Monday, March 8, 2010

Joyce Scarbrough's Symmetry

My guest is Joyce Scarbrough. Joyce, welcome and give us a brief bio.

I write full time and do freelance editing in addition to serving as president of my local writers’ guild and acting as facilitator for the Quill Masters critique group. I have three published novels, TRUE BLUE FOREVER, DIFFERENT ROADS and SYMMETRY. I also have short stories featured in three different upcoming anthologies from L&L Dreamspell. I've lived all my life in southern Alabama, I'm the mother of three gifted children, and I've been married for 27 years to the love of my life--a public school teacher, coach extraordinaire, and total hunk.

Briefly tell us about your latest book.

It's humorous women's fiction, but I like to call it "chick lit for women who own more books than shoes." However, that's not what makes it so different from other books of its kind. Like 8 million people in the U.S. and 40 million worldwide—including actor Colin Farrell—both the heroine of SYMMETRY and its author have trichotillomania (TTM), a compulsive hair-pulling disorder, and neither of us are ashamed to admit it. See, I figured that if I literally had to pull out my hair trying to get attention for my books, I might as well write about it and use it for promotion.

Is there a message in this book that you want readers to grasp?

There has never been a protagonist in a novel with TTM, and I hope to present both myself and my heroine as positive role models for the millions of people with this common physical disorder, many of whom don't even know that what they do has a name. I decided to put the issue into a novel rather than doing a reference book about it because I hope to raise awareness of TTM in the general public and the woefully uninformed medical community. I'm tired of people with this disorder being told by their doctors that they're crazy or defective when they simply have a nervous system disorder that is no more shameful than ADD/ADHD. In fact, many people with TTM have gotten good results from using the same drugs that treat ADD/ADHD, but a lot of doctors don't want to prescribe them because they don't know enough about TTM.

What’s the hook for the book?

Actually, the hair-pulling aspect is really just a small part of the heroine's personality, and the main plotline is about how she is dealing with a troubled marriage, her ticking biological clock, a domineering mother and an unexpected attraction to a sweet and sexy man from her past. Is it any wonder she pulls out her hair?

How do you determine that all-important first sentence?

Well, it was easy for SYMMETRY. The heroine's husband has just attended a sportswriters' conference in New York City, and when she calls his hotel room in the middle of the night, a woman's sleepy voice answers the phone. Hence the first line: "Jess always woke a second before she could complete the castration. Curses, foiled again." Women always laugh and men always cringe. However, if they keep reading, they find out that everything isn't always as it seems!

How do you develop characters? Setting?

So far, all my books have been set in the South because that's where I live. I'm obsessive about accuracy, so I wouldn't feel comfortable writing about places I've never been to unless I do extensive research on it. Thanks to the Internet, that's quite possible for future books. As for my characters, I do detailed sketches before I begin writing, then they always quickly come to life in my head and begin telling me their stories.

What are your protagonist’s strengths? Flaws?

Jess is a study in contrasts. With her friends and colleagues, she's self-assured and intelligent, yet she's insecure about whether or not her husband really loves her, and she lets her mother make her feel inadequate compared to her beautiful, successful sister. She's also in conflict with herself about her inherent loyalty to her husband--whether he deserves it or not--and the surprising attraction she feels for a man from her past that she encounters while separated from her husband. The book's main theme is how she learns to find balance in all aspects of her life and achieve the symmetry she craves so much.

What are your current projects?

I'm working on a coming-of-age novel that has been--I'm honored to say--compared to TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by my critique group partners, something akin to food for my writer's soul. I'm also working on a young adult paranormal novel that is best described as BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER meets DEXTER, even though there's nary a vampire in it!

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Sample chapters of all my novels and a few older short stories are posted on my pages at Author's Den: I also have a blog called "Blue Attitude" that I don't update nearly as often as I should, but I'm working on that. The latest post was on Valentine's Day and features some fun scenes about the first kisses shared by the protagonists in my novels. You can find it here: I'm also on Facebook as Joyce Sterling Scarbrough and love it when readers send me a friend request.

Joyce, it has been a pleasure. Continued success!


Joe Prentis said...

I have read Joyce Scarbrough's books with great pleasure. From the enticing covers to the last sentence, I find everything pleasing, well thought out, and true to the problems of real life. I am looking forward to reading Joyce's novels again and again and again . . .

Betty Gordon said...

Joyce, great interview. I laughed when I read "for women who own more books than shoes"...wonderful!

Susan, thanks for the presentation.

Betty Gordon

deelightfulady said...

Joyce is a wonderful person and a talented writer. Symmetry is a page turner and you laugh at times until you cry. But the serious matter of TTM is handled with grace and dignity.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Joyce and Susan,

Very interesting interview. Symmetry sounds like a great read!

Wishing you every success,


Denise said...

Hi Joyce and Susan.

Great interview. I loved Symmetry and look forward to reading more.

The Belle in Blue said...

Thanks, everyone, and thanks to Susan for hosting me on her great blog! SYMMETRY was fun to write and full of laughs, but it also carries an important message about TTM. I want all my fellow "trichsters" to know that they're not crazy, defective or weird, and they are not alone!

Susan Whitfield said...

I have my copy of Symmetry on my table so I hope to get to it soon. I have a couple to finish first. I actually sat behind a woman yesterday who was talking on a cell phone and twirling a pulling her hair out! Her hair was thin enough for me to see her scalp. I'm not sure she was even aware that she was doing that.

Jodi Diderrich said...

Nice interview on both ends. Wishing you both continued success.

Jodi Diderrich

Greg said...

Hi Susan. I liked the post so much I quote liberally from it in a post I put up on our blog. We help people who suffer from trichotillomania by using a naturopathic process. The success rate has been nearly 100% - it all has to do with neurotransmitter imbalances. We invite anyone to visit our site at and learn more about it. I hope you don't think this is a spammy sales tactic, Susan. We're really trying to get the message out. If you could help us, that would be greatly appreciated. My post on your article, which includes a link to it, can be found at Thanks!

Susan Whitfield said...

Greg, that's fine. I hope we can help get the message out. Thanks for stopping by.