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An Interview with Writer Cynthia Hand

An Interview with Writer Cynthia Hand

By Miss Marm

I love Cynthia Hand's thoughts about teaching writing, and her advice for aspiring novelists. For more info on books in the series, check out Dark Days on FB! —Miss Marm

When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I've always been a writer, from the time that I could write! When I was a kid I was absolutely sure that's what I wanted to be. I loved books so much, and wanted nothing more than to create my own stories. In high school and college, I still wrote a lot, but I'd decided that writing was going to be a hobby for me, not a career. I was pre-law in college, until one day early in my senior year, when I was standing in the law section of the library, and I had this thought: I don't want to be a lawyer. I want to be a WRITER. I immediately went home and started to apply for MFAs in Creative Writing, and the rest is history.

Who would win in a fight: a vampire, a werewolf, or a zombie?

Hmmm, going to go with vampire on this one. They just seem tougher and harder to injure.

Are you a fan of Twilight?

My first thought when I read Twilight was, "Wow, I would have LOVED this when I was 16." Even at 31, I really enjoyed reading the series. I'm not a die-hard (Twi-hard?) fan but I liked the books and really admire Stephanie Meyer for her ability to create characters and a story that speaks to so many people. I wrote a blog post about Twilight here that explains my official position on Twilight a little more fully.

What are your five favorite books?

Wow, this is like picking favorite stars in the heavens. Well, my favorite book of all time is To Kill A Mockingbird. Other old favorites include Ender's Game, Anne of Green Gables, Cold Mountain, Many Waters, by Madeleine L'Engle, and The Giver.

What are your five favorite scary movies?

I'm kind of a wuss when it comes to scary movies these days. I used to think horror films were funny, but then at some point either they started to get scarier or I got more sensitive. I never fully recovered from The Grudge, which was the last scary movie I saw in a theater, Halloween night, 2004. But here's a list of the ones I liked as a kid/could stomach as an adult: Zombieland—hilarious, loved this one. The Blair Witch, really freaking scary, didn't want to go camping for a long time after this movie. The Lady in White, totally freaked me out as a kid. Signs—Aliens SCARE me, I literally screamed like a girl when Mel Gibson looked under the pantry door, and The Changeling, another old movie that really did a number on my head.

Where do you write?

Wherever I can. :) Mostly at my desk in my office. However, in writing Book 2, I did a lot of the writing longhand in a comfy chair in the Pepperdine University library.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Don't just write. Study. I don't mean formal study, although that certainly helped me a lot, but take it upon yourself to study writing the way beginning painters study art or the way musicians study music theory. Read books about technique, take classes, READ novels until your eyes bleed, participate in writing groups and writing communities. This will help you get outside of yourself a bit, see your writing from new perspectives, take yourself seriously as a writer.

Do you think writing can be taught?

Absolutely. (I am a creative writing professor, after all, lol)  As an instructor I've seen a lot of students who are extraordinarily, naturally gifted as writers, who will probably never become professional writers because they don't take it seriously enough, or they won't work hard enough, or they have complicated lives that get in the way. And I've seen students who are initially less talented but more determined, who work to make their writing the level of art, who study hard and try to take in every little tidbit of knowledge about writing, and who I have no doubt will publish amazing books one day. Fiction guru John Gardner liked to say that writers don't learn so much as they "catch on" to what makes good writing. I've always seen my job as a teacher to basically help my students catch on.

What is your new novel about?

Unearthly, (out right now! Woohoo!) is the story of a 16-year-old girl named Clara Gardner, who comes from a very unusual family. Her mother is half-angel, (an angel-blood, as they like to be called), and when Clara and her younger brother, Jeffrey, are deemed old enough, their mother tells them about their angel heritage and how each angel-blood is given a purpose in this life, something that they are meant to do. The novel begins with Clara having a vision of her purpose, which involves a forest fire and a mysterious boy. Following the clues from this vision, her family picks up and moves from California to Jackson, Wyoming so that Clara can fulfill her purpose. The book follows her journey to figure out her reason for being on this earth, and ends up with a big decision that Clara must make, a choice between following the rules and following her heart.

The novel I'm working on at the moment is the sequel to Unearthly, which will be out in January 2012. This book continues to follow Clara as she deals with the consequences of her fateful choice in the forest on the day of the fire, along with a whole new set of conflicts and adventures along the way. There will be some new characters, some old characters seen in a different light, with more focus given to the purposes of the other angel-bloods in the story, namely Jeffrey and Maggie. There will also be some rodeo, skiing, and Wyoming sight-seeing, and maybe the appearance of a full-blooded angel or two.

Angels! Cool!

Related post: An Interview with Writer Kimberly Derting

Topics: Books
Tags: dark days, interviews with writers, cynthia hand

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