Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Authors in the Corner: Cynthia Leitich Smith

Yes! The unveiling of my new feature--Authors in the Corner. Everyone's excited, right? You better be!

Today we have with us Cynthia Leitich Smith for a brief Q and A.

Cynthia Leitich Smith is an award-winning author best known for her Native American themes, humorous picture books, and YA Gothic fantasy. Her more recent titles are a picture book, SANTA KNOWS (Dutton, 2006), and a young adult gothic fantasy novel, TANTALIZE (Candlewick, 2007). She makes her home in Austin, Texas; with her husband, author Greg Leitich Smith and four bossy cats. When not writing, Cynthia is a big fan of "Monk," comics, dinosaur exhibits, theater, sushi, and ghost hunting.


How did you decide that you were going to be an author?

At the time, I was working as a law clerk for a federal office in Chicago. I'd enjoyed law school but had never meant to practice. My plan had been to cover the courts for a major newspaper, but my husband had a patent law position in Chicago and neither of the city's big papers were hiring. My job was okay-in the Loop with nice folks and I was madly in love with the urban landscape. But it wasn't my dream.

I started scribbling stories at lunch and at home after work. It didn't take long to realize that I didn't want to be one of those people who spent their lives saying "someday." I took a deep breath, winced at my student loans, and quit to write full time.

We all have ambitions as we're growing up. As a child, what did you want to grow up to be?

I played "teacher" a lot, and I do teach writing for children and young adults quarter time at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Mostly, though, I wanted to be Wonder Woman. I loved her boots.

What's your greatest influence?
I don't think I'd be writing Gothics today if it weren't for Joss Whedon's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and Annette Curtis Klause's Blood and Chocolate (Delacorte, 1997).

Are you working on something right now?

I just finished the final copy edits of Eternal (Candlewick, 2009), and my current focus is the graphic novel adaptation of Tantalize (Candlewick, TBA), which will be told from Kieren's point of view. Along with picture books, I learned how to read from comics, so it's sort of like writing in my real first language.

Have you ever refrained from writing about a certain topic for fear of how others would react to it?

You know, I don't worry about that. I did have a couple of friends warn me that I shouldn't write Tantalize because it might provoke banners and alienate my Native American readers. (I'd had an established reputation as a Native children's author before diving into YA). So far, neither of those predictions has come to pass.

Who's your favorite author? Your favorite book?

When it comes to a body of work, author A. M. Jenkins is steadily emerging as a favorite. I highly recommend her poetic ghost story, Beating Heart (HarperCollins, 2006), her Printz honor book, Repossessed (HarperCollins, 2007), and her gritty new "vampire" novel, Night Road (HarperCollins, 2008).

My favorite novel is David Levithan's Marley's Ghost (Dial, 2005), which is a retelling of A Christmas Carol. It appears to my affection for the Gothic, my romantic nature, and my interest in contemporary YA ties to classics.

Is there something that I didn't ask that you wish I had?

How about: what can readers look forward to next?

My forthcoming short stories will be found in Immortal: Love Stories with Bite, edited by P.C. Cast (BenBella, 2008); Geektastic, edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci (Little, Brown, 2009); and Cabinet of Curiosities edited by Deborah Noyes (Candlewick, 2009).

On the novel front, Tantalize will be available in paperback in July 2007, and Eternal will be released in March 2008.

Readers should watch my site and blogs for updates on the Tantalize graphic novel and the next prose books set in my Gothic universe. See:, and expect big announcements soon!

Thanks so much, Cynthia!
You can see Cynthia at her webpage or on her myspace.

Readers, here's your chance to give your input! Do you like the new feature? Who else would you like to see here?


Jessica Burkhart said...

Great interview! I loved it and keep 'em coming. :)

Chelsea said...

Yay! This was fun to read. (And btw, good job on the intro. :p) Yeah, I agree with Jessica -- keep 'em coming. (Which I, uh, kind of know they will be. Ha.)

keri mikulski :) said...

Nice interview! Love the new feature.. :)

paperxxflowers said...

Chelsea --

She actually wrote it. I thought it would be a nice personal touch.

I've got a question for y'all (if you will actually be reading this). Should I do a section on my side bar, saying who's visiting when?

Lenore said...

I love Cynthia's blog, I read it all the time, so of course I loved this interview!

I think it would be cool if you did a side bar thing with upcoming authors :)

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

Thank you so much for interviewing me, and best wishes with this new feature on your blog! You're a gem!

Reviewer X said...

Yay, interview! I'll second whoever said Cynthia's great. She's such a nice person =)


Shooting Stars Mag said...

Oh, she is great and I love the new feature. Definitely keep doing it. Love the idea of putting who is coming up on the side. that's always fun to see. :)
I'm not sure who else you could interview...but I like the idea a ton.


softindierocker said...

Cool interview!! The sidebar thing sounds awesome, I reckon you should do it. =D Omg, I love Monk too!

TJ Brown said...

Good interview!

Liviania said...

Great interview!

I'm looking forward to Eternal.