Debut Author Priscille Sibley’s Advice to Writers: Not so Fast

Image courtesy of Priscille Sibley.

Image courtesy of Priscille Sibley.

As the famous writing motto goes: Write what you know. Priscille Sibley, a neonatal intensive care nurse, certainly knows the subject matter of her debut novel, The Promise of Stardust.

In the novel, Matt Beaulieu, a neurosurgeon, is fighting a legal battle to keep his brain-dead wife on life support in order to save the fetus she’s carrying. The Publisher’s Weekly said the agonizing journey depicted in the book is “heartrending and tragic.” Kirkus Reviews described the novel as a “literate and incandescent Nicholas Sparks-like love story complicated by intense moral and ethical questions.”

I’m fortunate to learn about Sibley through Backspace, an online writers community. A few weeks ago, I posted a question on a Backspace online discussion forum and Sibley was very kind to answer it, which led me to check out her Web site and her book. She granted me another favor when she answered my questions for this article.

Q: What prompted you to write this novel?

Priscille Sibley: In my nursing career, I’ve long struggled with end-of-life issues. It became particularly acute when I took care of a child who was in an extended persistent vegetative state. It troubled me to see his and his family’s suffering prolonged. Later when the Terri Schiavo court case was making the nightly news, I was frustrated. In my opinion, there were many well-meaning-do-gooders who had a very poor grasp of the reality. I had a what-if moment when I asked myself what good could possibly come of the ongoing fight. I researched the issue of pregnancy in persistent vegetative states. I found that women in comas and PVS had given birth. More research led me to finding that there were regulations in some states that negated women’s end-of-life autonomy in the event of pregnancy. The Marlise Munoz case in Texas is now one well-known example. Of course, the Munoz family tragedy had not occurred yet when I wrote The Promise of Stardust.

Q: How long did it take you to write the novel? How long was the publication process?

Priscille Sibley: From the first word on the page to publication, it took about four years. I had, however, been thinking about the story for about three years before I began to write it.

Q: How did you find your literary agent?

Priscille Sibley: I queried her [Laney Katz Becker of Markson Thoma Literary Agency]. I knew she had represented another debut author, whose book (The Crying Tree) I’d read. It was also a dark, but ultimately uplifting novel. I thought The Promise of Stardust might appeal to her for that reason.

Q: In hindsight, what’s the most important factor that led to your publication?

Priscille Sibley: I don’t think I could pin it down to one thing.

Q: What’s the biggest lesson you learned during the publication process?

Priscille Sibley: Persistence because there is always, always, always one more thing you must do to get it right.

Q: Do you have any advice for unpublished writers?

Priscille Sibley: Not so fast. Don’t be tempted to rush your work to press. Make it as good as you can. Then ask for feedback. Make it better. Ask for more feedback. Your book is your baby. You wouldn’t send a child out into the world until it was grown up. Don’t send your book out until it’s fully polished.

To learn more about Priscille Sibley and The Promise of Stardust, visit her Web site:

You can also visit her Facebook page:

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