An Interview with Cindy Appel


The Fixer-Uppers
Cynthianna Appel
ISBN 1-59088-058-7 November 2001
Wings ePress


Author Bio

Cindy Appel is a bi-weekly online columnist, romance novelist, essayist and freelance article writer (not necessarily in that order and not necessarily on any given day). Her short fiction has appeared online and in the anthology Three Naked Ladies Playing Cellos from Damn Yankee Press (April 2000). Her award-winning column, Every Day Is Mother’s Day, can be found at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Online. Her first novel, a contemporary romance, The Fixer-Uppers, is due for release in November 2001 (for all formats) by Wings ePress.

Interview

1.Can you tell us a little about yourself, your background, writing career, etc?

I think I’m one of those people who always wanted to be a writer, but I just didn’t know that was the career path I wanted to take early on. I’m the third of four children and my father was a college professor/writer/lecturer/minister, so growing up there were a lot of other people (besides siblings) in the house talking and acting out around me and I became a pretty good observer of human nature and behaviors. I liked to write stories in my head, but I seldom committed any to paper. Other than winning second place in a statewide poetry contest in seventh grade, that’s about it as far as my early attempts at writing went. I must have had some naturally affinity for words, however, as I tested out of English composition (earning a complete term’s worth of credit) before I went off to college. I was later told, “You can write a sentence. You can place it along with several others into a coherent paragraph and argue your point. Most college students can’t do that.” Suffice it to say, I was flabbergasted.

I began college as a film student, but I wasn’t happy at the university I attended, so I dropped out after I was married. Two children, a half dozen jobs later and two degrees one in Substance Abuse Counseling and the other in Psychologylater, I found myself underemployed and frustrated with the job scene altogether. I had freelanced some articles for church publications and at a small local magazine, so I thought I would simply start calling myself a ‘writer’ so people (mostly other women) would stop giving me dirty looks when I told them I was a stay-at-home mother.

I began writing fiction alongside my other work but didn’t have much success until I got online. I have to say in all honesty, the Internet really speeded up my writing career. Instead of months and years of waiting for rejection letters, they now arrived in my email box almost the moment after I sent out the query! But as I met other writers online and began to network with them, I stopped my ‘shot-gun’ technique and started enjoying a little more success with my submissions. I hooked up with some nice folks at Darkstormy.com and became a published fiction author with my short story, Unalone, in the anthology Three Naked Ladies Playing Cellos. Other online pals convinced me my ‘women’s fiction’ novel was in reality a romance.

2. Your new novel, a contemporary romance, The Fixer-Uppers, is due to be published in November 2001. Can you tell us a little about the book and why you write in the romance genre?

Why romance? Why not romance, I say! I’m not what you many may think a ‘rabid romance reader’ myself. Actually, I read quite a few of the ‘category romances’ back in junior high and high school, but not many as an ‘adult’. I remember when I first started reading romances, though. My next door neighbor handed my sister and me this huge bag full of paperback romances one snowy winter’s day, saying, “Here’s something to keep you occupy during the next blizzard.” (We were living in Ohio, and it was a very hard winter that year.) Needless to say, we both demolished that pile of books and wanted more. But as I ‘grew older and wiser’ I started listening to those people who tell you ‘romances are lightweight stuff’.

When I began to experiment with fiction writing, I told myself, “These are WOMEN’S FICTION stories, not romances.” What a snob I was! Nowadays, I see nothing wrong with writing stories in what has to be the most popular fiction genre on the planet. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting a ‘happy ending’ (emotionally satisfying ending) for your characters. I think the average reader reads to be entertained and uplifted not brought down to the depths of despair. Romance entertains and encourages people by saying, “In spite of the madness in the world, love can conquer all.” What greater thing can a writer do for his/her readers than encourage them?

My book, The Fixer-Uppers, then is an ‘encouragement’ to those who feel down and out in the romance department. My heroine, Cassie, is a divorced mother of two rambunctious boys who is barely able to make a living. She meets up with Mike, a down on his luck, working guy, and together they are able to fight off the ‘madness’ of the world (such as her non-child support paying ex-husband and his ditzy ex-girlfriend) and conquer all through the power of their love. Yes, it’s not your typical story of a ‘glamour model’ heroine and ‘Alpha male’ hero of many romances, but I think readers will be able to relate to Mike and Cassie and cheer them on. My ‘hook line’ is “Can a single mom find happiness on a blind date or at least a male who can cut up his own food?” That gives you sort of a feel for the tone for the story, I think. (You can read more about my book at my site at www.cyberedge.net/~cynthianna.)

3. You have had much success with your column Every Day is Mother’s Day, your essays and articles. Do you believe that writers need to spread their wings in publishing today, i.e. wear as many different hats as possible to promote their careers and branch out into different aspects of writing?

Yes and no. If you are dying to see your name in print, your best bet is to start out writing and submitting non-fiction. I religiously read Writers Digest magazine for over a decade, and they pretty much convinced me of that fact. And I have to say from my experience, that it’s true. If you start ‘small’ by writing short non-fiction pieces and work your way up to larger and larger projects, I think most writers will find eventual success in the area of writing that appeals to them most. It also gives you a lot of insight into the publishing world as a whole. My freelance writing has introduced me to numerous editors and publishers that I would otherwise not have met if I had stuck with only writing fiction. I learned a lot about how to query and how to have patience with other writing professionals from my non-fiction experience and that definitely helps with the fiction side of the game.

The ‘no’ answer comes from the fact that by writing in several different ‘categories’ you begin to feel a bit ‘thin’ after a while. Once I felt like my fiction writing was going somewhere, I started to cut back on my non-fiction work. Amazingly enough, it hasn’t disappeared altogether, as I have my ears always open and will submit non-fiction work from time to time, usually with much more successful results than when I was doing it ‘full-time’. Strange, but true. And fiction writers can always ‘promote’ their books by doing non-fiction pieces for writing magazines, etc. So I tell other potential novelists to never say never to considering writing non-fiction.

4. What are you currently working on and what are your goals for the future?

My immediate goal for the future is to keep my sanity intact. Oh, and write more contemporary romances I think the more I read and write in the genre, the more I like it. Of course, I’m a big sci-fi fan, too, so maybe one day I’ll try my hand in that field as well.

Writing-wise, I am currently working on a ‘big’ humorous contemporary romance. I have several other novels in various states of completion (one submitted), and I’m waiting to hear back about its status.

5. Where do you get your inspiration from and how do you work from an idea to the completed work?

I think inspiration sort of sneaks up on you and takes you by storm when you least expect it! I can be sitting in the car and some idea for a story pops into my head from out of nowhere. If I’m lucky, I’ll write the idea down before I forget it!

I’m more of a ‘character driven’ novelist than a ‘plot oriented’ writer. Usually I come up with the idea for the characters first, then play ‘what if’. What would a single mom who hasn’t dated in five years do if her best friend and co-worker fixed her up with her fiancé’s best friend and co-worker? Would the dating couple immediately hit it off? (In The Fixer-Uppers they don’t hit it off at first they’re just ‘friends,’ which makes it read a lot more realistic than many romance stories.) And what other problems would these two working class people have in their lives – manipulative children? Cheap ex-husbands? Meddling mothers? Threats of unemployment? That’s where I get the plot.

Of course, when you have to write so many words for a specific publisher (like the book I’m working on now) you have to ask yourself, “Have I asked myself enough questions about the characters to write 100,000 words about them?” That’s when writing an outline of the action in the story can help. But mostly, I still let the ‘characters take the lead’ and write at least the first draft that way. The real art, they say, is in the re-writing.

6. Your short fiction has been published in an anthology Three Naked Ladies Playing Cellos. This book is available as an ebook as well as in print and your new novel will be published electronically. Do you like the idea of epublishing and what do you think it offers a writer today?

I think e-publishers are filling a need for BOTH authors and readers who aren’t being reached by the ‘conventional’ big print publishers. In a day and age of the publishing giants devouring the little houses, the number of titles and the diversity of titles that the average reader can find in the bookstores is shrinking. I mean, walk into a Borders Bookstore or something similar. There are tons of books on the shelves, but how many DIFFERENT books are there? Not as many as you think. The e-publishers are small, but they can target niche audiences that the big publishers really don’t care to target (feeling that there isn’t a lot of money to be made from these readers probably). And what if you like writing (or reading) a ‘cross genre’ type of book? Like a ‘Fantasy-horror-gothic-romance-action-suspense-thriller’? Guess who doesn’t publish those kinds of books– yep, the big houses. So e-publishing has a definite place in the publishing scheme of things.

Plus, with the ability to download things from the Internet, an e-book can be written in one country, sold to a reader in another country and then talked about in yet another. The author’s message spreads around the world almost instantaneously! Think of the possibilities…. Literature that would only be read and purchased in one spot of the globe is now available easily all over the globe. Freedom of speech for everyone! Even Guttenberg would be pleased.

7. Finally, what writers have inspired you and do you have a particular favorite?

I hate to say I have a ‘favorite’ author as I’m afraid I’d hurt too many of my writing friends’ feelings! The author who influenced me growing up the most was Laura Ingalls Wilder of the ‘Little House on the Prairie’ fame. Her motto was ‘write what you know’ and she did just thatforever immortalizing the American West of the past century before it completely faded away. She wasn’t a particularly skilled writer, but she was an HONEST writer who believed in what she wrote, and I admire that trait. My modern day ‘favorite authors’ also possess the same honesty. I mean, if you can’t ‘believe’ in what you’re writing, then why should anyone else?

Excerpt: The Fixer-Uppers

CHAPTER ONE

Breathless, she glanced backwards over her bare shoulder. Her mysterious pursuer was mere steps behind her. It was damn near impossible jogging about in a hoop skirt! How had Scarlett O’Hara ever managed it? Now he was upon her, his strong hands reaching out to grab her, pulling her down on top of him. They both fell backwards in slow-motion, laughing in each other’s passionate embrace, onto the sweet scented carpet of grass–

“There. I don’t think a wedding cake is complete until the bride and groom are on top. Don’t you agree, Cass?” Angelina Rodriguez sighed, abruptly breaking into Cassie Stubinski’s idle thoughts.

Cassie shook her head and stared a full ten seconds at her co-worker before she felt she was able to give a coherent reply. Her smile was tinged with a hint of sadness as she mumbled, “Uh, sure thing.”

The afternoon had begun in much the same way as most. Being a slow day at Don’s IGA bakery department, Cassie had found herself daydreaming as she made frosting rosettes of various sizes for a wedding cake order. In her mind’s eye she envisioned herself and her forever faceless champion cavorting God-knew-where in some God-knew-when period of history. This unknown hero would, of course, rescue her from the life of grinding poverty she had labored hard to establish for herself and her two young sons these past five years, along with being the most perfect companion a woman could ever want. And he would be able to do his own laundry to boot.

In her dreams, her life was complete. It was always bright and sunny, light-hearted and romantic–just like it was in the movies. But dreams and movies weren’t reality and Cassie knew it. She made a silent vow to never watch Gone With The Wind ever again.

She sized up her young co-worker across the counter. The dreamy, far-off look that had haunted Angelina’s mahogany eyes for the past six months was medicine enough to cure Cassie of daydreaming. Young love–she hoped it wasn’t contagious. With a sober heart, she watched Angelina carefully positioned the figurines atop the towering torte, a three foot tiered bridal creation smothered in butter cream frosting.

Copyright Cynthianna Appel 1999

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