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?
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!