Sylvia Lafair – Author Interview

Tell us something about yourself.

I am a psychologist who was in the field of personal development for years. I loved what I was doing in the Philadelphia area and I would always write articles for our newsletter. We worked mainly with couples, families, school concurs, physical illness issues.

One day a man in one of the parent groups asked if I would work with his senior leadership team. “Why?” I asked “They’re fighting” he replied “So what” I said. Then it all came together “Look, Sylvia, you work with people who have to get along, families, and they have to get along.” I thought about the connection families have through genetics and then the connection folks in the business world have through economics. These are two of the most powerful forces we need to consider in life. Made sense so I said sure and the rest, as they say, is history.

What inspired you to write the book?

As I did some deep diving into the world of work I realized this was a place of importance for my learning. I grew up in a family business. My father and his two brothers fought all the time. My grandfather started the company; they were manufacturing and importing silk flowers. It was fiscally sound yet, emotionally bankrupt.

One day when I was fourteen my father came home from work and I heard him tell my mother “I’m done.” None of us know how prophetic that was. He died of a heart attack in the middle of the night.

I had a great distaste for business and became a psychologist; my older brother became a physician. Yet, once I started working in the business world I realized that if my dad and his brothers had the opportunity for relationship change and conflict resolution there could have been a different end to my story. This work became my passion and I wanted to tell the world about what I had put together.

How did you publish this book? Why did you decide on that publisher?

The synchronicities around the book were strong. I had written some articles for a new business magazine. I was doing this to help the woman who was a new publisher. It was lots of fun and the articles were short. I was so busy doing workshops the thought of writing a book was intimidating. One article called “From Trump to Gump” was picked up by The Wall Street journal online.

Not long after I received a call from a man telling me he was a book agent and had I ever thought of writing a book. After laughing for several minutes and saying “Only for the last 20 years, but I just don’t have the time” he stopped me and we got serious.

He is with a very reputable literary agency and so the process started. The part that was the most difficult was the proposal stage where I had to get really clear about the flow of the book, the main message, the marketing strategy.

That took me almost 6 months and I did not think it was a ball of fun. However, when done it went to several publishers and there was an interesting day, well, maybe an hour or so to be honest, where several companies were involved.

I had researched publishing houses and thought Jossey Bass would be a good fit for me and that is who published the book. I must say, it has been a great partnership. I had an amazing editor and they were there every step of the way to support me.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

I always loved to write, way back to elementary school. My short stories were always in a local kid’s contest and it was fabulous to see them in print. I wanted to write the “great American novel” and yet, I needed to search for my own healing after my dad’s death so that’s where psychology and family therapy became my career path.

I had to write a master’s thesis and a PhD dissertation and so writing stayed front and center in my life. And I’ve always been a voracious reader.

What do you believe is the hardest part of writing?

For me, since I am an extrovert by nature it is closing the door and turning off the land line, the cell phone and the emails. Once I let myself become quiet I go into a certain creative place where time falls away. When I was writing “Don’t Bring It to Work” I would start at 6am and I know I got up to stretch, go to the bathroom, and get something to eat. I know I did those things, yet they are faded in my mind. There were times I would look outside and the sun would be shining brightly and the next time I checked it would be black as night.

How do you do research for your book?

I remember when I wrote my dissertation decades ago I had lots of 3×5 cards in chapter order. I spent tons of time in the library and had books all over the writing room. Now, I cannot imagine going back to that method. The internet is my magical friend. I learned so much as I was writing the book. I have lots of historical and celebrity references and with the touch of a keyboard they were there, living and breathing right in front of me.

I also spent time researching each of the 13 behavior patterns that are the most common ones we bring from our original organization, the family into our present work organization. I could have had many more patterns and stopped with the most obvious.

What did you learn from writing this book?

The amount of research I did for this book was like doing another doctoral dissertation. I have been so enriched by putting together what I have learned about how systems operate, how families behave and have behaved through time, and how the world of work impacts all of us at a core level. I also have validated with so much research what I knew intuitively, that we are all connected and no one wins unless we all do.

What are you reading now?

I am intrigued with how the internet and social media has impacted the world. I am reading a book called “Engage” by Brian Solis about how social media is changing how we do business. I wish I were a little kid right now and had been born into an era when this simple, yet complex little box on my desk was part of my basic history.

I am also fascinated with the ways of the world and have begun to read (started and never finished) Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin as I watch the human side of politics today.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors and why?

I love language, the way sentences are put together. Sadly, most business books may be strong on content yet they are not lyrical and flowing to the tongue and mind. So, I love to read anything by Annie Proulx, I can read and reread one sentence several times before I keep going. I have that same feeling with Tom Robbins, and especially love Jitterbug Perfume. He hasn’t written lately and I keep waiting for another novel. I also adore Isabel Allende. She takes her work back to essence, which is a validation of the type of work I do in the business world. You need to know your roots to know who you are today to be the best leaders you can be.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

So many people have asked me to take what I know and move it from the workplace, from the boardroom to the bedroom, that the next book already in outline form is “Don’t Bring It to Love: Breaking the Family Patterns that Limit Intimacy” (that’s the working title for now) It is about how we need to really do keep repeating patterns from generation to generation until we learn to bring them from the invisible world where they drive us to become clear and competent to transform them.

What is your best advice about writing and publishing?

If you believe in your work sit and write. Lock the door of your writing room and get at least the essence done. There are lots of great editors and I can’t imagine doing a book without a seasoned editor. Don’t obsess about getting it perfect. A book is a collaborative effort.

If you need to self publish make sure you get involved with a company that can take you through the whole process. The cover, the font, the index, etc. are all important. Most writers if they are anything like me want to write and not be bothered with the details. There are some really good companies that I would have considered if my agent hadn’t called me first.

What are you doing to promote your book?

This one is more complex than writing a great book. Initially I spent way too much money with a Manhattan company that made lots of promises and not much really happened except I say my account for getting the word out shrinking more than the book was getting recognition. I believe I lost almost a year because of this promise that never happened.

Use the media, social networking, blog, blog, blog. Have copies of the book you can send to influencer who will do reviews for you. I must have sent out several hundred. Sometimes they never materialize, yet when they do you have a new friend and a great reference. It’s all about networking.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

I have two sites, the author site is and the business site is I have blogs on each site and also I am on LinkedIn and Facebook.

I would be pleased to connect with anyone who has more questions or thinks I can help in any way. This new world we live in is about giving back and sharing knowledge. Remember, we are all connected and no one wins unless we all do.

Thanks for this opportunity to showcase my work.