The books shown on the left are by Susan Joyce. Click on the cover to order.
This interview was conducted by Douglas R. Cobb on February 10, 2016.
With me today is author, Susan Joyce, who is a renowned children's author who wrote Peel, the Extraordinary Elephant and ABC Animal Riddles. Joyce has also written two excellent books that are travel memoirs about her life and adventures with her husband, The Lullaby Illusion--A Journey of Awakening and Good Morning Diego Garcia: A Journey of Discovery. Joyce has graciously agreed to take some time out of her busy schedule to discuss her books with me today, especially her latest book, Good Morning Diego Garcia.
Douglas R. Cobb: Thanks for agreeing to do this interview with me, Susan! First, I would like to ask you about your two children's books, and what gave you the idea to write about Peel, the elephant, and also to write a book about animal riddles.
Susan Joyce: Thank you for inviting me to share with you and your readers!
--I have written and edited several books for children. Peel, the Extraordinary Elephant was the first. The idea came to me in a dream at a low point in my life—a time when I was living in Germany, bedfast with pneumonia, and feeling sad and lonely. An elephant appeared at the foot of my bed singing a song one night in a dream. It was a song in rhyme and lulled me back to sleep. The next morning, I awoke feeling better and found myself humming and singing the elephant's song. I wrote the words down in my dream journal, so I wouldn't forget them.
“An elephant won't forget you when you're happy.
An elephant won't forget you when you're sad.
Cause an elephant knows the secret is remembering it all.
Learning from the good times, and the bad.”
A few nights later, the elephant appeared in a dream again. We discussed life's ups and downs and I made notes in my dream journal. Everything he said was in rhyme. After many visits with the singing, rhyming elephant I realized I had the makings of a children's book.
--The Alphabet Riddles series was inspired by my mother. I had dyslexia as a young child and when I spoke I got my words all mixed up. People often laughed at me. My nickname was 'Dutch' because it sounded like I was trying to speak a foreign language. My mom played word puzzle games in rhyme to help me learn how word sounds work. Today this is referred to as phonemic awareness.
Douglas R. Cobb: Just to give our readers a bit of background about your latest book, Good Morning Diego Garcia, Susan, could you briefly fill in information related to your first travel memoir, The Lullaby Illusion, like what you and your husband were doing in Cyprus, and how you first met your friends, Mia and Dylan, who you later went on the yacht voyage with that you write about in your latest book? Also, in what ways were you influenced by your Aunt Gladys?
Susan Joyce: Interesting questions to reflect on. Charles, my husband at the time, worked for a Swiss firm supplying goods to military installations in the Middle East and Europe. We had visited Cyprus when we studied Hebrew in Israel, and fell in love with the island's beauty. Since it was centrally located to the various accounts Charles visited, he suggested we set up home there. We did and enjoyed life in a beautiful 700 year plus old Turkish hacienda in the port village of Kyrenia. During our time there we met many fascinating people from all over the world and became friends with a couple who lived on a private yacht in the harbor. Dylan and Mia sold the yacht they were on shortly before the Turks invaded the island in July of 1974. My first memoir, “The Lullaby Illusion” is my first hand account of the war and the coup by the Greek military officers a week prior to the invasion.
--My great-aunt Gladys was a monumental influence in my life. She was a world traveler and always sent picture postcards from her globe-trotting adventures. As a young child, I cherished each postcard and slept with it covering my heart. For me it was a magic carpet which could fly me to all the exotic and exciting places Aunt Gladys visited.
Douglas R. Cobb: Something that I really enjoyed about your two books relating your adventures with your husband are that they both explored inner journeys you experienced, growing as a person, as well as the actual physical journeys you took part in to exotic locales around the world. What made you become interested in the books of Edgar Cayce and the subject of dream interpretation?
Susan Joyce: As a young child I was keenly aware of having a guardian angel. Sometimes, she would appear in dreams and other times she appeared when I was fully awake. My dog Brownie was aware of her presence, but others assumed it was my wild imagination. My dreams have always been so vivid, I knew even as a child that they were not to be ignored. So when I first heard of Edgar Cayce, and his psychic abilities, it rang true for me, and I wanted to learn more about dreams, channeling information, and all things mystical. Fascinating subject for me.
Douglas R. Cobb: In Good Morning Diego Garcia, how was it that you and your husband, who you call "Charles," in the books, got word about the yacht voyage you were destined to embark on? Were you at all worried about going away for what could be an extended period of time, after you had just gotten back to the U.S. not long before you left, again?
Susan Joyce: One day, while living in a rental house in Ojai, California, we received a letter from Taiwan. It was from our friends, Dylan and Mia, inviting us to join them on the maiden voyage of a new yacht—from Sri Lanka to the Seychelles and on up through the Suez Canal and back to the Mediterranean. It sounded too great an opportunity to miss. I was enjoying researching and writing my first hand account of the Cyprus story and wanted to finish it. Charles was eager to leave the Cyprus story behind and have another adventure. I would learn why later.
Douglas R. Cobb: You are the first-person narrator of the travel memoirs, and you must either have an awesome memory, or you were very thorough when you were writing in the journals you often refer to, or both, as the writing style is very vivid, and the quotes you have people saying seem to be very natural, and recalled in great detail.
How many journals would you say you went through in writing Good Morning Garcia Diego? Where did the money come from for you and your husband to journey so extensively to locales like Sri Lanka, Bombay, and the island atoll of Diego Garcia?
Susan Joyce: : I filled three journals with notes from this journey. My journals are filled with keywords to jar my memory. I also collect travel brochures along the way to learn the history of places, hotels, restaurants, and museums. No Internet back in those days.
I didn’t know where our money came from. We just always had money. I assumed it came from the Swiss company my husband worked for. Although there were bank accounts, my name wasn’t on them. Looking back I realise that I was a kept woman.
Douglas R. Cobb: When you visited India before you and your husband finally met up with Mia and Dylan, what did you think about the great disparity of wealth you saw there?
Susan Joyce: The disparity in India was a shock to my system. It took me years to deal with the poverty and social inequality I saw there. My fondest visual memories of India are of the farmlands and rural villages I saw while sitting in a bus traveling from New Delhi to Agra. On my way to see the Taj Mahal.
Douglas R. Cobb: When you finally saw the yacht, the Zozo, was it at all like you had imagined it would be? What was it like to meet your old friends again?
Susan Joyce: It was exciting to meet up with our friends again and talk about all that had happened following the upheaval of the Cyprus War. The yacht appeared smaller than I expected, mainly because it was moored next to large cargo ships.
Douglas R. Cobb: Were there many times like during the monsoon season when you were on the yacht in the middle of a heavy storm that you wondered if the yacht and you would make it in one piece?
Susan Joyce: Once we set sail, we had very few good weather days at sea. Most were turbulent and I often wondered if we would make it. But in the middle of a vast ocean, hope springs eternal and one prays to see land again. Thanks to several dreams, I knew we would survive. Remember I have a guardian angel.
Douglas R. Cobb: I have really enjoyed hearing your answers so far, Susan. I have just a couple more questions for you. First, you named your book of travel memoirs after the island atoll of Garcia Diego, but why did you name it after that, rather than, say, calling the book Good Morning Seychelles?
Susan Joyce: I heard a radio announcer say, “Good Morning Diego Garcia!” one morning, after weeks at sea and long before we actually saw land. It was the voice of a DJ with Diego Garcia armed forces radio station playing music and making announcements. It was such an exciting moment—hearing a radio broadcast letting us know we were nearing a shore.
Douglas R. Cobb: For my final question, Susan, would you please let our readers know where they can find out more information about both Good Morning Garcia Diego and your other books? Also, are you currently writing another book, or do you have plans to write one in the near future?
Susan Joyce: Click Here for My Author Site I have several book ideas rolling around in my head. I usually work on more than one at a time and then one nudges me to finish it first. One book idea is about characters I've met who have influenced my life in unusual ways. Another is about those times in life where one stops and sees something in a whole new light. I call these my “mind snap” moments. Probably the next book in the Journeys series will be about my return to live in the USA after many years living abroad. It was a good move.
Douglas R. Cobb, thanks for taking time to read my book, review it, and interview me. Great questions! Thanks for asking!
Douglas R. Cobb: Thanks again for agreeing to do this interview with me, Susan! I really enjoyed talking with you about your books and your interesting life and adventures!
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