Author Cynthia Robinson has written a new book titled Birds of Wonder, this new work which is billed as a Riverdale-Like Read and is sure to keep you turning the page wanting more. The synopsis reads "Set among the hills and lakes of upstate New York and told in six vibrantly distinct voices, this complex and original narrative chronicles the rippling effects of a young girl’s death through a densely intertwined community. By turns funny, fierce, lyrical and horrifying, Birds of Wonder probes family ties, the stresses that break them, and the pasts that never really let us go." These themes are all current in today's society and what we have seen, dealt with, or experienced.
I was happy when I received this opportunity for this new book to get a chance to interview its author about the book's content which is so relevant in today's world! Cynthia Robinson talks below about what inspired her to write this book, advice for young writers, what she learned about herself, and what is to come!
Where did the inspiration come to write this book?
It’s a story I’ve been carrying around for a very long time. When I was in my teens, growing up in Tennessee, the body of a young girl was discovered in a vacant lot next to a church, only a few blocks from my house. A woman found her while walking her dog. The girl was only a few years older than I and eerily similar to me in physical appearance. I used to run laps around that field, early in the morning. That could easily have been me. I’ve often had a sense of living a bit on borrowed time.
What made you decide to write a murder mystery?
I didn’t set out to do that, necessarily. It was really the image of that girl in the field. I started with that, which dictated the direction, at least initially.
Was this based on a true story?
In addition to the girl in the field, a number of the more disturbing aspects of the story—underage porn, sexual tourism, pedophilia—are based on brushes with these rather sordid realities taken from my own life, or from the lives of women close to me.
When writing your pieces, where do you draw creativity from?
Sometimes it’s effortless, it just comes flowing along and I have to grab it. From current events, from my own life, from things I hear or read. Others, it’s a slog. I use a lot of note cards, have a schedule. If it doesn’t come looking for me, I go find it! Ass in chair, fingers on keys. If you don't produce any words, you don't have anything to revise. Sometimes you'll have to toss the whole lot out, it will be crap, but sometimes, even on a bad writing day, you might produce a sentence that is a keeper.
In your view, what makes "the perfect story?"
I like pieces of writing that displace me, that make the odd familiar, or the familiar seem uncanny. The more it challenges me and makes me think, the better. Superb writing, please, but writing that doesn’t get in the way of the story. A strong plot is a must, though it needs to be character-driven to hold my attention. I’m fine with melancholy—a happy ending is not high on the list.
Was this book based off Riverdale series, or did it draw from it?
“At the time I was writing Birds of Wonder, I had never heard of Riverdale - so I think it is a coincidence that the stories have some similarities. Now that I’ve heard so much about Riverdale, it’s definitely on my list of shows to watch."
Who was your favorite character to write about, and why?
I love them all, as though they were my dear friends, but I would have to say Jes. She’s damaged and tough and complicated, very smart. She takes the sorts of risks with herself that damaged people often do. She’s a little like me in some aspects though she should not be read as autobiographical. She’s a pretty decent person despite herself.
What did you learn about yourself while writing this book?
I learned that I am even more tenacious than I thought—this writing business is HARD.
I learned that the past is always with you, even when you choose to ignore it, and that if you don’t pay attention, it’ll eventually make you.
I learned that I am a lifer, I am hooked, I am a writer even if no one ever again publishes a single word I write. That is both a joyful and a rueful thing to say. Writing is a tough mistress with a wicked little laugh and dominatrix tendencies.
What is next for you?
I’m on the fourth draft of a novel whose title I would rather not spell out here—a bit superstitious, what can I say—set in a hotel in London that I have cause to know very well. There is love, all manner of love, and there are ghosts.
What is the best advice you can give to someone who wants to write a book of their own?
Read. Re-read. Read, read, read. Then read some more. And re-read that. Read out of your comfort zone. If you think you hate poetry, then read poetry. If you think you hate historical fiction, find a masterful (or mistress-ful) work in that genre and read it. Have a schedule and stick to it. Even if you can only carve out 15 minutes, try to have some contact with your work every day. It keeps the channels open. Join or form a writing group, or find a trusted writer friend with whom to swap material, someone who will tell you your stuff stinks if that is what is needed, and to whom you are willing to return the tough love (one way to do this is by attending writing workshops—I am a two-time participant in the fabulous summer workshops at Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and I owe them pretty much everything, my agent included). Find a method—this is going to take some trial and error, but you will eventually hit on your bowl of just-right Goldilocks Porridge—and then stick to it. Mine involves lots of white boards and note cards, writing first thoughts down in Spanish, different colored pens, etc. I’ve read that Donna Tartt’s method is even more insanely byzantine (readers should probably take hers as a model over mine, if we're to judge by results). And finally, buckle in for the long haul. This is hard. The publishing world is increasingly difficult to break into, and it’s getting harder (and more commercial and click-driven) every single second. You’ll know you really love writing if you’re damned and determined to keep doing it despite all the crap that will inevitably be thrown your way!