Fill the Sky by Katherine Sherbrooke is the touching story of three lifelong friends and their search for healing. Tess is a biotech entrepreneur who approaches things logically and considers herself a problem solver. Ellie is a former attorney-turned-stay-at-home mother whose heart is filled by her family. Joline, Ellie’s sister-in-law, has focused her life’s work in discovering and sharing spiritual experiences with those in need of them. When Ellie receives a terminal cancer diagnosis, Joline is convinced that the shamans in Ecuador might be able to heal her from within and save her life. Skeptical Tess agrees to join the two women and journey to the small mountain village of Otavalo, where they learn that not all healing is physical and that Ellie isn’t the only one who needs it.
Author Anita Shreve accurately called the book “…a deeply moving novel about love, honesty, respect, the unlikely, and the truly possible.” Fill the Sky is beautifully written and thoroughly engaging. The setting of the story is almost a fourth character—Sherbrooke’s own experiences traveling to Ecuador and working with the shamans there allow her to richly and vividly paint the scenery with words and describe the ceremonies such that the reader can almost imagine they are participating themselves. Although each character seems to begin as something of a trope, Sherbrooke fleshes them out lovingly with backstories and complications that give them much needed and relatable depth. Sherbrooke says she hopes that the book will remind readers that “an engaged life is a complicated life, rarely perfect, and it rarely goes according to plan, but we are never really stuck if we can find a way to listen inside for what’s important and then trust that.” Fill the Sky, with its central theme of love, loss, letting go and beginning anew, accomplishes just that.
Katherine Sherbrooke told us more about Fill the Sky and her own writing process in this exclusive interview.
S&C: Who did you write this book for? Who are you hoping will read it?
In the broadest sense, I suspect this book will appeal most to women who have enough experience in life to understand the challenges and expectations that come with the multiple roles we tend to occupy as women and the labels we often put on ourselves—from wife and mother to business owner or sister. I’m hoping it instigates discussion about the complexities we all face, and allows women to be a little less hard on themselves for not getting it right all the time. That said, I have had several men of late tell me how much they enjoyed the book. Sadly, I think men often veer away from books that center on female friendship, but those who do find the inner workings of women’s lives quite enlightening. I’ve often said that the beauty of fiction is that you can experience something outside your comfort zone from the safety of your own couch. Some readers dive into thrillers or spy novels for this reason, but there is no scarier territory than real emotion. I say, come along for the ride!
S&C: Looking at your background, it seems that the three friends, Tess, Joline, and Ellie, are all facets of your own personality. Is this true? How much of you appears in your characters? How much of other people in your life?
There is no question that a part of me runs through each of these three women. I have a lot in common with Tess as an entrepreneur and independent thinker (although under no circumstances do I run up mountains!). I very much relate to Ellie as a mother, and Joline’s struggle to balance a focus on work that is meaningful to her with the desire for financial success is something I think about a lot. Their other traits and quirks have smatterings of various people in my life, but they are also born from the elaborate backstories I created to get to know them. In the end, I hope they each stand as unique individuals.
S&C: What is your writing ritual?
I write first thing in the morning—and by this I mean, I do nothing but put on slippers, make a cup of coffee, and sneak down to my office—and I write until hunger or brain fatigue forces a break, usually after three or four hours. Then I try to get out of the house for a walk to clear my head. I find I do a lot of my best story development when I’m away from the computer. If time allows, I’ll go back to it again in the afternoon, but life’s other obligations often pull me away by mid-afternoon.
S&C: There are others out there with amazing stories like yours that want to share them. How would you recommend someone begin the process of being published? What was your process?
I am incredibly blessed to live outside Boston, and credit GrubStreet (www.grubstreet.org) with teaching me just about everything I needed to know, from rigorous craft workshops, to seminars about how the publishing industry works, to meeting agents and editors at their annual Muse & the Marketplace conference. They have a full complement of classes online too, so you don’t have to be in Boston to link into everything they have to offer. Writing can feel like a lonely endeavor, and the power of being part of a community of fellow writers is a wonderful thing.
S&C: Many of our readers are trying to balance their lives as parents with the pursuit of their passions. How do you find that balance?
Now that I write from home, I do try to fit as much of my work as I can into the school day and focus on them when they are home, but it’s not always that simple. I think the two most powerful things we can do as mothers is to model what pursuing one’s dreams looks like and love our children unconditionally. Pursuing dreams and passions isn’t always easy, sometimes it’s downright messy, and I actually think it’s great for them to see what that looks like. For me, that means that the laundry, grocery shopping, and overall household organization gets horribly neglected, but I can live with that. And on nights when I have to be out for a board meeting or an event (or my book group, which I prioritize very highly) my kids get to see that passions rarely fit neatly into a box, and that’s OK too. It doesn’t mean I love them any less.
Fill the Sky will be released on October 20, 2016. It is available for pre-order on Amazon.