AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: SMOKY ZEIDEL
Smoky Zeidel, our first Vanilla Heart Publishing author interview, has taken a few minutes away from her writing to chat with Joyfully Reviewed…
Smoky what is your most current work we can read?
My latest release is a new edition of my novel, The Cabin, by Vanilla Heart Publishing.
Tell us a little about The Cabin and what inspired you to write it.
James-Cyrus Hoffmann has just inherited his grandfather’s farm, and with it a mysterious cabin deep in the woods on Hoffmann mountain; a cabin he has dreamed about since childhood. When James-Cyrus enters the cabin, he is vaulted back through time to the Civil War era, where he meets Elizabeth, the brave young woman who lives in the cabin, and Malachi, a runaway slave. James-Cyrus realizes his dreams of the cabin were visions of the past, and that Elizabeth is his great-great aunt a woman who vanished without a trace from the family tree. He also learns of his ancestor’s pivotal role in the lives of runaway slaves who were offered a safe haven at the cabin, a station on the Underground Railroad.
Cora Spellmacher, James-Cyrus’s elderly friend and neighbor, begins to unravel the secret of how he is able to make his fantastic leaps back and forth through time. In doing so, Cora begins to hope a tragic wrong from her own past can be righted, and that she can regain something precious that was lost to her many years earlier.
James-Cyrus realizes Elizabeth and Malachi are in terrible danger. With Cora’s help, he undertakes a daring plan of rescue that promises to rewrite his family history and change all of their lives forever.
The story was inspired by a tale in my own family’s history. I won’t go into detail about that here, but anyone interested in reading it can find it on my blog
When you start writing, do you already have the story plotted out or do you let the characters dictate what will happen?
I’ll have a rough idea, but I always let the characters take the lead. They have yet to steer me down a blind alley, which is more than I can say for following my own hunches!
What inspired you to write in your genre? Is this the genre you started writing in or have you morphed to this one?
The Cabin is historical romantic fantasy, while my novel before this, On the Choptank Shores, was romantic suspense. I don’t let myself be swayed by strict definitions of genre. I write the story inside me; I let the critics, reviewers, and of course, my publisher, be the judge of which genre they wish to call it.
Do you have a favorite character you have written?
No. To choose a favorite among my characters would be like choosing a favorite among my children, or pets. I don’t play the favoritism game.
Who was the toughest character for you to “get right” that you have written so far?
That would be Luther in On the Choptank Shores. Luther was a very good man gone horribly evil by a series of life events beyond his control. It was difficult for me to write him in a way that would make readers despise him while, at the same time, have compassion for him. I’m told I got it just right, so I’m pleased.
Do you draw inspiration for your characters from real life? Any fun stories you could share?
Cora Spellmacher in The Cabin is modeled after a woman I met in a rock shop in Kentucky, whose name also was Cora. I loved this woman the first time I met her. She was deeply spiritual, believed in the feminine face of god, in the magic found in rocks, and yet was convinced Jesus was coming back any day. She was just such a hoot to talk to. My Cora, the Cora in the book, gets her belief in magic from her namesake.
What do you find the hardest part of writing?
Probably the same thing you hear from every other author you ask: balance. With five print books out now, balancing the time between promoting them and writing my next novel is tricky. Balancing the time between writing and spending time with my family is also tricky, although that’s easier now that my children are adults. I’m freshest in the early morning hours, so that’s when I work on my novels. Later in the day, my brain sort of shuts down and doesn’t want to do the fiction writing anymore. That’s when I turn to doing any outstanding interviews—like this one—I have scheduled, writing guest blog posts, updating my own blogs, and doing other marketing tasks on Twitter and Facebook and the likes.
Name one thing that your readers would be surprised to know about you.
I’m pretty open with my readers and fans. I’m not sure I could surprise them with anything I told them, but let’s see … how about this: I was once a talented flute player. I played for more than a decade, and was the first chair flautist in my high school concert band.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
None whatsoever. There are a lot of things I take great pleasure in: a cup of hot chocolate in the evening after dinner, starting a new book, a sipping shot of a really good tequila or whiskey. But guilty? Why should I feel guilty about the little pleasures in life?
What do you need before you start writing? Anything that is just a must have or the creative juice don’t flow?
Coffee! Lots and lots of hot coffee. And a good breakfast. I absolutely cannot work unless I’ve had a decent breakfast. One of my three cats, Beetlejuice, would add that I cannot work until I’ve had a kitty cuddle, but that’s only because he won’t let me work until I give him some lovies!
Does music influence your writing? If so, do any of your stories have a theme song?
There was a time when I would have answered no to this question, but no longer. My husband is a talented classical and baroque guitarist, and he frequently is practicing while I write. I’ve come to enjoy listening to him as I write, because he plays so beautifully. I don’t care if it is a piece I’ve heard dozens of times: when Scott plays, Smoky can write.
If your story was optioned for a movie, who would play your characters?
My daughter would be Grace in On the Choptank Shores and Elizabeth from The Cabin. She’s a gifted actress who has already had small roles in several films and is studying theatre in college. Any other characters I’d leave up to the casting directors, but I’d want Robin as the lead actress in both books.
Where were you when you got your first contract? Who did you tell first?
My contracts have always come via email, so I’ve never been any place particularly exciting when I received one. I’ve always simply been working at my desk. My husband is always the first person I share any news with.
How old were you when you read your first romance book?
In my twenties. I don’t even remember the name of it, although I’m pretty sure it later was turned into a made-for-TV movie starring Lindsay Wagner. Why I remember that but not the name of the book is beyond me!
If you still have one of those pesky non writing jobs what is it?
I am blessed that words are my life and my livelihood. My day job is working as a freelance editor and writing coach to other authors. I’ve worked with some fabulous authors, and coached a lot of writers with talent. As I said: I’m blessed.
What are you currently working on, and what else is in the wings?
My current WIP is a novel called The Storyteller’s Bracelet. I don’t want to talk too much about it, though. I admit it: I’m superstitious. I’m afraid if I say too much, my muse will walk away from me, disgusted at my spilling secrets!
If you could co-write with another author who would it be?
I already co-wrote a short piece, Jock Talks Lightning Safety, with fellow Vanilla Heart Publishing author Malcolm R. Campbell. It truly is about what the title implies: I was struck by lightning and nearly killed 22 years ago, and lightning safety is a serious subject. But Malcolm and I managed to write a serious piece that is, at the same time, very tongue in cheek. We had fun. But a full length novel? I’m not sure I could do that with a co-author, because I write kind of helter-skelter. I don’t write front to back, start to finish. I write collections of scenes, then put them together, writing segues where and when needed. I think that might drive a writing partner crazy.
How do you pick your characters names?
I usually don’t. The characters dictate them the same way they guide the story. But in The Cabin, the name James-Cyrus is a tribute to my great grandfather, whose name was Cyrus James. And, of course, I already mentioned Cora being inspired by a real person.
Do you prefer the love at first sight approach or a steady growth throughout?
Steady growth. Friendship first; passion to follow. It makes for a more stable relationship in real life, so I think it’s best in my books, too.
Where can readers find you online
I’m all over the Web! But here are the most logical places to find me and my books:
And for the silly side – What is your favorite type of chocolate?
I’m like Johnny Depp’s character in the movie, Chocolate: hot chocolate. Preferably with just a smidgen of cayenne on top to make it spicy.