Take Two

It is lovely and appreciated when readers ask questions. However, I don’t always feel as though I’ve answered satisfactorily–sometimes not giving enough information and other times sharing too much. For example, I once participated in a group interview in front of a crowd who had just held a lively and joyful conversation with another author about how much they loved cats in their cozy mysteries. Then the end of my interview went like this…

Interviewer: Is there a cat in your book?
Me: No.
Me: I’m sorry.

Afterwards, I realized that I had completely forgotten (thanks, nerves): there IS a cat named Cady, who plays a pivotal role in warning Lila Maclean about…ack! I can’t say any more. See? From not enough to too much information in one fell swoop. They say practice makes perfect, so here’s yet another attempt to calibrate some answers.

Are your characters based on real people?
Not so far, anyway. Though I have heard writers say they turned people who annoyed them into characters. That might be fun.

Are your novels based on real events?
Only in the most general sense that the kinds of things Lila and her colleagues encounter do happen in academia (professors debate the importance of authors/texts/genres, apply for tenure, and so on). The particular incidents in the books are fictional.

Are your books set in real places?
Stonedale is an imaginary college town, but the Savoy, where Lila goes to meet the incorrigible Damon Von Tussel in The Art of Vanishing, pays homage to a beautiful Art Deco theater in downtown Denver.

Where do your ideas come from?
I’ve read interviews where authors said wonderfully specific things, like “I keep a file of interesting ideas,” or “I cut headlines from the newspaper,” or “This amazing character appeared and I told their story.” But that isn’t true for me. It’s more of a vague sense of an idea, followed by what-if wonderings, then lots of writing, rewriting, and general wrestling into proper story shape.

Recently, I was glad to hear someone say, “My imagination.” Or maybe they said “My brain.” In either case, it was simple and direct. Will that answer satisfy readers? I don’t know. But I suspect that it’s better than “vague sense, plus what-if, plus work.”

Is there a cat in your book?
Yes, and she’s delightful.


Now it’s your turn…what are your favorite questions for authors? Or what are your answers to these questions?

18 thoughts on “Take Two

  1. When will you have a pig in a book at any point? Did that last question give you any ideas for a plot? Or was it just to base an annoying character on me? 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Great post, Cynthia! It would be so nice to be able to go back and “edit” some of those live interviews and Q&A sessions, wouldn’t it?!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. But Ellen, Reese Witherspoon instead of Rhys Bowen just makes me love you more.
      This will make you feel better: one time in class, I called Sir Isaac Newton a cosmetologist (instead of cosmologist). 😀

      Liked by 3 people

  3. “Yes, and she’s delightful.” Love it! And I totally get that feeling of wishing you could have a do-over in a panel. I’m glad you’ve had a chance to set the record straight! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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