I’ve Got Questions for Karin Cecile Davidson

Sybelia Drive by Karin Cecile Davidson
  • What’s the title of your book? Fiction? Nonfiction? Poetry? Who is the publisher and what’s the publication date?

Sybelia Drive; Fiction; Braddock Avenue Books, October 6, 2020

  • In a couple of sentences, what’s the book about?

Here’s the Poets & Writers “New Titles” description:

Brilliantly structured and morally complex, Sybelia Drive questions American life within the multi-faceted mirror of wartime. As the 1960s cross over into the 70s, LuLu and Rainey rush past childhood innocence into young adulthood, the Vietnam War forced into the very fabric of their town. “A lush portrait of friendship and family.”—Aimee Bender, author of The Butterfly Lampshade

  • What’s the book’s genre (for fiction and nonfiction) or primary style (for poetry)?

Literary Fiction / Historical Fiction / Subjects: Coming of Age, Homefront, Vietnam War

  • What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about the book so far?

Lots of beautiful praise for Sybelia Drive!

“Karin Cecile Davidson has written a keenly-observed novel about the persistence of family ties and friendships, the press of history on private lives, and the tug of both home and away. At once delicate in its prose and bold in its vision, Sybelia Drive is a luminous debut.” —Elizabeth Graver, author of The End of the Point

Karin Cecile Davidson’s Sybelia Drive is [a] mosaic, a tale of friendship between two girls set in a time and place that rise from the page—vivid and lush and tinged with memory. In Davidson’s hands, this slice of the late 1960s in Central Florida comes alive, her characters complex and breathing on the page. A masterful novel for those who appreciate rich, delicious writing. – Hilary Zaid, author of Paper is White

This author knows her characters’ world and this debut novel captured me with its strong sense of place—Sybelia Drive—a beautiful Florida neighborhood surrounding a lake—and the organic cast of characters who are forever connected by it. Davidson’s lush sentences ring with precision, heart, and poetry. – Jennifer Genest, author of The Mending Wall

Plus the gorgeous blurbs from Aimee Bender, Margot Livesey, and Steve Yarbrough!

  • What book or books is yours comparable to or a cross between?

In terms of revealing multiple voices, Sybelia Drive’s structure resembles that of Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine, Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kittredge. But in thinking of storyline and setting, of voice and tone, the novel may have more in common with books set in the South or books about war or coming-of-age novels. Florida and Vietnam; the late 60s and early 70s; kids, teenagers, and their parents. Sections of Joan Silber’s The Size of the World, Michael Cunningham’s A Home at the End of the World, and Stephanie Vaughn’s Sweet Talk come to mind.

  • Why this book? Why now?

The seed of this book came from Rainey’s chapter, “Forever and a Day,” written as a story when the United States sent troops to Afghanistan and Iraq. Once I realized I was writing a novel, I felt the need to examine the era and the war that had defined my generation.

Growing up in Florida and Louisiana during the Vietnam War, I knew many families who were affected by the draft. By the time I was a teenager, I met men, really boys, not much older than myself, who had served. Later, I realized the quietude that many of them had was due to their experiences “in country” and wanted to explore this further.

As a historical novel, I hope the book is timeless, even while it is set within a specific era.

  • Other than writing this book, what’s the best job you’ve ever had?

Aside from writing, my work has included river running on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, butchering Dungeness crabs and working the salmon and halibut lines in Sitka, working as a sous-chef in several New Orleans restaurants, housekeeping on the Mississippi Queen Paddlewheel Steamboat, leading historical tours in Berlin, as well as working at a Long Island macrobiotic deli, an Iowa City co-op, and a Columbus yoga studio. I worked at Narrative Magazine as assistant editor, promote-to editor, and finalist editor from 2010-2014, and since then I’ve been an Interviews Editor for Newfound Journal and have interviewed over fifty writers and artists. Of all of these jobs, I’d say I most love interviewing writers, as the conversations are always illuminating.

  • What do you want readers to take away from the book?

I’d hope for all readers of this novel that they become deeply immersed in the details, that they are as surprised by the characters as I was in writing them, and that they think about the storylines long after they’ve finished the last passages. I’d hope they’d consider how these fictional lives came from a time in our collective history that was vibrant and violent and led to enormous change. Politically, we are still evolving as a nation. Sybelia Drive is in part a reflection of that period.

  • What food and/or music do you associate with the book?

Biscuits just out of the oven, high and light. Rashers of bacon. Eggs sunny-side up. Homemade marmalade. Barbecued shrimp with hushpuppies and long-necked bottles of beer. Powdered doughnuts, the kind that come in cellophane, the package crinkling and the sugar dusting fingers, lips, clothes. Blackberry pie, latticed with golden, flaky pastry, eaten right out of the pan. Cocktails served with citrus and bright little umbrellas: lime daiquiris and salty dogs.

  • What book(s) are you reading currently?

I’m re-reading Elizabeth Graver’s novel, The End of the Point, and am slowly making my way through David Baker’s poetry collection, Swift. By the time this interview is published, I hope to have made my way to Randall Kenan’s If I Had Two Wings, Bobbie Ann Mason’s Dear Ann, Margo Orlando Littell’s The Distance from Four Points, Gwen Goodkin’s A Place Remote, Diane Zinna’s The All-Night Sun, and CJ Hauser’s Family of Origin. I’m dreadfully behind on my mountain of reading. A beautiful mountain.

Karin Cecile Davidson

Learn more about Karin at her website.

Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Buy the book from: Bookshop, Braddock Avenue Books, Pagination Bookshop, Garden District Book Shop.

Editor’s Note: This exchange is part of a series of brief interviews with emerging writers of recent or forthcoming books. If you enjoyed it, please visit other interviews in the I’ve Got Questions feature.

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