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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Cindy Thompson ~ Historical author and Research Enthusiast

Cindy Thomson is a writer and an avid genealogy enthusiast. Her love of history and her Scots-Irish heritage have inspired much of her writing, including her new Ellis Island series. Cindy is also the author of Brigid of Ireland and Celtic Wisdom: Treasures from Ireland. She combined her love of history and baseball to co-author the biography Three Finger: The Mordecai Brown Story, which was a finalist for the Society for American Baseball Research's Larry Ritter Book Award. In addition to books, Cindy has written on a regular basis for numerous online and print publications and is a mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. She is also a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and the Historical Novel Society. Cindy and her husband have three grown sons and live in central Ohio. Visit her online at

What sparked the story?

I’ve always been interested in learning more about my ancestors. While none of mine, that I know of, came through Ellis Island, it’s estimated 40% of Americans today have an ancestor who came through Ellis Island. This era of massive immigration is a part of the history of all Americans. I wanted to tell stories about the struggles, the fears, the doubts, and the triumphs these people lived through.

What would you do differently if you were starting your publishing career today?

Today is much different with electronic publishing and many more options than when I started. I still would pursue traditional publishing, but I think knowing what I know now, I would study the craft more before trying to get published.

Share a bit of your journey to publication.

My first novel was published in 2006. Since then I’ve published some non fiction books, but no more novels until I got the call that Tyndale wanted my Ellis Island series. Historical fiction was my favorite genre, but for seven long years I feared I might never have another novel published. At the same time, I felt I had to try. The writing life is an odd combination of struggle, anguish, pleasure, and joy. It’s the creative process that we have to live through, but once we get our stories into the hands of readers, it’s well worth it.

Where do you write: In a cave, a coffeehouse, or a cozy nook?

I love my office. We’ve lived in this house for the past six years and this has been my best place to write. It’s the only upper room, reached by a spiral staircase. We have a wooded lot and I feel like I’m in a tree house. However, it’s hot in the summer. I have a window air conditioner that helps but when the weather’s nice I take my laptop outside to the deck. So far I’ve failed at writing at coffee shops. I know a lot of writers do that, but I do better with few distractions.

What would you do if you didn't write?

I use to teach, but I’m not sure I could go back to that now, at least not with the little ones. It takes so much energy! I mentor writers online through the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild, and I really enjoy that. I’d probably teach again on some level or….just read a lot! But truly I can’t stop writing. It’s what I have to do.

What issue makes you struggle as an author? How do you handle it?

Organizing my time. Freelancing is challenging even though it’s rewarding being able to make your own schedule. I have found I have to have a calendar with reminders. That way I’m not stopping to ask myself what task I should do next.

What are your top 3 recommendations for a new writer?

1.   Don’t rush to publication. It’s so easy to do that these days, but there is value in taking the time required to learn how to write well. A well-written book will survive much better in the competitive marketplace we have today.
2.   Attend conferences. I can’t recommend this enough. Not only will you learn tons about the craft and business, but you will also connect with writer friends, which is so important. In addition you’ll meet industry professionals like editors and literary agents, and you are not likely to meet them anywhere else.
3.   Read. Read a lot. Read all genres, not just those you write. I’ve heard the argument from people who are afraid they’ll end up writing like the authors they are reading rather than establishing their own voice. I really don’t think that’s a valid argument, not if you’re reading more than one author. You can learn so much by reading really good writing. And if you want to write a book, surely you like to read. If not, I’d say find another occupation.

Some say a writer is born and others say anyone can learn. What do you think?

I think it’s not an easy argument to resolve. There is plenty to learn, and any writer can improve his/her writing by working at it. But I don’t believe just anyone can tell stories well enough to write a good novel. I can’t tell which new writer that applies to, though. I think if you’re driven to write and have a strong desire to have people hear your stories, then you should work at it. If you don’t have that strong of a desire, do something else because it’s not an easy journey.

What's the strangest or funniest experience you've had in writing?

I don’t know if I can come up with one single thing. So much about writing is strange and funny! Research trips have resulted in some strange occurrences, like having a rat run past you in Battery Park, Manhattan, and knowing that was going to happen to your character. It’s strange when you hear your characters talking in your head and you can’t tell anyone lest they think you’re nuts. Or you can’t go to sleep because a scene is playing out in your head.

Do you prefer the creating or editing aspect of writing? How do you feel about research?

Of course I have to have all of that, so I don’t know if I prefer one over the other. But it does seem to be more fun to have the story written and go back to fix what’s wrong and what doesn’t work. I love, love research. Maybe more than writing.

Do you consider yourself a visual writer? If so, what visuals do you use?

I think so. I like to have maps, photographs similar to what I think my characters look like (Tyndale got such a great match for Annie’s Stories’ cover.) I like old photographs, and I have many on my Pinterest page. I think it helps me put myself into their world.

What are your writing rituals?

Basically, I get up, do a devotional and sometimes journal, answer emails, check Facebook and Twitter, exercise, shower, and then settle down to write. Usually. Like I said, I struggle a bit with time management.

Do you work best under pressure or do you write at a leisurely pace?

I’m not sure. A deadline surely helps, but having the luxury of time is wonderful.

What are your thoughts on critique partners?

I had quite a few when I first started. It’s always good to have another set of eyes on your work. Right now the most valuable to me are my fellow authors who are willing to brainstorm with me.

Any final thoughts?

It’s a privilege to have people read my books. Even though writing is a tough occupation, it’s a labor of love that I enjoy and don’t take for granted. Thanks for having me on Novel Rocket! I hope you all will visit me on my Facebook page: or Twitter: @cindyswriting

Annie's Stories

The year is 1901, the literary sensation The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is taking New York City by storm, and everyone wonders where the next great book will come from. But to Annie Gallagher, stories are more than entertainment—they’re a sweet reminder of her storyteller father. After his death, Annie fled Ireland for the land of dreams, finding work at Hawkins House.

But when a fellow boarder with something to hide is accused of misconduct and authorities threaten to shut down the boardinghouse, Annie fears she may lose her new friends, her housekeeping job . . . and her means of funding her dream: a memorial library to honor her father. Furthermore, the friendly postman shows a little too much interest in Annie—and in her father’s unpublished stories. In fact, he suspects these tales may hold a grand secret.

Though the postman’s intentions seem pure, Annie wants to share her father’s stories on her own terms. Determined to prove herself, Annie must forge her own path to aid her friend and create the future she’s always envisioned . . . where dreams really do come true.

1 comment:

  1. I agree, research is vital in historical or any genre. There's nothing worse than reading a book in which something happens that couldn't or wouldn't. Some things, one can get away with, but others - no way. :)


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