Cynthia Hand is a native of southeastern Idaho and currently lives with her husband and two small children in Southern California, where she teaches writing at Pepperdine University. She has graduate degrees in creative writing from Boise State University and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Instead of a muse, Cynthia has a guardian angel named Buster. He wears a Stetson in place of a halo, prefers a beat-up pickup truck to flying, and loves to correct Cynthia’s grammar.
Could you tell us 5 random facts about yourself?
1) I have loved to play video games ever since my brother and I worked fervently to get good grades in order to receive a Nintendo the summer of 1988. The song to Super Mario still makes my heart beat fast. I love arcades, XBox, PC games, Wii, you name it. My favorite arcade game of all time is the Star Wars Trilogy, where you actually fight Darth Vader with a light saber. I prefer to think of myself as that cool chick who plays video games rather than an ubergeek, but hey, I say tomAto, you say tomahto. I’m okay with that. I’ve accepted my inner geek.
2) I am lactose intolerant but love all things cheesy and creamy– a terrible paradox.
3) I have a strange fascination/fear of bears. I constantly dream of bears, particularly grizzlies. I have written two short stories involving bears and a mess of poems, and, oh yes, a bear appears in Unearthly. Once I looked up bears in a book that interpreted symbols in dreams. It said that bears are a symbol of mortality. I felt cheated that the meaning would be so obvious.
4) I can usually name the composer of a movie’s score a few bars into the opening credits. My favorite movie composer is Thomas Newman. I have listened to the score of The Horse Whisperer more than any other album on iTunes by a wide margin. It actually lowers my blood pressure.
5) The first day I ever taught a college class I had a fever of 103 and strep throat. I didn’t go to the doctor. I thought I was just really nervous.
Hallowed is the second in a series. How was writing a second book different from writing the first?
I wrote the first book for me, and me alone. I just wanted to hang out with the characters every day and find out what happened. I wrote fairly slowly, always during my two-year-old son’s naps, circling back over what I’d written the previous day before I moved on, about 1000 words a day. Writing Unearthly was a slow and steady process over the span of about six months. It was relaxing. It was fun.
Writing Hallowed was like a crazy sprint. Everything had changed. I wasn’t just writing for me anymore, obviously. My son no longer took naps, and I was pregnant with my daughter. I was teaching two classes, doing a bunch of marketing and author-type stuff, trying to keep up with the housework and the laundry and putting meals on the table. I was very very stressed. The bulk of the writing happened in a three-month space where I was working eight hours a day, four days a week, with my son in daycare and my family eating on paper plates. It was not, ha ha ha, relaxing. But it was still fun, for all of that. And I was deeply invested in the story, determined to get it right, determined to take Clara to an honest place. I was so proud when I finished, maybe even more so than I was when I finished Unearthly.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
The reviews have been very kind to me, thank goodness, because I can’t seem to stop reading them. Seriously, I am trying to quit. They’re distracting. And they can be hurtful in a way that is deeply wounding to the writerly soul. But, on the other hand, even the negative reviews can be helpful, because they help me see my story from the outside, help me see the way my characters are being interpreted outside of my own head. Perspective can be good.
The toughest criticism is from reviewers who loved Unearthly and don’t like Hallowed, mostly because they don’t agree with the choices Clara makes. I understand how they feel, actually. Clara is not perfect and she makes mistakes, somtimes dumb/selfish mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes are going to anger the reader. Part of the whole writing gig, I think, and I expected that. But it is still painful to see people who were once raving about my books screaming RUINED! DISAPPOINTED! (See why I have to stop reading the reviews?)
The best compliments are the ones about the language, for me. I am a word-smith, and I love tinkering with words and playing with the sounds and making the language beautiful, so I love it when people pay attention to that. I also love comments about how readers connected with what Clara was feeling. That tells me that I’ve done my job, as a writer. People care about my character as much as I do! What a surreal and wonderful thing! (See why it’s so hard to stop reading the reviews?)
Where’s your favorite place to write?
The Pepperdine University library, overlooking the ocean, in a cushy desk-chair with my feet up on another cushy chair. Quiet. The smell of books. The ocean. My characters’ words in my head.
What character do you relate most to?
I relate to different characters at different times, but in Hallowed I think I most related to Clara in the face of her terrible loss, since I have had my own terrible losses in my life, and to Jeffrey, whose anger I completely understood.
What is easier to write: The first line or the last line?
The last line. I tinker forever with the beginning.
What one YA novel do you wish you had when you were a teen?
Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher. I love the way this book calls attention to how the little things we do can have a big effect on people. It would have made me a more thoughtful teen, I think.
Do you have things you need in order to write ie. coffee, cupcakes, music?
Quiet. A good pen. A comfortable chair. A clear-head, which usually requires about thirty minutes of wind-down time, with music that speaks to my current WIP.
What are you working on now?
Book Three. And I’m working on a title for book three.
This interview is part of the Mundie Moms blog tour. You can see all the tour stops with fun videos and character interviews HERE.
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