Welcome to the three hundred and fifty-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with mystery / suspense author Cindy Huefner Cromer. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Cindy. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Cindy: I am originally from Freehold Township, New Jersey and currently reside in Stuart, Florida with my husband, son, and daughter. I am a scientist and earned B.S. degrees in Chemistry and Biology. I then rose in my career to the executive level and became the president of a laboratory network. In this role I have written numerous laboratory procedures and research documents.
Now I have embarked on a new endeavor, into the publishing world, with the release of my debut mystery novel, Desperate Measures.
Morgen: Writing what you know, always a good plan for your first novel (she says having written her first from the point of view of a hitman!). What genre do you generally write?
Cindy: I write mystery / suspense because that is the genre I love to read. I have a children’s book that I have in mind but haven’t gotten very far with the story and I’m not sure of the illustrating process.
Morgen: I guess you can either find an illustrator first or write your story and worry about that afterwards. The forums on LinkedIn would help you with that. What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Cindy: My debut mystery fiction novel, Desperate Measures, was released in May 2011 in e-book format. The print version became available in November of 2011. I am finalizing my second book, Desperate Deceptions. I write using my maiden and married name, Cindy Huefner Cromer.
Morgen: This is your first book, have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Cindy: I have had so many I can’t even give a ball-park figure. Every author must be prepared for rejection and criticism. Some agents and publishers are brutal, some don’t respond at all, and some provide some constructive criticism. I embraced those rejections and utilized them to polish my novel. After numerous query letters when I finally saw those magic words, contract offer, I couldn’t believe my eyes and thought my manuscript had been confused with someone else’s.
Morgen: <laughs> If you keep trying long enough you’ll get there… and you did. As far as rejections go you just have to think that they know best but that it’s the right thing for the wrong person. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Cindy: I don’t have an agent and I’ve heard conflicting comments from other authors about how much the agent really does for them.
Morgen: Me too – I’d say about half the authors I’ve spoken to are positive, half negative. Are your books available as eBooks? Were you involved in that process at all? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Cindy: Yes my book is available in e-book formats. My contract states that after 100 e-books sell it goes to print. Desperate Measures became available on print November 2011. I prefer paper and print when I read.
Morgen: I’m a new (February) convert to eBooks but I wouldn’t give up paper books… and again most of the people I’ve spoken to feel the same. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Cindy: I do quite a bit of the marketing and am struggling a bit to effectively get my book out there. I am trying to obtain a publicist.
Morgen: It’s hard isn’t it. I must admit that other than this blog (which is a lot of work as you can imagine), I do very little to promote my own books so they’re going out at a trickle but generally feedback has been very positive (apart from on Goodreads unfortunately… not sure why). Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Cindy: Barry Solerno is my favorite character. When I’m asked this question, most expect me to respond with Caitlin the main character. I’ll explain why I am partial to Barry. I reached an impasse while writing Desperate Measures at around 12,000 words, all of you writers know how important that work count ticker is. I had the plot and ending set but realized I needed something or someone to add and bring it all together and thus Barry was born. I’m particularly proud of how I introduced him then peeled away the layers and revealed to the readers what makes him tick. One of my favorite scenes is when that first layer is pulled away. I read it over and over sometimes when the dreaded writers block sets in. Those who have read Desperate Measures, any guess to which scene I am referring to?
I also had a lot fun writing about Tomas Medina, FBI Senior Special Agent in Charge. He has some light comedy scenes and at times found myself laughing hysterically when writing about him.
Quite a few readers have asked me who Chris Dobbs is and want to meet him. Well, so do I! He’s a complete figment of my imagination. I needed a character to spice up a few scenes and created Chris, tall at six foot-five, and gorgeous. He plays a bigger role in Desperate Deceptions.
I love answering the question of who would play in the movie! Someone even posted in their review that Desperate Measures should be made into a movie. As a new author, I am so far thrilled with the fantastic reviews and not sure a move will ever happen. Below are some of the actors who I think would be perfect to play the roles of the characters I created: Cailtin Martel – Sandra Bullock, Tomas Medina – Josh Duhamel would be perfect for this role. Tomas has some very serious scenes but also a few comedy ones as well. Scott Martel – Nicholas Cage, Lukas Bucklin – Clint Eastwood, Drew Porter – Martin Lawrence, Barry Solerno – Tom Hanks. As you can see, the producer would have to have a huge budget, LOL!
Morgen: He wood but if he got all those he’d surely make his money back. Maybe Clint could produce / act. Did you have any say in the title / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Cindy: I chose the title. I know Desperate Measures seems common but the other novels are a different genre. While writing Desperate Measures, the plot of my second book began to unfold and I thought Desperate Deceptions would be perfect. As far as the cover is concerned, I had some input but Suzannah Safi designed it. The black rocks on the cover are from an actual picture taken in St. Kitts that I sent to my publisher. I receive so many compliments about the cover of my book, I force the saying, “Can’t judge a book by its cover”, from my mind. As a new author, I’ll take any publicity I can get. Hopefully the cover draws the reader in and they are dazzled with my creative and suspenseful writing.
Morgen: It’s great that you’re getting feedback on your cover (the eyes do it for me ). It must be easy to forget it once it’s hooked you (the reader) in and then you concentrate on the story which, as you say, they are dazzled with. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Cindy: I am currently finishing my second book, Desperate Deceptions. I have a rough outline of a medical thriller and a sports related mystery that I am anxious to dive into the plot development.
Morgen: You sound pretty busy with it, do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Cindy: I try to write every day, even if it is one scene. I suffered some writer’s block when I wrote Desperate Measures and what helped me to get over it is to re-read the last scene I wrote over and over again. When that doesn’t work, I sometimes read a book that I have read before but didn’t particularly enjoy. This method boosts my confidence that I can write something better. In writing Desperate Deceptions, there were many times I froze and no matter what I did, those magic words and scenes would just not come. There were many reasons why this happened to me. The five star reviews Desperate Measures received scared me to death and I was afraid I couldn’t do it again. The next issue was I over analyzed and edited each and every word too much. I’ve finally gotten past this mental block and let the creative side of my brain take over and create suspenseful scenes then go back and edit.
Morgen: I’ve been toying with the idea of a follow-up to one of my novels (a big chick lit, although I’m currently still editing the first) and having written all stand alones so far (three and a bit) it is more daunting although I do feel I know the main characters well which must help. Maybe for NaNoWriMo this year (the first one was for NaNo 2009). Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Cindy: I start with the beginning, write the ending from my draft of the plot, then fill in chunks in the middle. When I reach this juncture I freeze and panic because I know I have to create a scene, character, and link that ties the whole plot together. Once this happens, I soar with confidence and the book quickly comes to completion. When this happened while I wrote Desperate Measures, I created Barry Solerno, who I mentioned earlier, became my favorite character. Just the other day, I reached the same point in Desperate Deceptions. Will this character follow in Barry’s footsteps? I’m still not sure myself but I don’t think so. So far this character is a bit shady. Once Desperate Deceptions is released, I just might have a contest to see if anyone can figure out the character that I am referring to.
Morgen: Can two characters follow in each others’ footsteps? I’d say you’d need to make them different enough, otherwise if would be like having a scene of dialogue where you can distinguish between one and the other. You’ve listed a few but do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Cindy: I utilized my scientific and executive experience to create Caitlin as a start, came up with a fiction plot revolving around family secrets, then created an eclectic cast of characters, each one holding bits and pieces of information pertinent to Caitlin’s survival. Essentially, I thought of a book I’d like to read. I think what makes a character believable is when an author gradually peels away a layer of the character without giving their whole background and story at once, giving the reader a chance to form a bond or opinion. The names of my characters aren’t as important as the secrets they are hiding.
Morgen: I like the sound of that. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Cindy: With my second book I started to edit and over analyze it before the book was finished, but I am very happy with the book and in my opinion is much better and suspenseful than Desperate Measures.
Morgen: You are more practiced. Do you have to do much research?
Cindy: No, not much for the first two books. The third and fourth I will have to do quite a bit research.
Morgen: But we have the joy of the internet to hand. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Cindy: Third person and I am most comfortable writing in this point of view. I haven’t tried first or second person.
Morgen: Second’s pretty hard and most people are sensible and avoid it. I’m not that sensible. First person has been overdone in recently years so you’re possibly wise sticking to third. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Cindy: No yet, knock on wood. HA HA
Morgen: What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Cindy: My favourite part of writing is creating characters and tying in their past and secrets into a suspenseful conclusion. I also love doing publicity. As far as least favourite aspect, I suppose writers block, patience, and solitude. While writing I get so wrapped up in a scene, I forget the outside world exists sometimes.
Morgen: I love the solitude (although I have a dog so that doesn’t totally count). What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Cindy: Be prepared for rejection and don’t give up. Embrace each criticism as an opportunity to polish your work. It takes time and dedication.
Morgen: Absolutely. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Morgen: I’d invite King Tut, Thomas Jefferson, and Margaret Thatcher. The second part is easy since I don’t cook, those takeaway containers would be from a gourmet restaurant and hidden far from sight!
Morgen: Me too. I do imagine Margaret to be fussy. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Cindy: “Everything always equals out.” Another favourite quote my mother always says, “If you have to brag you don’t have it because others will brag for you.”
Morgen: Like touting each others’ books on Twitter. What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks?
Cindy: I have a twelve-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter. Their homework, extra-curricular, and social activities keep me busy. When time permits we like to go boating.
Morgen: Oh, how lovely. I love water. I hadn’t realised until a colleague came to stay and pointed it out but all my pictures (some prints, some originals) have water in them somewhere. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Cindy: I’m on the typical sites, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin. I’m also a member of NAWR (National Association of Women on the Rise), Sisters in Crime, and Mystery Writers of America.
Morgen: I’ve not heard of NAWR, how intriguing. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Cindy: My website is www.cindyhuefnercromer.com.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Cindy: I attended some exciting events recently: March 1-4 I attended Mystery Writers of America’s 2012 annual Sleuthfest Conference. I was chosen as a panellist and was thrilled! Murder on the Beach Bookstore purchases the books of the authors chosen for a panel and schedules a book signing. This year’s guest of honour was Jeffrey Deaver. During the month of March, I participated in The Romance Reviews anniversary party with a Q&A session and the chance to win a signed copy of Desperate Measures. On April 13th I was the featured author on Just Romantic Suspense with another giveaway.
Morgen: Wow, how thrilling, congratulations. Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Cindy: Morgen, I’d like to thank you for this opportunity and interview.
Morgen: Oh, you’re so welcome. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you for taking part.
I then invited Cindy to include an extract of her writing and this is a shortened synopsis of the back cover…
What should have been the perfect vacation on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, soon becomes a nightmare. Caitlin Martel has no idea that a forgotten secret is about to explode and put her life in jeopardy. The suspense escalates through twists, turns, and family secrets yet to be revealed. A powerful climax unveils an unlikely alliance between two deadly and dangerous enemies.
For a preview of the first five chapters click the link on my website labeled Contests and Events. If you enter The Romance Reviews contest, clues are provided in the chapters.
Cindy Huefner Cromer, formally a New Jersey resident, now resides in Stuart, Florida, with her husband, son, and daughter. Cindy works as a laboratory scientist and executive. As the president of a laboratory network, she has written numerous laboratory procedures and research documents. Driven by a passion for suspense and mystery novels, she dreamed of becoming a writer. Her dream turned into reality with the release of her debut suspense novel, Desperate Measures. She is currently working on her second novel, Desperate Deceptions. Plots are in place for her third and fourth books.
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