1. Tell us about your latest published book, The Legacy.
I’m very proud of the story because I set out to do three things and I think I accomplished them all. The first was to tell a good story without resorting to habitual profanity, gratuitous sex, or over-the-top graphic violence. The second thing was that the characters should be so three-dimensional that every reader could identify them with someone they knew. Lastly, I didn’t want to write the typical “orphan story.” While it is a love story, there are many kinds of love. Things unfold the way they should when you listen to your heart and trust in your intuition. Maggie is rewarded for her devotion and selflessness, as kind acts and deeds in real life often go unmentioned or unrecognized. The reason we so fervidly root for Maggie is because she represents the best part of ourselves, our faith and hope.
Unfamiliar with The Legacy? When infant Maggie Claydon’s parents die in a car accident and no one comes forward to claim her, she becomes a ward of the state of Florida. An unpretentious girl with no memories of her parents, Maggie grows to love San Sebastian Children’s Home and its Director and Head Mistress, Francine Everhart. After Maggie’s release from the Home at eighteen, she works as a waitress in a diner and lives frugally, quietly wondering where life will lead her and if she’ll ever have a family of her own; until one day when a letter arrives that changes everything! The letter is from a lawyer in New York City and it advises her that she has 30 days to decide whether to accept a gift from a now deceased relative. Turning to the wise Mrs. Everhart who encourages Maggie to explore her destiny, the young girl takes a leap of faith and buys a bus ticket bound for New York City! A very poignant and endearing story ensues, complete with lovable characters, young and old. It’s the perfect book when you’re traveling, or lying on the beach, or holed up alone someplace with time on your hands. I’m told it’s a fairly quick read once you start it!
2. Can you share a little bit about your current WIP?
I’m working on a few things at present. The next story that I hope to publish is called When Angels Blink. The antithesis of The Legacy, this one is about the darker, underside of life; the mistakes we make, the price we pay, the buried secrets that come back and bite us.
It takes place in a fictional Midwestern town similar to the cities where I grew up. People tend to think that small towns are provincial, safe, a good place to start over. You can run, but you can’t always hide, not when that mercurial little elf known as Chance inserts himself in the game. A suspenseful, contemporary adult drama with a twisted love triangle and a criminal trial are what’s in store When Angels Blink.
3. Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
Inspiration comes from everything in life! From music, dreams, the sunrise, snippets of conversations overheard. Once in a while just for fun, I pretend to write queries pitching the premise of an already successful story or movie to an agent or producer. Sometimes that can sprout into useful or inspiring directions; besides, I can always use the practice writing queries!
4. What is a typical writing day like for you?
A typical day starts about 7 AM. Hubby is off to the gym and there are few distractions except the breathing of my two little rat terrier guys, Ollie and Milo, asleep on either side of my chair. Two cups of decaf and I’m off and running.
5. Your current book, The Legacy, is contemporary fiction. Are there any other genres that interest you and if so, do you have plans to write in them?
Other genres that interest me? Gosh, yes! I’d love to try to write a period piece someday. I’m a huge Jane Austen fan, Dickens and Bronte as well. I think I’m more of a character-driven writer. I seem to lean toward establishing the growth of the characters in everything I write. I would love to write a light romantic comedy, and also a sweeping saga, especially about people emigrating to a new way of life. I have no affinity for fantasy, science fiction or horror genres.
6. How did Maggie, the heroine in The Legacy, come to you?
I grew up in the era of family-oriented everything. Shows like “The Millionaire” and “Queen For a Day” were inspirational and generous in spirit. Shows like “Leave It To Beaver” and “Ozzie and Harriet” highlighted the American family unit. They upheld standards of decency and morals, priorities that have since eroded from our society. In order to accomplish the goals I set for myself, I had to draw from those days, from more innocent times. Maggie represents the best of the best in all of us: pure of heart, unpretentious; expects nothing in return. I still can’t read the story without Kleenex nearby, even though I know what’s coming!
7. What Is Your Most Cherished Reader Response?
That would be my first letter ever, from a lovely woman named Dorothy who lives in Florida. An older woman, she had never before read anything that moved her so much as to contact the author! She described herself as a cleaning fanatic and explained how shocked her husband was when she cracked the book open, sat down in a chair (apron and all), and never got up until she finished the book the next day! She laughed and cried and missed the characters so much when the story ended, that she read it all over again. Of course I cried too, when I answered her letter. To be able to touch people in some way is truly the reason I want to write. By the way, Dorothy and I exchange Christmas cards every year. She’s faithfully awaiting my next book, and after all this time, that is one genuine and devoted fan!
8. Who or what has been the biggest influence in my writing career and why?
The biggest influence on my career, in hindsight, is probably my wonderful dad, who passed away just before my book was published. He was very bright, well read, and had a gift for being a great salesman and a great storyteller. Dad really loved people. All people. A good listener, he made lasting friendships while standing in line at a restaurant, or sitting beside someone in an office waiting to have a root canal. Though very successful in his own right, he was always so impressed by the accomplishments of others; their success stories; their hardships; their talents. To this day, I still hear his voice in my head and take advantage by bouncing ideas off him. The Legacy was in fact dedicated to my parents for instilling in me all that I hope I’ve passed on to my children, now grown. My beautiful mom and biggest fan, who turns 96 in September, asks, “Could you hurry the next book along? I’m holding out for the movie.” I am so blessed in life.
9. Is there any contemporary author whose writing style and genre influenced your own?
The old adage ‘write the kind of books you like to read’ applies to me. The author whose style I most admired, and I use the past tense only because she retired some years ago, is unquestionably LaVyrle Spencer. Her stories and characters were always fresh, entertaining and rich in detail. Reading one of her novels was like watching a movie, meaning it really drew you in. Have you ever jumped when someone enters the room, startling you because you were that engrossed in the story? As a reader, that’s my kind of book and as a writer, that’s the kind of book I aspire to write. One of the reasons I decided to write professionally was because friends and family members had been telling me for years that they so enjoyed and looked forward to my long letters and anecdotes. Now here I am years later getting letters from complete strangers who feel I’ve connected with them in that same way…it’s just overwhelming! It keeps me going through rough patches.
10. Next to writing, what is your second love and why?
Music, definitely, because it is also an emotional conduit to the soul. To be moved to tears hearing a beautiful piece of music is like being moved by a beautiful passage in a story, or a scene within a movie. All are very personal, powerful, and enriching experiences that stay with you, inspire you, fires the imagination; all food for the writer’s creative process.
11. What is your earliest memory having to do with writing?
Well, two instances come to mind. When I was seven or eight-years-old, I pleaded with my older brother to drive me to the library because I had to do research on Africa in order to make the story I was writing more accurate. The second instance stands out rather like the knot on my head, a wake-up call from my then-fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Look. You just never know when inspiration will hit you, if you’ll excuse the pun.
It was in the middle of Geography class, and I had my text book propped up in front of me while busily writing a fabulous story in a notebook, using my textbook for cover. Unfortunately, Mrs. Look asked a question pertaining to the original thirteen colonies and called upon me to answer. Everyone apparently stared at me, but I was in the throes of scribbling a story faster than my muse could dictate it. Suddenly, there was a huge thwack of a sound. In those days, wood-edged chalkboard erasers were commonplace, usually found lying on the ledge of the chalkboard and not launched as a projectile. The knot grew to where I could actually see it in my peripheral vision, and all I could think of during Mrs. Look’s tirade about my deficit mental prowess, was what I would name the lump, my new friend. If you can’t laugh at yourself…right? After enduring the wrath of Mrs. Look in front of my peers, I was sent down to spend the day in Kindergarten, which was intended to humiliate me. But I thoroughly enjoyed polishing up my shoe-tying skills, learning how to read a clock, and especially snack time. I wrote a lovely thank-you note to Mrs. Look and turned it in the next morning. She promptly ripped it to shreds and changed my seat to the one at the absolute back of the classroom, which I appreciated. I suppose it could be said that in spite of you, Mrs. Look, I am today a published author!
12. If someone asked you what your aspirations are as a writer, how would you answer?
I envision finding an excellent match between a reputable agent and myself. One who appreciates my work and believes in my ability to write successful novels…and oh yes, just so happens to be a genius in the promotion department as well.
Success is of course subjective, but I aspire to some sort of name recognition and loyal fan base who would stick with me no matter what genre I write in, because I never want to become a “cookie-cutter” author! And lastly, what writer doesn’t dream of having her novel(s) optioned for film? Who knows, maybe I’ll try my hand at screenwriting one day. Oh genie, where art thou?
To find out more about Cindy’s writing:
Cindy’s Author’s Den page:
Cindy’s Myshelf.com interview:
The Legacy book reviews at Amazon Link: