Author Profile: an Interview in the Contra Costa Times

Excerpt of Interview with Cinda C. MacKinnon by Janice de Jesus of the Contra Costa Times:

An author profile based on this interview was published 5/16/13  in the CC Times – which is good timing as my book launch is this Saturday May 18th at Orinda Books.

JdeJ: Your background is a little unusual and colors your writing.  You grew up in a number of places. What countries have you lived in?

CCM: In chronological order: Greece, Germany, Colombia, Costa Rica and New Zealand.  My formative years and by far the longest time, was spent in Colombia and Costa Rica

JdeJ:  What was your motivation for writing A Place in the World?

book cover

A Place in the World by Cinda Crabbe MacKinnon

CCM:  Well like all writers the story was simply in my head and wanted “out”.  Contrary to what I’ve been told to do, I write for myself – without the idea of publishing – at least when I began. But I guess there were three motivating factors:

1) Growing up as a girl without a country – the ex-pat experience – of coming “home” for the first time to the States for college and feeling totally out of place. Writing gave expression to some of this unexpected culture shock.

2) I originally wanted to be a rainforest biologist and so I was able to live this dream through Alicia.  This gave me an excuse to visit and study rainforests and cloud forests in several places.

3) I love Latin America – the setting and culture are comfortable to me.  There were people who were enormously kind to me and experiences I never would have encountered anywhere else.  I wanted to write about them.  I have a thing for romance languages too.

JdeJ:  Your characters are well developed and Alicia “evolves” gratifyingly.  Was this done consciously?

CCM:   Yes and no. I wrote detailed personality descriptions for myself of each character – even though ½ these features wouldn’t go in the book – I really needed to know my characters.  I realized the protagonist had to grow from a naïve young woman uncertain about her future into a capable and confident person,  but that part  just happened on its own. After I finalized the book I found myself wondering what Alicia, Carmen and Peter were doing now and wishing them well, as if they were real people.

JdeJ:   You lived with the characters so long they became real  to you.  Can you share more about your writing process?

CCM :  I started out just writing scenes as they came to me and at some point developed an outline to organize the plot.

It was a slow process as I was still running my environmental consulting business full time.  I did a great deal of work on my once a year vacations and also while I was out hiking or walking the dog – I would “write” in my head.  Then I would come home and try to find time to actually put these scenes on paper (or rather on my pc screen).  I would get cranky if this was not possible and was known to tell my husband I wanted to walk by myself so I could think/create.  He was pretty mellow about it. Sometimes I woke up in the middle of the night with an idea and I would jot it down.

JdeJ:  So consulting and writing  consumed you.  So how did you find the time to finish?
CCM : I retired!  I sit down and write in the morning and usually again in the evening.  But one of my problems about finding time is that I fancy myself a “Renaissance person”.  I focus on my writing, but I have a  family, I  play recorders in a music group ( and I need  to practice), I study languages because I just find them fascinating, I’m interested in botany, geology, biology and early man.  Every spring I go on wildflower expeditions photographing wildflowers – which keeps me active with the Native Plant Society.   I also dance (mostly Latin of course!) at least twice a week. Oh and I volunteer for Guide Dogs for the Blind and try to remain active in my community.

Every now and then I think I should give up one of these passions or at least clean-out my closet.  My life is still full and my closet is still packed with clothes – some I’ve owned more than a decade.   I have the fantasy of having a clone who goes around and interacts with family, friends and obligations – while I sneak around writing and indulging in all of my hobbies.

But the shorter answer to your question  is: find a routine and sit down and do it. You must be persistent and disciplined – or maybe slightly obsessive!


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