This particular idea came to me as I contemplated the members of my own family, young men from small towns in rural American who went to war overseas. For the most part, they had never been any further from home than a state fair. I realized how disorienting it must have felt, to be removed from a relatively isolated and sheltered existence and this idea became the catalyst for Hick Blackburn, the young sheriff of Cherokee Crossing, Arkansas.
Tell us about the concept behind your books. How did you get the idea?
At the time I was writing Beneath Still Waters I was examining issues such as war and the notion that any society feels justified in deciding who should be allowed to live. I ran across a very old newspaper story about a baby being found in a slough and that fire my imagination. Since I was already contemplating life and death, and clearly this child was purposefully drowned, this event gave me a starting point to ask and try to answer the questions that were in my mind.
What is your life like outside of writing?
Outside of writing I love to travel. I think travel is essential, even if it’s only to the next county. In order to understand the world you have to meet people, people who don’t look like you or worship like you or share the same problems and concerns. If you don’t step outside of your own community, it becomes increasingly difficult to understand the problems and concerns of others. The world is very diverse, but if you only see and converse with people just like you, you fail to recognize the amazing variety of cultures that inhabit it.
What song would you pick to go with your book?
The song for this novel is an easy choice – Beneath Still Waters, particularly as recorded by Emmylou Harris. It evokes the precise mood of the story.
What are you working on now?
I feel like I have so many irons in the fire right now. I just completed the edits to Behind Every Door, a sequel coming out this March. I will soon begin on edits to another book I have coming out next summer entitled Beulah’s House of Prayer. Unlike the other two novels, Beulah is not a mystery. It is a depression-era quirky, sort of magical realism story. And, of course, there is always a “work in progress.”
What is your advice to new writers?
My advice to new writers is to know their characters. Know everything about them, even things that will never be in the book. Every character I write has a family tree, they have a history, because people have histories. I am a firm believer that each of us is the culmination of the generations that came before, and if you want your characters to be fleshed out, to be like real people, they must also have a history, even if it is known only to you.
Who are your favourite authors?
I love the old-fashioned writers. I am a huge fan of anyone named Bronte, Jane Austen, Willa Cather, Louisa May Alcott, and Harper Lee.
What is your favourite book?
It is almost impossible to pick one. I believe To Kill A Mockingbird is one of the most important American books ever written. As far as beauty of language, My Antonia by Willa Cather makes me cry every time I read it simply for the pleasure of its imagery.
What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)?
I am currently re-reading Glass by Kate Kort. It is a recent release that I reviewed but am now reading again because I want to take my time and enjoy it.
Cynthia’s social media links are:
http://www.cynthiaagraham.com (website), and
Cynthia A. Graham has a B.A. in English from the Pierre Laclede Honors College at the University of Missouri in St. Louis. She was the winner of several writing awards during her academic career and her short stories have appeared in both university and national literary publications. Cynthia is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the St. Louis Writer’s Guild, the Missouri Writer’s Guild, and Sisters In Crime. Beneath Still Waters is her first novel.