Interview: Cindy Speer

Our interview today is with Cindy Speer, who is reading a book right now that’s right up my alley. That’s one reason I love to talk to writers so much, they have a diverse array of interests and they never cease to amaze me. I hope you agree!

Enjoy this interview.

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Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how long have you been writing?

I’m from around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and I’ve been writing for twenty-one years…if you could me sitting in the back of pre-algebra at the age of thirteen, scribbling out stories instead of notes.

What type of writing do you do?

I write across genres, primarily fantasy, but sometimes I add in romance and murder mysteries into the mix. We get a lot of pretty crayons in the box, as writers…I’m silly enough to want to use them all.

What’s the best thing about writing?

Trying to create a beautiful and vivid world, populated by people that your reader can care about. When you feel like you’re right on top of things, when the story is just coming out effortless, it’s the greatest high.

Share some of your writing goals.

I would like to get to the point where I put out a book a year, I think. That would be pretty awesome.

Is there a specific time of day you like to write?

Not really…I write when I have time, I try and reach a certain word count every day. If I have a choice, sometimes it’s in the morning, while I’m still half asleep, or late at night.

What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?

It changes a lot. Mostly I stick with George F. Kunz’s Curious Lore of Precious Stones…I based a lot of my choices about magic off of it, and off of Maud Greive’s A Modern Herbal

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

When I let one of my friends read what I’d been writing in the back of the pre-algebra class. She came over and told me how much she loved reading it, and wanted more. The fact I made her “Grin from ear to ear” made me happy…and it made me realize that I could brighten a lot of days.

Favorite authors?

Barbara Hambly and Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett…Vincentio Saviolo, Jennifer Roberson, Dashiell Hammett, and a billion more. J

Book you’re currently reading.

I usually read two at a time…I like to have one nonfiction and one fiction on my bedside table. Lately I’ve been reading all the Lee Child novels I can find from his Jack Reacher series (I think right now it’s Tripwire) and William Harrison’s A Description of England, which is a contemporary account of life in Tudor times.

Any type of writing ritual you have?

Not really? But I have to really keep down the clutter on the thumb drive I take with me everywhere, and I need to make sure that I always know which is the most current version of the work. Nothing slows me down or makes me more frustrated than not being sure what’s where and if it’s the right version.

Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how did you get past it? If not, why not?

Yes…I believe in it because I believe that we can block ourselves in every aspect of our lives. We can put up things that stop us from doing what we need to do. The best way to get past writer’s block is to keep working. Know when to give yourself a brain break, but try and keep moving forward. If you feel your mental wheels spinning, try and look over your work and see if you went wrong somewhere. If that doesn’t help, work on another project. Eventually you’ll get through it.

What’s the measure of a successful writer?

I think that it’s about having small goals. I’m also a fencer, but still new…so when I go to a tournament, I see all these people who have been here longer, who have won tourneys, who are really talented. At this point, only my good luck and their bad luck is going to get me anywhere close to placing, so why worry about it? So I set small goals. “I want to successfully use my dagger offensively three times.” Or, “I want to take 7 sword arms.” Goals that aren’t pieces of cake, but doable. Otherwise, you stop having fun…you start wondering why you’re there. That’s what you have to do, as a writer. You can’t say, “I want to be as well loved as Neil Gaiman.” or “As rich as J.K. Rowling” and genuinely expect that goal to come true. You can hope, of course…I certainly do…but it’s not what I consider a mark of success. For me, I consider myself successful because I’ve published more than one book, because I have so many good reviews. Because people have emailed me and told me that they loved my work. These are good goals, and I think that they are what keep you going.

Advice for other writers?

Keep it simple. If you’re a fantasy writer, don’t try to write The Wheel of Time when you’re just starting out. Keep everything simple and clean…but then, I’m on a “let’s simplify things” kick right now.

Where can we learn more about you?

I keep a website with a blog at http://www.apenandfire.com.

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