Today, the Dames are pleased to present author Cindy Lynn Speer. Hi Cindy and welcome to the Dames of Dialogue. Tell us about your fantasy novel, Unbalanced.
Unbalanced is a murder mystery…and actually the first book I ever wrote. I wanted to see what I could say about vampires and werewolves, and ended up with a story where the main character, Andromeda, must solve a murder that looks like it was committed by werewolves, before the vampires find out and use it to make trouble. It’s darker than The Chocolatier’s Wife, definitely a bit more horror, but there’s still some romance.
Sounds intriguing and fun! Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?
I’ve been working on some things – this has been the summer of the short story, I wrote two new short stories in The Chocolatier’s Wife world to celebrate the new re-release of that novel, and at the first of the year I’ll have a short story collection…so I’m trying to finish off a couple of stories to add to that. The stories touch a lot on fairy tales and fantasy, but there are a few darker stories…even a ghost story…in the mix.
Congratulations on the re-release! The summer of the short story—I love that! Your books are fantasy, with mystery, romance, and myth thrown into the mix. My paranormal romances are all based on Cherokee legends and myths and I know when I first started researching the folklore, I was almost overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of stories I could envision. Do you decide before you start writing which myth to weave into your story or does the plot of the story lead you to the myth?
I can understand this! The sheer volume of what’s out there is amazing – folk lore and fairy tales are a rich treasure trove, aren’t they? I think what saves me is that my re-told fairy tales all start with a question. “Every Word I Speak” started after I read Charles Perrault’s “The Fairys” and I wondered what it would be like to have a diamond or a flower accompany every word you uttered. “But Can You Let Him Go?” was based on the idea that there were so many different versions of the Cinderella story, and I wondered if it was because the Fairy God Mother figure…there always is one…had somehow messed up, and was just going to keep trying until he/she got it right.
Ah, the tried and true writer’s penchant for asking “What if?” Amazing how many different places those two simple words can take us. As well as writing, you also garden and sew—just to name a couple of your hobbies—and you fence through the Society for Creative Anachronism. Tell us about your fencing persona, Lady Gabrielle Winter.
Well, the SCA is an educational non-profit, and the ideal – what people who are really embracing the educational side of the society do is they choose a person (not real…you couldn’t choose Anne Boleyn, but you could choose a lady of the Tudor court) to…replicate, so to speak. You choose a name from that time, you figure out what they would have worn. I chose Gabrielle because I always loved that name…and it’s so much more atmospheric than Cindy Lynn.
I, sadly, do not do this. Well, not much. I study what they would have worn so I can make myself pretty clothes, but mostly I’m in it to learn how to fence as they did pre-1601. I study the old masters of rapier…Capo Ferro, Giganti…and try and figure out how to apply old time fencing methods to gently kill my friends. It’s great fun and excellent exercise, and gives wonderful opportunities for camaraderie. I also run a fencing practice once a week, which I love.
It does sound like great fun—and it’s another way to let your creative side come out to play. What is a typical writing day like for you?
Writing is squeezed in between work…after work…whenever I can manage it. Typically I write during my lunch break at work, and then I go home, make/eat/clean up dinner, make some tea, have a quick nap if I’m really stressed out, then try and write until I hit the 2,000 word mark…give or take. Some days I just keep going, some days my muse is calling in sick. But I do my best.
Are the characters in the driver’s seat when you’re writing or do you take control of the wheel and guide them where you want them to go?
I think of it as a democracy more than a dictatorship. The characters know where they want to go, the story knows what happens next, I try and guide it away from the edges of the road when I have to, but mostly, I let them drive. That sense of discovery is what I love about writing the first draft…wondering what is going to happen next is what keeps me writing.
That’s a good way to look at it, a democracy rather than a dictatorship. I like to think I do that too, although there are some days when I wish I could claim to be dictator and order my muse beheaded—or maybe just locked up in the dungeon until she cooperates!
Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?
Neil Gaiman, because I love his way of putting things. Sometimes you’ll read a sentence and you’ll know that it’s Neil Gaiman’s. Barbara Hambly, because I adore her characters. Terry Pratchett, because I love his sense of humor…his humor isn’t cruel. Lincoln and Childs, because I love their characters and because they know how to reach out and grab you into their books. And so many more…for instance, I’ve been reading a fencing manual by a gentlemen called Saviolo, and you sort of cock your head and go, “I’m not sure what he said, but dang, he sure said it in a pretty way.”
All great authors and a couple of my favorites are on your list. Promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?
I visit blogs (hello!) and I try and keep a Tumblr, Twitter, etc. I’m trying to reach out and touch people, more, partly because I like people. It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to be a published author, to share things with people. I’ve been reading a lot of fan comments for other things, (I mean, Tumblr is practically the Kingdom of Fandom now) and I’m constantly blinking because there’s so much joy there…people are so in love and happy with this movie or that book, and I think, “Wow, I’d love to make people that happy.” So I’m trying to connect, now. Whether you read my stuff or not, maybe I can give you something.
I haven’t gotten to Tumblr—yet!—but I’ve heard some really great things about it.
How long have you been writing?
Good Lord. Almost 25 years. True, that was unpublished me sitting in the school yard and escaping into my own world…but still.
One of my favorite quotes about writing comes from Anais Nin: I believe one writes because one has to create a world in which one can live. I know that’s how I got my start and though I never thought of it before, I guess you can say the same thing about reading.
Who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?
Neil Gaiman, again, because he’s really kind and he loves his fans and he loves books and words. I look at him, and I think, “That’s the kind of writer I want to be.”
What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?
Usually I say the discovery…I love discovering the words that are inside of me, sometimes there’s a really lovely turn of phrase in there, or a surprise, or an adventure, and I savor those, because, being human, I know that there are less good things in my writing, too. After all, no one is perfect! But…today I visited my book’s page on Amazon and saw two new reviews, and I saw that I had made people happy. I didn’t think, “Yay! Two more five star reviews!” – though that is always a relief, I confess – I thought, “Wow…they really enjoyed my book. For a little while, I made someone’s world a little better.” And I really love that bit. You can make a complete stranger’s life better. You can be someone’s good day.
How wonderful! Tell us a little bit about where you live.
My house is half 1860’s, half 1990’s…it’s on an old farm that’s more hill than flat spot, in the middle of the country. I have cows on two sides and a tree farm on the other. The road is narrow, and a little winding, and you can see the stars at night quite well, and it’s solitary, and quiet, and I’m really fond of it.
Ah, solitary, one of my favorite words. Thanks so much for joining us today, Cindy, and I hope you’ll come back and visit the Dames often!
Readers, to find out more about Cindy and her fascinating books, visit:
A Pen and Fire (her website)
And onTumblr: http://cindylynnspeer.tumblr.com/