Sunday, March 28, 2010
Interview with author and editor Cindy Davis
Cindy, tell us a little bit about yourself.
CD: I am from southern New Hampshire. I have a husband, eleven kids, two dogs, a cat and a guinea pig (that the grandkids thought I couldn’t live without). The kids are all moved away now, so Bob and I spend quite a lot of time in our motorhome, seeing the countryside and watching the wildlife. The pets, except for the cat, travel with us. I began writing non-fiction for a small local magazine in 1994. Moved to fiction in 1999 and never looked back.
In what genres do you write?
CD: Mostly I write mysteries. Book two of my series set in the lakes region of New Hampshire, Play with Fire was released in December. Book three Hair of the Dog will be out in August. I have several other mysteries out. I love formulating mysteries, setting the clues against the red herrings and playing characters off each other. I always try to have a twist in the plot at the end.
Tell us about your latest book.
CD: That would be Play with Fire. The main character Angie Deacon has just opened a community theater. The first performance is marred by the murder of the leading man by a burglar breaking into his ‘house’. In an ironic twist, the burglar is played by Angie’s love interest, Detective Colby Jarvis. Immediately he’s under investigation because the prop/murder weapon had been switched with his service revolver—which had been home in his underwear drawer.
Who is your favorite character in your book and why?
CD: I really like Angie’s mother. Gloria showed up as an add-on character to play off another, but ended up taking over her scenes. The 74 year old won the lottery last year and took off on a world tour, the first thing she’s ever done on her own. But now she’s staying with Angie and suddenly clingy and demanding. Angie fears she’s ill, though Mom claims not. To get out from under her constant neediness, Angie foists her off on Jarvis’ widowed father. And that’s all I’m saying about that situation…
What other writers would you say have influenced your work and why? What are some of your favorite books in your genre?
CD: Several really. My all-time favorite book is Gone with the Wind. I always wanted to write a saga-type story. Took eight years but the result is Cold as Ice. It traces the life of a changeable and quite off-center woman who’s forced into marriage so her father can merge his company with another. She refuses to obey. Her refusal leads her down a number of unexpected and not very good paths.
You are also an editor. How long have you been editing professionally?
CD: I began editing in 1999 at the request of one of my publishers who was in a bind. I found I really loved editing and gradually expanded in into a home-based business—www.fiction-doctor.com. I do mostly freelance work but also edit for six publishing houses; I’m senior editor at Champagne Books. I give workshops at conferences, and teach for writerscollege.com.
Talk a little about what you do and the process.
CD: It’s my job to determine whether a story’s structure works for its genre. I work with authors to develop story lines, round out characters, perk up scenes—basically everything within the story. I point out repeated words and sentences. I also do line edits, grin. Lately, I’m seeing an abundance of compound sentences. Last year the publisher at L&L Dreamspell encouraged me to write a self-help book for authors. The resulting title was You Have the Power—self-edit your way into print. Rather than pages and pages of reasons not to do something, or explanations of how to do it, I provide a ‘bad’ paragraph and then a sample of how it might be rewritten with an explanation of why the new one works.
I think the most common writing mistake is authors beginning their story in the wrong place—usually too early in the character’s situation. The last writers conference I taught at, I had thirty submissions to evaluate. Of the thirty, twenty-six began in the wrong phase of the story. I teach authors to begin just before, during or slightly after the inciting incident in your character’s life—the event that changes your character’s life for good.
Do you have any advice for young or beginning writers?
CD: Be prepared for rejection, but don’t take it personally. Keep writing, keep learning, and always keep improving. Infuse your manuscript with zing: a distinctive plot line, a unique character with a truly different career (I see too many waitresses, teachers and waaay too many writers), some humor, or great conflict. Preferably add all of those. Publishers are so overwhelmed with good submissions that you need something above and beyond in order to get accepted.
Who is your publisher and where are your books available?
CD: I have several publishers. The latest, who pubbed my Angie Deacon mystery series, is L&L Dreamspell. They are great folks to work with. LLD has also just released my five book middle reader adventure series, Desert Bandits, that I’m quite excited about. The main characters are three boys who can’t seem to keep from getting into trouble. I’ve tried to remain true to the 1860s time period and wrapped the stories around a traveling circus, an orphan train and a general store. Are there e-books and hard copies available? Yes. Ebooks and trade paper. I am pubbed by Champagne Books, too. My mystery A Page from the Past will soon be released in audio book. I am also pubbed by The Wild Rose Press with my romantic suspense Final Masquerade.
What are your websites and/or blogs where readers can learn more?
CD: http://www.cdavisnh.com/, www.desertmagictrilogy.com, http://www.fiction-doctor.com/.
Can they friend you on Facebook or other sites?
CD: Facebook, yes.
Are there any upcoming signings or appearances you’d like to mention?
CD: I do something almost every weekend, from libraries to bookshops, to cafés to craft fairs. Most all my events are in the northeast. I try to keep an updated list on my website.
Cindy, thanks for giving me the opportunity to interview you!