Interview With… Cindy Skaggs
Posted by authorcamilson
Hi Readers. Today I am chatting with Cindy Skaggs, author of the Untouchable Series.
Cindy, thanks for being my guest here today. Tell us about you.
I’m a single mom who works three jobs, has two kids (15/13), two dogs, a cat, a car payment, and a mortgage. I think I’m pretty normal (which is what we all want to believe). I go to the gym on a semi-regular basis (ok, I try), I hike when I have the time, and focus a ridiculous amount of energy on my kids, because they need me more now than they will in five years. I also just finished my MA in creative writing and I’m going on to get my MFA so that I can teach at the university level. I write genre fiction and literary nonfiction (which is a really weird combination that freaks out my professors).
Writing is my obsession, I like fictional people, and I read like a junkie.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I’m a night owl, so mornings are a form of torture. I use a sleep mask so the dawn creeping into my east-facing window doesn’t bring the day on sooner than necessary. I haven’t found a way to dim the sound of birds chirping (why, oh why, are they so happy when it’s not even 4 in the morning! Don’t they know I’ve just turned off the computer?).
When I’m writing, what gets me out of bed is the voices in my head. That elusive stage between wake and sleep is when I get my best ideas. I’ve been known to sleep with my laptop in the bed next to me so I don’t miss a single thought as I slowly transition into consciousness.
If I’m not in the middle of a project, I wake up to get the kids off to school (I am not a chipper morning mom who makes full-course breakfasts, as my children will sadly lament). Plus, there’s the whole dogs need to go outside thing that forces my tired backside from the mattress.
If you could hang out with one famous person for one day, who would it be and why?
Limiting it to one person is another form of torture, but if I had to limit it to one living person, I’d say J.K. Rowling. I think she’s brilliant as a writer, but also as a person. I follow her on Twitter because I love that she stands up to the trolls and the activists and isn’t afraid to express her beliefs. She’s reached a stage in life where she can say what she means without worrying about the repercussions.
Also, like Rita Skeeter, I want Hogwarts dirt (does that make me a fan-girl?).
What’s the story behind your latest book?
If there’s anything I detest more than mornings, it’s the idea that someone is watching me be a complete spaz on the treadmill. When I first joined the gym, I felt like someone was always watching (I know, no one is paying any attention), but as I ran (or did the run-walk thing), I imagined a woman who really did have someone watching her every move. Why were they watching? How would she react? What kind of woman really did command the attention of every man at the gym? And why would she hate it? Imagining this took me out of my own head and helped me log more miles on the treadmill.
The first scene was written while I ran, and I created this thoroughly uptight, terrified, ex-wife of a crime boss who has more watchers than a reality TV show. Experience has taught her that she can’t trust a soul, even at the gym.
After I finished the first draft of Untouchable, I was cleaning out old files from my computer, when I ran across one in WordPro format entitled MafiaWife. Because WordPro is dead, I had no way to open the file and see my initial idea, but it taught me that our imagination is more powerful than we realize. I had an idea years ago for a book about a mafia wife, but I didn’t put it together until I started running (run-walking) on the treadmill.
Tell us your writing process:
I’m a binge writer. I get an idea and let it percolate, oftentimes for months. I build a music playlist that puts me in the same emotional place as my characters and listen to it incessantly (my 3rd grade nephew has word-by-word knowledge of Imagine Dragons CD because I played it all the time while working on my latest project WC).
I figure out where the book starts and where it ends, because I like my novels to travel full-circle. I put very little in writing until, through some sort of magic (or a deadline), I start to write. Once I put fingers to keyboard, I’m a fast writer. I type close to 100 words per minute and I work hard not to think (I can easily get stuck in my own brain if I’m not careful).
At the height of my manic writing sessions (and they’re fairly manic, with me taking little time for real life or actual showers), I can write several thousand words per day (my best being 10,000 words). I vomit the story onto the page, then take a more leisurely stroll through the manuscript to rewrite and edit. I don’t let anyone read until I’ve done at least one rewrite, and I have non-writing friends who go through first draft.
What has and has not worked for you that you can share with aspiring & upcoming authors?
Writing for the market has not worked for me. In many ways, I wish I could hit a current trend and ride it, but it doesn’t ring true for me, and every time I try to ride a popularity wave, I end up caught in the rip tide. I wrote a couple really bad historical romances in the late 90’s before my daughter was born (actually, I shouldn’t say bad, since one was a Golden Heart finalist, but they just didn’t ring true). It took time for me to realize that I had the voice of a contemporary writer.
What has worked for me is trusting my intuition. When I was in my 20’s, I wanted to be published so bad that I would have done anything. I altered my manuscript after every critique, and it stole the soul from my writing. In the end, I had a “saleable” storyline, with no voice and no passion and no soul (which of course wouldn’t sell). I learned to trust my instinct. I may not be a perfect writer, but I know my vision and I pursue it with relentless passion.
Trust your instincts, is my recommendation to aspiring writers. Instinct will take you farther than anything else.
I would add to this that part of trusting my instinct was submitting to Entangled Publishing. I did the research, and in my heart, I knew it was the place for me. I waited, endured some unfortunate delays, because in my heart of hearts, I knew where I belonged. I’m beyond thrilled with Entangled. I have so many writing friends who complain about their first release (and their first publisher), but I have nothing but love for the way this has unfolded. Everything from the edits to the cover has been stellar (is that not an amazing cover!?).
When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
In Mr. Pittman’s fifth grade class, he assigned us to write a short story. It was a three-page short story, my first creative writing assignment, set in the Bermuda Triangle that began with one sentence that Mr. Pittman gave us. I rewrote it on purple paper with purple ink. I even wore a dress to read it aloud to the class (as I was a tom-boy, that was newsworthy). That moment of sharing my story with my classmates was it for me. I knew I’d be a writer.
Tell us about your main character:
I like broken people. Some of my favorite writers have these emotionally-together women who have a strong group of friends and wear fantastic clothes and cook brilliant meals, and I love reading these books about strong women forging relationships, but I don’t know women like this. I know broken people, because they’re interesting and fun and challenging and real.
Sofia is repressed. She’s what my mother would call buttoned-up. The hero calls her as starched as the clothes she wears. I have such compassion for Sofia, because she’s living with the consequences of choices she made at 19. All of us have to live with our choices, but hers endanger her life (which she can handle) and that of her son. She wants love, she really and truly wants a hero, but after years of not knowing who she can trust, she trusts no one. That makes her come across as cold, when she’s really just lonely and afraid. At the heart of it, she’s a mom who would do anything to protect her son, and doesn’t realize until he is endangered how far she will go. The endangerment actually leads her into a relationship, because she doesn’t have time to second-guess or fear the consequences. By thinking only of her son, she brings about the biggest and best change in her life.
What are you working on next?
I think in groups of three, so I’m working to finish the Untouchables series. Once you read Untouchable, I bet you can figure out whose story is next. Email or contact me on my website to tell me what you think.
In addition, I started a longer series I affectionately call WC. Talk about broken people, these people are so broken, I’m pretty sure I know them. 🙂 I’ve never attached to characters the way I’ve attached to the heroine in WC. I’m afraid to acknowledge why I attach to such broken, strong, chaotic characters. It’s finished, and I’m working on the second in the trilogy.
Do you have any special/extraordinary talents?
Well, I think writing is a super power, but what do I know? I also play the flute, make crazy-good sculptures out of tortilla dough, and can wrangle the neurotic dog without claw marks scarring my skin (which really and truly is a talent).
Who are your favorite authors?
Well, like mornings, I find limiting myself pretty dangerous territory, but if I had to say it off the top of my head… Nora Roberts, because I like the way the people in the group form a bond and create a “family.” Laura Kaye, because her military characters, like mine in WC, are hardcore, and so broken and loveable and deserving of an HEA. Maya Banks, because her KGI operatives are so danged hot.
What do you like to do with your free time?
I read like a junkie, I hike as often as I can get away with it, I play cards and board games with kids and family, I like reading tarot, and this weekend, I’m observing (participating in) a group hypnosis session (but that may or not be research for the next Untouchables).
Tell us about your plans for upcoming books.
Imagine I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I have ideas for the next decade, because in my mind, the only limitation is time (and Einstein thought that was an illusion). I have plans to finish the Untouchables series, and you’ll see that there is one character in Untouchable who really needs an HEA (even though Logan would disagree).
In addition, I have the WC trilogy to finish up. This is a group of lost and misbegotten souls who has wound their way into my psyche. If I ever get a tattoo, it will be WC (my promise to myself is to get a WC tattoo when the book reaches a certain sales level… but I’ll never tell…okay, I’ll tell afterwards with a photo on Twitter).
In addition, I have a new group of characters in mind who are fearless and in need of their own HEA.
Where can people find you on the web?
Any final thoughts?
I’m a giant sap (and being published has only intensified it). In my 20’s, I tried to hide it, but as my children hit puberty, I’ve realized that hiding behind a mask, an image of who or what we are supposed to be, well, that’s juvenile. And a waste of friggin time. I love to talk books, and movies, and the HEA. I love talking about lost and misbegotten souls, broken characters, and redemption. I love talking to readers and writers and bloggers and pretty much anyone who wants to engage in social interaction. Hit me up, by email or social media. I’ll respond. How else will we have these amazing conversations?