Today I am interviewing Bryn Chancellor, debut author of the new mystery novel, Sycamore.
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DJ: Hey Bryn! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview! For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Bryn Chancellor: Thanks for having me, DJ! I am a fiction writer currently living and teaching in Charlotte, NC, although I grew up in California and Arizona. Sycamore is my debut novel, but I also have a collection of short stories, When Are You Coming Home? Both the novel and stories are set primarily in Arizona.
DJ: What Sycamore about?
Bryn: The basic premise of the book is that a newcomer to the small town of Sycamore, Arizona, discovers bones in a dry ravine, which Sycamore’s longtime residents fear may belong to Jess Winters, a teenager who disappeared one night some eighteen years earlier. As the police investigate, the residents rekindle stories, rumors, and recollections as they revisit Jess’s troubled history. The book in part is about what happened to Jess, but for me it’s also very much about the people who were left behind and who grappled with Jess’s long absence in the midst of their own lives and troubles.
DJ: What were some of your influences for Sycamore?
Bryn: Probably the biggest literary influences are Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, Richard Russo’s Empire Falls, Kent Haruf’s Plainsong, all of which feature small towns and multiple perspectives. I wasn’t really thinking of the book as a mystery novel, though I do like mysteries and spy thrillers as well. I grew up loving Masterpiece Mystery and the Modesty Blaise series. One of my favorite books to teach is Jane Eyre, which thrums with secrecy and mystery.
I based the fictionalized town of Sycamore on the region where I grew up: the small town of Sedona, Arizona, and the neighboring town of Cottonwood, where I attended junior high and high school. A fictionalized version allowed me some distance to rearrange/create features and timelines that I needed. As with much of my writing, I wanted to explore the lives of working people who are sometimes overlooked, both in literature and in reality.
In many ways, I see this book as a love letter to my hometown. Continue reading