Friday, April 19, 2024

Q&A with Janet A. Wilson


Photo by Jillian Faulkner



Janet A. Wilson is the author of the new memoir All You'll See Is Sky: Resetting a Marriage on an Adventure Through Africa. She was born in South Africa, and she lives in Calgary.

Q: What inspired you to write All You’ll See Is Sky?


A: My husband, Tom, and I drove 25,000 miles across Africa from Cape Town to Cairo. We’ve given many travel presentations, and the most common question is, “How the hell did you put up with each other alone in a car for eight months?”


I kept detailed journals on our travels. So I was able to respond to the question. Tom and I had no option but to work together and cooperate to if we wanted to reach Cairo safely. Africa reached out and threw everything at us, forcing us to learn the street smarts of marriage. Tom and I had left as a bickering couple and returned as a formidable team.


Q: How was the book’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: I had to learn extreme off-road driving. There was a steep, gravelly hill at the driving school, too steep to walk up. I just kept sliding down, but I had to drive up it. In our heavy Land Cruiser, the instructor told me what to do, and then he said, “Now trust your vehicle because all you'll see is sky.” And indeed, all I saw was sky.


Every day, I had no idea what I might see. The only guarantee was that the sky, day or night, was always there, and the night sky in the Sahara Desert is spectacular.

Q: The writer Marlena Maduro Baraf said of the book, “It speaks profound truths about responsibility and compassion, intimacy and connection.” What do you think of that description?


A: It’s a great description. I always took full responsibility for every decision I made on the journey, no matter how hard or the risks that I might face. I felt compassion from many people, especially the Ethiopians and the Sudanese; they seemed to sense my struggle and pain after the tragedy.


Despite being married for 30 years, my husband and I discovered a depth of intimacy, compassion, and connection in our relationship we’d never experienced before. Being alone in a car for eight to 16 months, we learned so much about ourselves, our relationships, and the world around us.


Q: What impact did it have on you to write this memoir, and what do you hope readers take away from it?


A: Writing the memoir was challenging because I had too much--written information, thousands of photographs, and hours of video. Fortunately, many authors supported and guided me when I first started writing. I also had excellent editors who kept me focused.


I want readers to know and take away that it's not the lack of love or romance but the lack of friendship that contributes to an unhappy marriage or relationship. And it’s not what happens to a couple but how they choose to handle what they are facing. I was surprised at my courage, and I am sure others would be surprised at their courage.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am considering writing a book of short stories from our travels. Funny stories, like the time Tom fell down a well in Costa Rica and broke several ribs. My Spanish wasn’t good, but I thought I was good at sign language until after many waving of arms we arrived at a breast enlargement clinic. But that’s another story.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Tom and I returned to Africa and drove the length of the west coast of Africa. We then drove 65,000 miles from Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost town in the world. We’ve traveled to 99 countries, so I have hundreds of stories and love writing. We currently live in Calgary, Canada.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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