Up Close and Personal
Q: How long have you been writing?
A: I’ve been writing since I was old enough to put pen to paper. My first full-length .work, written at the age of nine, was a play entitled The Passion of Love. Would you say I have a tendency toward the dramatic?
Q: What’s your astrological sign?
A: I’m a Capricorn, so yes, I’m hard-headed. I was also born in the Chinese Year of the Dog, which should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me. I do a fair amount of nonfiction dog writing under the name Cynthia P. Gallagher.
Q: When did you begin writing professionally?
A: I owe my writing career to two people: good friend Cheryl Cohn and author/instructor Jim Gray. I had always written and was told I “had a flair for it.” But at 17, my first submitted magazine piece was rejected, and I naively viewed this author’s-rite-of-passage as a “you don’t have what it takes, kid” stop sign. Fast forward 20 years, when Cheryl asked me to help compose a business letter. She remarked, “Wow, you really missed your calling!” At that moment, I knew I didn’t want to look back someday and wonder “what if…”
I enrolled in an adult-education writing course taught by Memphis author Jim Gray. I began a short story that Jim felt should be written as a novel. ” I could never write a novel,” I protested. If only Jim knew the powerful impact of his reply! Just four little words — “of course you can” — changed my life. The short story I was writing? Far Above Rubies.
Q: Why are your stories important?
A: I strive not only to entertain and engage the reader, but to subtly educate. If you can come away from a novel knowing more than you did before about something — anything — the author has done her job well.
Q: Why do you write in such a wide variety of genres?
A: There are so many things I am curious about, always have been. Why do we cry from emotion? Why do our noses run when we’re outdoors in cold weather? Do cows relaxing on the Alpine grasslands ever get bored? There’s usually a dearth of information on these esoteric topics, since I and possibly four others on the planet wonder about them. Sometimes you just have to write the book yourself (that’s a not-so-subtle segue to my next book, WHIFF: Human Aroma Through the Ages).
Q: What is your educational background?
A: I have a B.A. in Russian (Nyet, I am not fluent, unfortunately) from The George Washington University. I’ve also logged two summers of non-degree, total-immersion Spanish language study at Middlebury College’s Summer Language Schools (Si, estoy bastante fluida). In addition, I am an FAA-licensed aircraft dispatcher.
Q: What professional organizations are you affiliated with?
A: I’m a member of the Dog Writers Association of America (yes, there really is such an organization.
Q: What is a typical writing day like?
A: After years of trial and error, I’ve found that I work best when away from my home office. I have regular dates with a writing partner where we get together for breakfast or lunch, then spend several hours at the library or coffee shop working on our respective projects. Promotional work is done at home because I’m constantly on the phone and Internet.
Q: What do you like to do when you’re not working?
When I am not writing, I spend time with my French Bulldog, Courtney. I am also a tutor for WyzAnt Tutoring, an online company, and am a tour guide at the United States Naval Academy. I also enjoy knitting, hiking, and crossword puzzles (the harder, the better!)
Q: Authors can be eccentric people. Do you have any eccentricities?
A: I collect English-language homophones (words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings). Thus far, I have over 400. Why? There doesn’t have to be a reason; that’s what makes it eccentric!
If you want to talk eccentric, you should only know what my next book project is (another one of those not-so-subtle references).
Q: If you were given $500 to spend in your favorite store, where would it be?
A: Target, no question. But Sam’s Club runs a close second (sorry, Wal-Mart).
Q: What is your favorite dessert?
A: Cheesecake. My favorite recipe calls for 2 pounds of cream cheese and a crust of ground blanched almonds. It’s really a health food: almonds are good for memory and brain function; dairy provides calcium for bone strength. Calcium absorption is said to be enhanced with the addition of Vitamin D, so you get extra health benefits if you eat your cheesecake on a sunny terrace.