Today I have an interview with Cidney Swanson. Cidney currently has two books out, making the first two books in The Ripple Series. Both books have been getting impressive reviews, and Cidney certainly seems to be an author to keep an eye on in the future!
JGA: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. To start with, can you tell us a bit about yourself, and how you got started writing?
CS: I’ve been a reader and writer since the time I could do those two activities on my own. I wrote only for myself for decades before waking up one day and deciding I’d write a book to share.
CS: I say on my twitter profile that I type my ideas into whatever device is at hand! Phone, kindle, laptop, desktop . . . I’ll write on paper, but only if I have to. I currently stick to a couple-hours-every-morning schedule for my actual writing time which usually happens at my dedicated desk. I save afternoons, when I’m drowsy, for things like fan mail and marketing. Oh, that sounded bad. But I actually picked that schedule because fan mail inevitably cheers (and wakes) me up. Afternoon is a good time for that, right?
JGA: How do you personally like to read books you buy these days?
CS: I still love getting a hardcover of a much-anticipated release (especially signed at an event!) But I have to admit it is so much more convenient to read on my kindle or even iTouch. I’m seeing myself switching that way more and more. I mostly read novel-length works. I like really, really, long books because I get to spend more time with the characters. I feel sad when I read a short story. For me, it is like a too-short visit. (Assuming I like the guests!) But I have read some amazing short stories. And I like poetry.
JGA: Which authors (or books) have had the most influence on your writing style, and why?
CS: Hmmmmm. For influence, definitely Tolkien was huge. That is, my work is neither derivative nor similar, and yet his world-building made me comfortable (from a young age) creating and inhabiting imaginary worlds of my own. Jane Austen and George Eliot just get humanity and being human so well. I read a ton of Ray Bradbury as a kid, and I know that’s where I fell in love with SciFi/speculative fiction. And as an adult? I love the poetry+storytelling to be found in YA authors Maggie Stiefvater, Nova Ren Sum and writing team Kami Garcia/Margaret Stohl. Love me some Audrey Niffenegger for the same reason, although she’s not YA.
JGA: How do you go about planning your writing?
CS: A story usually starts with me hearing a character talking in my head. If the character (and his or her situation) sticks with me for a couple of days, I’ll start writing or at least jot down the ideas for later. Action ideas and story arc come to me when I’m in motion. (Go figure!) So I walk a lot when I’m working out details. I used to drive, but then gas got expensive and the polar caps began to recede.
I definitely plan where my story is heading long in advance. I often outline. I knock out a rough draft first which usually needs a lot of polishing. I edit in stages, going through about five complete passes (word by word) before I call something “done.” (And then there’s outside editorial input, rewrites, etc.)
JGA: What gave you the initial idea for your novel, “Rippler“?
CS: In my mind, I saw a girl sitting quietly beside a calm section of the Merced River. As I watched her (she was staring at the river), she faded and became invisible. I had to know why. Also, it bugged me that she didn’t notice she’d turned invisible. I had to figure out how she could possibly not know that she’d vanished. The story rose from that image.
JGA: Can you tell us a bit about the main character, Samantha Ruiz, and some of the challenges she has to face as the story progresses?
CS: Sure. Sam (who’s fifteen) starts the story having recently come out of a shell of seclusion and depression that’s lasted eight years. She’s at this great spot in her life now with friends and freedom from depression. Then she finds out she has a strange gene others would kill for. So, her real challenge is to keep an ability—which she can’t control—hidden from others. But she moves from merely hiding to assuming a more active role in protecting her life and the lives of those she loves. She definitely has a character arc of increasing kickass-ness.
JGA: Who are the readers would enjoy “Rippler” the most?
CS: YA stories are enjoyed by a much larger audience than teens, so you can be ten or sixty and still enjoy YA. RIPPLER is usually categorized as Urban Fantasy or Sci-Fi. Readers who enjoy character-driven plots and well-crafted internal logic in their speculative fiction will probably enjoy RIPPLER the most. Also, to enjoy RIPPLER, you need a tolerance for peeks at some of humanity’s darker angles. And you should enjoy stories that have a dominant message of hope within the darkness.
JGA: What other items are you working on at the moment?
CS: In terms of fiction that I’ve completed at least a first draft manuscript of and that will actually see the light of day? Well, I have Book One of a futuristic Sci-Fi series cooling its heels at the moment. Also in the “fermenting/aging” stage is a stand-alone paranormal romance with ballerinas and goblins. At the moment I’m focused on finishing up the Ripple Series, however. (See? I’m awake when I read my fan mail! And I listen!)
JGA: If you could somehow change reality and become the author of any published book instead of the person who originally wrote it, which book would you make your own and why?
CS: Oh, easy-peasy. I’d be the one who wrote THE BOOK THIEF instead of Markus Zusak! It’s that thing about hope piercing through really dark moments and places. And that thing about poetry scattered upon each page. When I want to remind myself to be a better writer, I just open that novel to a page. Any page. I jump in and swim around a bit, and after I get out and towel off, my prose comes out better. Oh, and I almost forgot: Death as a narrator? Come on. Why didn’t I think of that? Seriously.