Cyndia Depre is earning rave reviews for her romantic thriller, Amanda's Rib. From the book's jacket:
Is Amanda Winslow a grieving widow or a cold-blooded killer?
Attorney Jack Lindsey has mixed feelings about Carlisle, Illinois', newest resident. When he discovers Amanda was recently acquitted of murdering her husband, he thinks that is the cause of his unease. Is Mandy a killer? Mandy. He never has nicknames for people, so why does he think of her as Mandy? Why does he think of her at all? She's not his type. Still, the killing has piqued his interest. He wants to learn more, even if that means frequent contact with Amanda.
Jack delves into the murder and trial. His actions set off a shattering string of events, putting his and Amanda's lives in danger and resulting in the death of another. Jack is forced to question his strict beliefs.
Is murder ever justified?
With strong sales and outstanding reviews from everyone who picks up the book, it's clear that Cyndia has a winner on her hands with this one. Friendly and talented, Cyndia has also managed to distance herself from the pack with her concerted promotional and marketing efforts, which are now paying dividends for her.
Cyndia is currently hard at work on her second novel, but I was able to catch up with her to toss a few questions her way.
1) Who are some of your favorite writers, and how do you think they've influenced you?
Martha Grimes, Minette Walters, Elizabeth George and Dennis Lehane lead the pack. They all write deep, three-dimensional characters. Trite as it sounds, books really are about people. The more I can get into a character's head, and feel they are real, the happier I am. These authors not only tell a good tale, they do it with people who are flawed but always trying to be better. They make mistakes, and try to fix them. In other words, they are human. A perfect protagonist is a boring protagonist. Give me a heroes and heroines who can be jerks, and I understand them. Hummmm....I wonder what that says about me.
2) What do you think is your greatest strength or asset in your writing? Your biggest weakness or flaw?
My strength would be dialog, and I include inner thought when I say that. I love reading what characters say and think, and that's probably why I like that style of writing. Whenever I can use dialog instead of narrative to move plot, character, setting etc, I do. I aim for very different voices in characters, so even without a tag readers will know who's line they just read. I am absolutely horrible with description. It usually bores me when reading, and writing descriptions is darn near painful to me. I don't really care if the sky is cerulean blue and someone is driving a white Mazda which still has that new smell and on and on and on. That's just me, though. I have a friend who can fill two pages describing a teacup and do it beautifully. Some people love that. I skim ahead.
3) You've effectively mixed suspense and romance in Amanda's Rib. Did you find this a tough balancing act while writing it? Where did you get the idea/inspiration for Amanda's Rib?
The idea came from talk shows and America's constant need to blame someone for everything that goes wrong. In the case of abuse, I was aghast how often the victim is blamed. I didn't think that was fair, and decided to write a novel about how a woman could find herself in such a situation. I gave Amanda every advantage, yet it took her two years to get out of an abusive relationship. How are people with no family, no money, and children to feed supposed to escape? Balancing suspense and romance was very hard in Amanda's Rib. I wanted her tough and able to take care of herself, but soft and vulnerable on the inside. Although I wanted people to like her eventually, my main concern with the first chapters was making her interesting. Also, I didn't want a 'mushy' romance. If Amanda is taken seriously, her relationship with Jack would have to evolve. Jack is a man coasting through life and used to getting his own way. Amanda is still in love with her second husband, the one who was murdered. Jack isn't a blip on her radar screen. I liked making him work to understand himself, then have to scramble to win Amanda's heart. When asked to describe it in one line, I said, "Amanda learns to trust and Jack learns to love." All this is probably way more than you wanted to know.
4) Amanda is a very complex character, which is part of what keeps us turning the pages in the book. Did you have any specific goals in mind when you were creating the character of Amanda Winslow or did you pattern her after any other characters/people?
Amanda is completely made up. I'm happy you think she's complex, because I wanted her to be real and people are complex. In some ways she's who I'd like to be. I'd like to be smarter and braver. There are parts of me in her, but not much. Amanda never loses her composure (I do), and her mind is always working (mine only occasionally). Like me, she never lets anyone see her cry. She has my necklace and plays with it when she's upset. I found myself doing that and gave her the twitch or whatever you call it. When writing Amanda I'd put her in a situation and imagine what I'd like to do rather than what I would do. They often aren't the same, so it was fun living through her for a while.
5) What do you find to be the most difficult part of writing and/or publishing? What's the greatest reward? Is it worth it? Or is writing something you'd do even if there was zero payoff?
The most difficult part of writing is starting each day. Then, when I've gotten going, stopping. When I hit the writing zone, I don't know what time it is. The toughest part of publishing is getting people to know I exist. I knew it would be hard, but wow. Thankfully I've got thick skin or I'd be a puddle most nights. For example, the owner of a grocery store where I've shopped once a week for ten years wouldn't let me put a small stack of bookmarks near the store window. I was stunned. It never occurred to me that shopkeepers wouldn't jump at the chance to help a local author. But most won't. I'll wear them down, given enough time. It's just a matter of nonstop nagging. The greatest reward is hearing from readers. I just love that. One wrote that I'd written her life (except for the murder part) and said the book helped her understand herself and her husband. I treasure all the letters and email, but that one really hit me in the heart. Is it worth it? I don't know. Writing is worth it because it's such fun. But I'm not sure I'll try to be published again. I'll finish Oblivious, my next novel, and decide then if I want to go through this again. I think it was Lawrence Block who said if you feel like writing a novel, take an aspirin and lie down. He may be right as far as publishing, but writing is wonderful.
6) Stock question: Dinner with anyone, dead or alive. Who is it?
My first thought was my husband. But I have dinner with him every night! I'm not going to give some deep answer like Einstein or Abraham Lincoln. The truth is I like dining with my husband because he makes me think and he makes me laugh. Why change that? So I'd pick someone like Oscar Wilde or Dorothy Parker. Others can figure out the secrets to the universe. I just want to have some fun while I eat.
7) One CD, one book, one DVD and a desert island. What book, CD, and DVD do you take?
DVD is easy...Camelot. Book...that's a toughie. Trattoria, of course. Then probably something about how to build a raft out of sand and coconuts and navigate using only my watch and ankle bracelet. CD...I'd burn my own with tunes by Allman Brothers, Eric Clapton, Bob Seger, CCR. Upbeat stuff. Who needs 'I Am A Rock' or '100 Years' on an island?
8) When did you first get the feeling not that you wanted to write, but that you could be so successful at it? What are you working on now?
I still don't feel I can be successful at it. I'm working on a screwball mystery/romance. It makes me laugh. I'm probably the only one who will laugh at it, but there you go. Sometimes I have to amuse myself.
9) Suppose you can't have both: Would you rather have respect from your peers and critical acclaim (but not making cash from writing), or would you rather be a bestselling author with the fat coin?
I'd like respect. The older I get, the less money means to me. How many purses can one gal own? I've gotten respect from my husband and parents just through Amanda's Rib. When they say they are proud of me, I feel happy down to my toes. I guess that answers the earlier question. Was it worth it? Yep. My family is proud of me.