Today I’m welcoming Cindy Thomson to my series of author interviews. Cindy is the author of Grace’s Pictures, the first in the Ellis Island series of Christian historicals. Brigid of Ireland was her first historical novel and tells the story of a pagan girl embracing Christianity in 6th century Ireland. Cindy is also the author of two nonfiction books: Celtic Wisdom: Treasures from Ireland, and co-author of Three Finger: the Mordecai Brown Story.
Elizabeth: Welcome, Cindy. Can you tell us about your most recent novel, Grace’s Pictures?
Cindy: Thanks for having me, Elizabeth! Grace’s Pictures is set at the turn of the twentieth century in New York City. It was a fascinating time when immigration was reaching record numbers, the difference between the extremely poor and the extremely wealthy was vast with a small number of people in between, and a time when the police department was still corrupt. But there was another side too with folks reaching out to help by forming immigrant aid societies. During this time the Brownie camera was introduced, which brought photography to the common person for the first time, making it possible to take quick snapshots out in public. I imagined that could cause some trouble. Here is the blurb:
Grace McCaffery hopes that the bustling streets of New York hold all the promise that the lush hills of Ireland did not. As her efforts to earn enough money to bring her mother to America fail, she wonders if her new Brownie camera could be the answer. But a casual stroll through a beautiful New York City park turns into a hostile run-in with local gangsters, who are convinced her camera holds the first and only photos of their elusive leader. A policeman with a personal commitment to help those less fortunate finds Grace attractive and longs to help her, but Grace believes such men cannot be trusted. Spread thin between her quest to rescue her mother, do well in a new nanny job, and avoid the gang intent on intimidating her, Grace must put her faith in unlikely sources to learn the true meaning of courage and forgiveness.
Elizabeth: Grace’s Pictures fits into several categories: historical, romance and Christian. Is there one genre you feel best describes it?
Cindy: Others have also described it as suspense. I just call it historical. It has not been advertised as romance, although there is a love story.
Elizabeth: What first made you interested in historical fiction?
Cindy: I have always been interested in genealogy. I write for genealogy magazines. It’s been said that one in four Americans can trace at least one ancestor through Ellis Island, so I chose this setting because I think it speaks to our history as Americans. The sacrifices our ancestors made for us by overcoming huge obstacles (Grace grew up in a poorhouse in Ireland) helps us appreciate our lives today. Grace comes to America a frightened immigrant, and she has to deal with some scary circumstances. Learning how to overcome them along with the negative messages in her head, lies her father told her about herself, transforms Grace in the end.
Elizabeth: How much historical fact is woven into your stories?
Cindy: I try to make my stories as historically accurate as possible. There are some historical figures in the story such as Jacob Riis, the author of How the Other Half Lives, who helped expose the conditions in the tenements. At the beginning of the story Grace has her picture taken on Ellis Island by Augustus Sherman. If you have seen any of the photographs of Ellis Island immigrants, chances are they were Sherman photographs. He was an Ellis Island registry clerk who took these photographs as a hobby. The immigrant aid societies of the time were doing important work, and while Hawkins House is fictional, it represents the efforts many people were making. The police department was just as corrupt as I portray, and the Hudson Dusters were a real gang of cocaine addicts.
Elizabeth: What are some of your future plans for the Ellis Island series?
Cindy: Thanks for asking! The second book, Annie’s Stories, is due to release next July. Annie is the housekeeper mentioned in Grace’s Pictures. Grace and Owen make an appearance in this book. In Grace’s Pictures I feature the new Brownie camera. In Annie’s Stories I feature the new children’s book of the time, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. There is a strong bookish theme in this story that I really enjoyed exploring.
In addition, I’m working on bringing the stories that Annie’s father wrote for her—described in the novel—to readers. The first one will be exclusively for my newsletter subscribers. (You can sign up here: www.cindyswriting.com.)
I’m also plotting out a novella that will be connected to these stories, and again, my newsletter subscribers will the first to know when it’s available.
Elizabeth: What is your writing process?
Cindy: Basically, in the morning I go through email, post on Facebook and Twitter, and follow up on marketing ideas. After lunch usually is the time I start writing, but truly it depends on my schedule and deadlines. Deadlines force me to work whenever I need to. I did a large part of a rewrite on my last book while I was on a long airplane trip (to Ireland!)
Elizabeth: Enough of your books—tell us about yourself.
Cindy: I’m a former teacher who writes full-time from a fabulous home office. I’m really blessed to have this loft workspace where I look out on trees. Like I said, genealogy is something I enjoy, but it’s so very addictive I have to be careful it doesn’t suck up too much time. I love to read a really good book. I’m also a huge baseball fan. I have three grown boys and a daughter-in-law, and a keen interest in all things Irish.
Elizabeth: Where can readers meet you in person?
Cindy: I attend many Irish festivals in and around Ohio. People who are interested in Irish culture are often interested in reading about it. Plus they are so much fun! I am available to meet with book clubs, either in person or via Skype or telephone. On this page readers can find out how to have me come speak to their group or club: http://www.togather.com/cindy-thomson
We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:
Elizabeth: Coffee or tea?
Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?
Cindy: Wow. Tough one. I seriously can’t choose. That’s one thing I love about Ireland. You are never far from either.
Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?
Cindy: Oh, come on! Both!!
Elizabeth: Violin or piano?
Cindy: For me it’s to listen to because I can’t play. I would say piano, but then again, there is nothing like an Irish fiddle. (Natalie MacMaster, anyone?)
Elizabeth: Mystery or fantasy?
Cindy: I truly read across all genres.
Elizabeth: Darcy or Heathcliff?
Elizabeth: Love scene or death scene?
To learn more about Cindy and her writing at:
Buy her book here: http://bit.ly/17ZXbnO
Thanks to Cindy for joining me today!