Q & A with Author Cinda Williams Chima

This is the first in our series of Q & As with the featured authors, agents, and editors of our upcoming YA A to Z Conference! For more information about the conference, click here. And look for more great Q & As throughout the month of March and up until the conference on April 15 and 16!


Author Cinda Williams Chima

What are you reading right now?

I just finished reading Peaceweaver by Rebecca Barnhouse, which will be published in March, 2012. And right now I’m re-reading The Warrior Heir, my first published book, in preparation for a continuation of that series. It’s amazing how much you forget over five years. The problem with re-reading your published books is that you can always find something that needs fixing.

When you’re not reading or writing, what do you like to do with your time?

I’m almost never not reading or writing. I do love to travel and I love movies, researching family history, and spending time with family. I used to do a lot of weaving and handwork, but it’s been crowded out.

What’s your favorite opening line of a book?

I have many favorites, but here is one:

I didn’t know how long I’d been in the king’s prison. –Megan Whalen Turner, The Thief

What life lesson did your last book or project teach you?

That it’s possible to actually love a book you’re working on. Usually I’m angst-ridden all along the way. The most important lesson I’ve learned through the editing process is that it is possible to completely rewrite a book and not break it. In fact, it’s better in the end.

What word do you love? What word do you detest?

I love the word epiphany. I detest the phrase, “Mistakes were made.”

What is a little known fact about yourself?

I used to sing in a folk band. Also, I have a twin sister.

How do you deal with ups and downs of the publishing business?

I try to remember that it is the process of writing that I love—not necessarily the publishing business.

How do you balance writing with work and family?

For years, I got up at 4 a.m. and fell asleep on my keyboard at night. Also, I neglected my family. These days, I’m fortunate enough to be a full time writer, and my children are grown, so I neglect my husband.

What is your writing routine and where do you write?

My best writing time is the morning, so I work out, shower, and then write until 1 or 2 p.m. I have lunch and check email. The key is not to get online first thing.

Do you outline or just start writing?

I just begin with a character and his/her desires and the obstacles in the way. I generally know how it all ends, but it’s pretty sketchy in between.

Do you have trusted readers you turn to as you write, and if so, who and what stage?

Yes, I belong to three critique groups. I usually like to finish a draft before I begin the critique process, because a first draft is a delicate thing, easily shredded by untimely feedback.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

When I was in third grade.

Cyndi’s Fast Five

1. What are three things in your office/writing space that would surprise someone who popped in?

There is an African Gray parrot in a cage and lots of boxes, since we just moved this week.

2. What book first influenced you as a child?

I remember several books, including Charlotte’s Web, the Beverly Cleary novels (Beatrice and Ramona,) Old Yeller, and Black Beauty. Later, The Lord of the Rings and Mists of Avalon.

3. What time of day do you write?

Morning, if I have a choice.

4. If you could have a beer or coffee with a writer living or dead, who would it be and why?

Stephenie Meyer or JK Rowling, because then I would have a better answer to the question, “Have you ever met JK Rowling or Stephenie Meyer?”

I did exchange a few words with Stephen King at a memorial service.

Me: It’s crowded in here.

SK: Yes. It is.

5. Beer or coffee?

What time of day is it?

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