose two opposite sides of the country for the setting in order to drive home the contrast of emotions warring in Beatrice? Is there another layer of meaning for you, as the author, as to why you chose those two places in particular, as opposed to other places on either coast?

For much of my young life I held the belief that if I simply moved somewhere else, I’d be someone else. I remember someone telling me: “No matter where you go, you take yourself with you.” It was not good news. Beatrice is similarly uncomfortable in her own skin and the scale of her discomfort and restlessness is reflected by the distance she puts between her childhood home and her adult home. I chose San Francisco for Beatrice because I had lived there in my 20s. I didn’t ‘leave my heart in San Francisco’ but I left flesh. They were years of intense freedom and risk-taking; the Bay Area was a patient and compassionate host.

Among many themes, The Wisdom of Winter explores the value and differences between found family and given family. Was that an important element for you to use to drive home the differences between Vermont and San Francisco, too?

Resilience is a major theme in The Wisdom of Winter, particularly when it comes to family. Some of us choose estrangement as a way of coping with the history and dynamics of our given family. Found families can ease the separation and provide a bridge, but in Beatrice’s life the separation was unsustainable—a ticking timebomb that forced her to a choice point.

Although Beatrice is an adult, her story is very much a coming-of-age arc. What are your thoughts on writing (or reading) coming-of-age arcs about characters who have already grown past adolescence, which is the “typical” time some people tend to think of as the “coming-of-age period”?

I appreciate reading stories that give me a window into the origins of the main character’s motivations and emotional holes. Whether that unfolds in a traditional coming-of-age arc or as flashbacks in adulthood doesn’t really matter to me. I like rich storytelling. I want characters who grapple with the outside world and with themselves. Messy. Honest. Authentic. Perhaps we should throw out the idea that coming-of-age only happens when we’re young. Aren’t we evolving right up until we croak?

The natural world plays an important part in The Wisdom of Winter—horses in particular. Can you talk a little more about that? Do you have a background working with horses?

Since childhood, horses have appeared at various times in my life in ways that have mystified me. One might call them a totem. I chose to give Beatrice a similar experience of them.

Who are your writing inspirations? Any particular authors or books? What about “unconventional” inspirations, considering the role nature plays in The Wisdom of Winter?

My writing is inspired by what I observe and sense. It’s inspired by my understanding and my questioning. Nature, for Beatrice, is a source of balance and nourishment. Sensibility. Wisdom.

Which scene or chapter in the book is your favorite? Why?

My favorite scene begins on page 212 in the barn. I’ve had similar watershed moments in my life. Moments of complete surrender. Moments when an invisible line is crossed—ones I couldn’t later pretend I hadn’t. Moments when “magic” enters.


What do you hope readers will take away from this story?

Upliftment. Empowerment. Human connection.

What’s next for you?

Usher The Wisdom of Winter out into the world.

Say yes to every opportunity.

Keep it real.

***

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