I am excited to be apart of the Authors are Rock Stars Tour. I missed it last year, so signed up early this year. I was beyond excited when I learned that I would be able to do a Q&A session with one of my favorite authors ~ Cynthia Hand.
Cynthia grabbed my attention with her debut novel Unearthly. She wove a fantastic tale of angels (good and bad) and the troubles of being born of a human and angel. She continued her amazing series with Hallowed and then Boundless. Upon closing Boundless and finishing the series, my first thought was, "What now?" I wanted to read more by this author who sucked me right into her books and built a relationship between myself and her amazing characters.
Not only is Cynthia Hand an amazing author, she also teaches Creative Writing at Pepperdine University and other seminars throughout the year. I hope one day to be able to take part in one of her classes and learn from one of the best.
So, without further ado . . . I give you Cynthia Hand. . .
1) How did you come up with the idea for the Unearthly trilogy?
The idea came to me mysteriously. I'd been going through a real dry spell, writing-wise. I'd been writing a literary novel for about five years, and not very excited about it, and not feeling like I wanted to read or write anything at all. Not a great place to be. Then one night I was sitting in the dark watching a movie with my husband, and the desire to write broke over me like a tidal wave. I don't know why - it just happened. Within 24 hours of that moment I was frantically writing down notes about this image I had in my head of a boy standing in front of a forest fire, and the lovely voice of a character chiming in about her purpose. And I started to do what writers naturally do: I asked questions. What would happen if you thought you had a singular purpose in life, but when the moment arrived, your heart took you in a different direction? What made this character special? Where was this forest fire going to happen? Then the pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place: Clara was part angel (and suddenly I was writing down the notes on the rules of this angel universe, the abilities of these part-angel people, the laws of heaven and hell, the powers of the angels, etc) and the fire would occur in Jackson Hole, Wyoming (and out of that came the characters of both Christian and Tucker-Christian representing the fire and polished side of Jackson and Tucker the rough-and-tumble cowboy part of Jackson) and the story almost began to write itself from there. It has been a wild and wonderful ride since then.
2) Do you have anything in the works that you can give us hints about?
I do! I have a short story coming in an anthology called STARRY EYED this fall. The book is a collection of real-life performers writing about their high school experiences in theater, dance, choir, and other performing arts, mixed with short stories written by YA authors like Kiersten White and Claudia Grey (and myself, of course). I had such a blast writing my story, "Stage Kiss," which is about a quiet 16-year-old soccer player who tries out for the school play in hopes of getting her first kiss from the boy who's always cast as the male lead. He's hot. She wants to kiss him. She gets into theater for all the wrong reasons, and it all goes wonderfully awry.
I also just sold a novel that would best be described as a contemporary stand-alone. That's about all I can say about it at this point, except that it will probably be out sometime in winter 2015 and I am working on it feverishly right now.
3) Totally objectively.... Team Christian or Team Tucker?
Ha. No way I can answer that. Both of them have their own qualities that make them right for Clara.
Hmm. I love to travel, so this is tough. One place I've always wanted to go is Prince Edward Island, because I am such a huge Anne of Green Gables fan. I even played Anne in a community theater production of Anne of Green Gables in high school. I had to dye my hair red, and the first time I tried dying it, it turned out a horrible peeled-carrot orange.
5) If you could live in any fictional universe, what would it be and why?
Narnia. I just finished reading The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe to my son and was reminded again what a cool world that would be to wander around in.
6) How much research did you do on Angels before/during writing the Unearthly trilogy?
A bunch. I love research. I read tons of books and watched a collection of strange programs on the History Channel and Googled a lot of very odd search terms. I wanted to get a sense of angels, not just in the Christian tradition, but as they've been represented across different cultures. Then I cherry-picked the best or most useful details. The character of Samjeeza, for example, is a figure who has a very interesting mythology around him, which was fun to build upon.
7) Who are some authors who inspire you?
Wow, so many. I am a huge fan of Carrie Ryan, as her The Forest of Hands and Teeth was one of the first YA books I read that just blew the top of my head off. Currently I am also inspired by John Green, not only his novels, but the way he celebrates intelligence and passion-for-learning in teens and the way he tries to use his success and influence to make the world better.
8) What advice would you give to someone aspiring to be an author themselves?
Write what you love. So many of us, new writers and published authors alike, get caught up in trying to write what we think people want. But you have to love (and I mean passionately, fiercely love) what you write - you have to be on fire for it; otherwise no one else will be. Worry about publishing later. Write for yourself. Write to give shape to your dreams.
9) This is a question for Tucker ~ What's it like dating an Angel?
"Bright. Buy some sunglasses, is all I'm saying. And she can beat me at arm-wrestling. Which isn't fair. But she's handy to have around if I need a jar opened or if I'm randomly attacked by a grizzly."
10) Last question... Which one of your characters would you love to sit down and have a conversation with?
Maggie, Clara's mother. I love Maggie so much, and she's had such an interesting, rich life, that I would love to drink tea and talk about Pearl Harbor.
About Cynthia's Books:
Unearthly (Unearthly #1)
Published January 4th 2011
In the beginning, there's a boy standing in the trees . . . .
Clara Gardner has recently learned that she's part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn't easy.
Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place and out of place at the same time. Because there's another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara's less angelic side.
As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she'd have to make between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?
Unearthly is a moving tale of love and fate, and the struggle between following the rules and following your heart.
Hallowed (Unearthly #2)
Published January 17th 2012
For months Clara Gardner trained to face the fire from her visions, but she wasn't prepared for the choice she had to make that day. And in the aftermath, she discovered that nothing about being part angel is as straightforward as she thought.
Now, torn between her love for Tucker and her complicated feelings about the roles she and Christian seem destined to play in a world that is both dangerous and beautiful, Clara struggles with a shocking revelation: Someone she loves will die in a matter of months. With her future uncertain, the only thing Clara knows for sure is that the fire was just the beginning.
In this compelling sequel to Unearthly, Cynthia Hand captures the joy of first love, the anguish of loss, and the confusion of becoming who you are.
Radiant (Unearthly #2.5)
Published December 4th 2012
From New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Hand comes a riveting original novella (available only as an ebook) set in the world of the Unearthly series.
Clara is desperate to get away-from the memories that haunt her in Wyoming and the visions of a future she isn't ready to face-and spending the summer in Italy with her best friend, Angela, should be the perfect escape. . . .
For as long as she can remember, Angela has been told that love is dangerous, that she must always guard her heart. But when she met a mysterious guy in Italy two years ago she was determined to be with him, no matter the costs. Now she must decide whether she can trust Clara with her secret, or if telling her the truth will risk everything she cares about.
Alternating between Angela and Clara's perspectives, Radiant chronicles the unforgettable summer that will test the bounds of their friendship and change their lives forever.
Boundless (Unearthly #3)
Published January 22nd 2013
The past few years have held more surprises than part-angel Clara Gardner could ever have anticipated. Yet from the dizzying highs of first love, to the agonizing low of losing someone close to her, the one thing she can no longer deny is that she was never meant to live a normal life.
Since discovering the special role she plays among the other angel-bloods, Clara has been determined to protect Tucker Avery from the evil that follows her . . . even if it means breaking both their hearts. Leaving town seems like the best option, so she's headed back to California - and so is Christian Prescott, the irresistible boy from the vision that started her on this journey in the first place.
As Clara makes her way in a world that is frighteningly new, she discovers that the fallen angel who attacked her is watching her every move. And he's not the only one. . . . With the battle against the Black Wings looming, Clara knows she must finally fulfill her destiny. But it won't come without sacrifices and betrayal.
In the riveting finale of the Unearthly series, Clara must decide her fate once and for all.
For more on Cynthia Hand and her upcoming books, check out the following links: