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Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
I’m Sheila Busteed, the author of “Sunsets in Oia.” I was raised in a small Canadian town called Tecumseh, but lived for nearly a decade in the capital of Ottawa. While there, I worked as a journalist, photographer, editor and designer.
However, my wanderlust became too strong to ignore so, in February 2013, I packed up my life and moved to South Korea to start a new adventure. I now work as an English teacher in Busan.
What first inspired you to start writing?
Writing has been a huge part of my life since childhood. I first started dabbling with poetry when I was six years old, and have tried nearly every other style of writing since. It sounds cliché, but my whole life has been leading to the publication of my debut novel, “Sunsets in Oia.”
I felt particularly inspired to write this book as a way to incorporate into one project many things that I love and enrich my life. I felt I needed such a challenge in my life at the time, too, because I felt bored by what I was doing. I wanted to push myself, to see what I was really capable of as a writer, before it became too late. I’ve seen so many people settle into a path because it’s easy or comfortable or they’re afraid of change, but I refuse to let my life become stagnant.
Returning to Santorini to write the book was certainly inspiring, too. The ten days I spent on that island changed my life. I had never before known such profound peace.
And what attracted you to writing romance?
I, like so many people, am still searching for love, and I refuse to settle for anything less than what’s right for me. However, I also have doubts about ever finding “the one.” I think a lot of people are starting to feel the same way, especially in a culture where the art of romance seems very rare these days, and many of them turn to romance novels as compensation. This is a problem, though, since so few of those stories are rooted in reality.
I wanted to write a love story that was true to what people are really like, with their hopes, fears, insecurities and flaws. Love is never easy; it’s quite messy, in fact, and will usually find you at an inconvenient time. Some of us even fight against it, afraid to let it change our lives. I chose to include these things in my book, to make the love story of Selene and Nikos as real as possible. That’s what makes it relatable.
What makes your work stand out in your genre?
I think “Sunsets in Oia” is unique because of its realism, and because it’s more than just a romance. There are so many sides to this story: adventure on a beautiful island; the balance of feelings of love with the tragedy of loss; and the kind of slow, confusing progress one makes when changed by a life crisis. Sure, it’s a love story, but it’s also about family, identity, and personal evolution.
What is your favourite song lyric?
I’ve had the same favourite song since I was a kid: “I Will Remember You” by Sarah McLachlan. She’s always been my favourite performer, and that song’s lyrics have so much poetry, pain and beauty in them. Even after nearly twenty years, I still get goose bumps whenever I listen to it. Her music has been a major part of my life’s soundtrack, so it was naturally a big influence when I wrote “Sunsets in Oia.”
Where do your best ideas come from?
My best ideas come to me from real life: the adventures I have, the places and things I see, the people I meet who leave a mark on me, the great works of art we leave behind for new generations, and the scars we all carry through life from the dark corners of our paths. To me, an imagined world could never be as beautiful, fragile, cruel, resilient and loving as the one in which we already live.
Which author do you most admire and why?
It’s hard for me to choose just one author, since I have learned a great deal from so many different writers and their works. However, I really admire the level of dedication and discipline that Edward Rutherfurd possesses. His descriptions are so rich and realistic, and his research so encompassing. I was reading his book “Sarum” while I was writing my own novel, and his style really pushed me to focus on the details. It’s those details that can make or break a story.
What are you working on at the moment?
“Sunsets in Oia” was only just published at the beginning of November, so much of my spare time is dedicated to its promotion. Getting the word out is difficult while I’m living in a country where the native language isn’t English, but I enjoy a good challenge.
I also recently wrote a satirical essay, which I’m now pitching to magazines for publication. Additionally, I’m starting to compile ideas for my next novel. I’ve yet to decide if I want to do a sequel to “Sunsets in Oia” next or if I want to develop something completely different.
Tell us about your latest work and how we can find out more.
“Sunsets in Oia” is a contemporary romance novel that takes place on the Greek island of Santorini in 2010. The story follows Selene Doherty, a professional musician whose parents have just been killed in the Athens riots. She retreats to her bequeathed summer home in the village of Oia (pronounced EE-ah) to recover from the tragedy. While there, she reunites with Nikos, an old childhood friend, and they indulge in an intense summer romance that changes Selene’s life.