It was just one of those things.
On social media, I keep close tabs on who follows and unfollows me. But this time, I was the Bad Guy. Somehow I unfollowed author Sydney Mann on Instagram.
It was a miserable mistake, and I was mortified when she called me on it. The error still makes me feel guilty. Why? Well, part of it is just being raised Catholic, but the bigger part is that she’s one of my favorite people on Instagram. She’s just that charming.
In general, I don’t make friends easily, and I’m terrible at maintaining friendships. But I am good at noticing people who are kind and generous of spirit. I noticed and liked Sydney from my earliest days on Instagram. I’m not alone. She is friends with a wide variety of people all of whom have noticed the same warmth that I have. She is genuinely admired. I know dozens of people who would join me in describing her as sweet, considerate, gracious, and thoughtful. I felt this from our earliest interactions, and my affection for her has only deepened over the last two years. I hope we can meet one day.
If you’re a writer or author or book lover, Instagram has a wonderfully supportive writing community that nurtures and inspires. You’ll meet many people like Sydney. She lives in the Bay Area with her husband and teenage son, and has written two very different books — Dark Wood and Journey’s End.
Please welcome Sydney Mann to Telling Stories and read about other authors who have answered 25 Questions.
1) What was your favorite book as a child? What is your favorite children’s book now?
Dr. Seuss’s McElligot’s Pool fascinated me as a child, the idea of an unassuming little pool opening up into this immense, expansive underwater world out of sight from human eyes. It perfectly reflects the boundless imagination of youth. My favorite children’s book now was one I discovered when I started reading to my son, and it is The Giving Tree. This one is a beautiful picture of love and sacrifice.
2) What is your most marked characteristic? Does it help or hinder you?
Orderliness and organization, they go hand in hand, I think. It’s mostly served me well, both as a student and now as a home manager. What does hinder me is when things are not in order, making it very difficult for me to concentrate.
3) Which quality do you most like in a man?
Confidence, but not arrogance.
4) Which quality do you most like in a woman?
Kindness. I say this because women can be catty, but the ones who are gracious and kind are my kind of women.
5) What is your favorite memory?
My wedding day and the birth of my son are a given, so let’s go with my first time in Paris. That was magical!
6) Describe the best meal you’ve ever had.
Technically, the five-hour dining experience I had at The French Laundry. But as far as being memorable, a dinner at Ciro & Sons in Italy with my sister and her husband, and my best friend and her husband. It wasn’t so much the meal—which was great—but the fact that we were all together in this beautiful place, which we traveled to from different parts of the U.S.
7) What’s the best book you’ve read in the last two years? The best movie you’ve seen?
8) What characteristic about yourself would you most like to change?
My impatience. It’s gotten better over the years, but I still struggle with it at times. People are surprised when I tell them it’s a problem, but those who are closest to me know.
9) What always makes you happy?
Hearing of or witnessing acts of kindness between people. A sunny day.
10) What always angers you?
Cruelty to others, especially the weak and helpless. It’s hard for me to hear of harm coming to the young, the elderly, or animals, dogs especially.
11) At this moment, where would you most like to be?
On a Greek island, sipping a drink while watching the sunset. It’s been on my bucket list for a while now.
12) Tell me about a boneheaded mistake you made in writing The Dark Wood or Journey’s End?
For The Dark Wood, I didn’t realize until my son pointed it out to me that my antagonist never spoke a single word in the entire book! I can’t think of one for JE.
13) What has the writing community brought to your life?
A sense of camaraderie I’d never had before, a sense of belonging and knowing I’m not alone even if none of my closest family or friends are writers.
14) Who is your favorite fictional heroine and why? And fictional hero?
Like many, I’ve always adored Elizabeth Bennett. She has the sparkling wit I wish I possessed and the level-headedness I lacked at her age. As for fictional hero, I think Aragorn from LOTR is pretty bad@$$.
15) Who are your three favorite composers or musicians?
Hmm, that’s tough. I do love Sting, Sarah McLachlan, and Maroon 5.
16) Who is your favorite painter?
Christian Schloe. He’s one of these artists who compose whimsical, fantastical artwork. There’s one in particular called Wish that I particularly love.
17) Which talent would you most like to have?
My parents were too poor to have us take music lessons, but I would have loved to learn the violin. Incidentally, my son plays multiple instruments: piano, drums, guitar, and ukulele.
18) How would you like to be remembered?
As a good person who loved the Lord and cared for others.
19) What has been the most exciting part of being published?
Finding people who actually love my stories. It was never about the money for me, but knowing my words can move or touch others has given me much joy.
20) What is your greatest regret?
This is something out of my control, but not being able to have more children.
21) How has living in a pandemic changed your life? How has it affected your writing?
My usual optimism has taken a hit. It’s hard for everyone, the restrictions and the changes in how our lives have been lived. And it’s definitely affected my writing, mostly in that it’s made it difficult for me to focus enough to write. I’m too distracted. At the same time, I know this isn’t going to go away soon and so I’m going to have to find a way to concentrate.
22) What is in heavy rotation on your iPhone?
Lately, I’ve been playing Featherstone by The Paper Kites quite a bit. It’s so mellow and soothing and puts me at ease.
23) When was the last time you wept?
When I found out a dear friend had cancer.
24) What is your guilty pleasure?
Ice cream, specifically Haagen-Dazs Rocky Road
25) Aside from your family and your books, of what accomplishment are you most proud?
It’s a typical immigrant, first generation accomplishment—graduating from college.
The Dark Wood
It’s the story of a young woman living in a land of eternal night who meets a stranger that tells her the world she’s always known is under a curse. Breaking it would bring something she’s never heard of before, sunlight. But to break the curse, one must kill the ruthless, immortal king who rules the darkness. • Amazon
Inspired by the Journey song, Don’t Stop Believing, it’s about two lost souls hopping on a train to run away and finding each other. Together, they embark on a journey of discovery, hope and healing. • Amazon • Barnes & Noble •