Thursday, March 24, 2016

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Susan Joyce, author of Good Morning Diego Garcia: A Journey of Discovery

FQ: This was an exciting read for me given the setting is devoted to sailing. Have you been on many sailing voyages since this experience?

JOYCE: I've sailed on a couple of dive ships, but I'm not that comfortable when I'm far from shore. I now know the power of nature and feel quite lucky to have survived the Indian Ocean journey. Following that harrowing experience, 1997 was my first time aboard a sailing ship for a dive off the coast of Venezuela. It took me many deep breaths and time to adjust to being on the sea again.

FQ: In line with the previous question, did your Indian Ocean crossing curtail your desire to do a long voyage ever again?

JOYCE: Yes! I like being able to see land. My husband, Doug, and I visited Australia and the Great Barrier Reef in November of 1998 for a dive at a popular site, St. Crispin's Reef. He went with other divers to check out the reef. I swan and snorkeled near the yacht...until I spotted a shark. I quickly swam in the direction of the boat and climbed aboard. A member of the crew informed me that the type of sharks swimming around the boat that day usually didn't nibble on people. Unless they were hungry. When the dive ended, the captain checked names of people on board several times before heading back to shore. It seemed strange the way the crew checked and double-checked to make certain all passengers were safe onboard. That evening when we returned to our hotel, I mentioned it to a bartender and he told us about an incident which happened earlier in the year when a couple of experienced American divers were accidentally left behind at St. Crispin's Reef. They went out for a relaxing day of scuba diving and never came back. I gasped. Their story was later made into the movie, “Open Water.”

Author Susan Joyce with her husband Doug at the Miami Book Fair

FQ: You have traveled to many far reaches and I wonder if you had to choose a favorite, is it possible to do so (and why your choice)?

JOYCE: It would be difficult to choose a favorite. I have enjoyed traveling and living in many wonderful places around the world over the years. Each has been a favorite at the time. At the moment, I live most of the year in Uruguay and love the tranquility. We moved here after living in Mexico for a few years. When the violence there got too close for comfort, we visited Uruguay and felt at peace and decided to make it our home. It's a tranquil place in this troubled world.

FQ: Without too much of a spoiler, how did you cope with the news of Dylan’s and Mia’s ultimate fate?

JOYCE: It was a surprise to discover Dylan's blog shortly after finishing writing the book. I was glad to find it, and in it find answers to questions I had about Dylan, Mia, Charles and the Zozo. I had often wondered if the yacht made it safely back to the Mediterranean. His blog was removed shortly after I discovered it.

FQ: I enjoyed reading about your spiritual awareness and how it developed the further into the voyage you traveled. How vital was this to your mental survival during this journey?

JOYCE: Being spiritually aware was key to my sanity and physical survival. I was so grateful to have books with me that encouraged me to open my mind wide, be in the now, and face fears head on. A great life lesson!

FQ: I cannot even begin to grasp what it was like to have to flee a country at war. How did you cope with the unrest of the war in Cyprus? Was there a time before you got out that you thought you may not? If so, what were the circumstances and how did you survive? If not, what was the catalyst to convince you to get out and get out quickly?

JOYCE: After living in Cyprus for a couple of years and getting to know locals, I began to sense the unrest as the tension between the sides escalated. The village of Kyrenia (on the northern coast) was mixed with Cypriots of Greek and Turkish heritage. They went to school together and often inter-married. If Cypriots had been left alone to sort out their problems, perhaps the Greek backed coup and subsequent Turkish invasion would not have happened. Unfortunately, Cyprus is of strategic importance for a number of powerful countries and since Greece and Turkey were both members of NATO, the coup ignited fires of tension that exploded into an all out international crisis when the Turks invaded the island a week later.

I experienced several close calls (during the coup and the invasion) when I thought I was a goner. This is detailed in my first book, The Lullaby Illusion.

On the morning of 15 July, after dropping my husband Charles at the Nicosia airport, I noticed armed soldiers everywhere. As I neared the main road roundabout, I saw an army tank approaching from the direction of the Greek army camp. A sudden burst of gunfire behind me, sent me speeding around the traffic circle and onto the frontage road, in the direction of our mechanic's garage. (I had a scheduled appointment with him to check the car brakes.) Hoping he knew what was happening, I sped toward his garage and brought my car (screeching brakes) to a halt in his parking lot. I jumped out and ran inside. When I told him about the soldiers near the airport and the gunfire, he assured me it was probably a routine army exercise.

While inspecting my car brakes, gunfire started again. We ran back inside his office and he called someone, then quickly hung up. “Get out of here. Go home,” he yelled pushing me out the door. “It's a coup!”

Oh my God, I thought as I drove my convertible sport's car (top down) back in the direction of the roundabout and the main road leading back to my home in Kyrenia. The roundabout was blocked by tanks. Traffic was at a standstill. I saw a driver get out of a car to ask questions and he was forced back into his car by tanks firing over his head. I didn't know what to do, so I returned to the mechanic and asked if there was back road leading to Kyrenia. He screamed at me to go now, and pushed me back into my car. He said all roads out of the city were blocked and told me to drive to my friend's apartment, located a few blocks across the main road. I took the sides roads he suggested to the main road and upon reaching it looked both ways. Looking left then right again, I was shocked to see a line of Greek tanks approaching less than 100 meters away— moving in the direction of the presidential palace and firing in all directions. Knowing I was in their direct line of fire, I knew had to cross the road fast. Legs shaking, I shifted into gears and sped across the main road to safety.
During the Turkish invasion, bombs fell all around us for several days. Once we left our village with other foreigners and drove up the mountain to the UN camp, we were caught in the cross fire of the Greeks and Turks fighting over the mountain pass, and the bombs being dropped to wipe out the enemy. It was was a harrowing experience. One I shall never forget.

A dream I had the night before the Turks invaded showed me I would survive and gave me courage to deal with life—moment by moment.

FQ: How weary were you to be in an area that is the proving grounds for military strategy in a part of our world where unrest is the norm? More importantly, are you a thrill-seeking, danger junkie and have you always been?

Author Susan Joyce with her dog Gita on the beach near their home in Uruguay

JOYCE: At the time, young and naïve, I didn't realize that the Middle East was such a hot-spot. I laughed when I read your next question about being a danger junkie. I would never chase a tornado or go into areas of danger if I knew they existed. However my astrological chart shows it is my destiny to be in interesting places at exciting times, and that has been true in my life.

FQ: There is a vast amount of history and fact peppered throughout this story. How difficult was it to sort the progression of the story?

JOYCE: Thanks to notes and sketches in my journal, I was able to piece it together. Glad it worked for you as a reader.

FQ: I want to thank you for the pleasure of reading your book. It was a terrific read (and great adventure). I can assume you are working on “Journeys Book Three” and if so, are you able to share a bit (and when can we expect its release)?

JOYCE: Thank you for your great questions! Happy you enjoyed reading my work.

I am working on a new book about my life with my husband Doug. Seems the universe had a plan for us to meet and work together before we realized life was speaking to us. As our relationship unfolded in serendipitous and awesome ways, we knew we were meant to be creative together. No idea when it will be completed. I'm hoping by 2017. Stay tuned. Thanks for your interest!

Please visit susanjoycejourneys.com for further information.

To learn more about Good Morning Diego Garcia: A Journey of Discovery please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.