Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Author Interview: Cynthia Gael

The first book I reviewed for Siren Book Reviews was Balefire and Moonstone by collaborative authors Cynthia D. Witherspoon and K.G. McAbee. I fell in love with the book and the character Anya Blanchett, so of course I decided to stalk the writers (I didn’t know there were two of them at the time, so that was a tad embarrassing) and force them to answer my questions. The two of them were darlings about the entire process and happily answered my questions AND provided me with a review copy of the next book, Balefire and Lodestone-which I devoured. That review will be posted soon.

Q: How long have the two of you been writing and how long have you been writing together?

KGM: I’ve been writing since forever, but my first publication was in 1999, when I won first prize in the Writer’s Journal Fiction Contest. Since then, I’ve had a dozen or so books published and bunches of shorts and novellas, in all sorts of genres: pulp, mystery, horror, fantasy, science fiction, steampunk…. Cindy and I met at a writer’s critique group in early 2009, realized we were meant to write together and started in November of that year.

CDW: I’ve been writing for as long as I’ve been able to read. Some stories simply shouldn’t end so early! So I’d make up my own endings. Or continuations. However, I didn’t really start putting my words down on the page until I was in college.  It was there that I published my first short story in my college’s literary journal, and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Oh, my gosh. We’ve been writing together for a little over a year now. Ultimately, it’s not that long, but given how well we work together, and the quality (and quantity!) of stories we’ve been able to publish, we feel as if we’ve been writing together for a very, very long time.

Q: What authors did you read as kids?

KGM: I always wanted and got books for Christmas and birthdays, even before I could read. When I finally learned to read, well, I never stopped. I love Robert Heinlein, J.R.R. Tolkien, Roger Zelazny, Dickens, Bronte, Austen, R.E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, Patrick O’Brian, Lester Dent…..

CDW: Like K.G., I was the kid you’d find happily spending her Saturdays in the library instead of outside. Some of my favorite memories I have as a child is my dad taking me every Saturday to the bookstore at our local mall. I was allowed to pick out one or two books (mainly Carolyn Keene or Franklin W. Dixon). But I would read anything I could get my hands on. By the time I’d graduated high school, I’d read everyone from Truman Capote to Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Q: What authors have influenced your writing the most and why?

KGM: I like Dicken’s humor, the Brontes’ romantic vision, Zelazny’s clean prose, Asimov’s style, Heinlein’s concepts and joy, O’Brian’s historical accuracy, and Lester Dent’s (who wrote the Doc Savage pulp novels under the house name Kenneth Robeson) sheer volume. It’s impossible to stress how much the writers we read affect and mold the writers we become.

CDW: Every book I read influences my writing in some way or another. For example, if I start reading more of the classics (think Charlotte Bronte), then my writing becomes heavier. More moody.  But if I’m reading Edgar Allan Poe, then my work takes on a darker feel.  I think this is because I admire these writers, love how they were able to pull me into their stories, and hope to do the same for my own readers.

Q: Is it hard for the two of you to do collaborative writing?

KGM: . It is just too absurdly easy! We finish each other’s sentences and think so much alike on so many things, it continually amazes me!

CDW: Yeah, K.G. is right. I’d always heard writing is a solitary craft since the worlds you create are in your head. But she knows what I’m thinking, and I trust her judgment completely. Besides, it’s always fun to put a sudden detail in a scene, and have K.G. put the same detail in her chapter without knowing what I’m doing. Then, when we go back and read through what we’ve written, it’s always a surprise to see just how much we are on the same page with each other.

Q: Where did you get the idea for this book series?

KGM: We were having lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant and Cindy said she’s like to write something about witches. I told her I’d always been fascinated by Matthew Hopkins, England’s self-proclaimed Witch Finder General; I mean, who would not be interested in a man who decided to give himself such a cool title, and then to follow up on the meaning of it by charging out and capturing witches. So we began brainstorming and the Balefire Chronicles were the result. We literally had the first book finished in little more than a month!

Q: Are you working on any other projects together or separately?

KGM: I’m currently working on a novella of a steampunk role playing game for Untreed Reads. Together, wee’ve just finished the first book in our steampunk series, BRASS AND BONE. While it’s set in our Balefire universe, the time frame is the late 1800s and, in true steampunk fashion, we have airships and steam men. Lots of fun! It’s at an agent now, so please, everyone, keep your fingers crossed for us!

CDW: I’d be lying if I didn’t say we each have our own ‘to-do’ lists, and then our ‘writing together to-do’ lists. Though we work on separate things, we know we always have a great sounding board to bounce ideas off of with the other. And what K.G. said about our steampunk novel? It’s fabulous! I know I’m bias, but trust me on this one. It’s a lot of fun, a lot of drama, and definitely has its romantic moments!

Q: I know that a lot of writers have decided to go the e book publishing route, what made you decide to go with Gypsy Shadow Publishing and what has your experience been like working with them?

KGM: I have a friend published by Gypsy Shadow and he recommended them to us. We decided to provide our own cover and our artist, Gary McCluskey—he illustrated my novella an issue of STARTLING STORIES—came up with some killer cover art for us, don’t you think?

Q: Can you offer any advice to aspiring paranormal writers?

CDW: Read anything and everything you can get your hands on. Just like any other writer. You can’t write if you haven’t studied your craft. But read what you love. If you love paranormal romance, and want to write in the genre, find writers you admire. Learn from them, and you’ll be on your way.

Q: Can you offer any tips on getting published?

KGM: This is what I tell all our students when we teach writing classes: “You only need to remember four words to become a writer: Read. Write. Submit. Repeat.” Four words sound easy, but if you look into them more closely, you can see how much time and work are involved. You should read huge amounts, and not just in the field you want to write in. You have to write, write, and write more, to hone your skills. You have to research your markets and submit, without being dismayed when you’re rejected—and you will be. And then you have to do it all over again!

CDW: And don’t give up. We all get rejections, no matter how often we’ve been published before. All it takes is one story, the right venue, and you’re on your way.

Q: How did you go about creating your characters, plot and settings?

KGM: We brainstorm constantly, throwing ideas out and feeding off each other’s comments. Settings and characters are the easiest for me; I’m not as good as Cindy is at plotting, so she’s the go-to girl for outlining.

CDW: We talk to each other (emailing when we can’t meet) and are open with each other. If K.G. doesn’t like one of my ideas, she isn’t afraid to tell me. And vice versa. But we start with a single idea, and let it build itself. It’s amazing how many of our characters have literally built themselves on the page. Their gestures, their voices….it all comes out when you start the physical writing process.

Q: Besides writing what do you like to do?

KGM: Reading! Movies! Teaching writing classes! Going to conferences and conventions! And I have dogs and cats and a garden; my husband is vegan and I’m vegetarian, and I get a great deal of enjoyment out of growing my own food with my own hands, processing it, canning it, all that lovely peasant stuff that seems to be coming back into style. And I love to cook!

CDW: I don’t cook, that’s for sure! My timer? The smoke alarm.  And do something besides writing?? Ok, I do love to read. In fact, I just received a Nook for Christmas, and have already absorbed every book I’ve downloaded into it!  But besides reading, I hang out at home with my husband and our jack Russell terrier. And then of course, there’s always World of Warcraft.  =D

Q: Can you tell us a little about the next book in this series?

KGM: BALEFIRE AND BLOODSTONE is dark, far darker even than the second in the series. We follow our people to Australia and some new characters enter the picture, along with some truly creepy…well, that would be telling!

CDW: K.G. did a fabulous job describing Bloodstone without going into too many of the nitty gritty details, so I won’t add anything. Suffice to say, it’s one of my favorites because it is darker.

Q: What other publishing credits do you have?

KGM: Writing as K.G. McAbee, I have fantasies at Uncial Press and Double Dragon Books, and a YA fantasy series at Calderwood Books. My short story collection, BEWITCHED BY DARKNESS, is at Wild Cat Books; they also publish STARTLING STORIES magazine, and I’ve got stories or novellas in most of the issues. I’ve had over seventy short stories published, too, including three—so far!—from Untreed Reads. And my latest sale is to Summerhouse Publishing, for a gothic romance novella. 

CDW: I’ve published short stories for anthologies ranging from Open Heart Publishing (An Honest Lie Vol. 2) to horror in Naked Snake Press’ Poe Little Thing. Also, I’ve been lucky enough to win a few awards and honorable mentions for my stories. Overall, I’ve had a good many shorts published, a few flash pieces, and of course, our Balefire books.

Q: Do you have any events scheduled in the near future?

KGM: We’re both guest authors at ConCarolinas in June…

CDW: And participating in the 2011 Local Author’s Day at the Spartanburg County Library, as well as teaching writing classes in Asheville and Charlotte for The Writer’s Workshop of Asheville. For those who are interested, we’ll also be giving a free online course through Coffeetime Romance on Writing Steampunk during the month of February.  We do have a full schedule this year, and unfortunately, I can’t list them all. However, we will be updating our website http://www.cynthiagael.com with our full appearance schedule soon.

Q: What books are you reading right now?
KGM: I’ve just finished the new bio of H.P. Lovecraft and I’m now in the middle of Robert E. Howard’s bio. Naturally, I have to go back now and re-read their works mentioned in the bios. In fiction, I’m reading VAMPIRE EMPIRE: THE GREYFRIAR.
CDW: As previously mentioned, I just got my Nook, so if it’s an e-book, I’m all over it. I’ve just finished Water for Elephants (because, I ask you, who doesn’t love a good circus novel??), The Plausible Prince (by the fabulous K.G. McAbee), and the beginnings of the sequel of The Plausible Prince (which is one of the great things about knowing the author!). I’m also in love with historical fiction, so I’m currently reading The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory and A Passage To India by E.M. Forster.

Visit Gypsy Shadow Publishing for more great books: Gypsy Shadow Publishing! 

You can also purchase Balefire and Moonstone and Balefire and Lodestone at www.amazon.com

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