Interview: Vivian Schilling

Please give a big welcome to Vivian Schilling, author of Quietus!

Quietus coverDo you listen to music when you write?

Yes, I find music incredibly inspiring. I love soundtracks in particular with their ever-shifting movement and mood. I’m a huge fan of film composers James Newton Howard, James Horner, Hans Zimmer, and Vangelis. I find Javier Navarette’s score to Pan’s Labyrinth and Clint Mansell’s The Fountain absolutely haunting. Lisa Gerrard’s Whale Rider never fails to get me swirling through the room as I plot my character’s next move. Music adds a whole physical element and dimension to writing I often miss with mere silence.

What made you interested in writing this particular story? 

I narrowly survived a car crash when I was a young girl. Though I lost consciousness, I have a vivid memory of being alone in a dark place along with the overwhelming feeling I didn’t belong there. The firemen and paramedics, even the doctors told me it was a miracle—sheer chance—that I had survived. They kept me in the hospital for days looking for signs of injury but found only minor cuts and extensive bruising. Four years later, I lost both of my parents unexpectedly within less than a year of each other. At twenty-two, I found myself questioning the seeming synchronicity of life and unpredictability of death, and my inability to reason my way through loss. I wanted to know why I was spared while my parents weren’t. To this day, I remain fascinated with the question of fate and our body’s final breath when life’s greatest mystery will be revealed.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?

As in Quietus, my themes often involve a deeply conflicted protagonist in search of philosophical, moral or spiritual answers. Quietus also explores the line between life and death and questions whether modern medicine and resuscitation play a role in its balance. Other recurring themes: prejudice and the power of perspective; the psychological battle wherein man versus himself; addiction and the underlying issues that create them; and somewhere—almost always—the bond between mother and child, sister and brother.

Tell us about your main character:

Kylie O’Rourke comes from hard-working, impoverished parents, her father an Irish lobsterman, her mother a daughter of the Georgia bayou. Transcending poverty, Kylie makes a life for herself in Boston as an interior designer and is at the height of success when she, her husband, and closest friend are in a devastating plane crash. When she wakes in the hospital weeks later she finds her world turned upside down. Suddenly everything she thought she knew of her past, of her husband and of her core beliefs falls into question. Even the victory of her own survival becomes ridden with doubt.

Kylie grew almost mythical to me in the way her resilience continuously surprised me. And though she kept a small part of herself hidden, I felt I grew to know her to the depths of her soul. I actually came across a picture of her once in a magazine—a young woman exactly as I had imagined her: big-boned, tall and solid, with strong facial features, dark auburn hair and the clearest of green eyes. Not only a strong woman—a warrior. And there she was with her face turned slightly away. I couldn’t help but rip the page from the magazine, but by the time I reached home it had vanished. Somehow, even that seemed to fit Kylie O’Rourke.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a huge animal and nature lover. I love hiking through forested mountains and along the sea. I love rainy days and clear nights. I love fairy tales, mythology, a strong tale of suspense, and a well-drawn narrative set in the past or in the wilderness. I love old houses and imperfect objects. I have an ancient couch I simply can’t let go of, its wooden slats sagging to the floor. I love long stretches of time secluded in a remote place where I am completely alone with my thoughts.


Schilling headshotVivian Schilling is the author of the acclaimed novels Quietus and Sacred Prey, as well as a screenwriter, producer and director of independent films. She recently completed work as co-writer and producer of the French documentary “Bonobos: Back to the Wild” and is currently at work on her third novel.

14 thoughts on “Interview: Vivian Schilling”

    1. Thank you, Liz! The photo is emblazoned in my mind. Still, I wish I could share it with others. It sounds like you’ve had the pleasure of this happening to you more than once. My only other time was with the current novel I’m writing. I walked into a gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and came dead on to my protagonist staring back at me in full “costume and setting.” I stood there for a solid ten minutes and then stalked the painting the rest of the afternoon.


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