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Q&A with Cindy Miles

Q: How did you start writing?

Cindy M.: Well, I used to read like crazy when I was a kid. Nancy Drew, any mysteries I stumbled across, and ghost stories—my favorite to date being The Ghost of Dibble Hollow by May Nickerson Wallace. School was busy, so I didn’t read as much for fun. Once I finished college, I picked up a romance novel and found the love of reading once again. The more I read, the choosier I became, until I decided ghosts and time travels weren’t just fun to read, they were fun to think of on my own. Once I decided to try my hand at writing, I was hooked!

Q: What sort of schedule do you have with your writing?  What do you do for fun?

Cindy M.: I still work as a registered nurse on a busy cardiac unit, but on my off days I split my writing time up. Typically, I get up at 4am—mainly because no one else in my house is crazy enough to want to get up that early, so I find the peace and quiet I need. I break around 6:30am to see my daughter off to school and do the usual housework stuff, walk/exercise (okay, so maybe not every day) and shower, and then I get back to writing. I’ll work until my daughter gets home, around 4-5pm. I work night shift at the hospital, but on my off days I flip back to day-time mode. I’m not really a night owl! When I’m not writing, I like movies, reading, and optimally, traveling. Scotland, England and Wales are hauntingly beautiful places filled to the gills with inspiration—crumbly old castles, abbeys, and wicked-cool cemeteries!

Q: Who has been your biggest literary influence? Your biggest source of support?

Cindy M.: I love the quirky wit of Charles Dickens. He’s so magical and Londony! As far as support goes, I’m very lucky. I have the biggest, goofiest, nuttiest circle of sister-friends a girl could ask for (hi Betsy, Eveline, Molly, Allison, Karol, and Val!) They’ve been with me since before I sold, and they make a huge deal out of every book release. My critique partner and fabulous author-pal, Kim Lenox, has encouraged me for years, before either of us was published. She is always there for me, and she just has a sweet, funny soul. And, she’s a nut. I think I’m drawn to nuts! My mom, Dale, has believed in me from the very first time I mentioned wanting to write a book. She’s a great gal!! And my long-distance pal, Rita-Marie Hester, is one fabulously crazy sweet chick who I wished lived next door! I have wonderful kids, a great husband, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, and the famous Denmark Sisterhood! The best support EVER! And I cannot mention support without mentioning my super-agent, Jenny Bent. She looks after me and really sets me on course.

Q: What are the greatest challenges to you as an author? 

Cindy M.: Giving my characters their own identities. I’m drawn to big, loud, arrogant, loveable heroes, and witty, fun-spirited heroines, so it’s a challenge to maintain that side of their personalities and yet make them stand out as their own individual characters from book to book. (EEK! I hope I’ve done that!)

Q: What do you feel are the meaty bones of a great story? 

Cindy M.: For me, the first biggest element is the characters. The plot can be fantastic, but if the characters are flat or mediocre, for me, so is the story. The setting is important—I love a fresh, realistic setting! Lastly, witty dialogue.

Q: You made your writing debut in May 2007 with SPIRITED AWAY, which spent more than three weeks on the Barnes and Noble best seller list, and you’ve had Highland Knight and MacGowan’s Ghost as Featured Alternates with the Rhapsody/Doubleday Book Club. You have received a great deal of recognition and reader admiration for your writing. How does it feel to have such positive recognition for your work?

Cindy M.: Wow, the response I’ve received from readers is simply phenomenal. So many people have taken their time to write to me, and I have to say it is uplifting and an amazing feeling to know my stories have caused laughter and tears! That’s the biggest compliment, to me—a happy, satisfied reader.

Q: What inspired your stories of knightly ghosts and modern-day maids? And what made you connect your stories through characters?

Cindy M.: I love reuniting readers with familiar characters. I guess I have simply fallen in love with so many of the knights! They took on their own personality, and it reminded me of just a big, loveable group of guys who are just a lot of fun to hang out with! I have my favorites, and for those who have read Into Thin Air briefly met Christian of Arrick-by-the-Sea. He’s the hero in my September 2009 release, THIRTEEN CHANCES. I simply love the romance and chivalry of knights. Sure, they may have been a bit dirtier and scruffier than we like to imagine, but still—they were strong, fearless, and I love any guy who can ride a horse, swing a sword and hack off an enemy’s head at the same time! As far as modern-day maids go, I find them to be the tough match a guy from the 13th century needs! They’re a lot of fun to write.

Q: Readers are captivated by the fantasy world you have created. Tell us about the challenges you face in world building and making it work with the ideas you have in mind for the progression of your characters and the series? How much research is involved?   

Cindy M.: Again, the readers are fantastic and I am so grateful for their support! I guess I just write what I love, and what I love is the thought of me, stumbling across a fun, and sometimes grumpy, sexy knight from times past. My research is the traveling. Exploring castle ruins and imagining the people who built them, lived in them, protected them, gives flight to my ideas. I’m surrounded by a fun, crazy bunch of friends, and so I try to envision the people who lived long ago as having the same sort of personality. Sure, someone had to clean out the cesspit every now and then, but I’m positive they had a few jokes to tell about it later on. So I guess I just take the ruins I’ve explored, add my own walls, and let the characters take over. I have done a lot of research on medieval armor, fighting, weapons, etc. As far as historical elements goes, I usually add very little simply because I try to keep the story about my characters and their personal issues. But I do make sure that if something historical comes up that the facts are accurate.

Q: Do you feel your writing is character driven or plot driven? How do you balance these two elements? 

Cindy M.: Mine are definitely character driven. The balancing comes after I get to know my characters, and see how they’d react to certain situations. Yes, the plot does need to be gripping and believable, but for me, that won’t happen unless I have the characters as 3-dementional as possible. When I read a book, I like to come away from it feeling like the characters were real. That’s what I strive for in my own stories.

Q: Could you tell us a little about how you develop your characters? Who has been your favorite character to write? The most challenging?   

Cindy M.: I usually get a grain of an idea about my characters first. Then, I fill out a character analysis chart. It’s a 3 page questionnaire of sorts, asking details of not only their physical appearance, but their habits, bad and good alike, their likes and dislikes, their family, friends, and their specific goals, motivations, and conflicts (that part thanks to Deb Dixon and her wonderful book on GMC!) Once I have that chart completed, I feel I really know the character. I do one separately for the hero, heroine, and a smaller version for my active secondary characters. Nicklesby, from Into Thin Air, is a favorite of mine, along with the hero, Gawan of Conwyk. Actually, the heroine, Ellie, was quite a lot of fun to write. Andi, from Spirited Away, was quite challenging in that her profession required a lot of research to make it seem realistic. Forensic Archaeology is a fascinating field! And of course Tristan is one of my favorites. I will say that my February release holds one of the most challenging of heroes for me to write: Gabe MacGowan. :) I’ll let the readers determine why. :)

Q: How would you describe the sensuality level of your books; do you find it challenging to write the hot love/sex scenes that readers demand? 

Cindy M.: In a market where sex sells, I feel really lucky that I’m allowed to use sexual tension throughout my story before the actual sex scene occurs (at the end!). Again, it’s what I love to read—the building of the relationship, that fire between two people destined slowly roaring to life—plus I’m slightly old-fashioned, and while not all of my heroines still hold their V-card, I like them to be particular toward the hero. And so to date, there’s always a wedding first. :) So far, the readers who like my books seem to prefer it that way. I guess I’d describe my sensuality level as very, very toasty warm. :) With one big hot scene waiting at the end. :)

Q: There is something about a knight in shining amour that makes romance readers weak in the knees, and captures our imagination. Why do you feel the dark ages and the icon of the chivalrous knight hold such a broad appeal and are such a popular theme in the romance genre? 

Cindy M.: For me, it’s because everything that makes up a chivalrous knight is virtually extinct. Of course, delving into that topic in detail could probably get me into trouble with the male gender! :) But the dark ages were by far a pleasant existence, unless you were vastly wealthy. The plague, lack of toilet paper or running water…not too appealing! Yet the darker and more difficult the times, the stronger and fearless the men had to be. Knights were tough! They had a code (I’m sure not all stuck to it!), and they were protectors of the weak. They fought hard and dirty, poking sharp swords into bodies and hacking off heads—it takes a lot of guts to do that! So I guess maybe one big appeal might be the guts. I personally love guys with a lot of guts and nerve, and no fear. And, speaking for myself, a big, strong guy who will protect and stand next to me and adore me is a fine guy, indeed!

Q: What is it about the paranormal romance genre that captures your imagination? Is there a genre you haven’t written but would like to try? 

Cindy M.: I guess I am fascinated by the What If factor in the paranormal aspect of romance. It allows the imagination to envelope a vast amount of possibilities, making the characters that much more fascinating. For me, the balancing of the paranormal factors with that of the realistic factors is important. Yes, it’s crazy to think a guy could live a thousand years as an earthbound angel, but give him traits of the present and it seems a bit more believable. As far as another genre that interests me, Horror. :) But I’m such a goofball, I’m not sure I can keep my own personality from slipping into a supposedly-scary story. :) I’d probably end up doing a lot of snorting and laughing. :)

*This material taken from an actual interview with Paranormalromance.org *

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A few of my favorites…

Movies: Easy! It’s a Wonderful Life, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Young Guns, Back to the Future, The Shining, Twilight, Die Hard, The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, JAWS, Encino Man, George of the Jungle! 300, The Notebook, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Silver Bullet, Lost Boys, Ghost, Terminator, Titanic, Pearl Harbor, City Slickers, Home Alone, Speed, Pirates of the Caribbean, Sleepy Hollow, (I could go on and on…I LOVE MOVIES!).

Books: A Christmas Carol, Pride and Prejudice, The Shining, Twilight, Lisey’s Story, The Dark Highlander, Dracula, The Mummy, Frankenstein, (I could go on and on—I LOVE BOOKS!).

Food: Oh, boy—probably Mexican. Guacamole! Chips and salsa! And fish n’ chips from Edinburgh, Scotland!

Hobbies: I love to travel, and I love to take pictures! Castle scenes and mountains are the best! I love going to the bookstore and just browsing the shelves. Even more fun is going to an antique bookstore and browsing THOSE shelves! (and buying something, too!) I love the salt water, and I love to go crabbing and fishing (but I don’t wanna get in the water: SHARKS!). I also like to do homey stuff, like making home-made jam, baking, and cooking. Antique stores are so much fun! Going on ghost tours in Savannah is FUN!

TV Shows: CSI: MIAMI, Ghost Hunters, X-Files, Bonanza, Gilligan’s Island, Dirty Jobs (Mike Rowe is CUTE!), The Adams Family, Little House on the Prairie, Voyagers!. Again, I could go on and on!

Travels: Scotland is my all-time favorite! The North of England, Wales, New England, Colorado.

Actors: Harrison Ford, Brendan Fraser, Gerard Butler, James Stewart, Johnny Depp, Billy Crystal, Paul Newman, Michael J. Fox, Keanu Reeves.
 
Actresses: Sandra Bulloch, Drew Barrymore, Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson.

Vehicle: Jeep Wrangler!