SMP: Cynthia, welcome! Tell us all about you! What would you most like your readers to know?
CYNTHIA: My husband and I live in the suburbs of Nashville, Tennessee with our eighteen-year-old son and three dogs. When I’m not working or writing, I can be found with family and friends. I love to bake in the winter, grill in the summer, and on occasion, I sneak away from everyone and curl up with a good book.
SMP: Are you one of those writers born with a pen in your hand and ideas flitting through your mind, or did your interest develop later?
CYNTHIA: Everyone, including myself, was surprised that I’d written a book. English was one of my worst subjects growing up. I loved math and science, and I’ve never considered myself creative. But I do love to read. A Lot! And one day I woke up with a story in my head. It wouldn’t go away, so I finally wrote it down. More ideas started flowing. I eventually decided to roll with it and see where it would take me. And here I am—three years later—with a four-book series releasing in the next twelve months.
SMP: When did you become serious about seeing your name in print and begin writing your first romance novel?
CYNTHIA: I started writing in the fall of 2009. I kept it a secret until I’d finished two and a half full manuscripts. I finally broke down and told my best friend what I was doing. You can imagine my surprise when a few days later she introduced me to Trish Milburn, an award winning author she grew up with. Trish just happens to live here in Nashville and took me under her wing. She edited my first manuscript, introduced me to RWA and the local chapter. She also gave me a list of books to read and encouraged me to take on-line classes. It’s been an amazing journey.
SMP: How long did it take you to complete your first manuscript? Did it fly from your fingertips, or did the story emerge slowly?
CYNTHIA: I’m not a fast writer. I think it took me six months to write the first book. I’ve since learned to plot and outline. Even with that, though, words will fly from my fingertips, then abruptly stop. That’s when I set it aside for a few days. Suddenly I’ll wake up with an idea and the words start flowing again. I find that the best way to get past writer’s block is to walk away. Let your brain rest and think about other projects. If I push it, I stay stuck or write paragraphs that later get deleted.
SMP: Tell us about your writing process. Soft lights and music? White noise? Child-and-pet confusion? Locked in a room alone? What sets your writing mood and pushes you forward?
CYNTHIA: I have to have complete silence and plenty of light to write. My creative side requires total concentration and absolutely no multitasking. I have a lounger in the family room and a recliner in the bonus room, depending on where the family is—both allow me to put my feet up and relax with my laptop. Once I’m finished with a manuscript and start the editing process, I can simultaneously watch a football game, sitcom, and handle music and noise. I guess it’s just a different part of my brain.
SMP: What are some life experiences that have infiltrated your stories?
CYNTHIA: I moved twice during my teenage years. It was a drastic change, leaving a high school class of 1,200 students to a town of less than 1,000. The adjustment was hard for me and I spent several years feeling like I didn’t fit in or ‘belong’ anywhere. I was in my early twenties before I really gained back the self-confidence I’d lost.
Beth is the heroine of Winter’s Magic. Although her feelings of ‘not belonging’ are related to social status, I could feel her pain while I wrote her story.
SMP: Let’s talk about romance. How do you set the mood for your characters, what do you draw from that helps your H/H achieve oneness with each other? And how much conflict do you give them, along the way?
CYNTHIA: Now that I’m an ‘outliner,’ I start all of my stories with a character biography. I want my hero and heroine to be real—personalities that my readers can identify with. In my biographies, I try to give each of them at least one big flaw among their many warm virtues. And, because I’m the one making it all up, I make sure that her virtues offset his big flaw and vice versa.
I like conflict, the relationship wouldn’t be real without it. Yet the conflict has to be believable. The black moment has to break our hearts, make us cry, but the relationship, the situation, must still be redeemable.
SMP: What shining moment in your journey stands out the most as a real turning point for you as a writer?
CYNTHIA: Two moments, actually:
Contests are a great way for writers to get honest/anonymous feedback on their work. I came in second place in the Heart of Denver’s Molly contest in 2011. One of the judges wrote, “I hope to one day read this book when published.” I started querying agents and publishers the following week.
The second was on my forty-second birthday. My husband took my first book cover and blew it up to a large poster and had it framed for my office. It’s simply beautiful. And every morning when I see it, I realize this is real and not just a dream.
SMP: Writers face many challenges. What are some of yours? What do you do to overcome them?
CYNTHIA: Time is my biggest challenge. I have a Monday through Friday day job, so most of my writing happens on the weekends. A typical Saturday starts with my husband and I having coffee together on the back porch (weather permitting), we alternate cooking breakfast, then we split up for much of the day. He goes to the garage or backyard to tinker, while I grab my laptop.
Whether I choose the lounger or recliner, I put my feet up on a pillow, and write in a relatively peaceful environment. For as long as I possibly can.
Some weekends, I write all day Saturday and again on Sunday. Other times, I barely get in a half-day. Life doesn’t stop, but my family is supportive and flexible. My husband and I have a commitment to always spend Saturday evenings together and my son knows he has to join us for dinner on Sunday nights.
SMP: What is the most thrilling aspect of the writing process for you?
CYNTHIA: There are two points in each book that make my heart flutter and sometimes I cry while I’m writing them. 1) Scene(s) where the hero and heroine realize they’re in love and can’t live without each other—giving my characters the courage to open themselves to the vulnerability involved in placing their hearts in each other’s hands. 2) Writing the scene where they overcome the black moment. The point in which two people choose each other, despite the mountain between them, and decide that their love and faith is stronger.
SMP: How do you begin a story? Do you just sit down with an idea in mind and start writing, or are you a person who wouldn’t dream of starting without a detailed outline, character sketches, and pages of research data?
CYNTHIA: One of my dear friends, and critique partner, get together once a year and outline various story lines. We have a sixteen-point sketch that includes the first meet, turning point in the relationship, midpoint, black moment, and resolution. We bring ideas to the meeting to build upon and brainstorm to help each other fill in the blanks.
SMP: Who or what sparks the ideas for your stories?
CYNTHIA: I’m always thinking about stories. I’m constantly thinking about new ways for my characters to encounter their ‘first meet’. That in itself can spark an entire story to life.
SMP: Tell us a little about what you’re currently working on.
CYNTHIA: I have a book called Sweet Tooth that I started during NaNoWriMo 2011. I plan to get back to it within the next few months. Angela Preston is a single mother, struggling to make ends-meet with a bakery and catering business. When her car is totaled by a local delivery truck, she meets Lance Stone, whom she assumes is the driver’s regional manager. He eats lunch at her diner several days in a row before she finally agrees to a date. Only after she’s given him her heart does she realize he’s the CEO of the company who’s planning to tear down the blind school her son attends.
SMP: We asked Cynthia for a list of her favorite things:
CYNTHIA: A few of my favorites:
The color red
I could stop there, because really, aren’t those the most important? But I’ll keep going.
Pie, not cake
Brownies, not cookies, but they should be warm with ice cream on top
It should be obvious by now that I’m a sweet, not salty, girl.
I love anything girly—facials, pedicures, having my hair and nails done
Jazz, country, easy listening, pop and classical music
Pretty Woman, The Sound Of Music, and Anne Of Green Gables
Little House On The Prairie, The Big Bang, and What Not To Wear
Bravo, FX and ESPN
SMP: Cynthia, you’re a fascinating lady! Thanks so much for visiting with us today!
Cynthia Gail’s debut novel, WINTER’S MAGIC, is available at Soul Mate Publishing, Amazon and Barnes & Noble:
Beth Sergeant and Nick Chester come from opposite ends of the social food chain. While he sees a beautiful woman without an agenda, she sees a wealthy playboy. Can he convince her to let go of her insecurities and take a chance on love, when challenges from his past force her to reveal her most guarded secret?
Owner of La Bella Vita, a five-star day spa nestled in the affluent suburbs of Nashville, Tennessee, Beth Sergeant knows her elite clientele first hand. She attended their private schools. She was even engaged, although briefly, to one of their most recognized bachelors. But she never fit in to their social-elite world.
After losing his parents to a car accident at a young age, Nick Chester was raised by his grandfather, the wealthiest man in Nashville. When he chooses to socialize, he has a never-ending list of exclusive events and beautiful women vying for his attention. Yet he never lets himself forget that everyone has an agenda.
Beth can’t resist Nick’s charm and accepts an invitation to dinner, despite her deep-seated insecurities. She proves she’s nothing like other women Nick’s dated and learns to trust him in return. But just as the last of their resistance crumbles and true love is within reach, challenges from Nick’s past threaten to destroy everything and force Beth to reveal her most guarded secret.