Thursday, September 24, 2020

The Prolific Cynthia Harrison

I’m honored and excited to introduce to you Cynthia Harrison, author of not only extraordinary crime novels, but women’s fiction, and a thriving blog which she writes in the midst of her husband’s retirement, and a change of scenery from Detroit, Michigan to St. Pete, Florida.  

Cynthia credits her love of reading and writing to her parents who introduced her to various genres and most importantly a diary. 

As early as junior high school Cynthia was a successful writer, finding her articles on the front page of the school paper, offered her incredible validation, and unexpected popularity. She says, “something in my brain clicked with being a writer and being popular.”

“Writing is like breathing,” says Cynthia, she starts her day with writing and ends her day spinning stories in her head, “it’s essential to my mental health as I keep a journal with all the problems, sorrows, and joys of life in my real world. Once I see something in print, I can usually figure out how to handle the first step to fixing it. I have brainstormed my way out of a lot of fixes. And I’ve gained clarity and courage just by writing out my woes.” 

Cynthia wrote a couple of fantasy novels when she was in a spiritual period, working out how the afterlife would look from various sources. She explored concepts of reincarnation, life choices, and all those lessons we fail to learn, “and that's how I got my fantasy novels.”

Her primary audience is women entering midlife, some find her through her blog, Cynthia Harrison in St. Pete, and others are just fans of her work. She enjoys a strong network of writer friends who discuss writing, read each other’s books, and cheer each other on. Cynthia hopes her books, “make people feel like they’ve got a friend and maybe laugh a little.”

Working as a teacher, Cynthia attempted to connect with other writers, she asked a coworker, "what writing project did you work on this summer?" and he said "Lesson Plans," and it was not the name of his book. She decided she would have better luck joining conferences, and organizations like Crime, and Michigan Sisters in Crime. She also belongs to a critique group, “just four of us from way back, and we yammer about writing all the time. It's bliss. It's my heaven.”  

Cynthia stirs away from politics and pandemics when she writes, she doesn’t want to offend readers or force them to relive a difficult time, but on occasion, her tweets reflect her political views.   

Research is vital to Cynthia’s work, especially the crime novel genre, she recently attended a Writer’s Police Academy, “it's like college for cops, taught by cops, private detectives, and FBI agents.” She has a huge library of books on the psychology of deviant behavior, including murder. Honestly, I don’t know how she sleeps at night.

Cynthia says, “I do have a friend who was an FBI agent and she reads through my FBI stuff and helps me get it right. I asked if a female agent would keep her gun in a purse or a holster and she said ‘female agents do not carry handbags."  

She used to write wherever she could set up space, but now that her sons have grown up and moved into their own lives, she has her own writing room painted “ardent coral” and full of books. “I love it and I use it.” It has a comfy chair with an ottoman where she creates her drafts, revisions happen at the desk, and her son brought her a Lucky Kitty from Singapore and she taps his paw to make it swing for good luck. 

If a scene is giving her trouble Cynthia makes a note of it in her colorful, spiral-bound journal until a solution emerges and then switches back to her laptop. She has to tear these pages out when she fills up her journal because she tosses them in the garbage! “Not in the recycle, in the real garbage, because I don’t want my kids to feel they have to read all my journals just in case I wrote in one of them where I had a million dollars.” Bahaha.  

Cynthia improves her writing skills by writing. “It took a few bad books to even think I could write a novel,” she says she gave up on poetry because she never thought she could be that good, but now she realizes if she devoted ten years to writing poetry, she’d get better. “It takes time and practice. It was such a delight when I clearly saw that my new attempt at writing a book was much better than the previous one.” She takes writing classes and seminars and has been blessed with great teachers. 

“Jenny Cruise is the most selfless writer,” says Cynthia. She met her at a conference and continued the relationship online where Cruise critiqued her work. She helped Cynthia to understand the importance of conflict and tension in a good story. 

Before Cynthia retired, she was a teacher of creative writing at the college level, but she was frustrated with the lack of textbooks available about writing. One day she was reading Julia Cameron’s autobiography, Floor Sample, when a lightbulb went off in her head, and she turned all her lesson plans and notes into a textbook on writing, this was her first book, and the only non-fiction book she’s ever written. “So I was a teacher who wrote in the summer and then teaching gave me my first book. Now I'm retired and I write all the time.”

When asked about social media Cynthia said, “I really love Twitter but it's a time sink so I limit my time there.” She writes a blog post on Monday and posts the link on Twitter, then she reads others who use the #MondayBlogs if the title or photo draws her in. She has connected with many writers on Twitter. She figures if you like her blog you might also enjoy her books. That’s how I found Cynthia and I have enjoyed reading her books and engaging with her blog.

Cynthia's recent protagonist is a retired art lecturer because every murder has something to do with art, she’s an amateur sleuth and police consultant. Cynthia picked art not because she’s an expert but it is intriguing, besides she can easily research art and find books on almost every artist. Her new book, Jane in St. Pete, is coming out on November 2, 2020, but in the middle of a pandemic, it will be challenging to promote her book. She expects sales to be down for this launch so she'll be relying on social media as a promotional tool. For a glimpse into her earlier novels, you can go to Cynthia Harrison in St. Pete

Favorite authors include Jennifer Crusie, Julia Cameron (mentioned before) but also Carl Haiisen. She says, “I read for pleasure and have since COVID been doing a deep dive into historical fiction, mostly regency. I started by re-reading all of Jane Austen, including her new biography. I went on to Georgette Heyer who was not alive during Regency-era England, but her research is top-notch and she's so funny.” She’s read about 50 Regencies since March because they’re a great distraction during these trying times. 

Cynthia is also a huge fan of memoir, Rock n’ roll biographies is a favorite, she recently read Stevie Nicks' Gold Dust Woman. Cynthia's all-time fave is Bob Dylan's Chronicles Part One. She says, “It would be just like him to never write Part Two.” Cynthia definitely reads more than she writes. She enjoys The Bloggess, Jenny Lawton, "her memoirs are so funny." Other favorites include Margaret Atwood, Carol Shields, Alice Hoffman, Raymond Carver, Alice Munro, and Erica Jong. Cynthia is inspired by these great novelists and memoirists. She says, “I can't write my memoirs due to family confidentiality, so I write novels and disguise all the people who have spurned and burned me.” A writer's revenge.

Cynthia says, “I have always wanted a shelf of books authored by me.” She appreciates publishers and editors who get her and of course her readers who love her work. She says she forgot to wish for money but warns writing books doesn’t pay the bills. She’s not looking for fame or fortune because there’s a lot of bad that goes along with all that. “I just wanted to write and publish books and have a husband who is happy to let me do just that. So I feel like all my dreams have come true.”

1 comment:

Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

Cheers to a fellow Sister in Crime! Also that cover makes me want to move.

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