Have you ever met someone with whom you had just about nothing in common – but that didn’t stop you falling for each other?
Cynn Chadwick’s new novel Angels and Manners is about two women with nothing in common but their financial situation and Section 8 housing. Working class mum Carrie Angel is busting a gut to finish her carpentry certification so she can build a home for herself and her two teenaged sons. Middle class Jen Manners has divorced, forcing her and her resentful daughter from their comfortable, suburban lifestyle into subsidized housing. Jen’s decade old Lit-degree and lack of work history send her into a system she thought reserved for a different class of woman than herself.
How do you think they become friends? How will they get over their differences? Is there anything more between them?
A Bywater Books author and digital publisher, Cynn was born and raised in New Jersey but has lived in the South for over twenty years. She’s best known for her Cat Rising series, which have all made appearances in the shortlists of Lammy Awards. A claim to fame is that a book of hers was rejected 181 times (she’s not telling me which one it is). Someone who’s got the guts to keep going after that is one determined writer, I reckon.
Earning both an MA in literature and an MFA in fiction at Goddard College in Vermont, Chadwick is currently a lecturer in the Creative Writing Program at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. She lives in the bowl of a spoon-shaped valley with her partner, Elenna, and a German shepherd named Arlo.
At the end of this post you can read the first paragraph of Angels and Manners and you can win an ebook copy by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and telling me in 25 words why you’d like one. I’ll pick the most imaginative. Let me know your preferred format.
IN THE MEANTIME, ON HER LITERARY SPEED DATE, HERE IS CYNN:
If you were a book, what would it be and why?
Pippi Long Stocking… She probably captures my essence – still 50-odd years later.
What made you write your last book?
I pretty much wrote Cutting Loose like Stevie Wonder at the keyboard, eyes closed and taking dictation.
Why would a reader love your book?
I think readers want to cheer for characters, I like to think I make cheer-able characters.
When did you decide to be a writer?
When I was four.
What’s your most humiliating moment as a writer?
I showed up for a reading in Tampa Fl and only 1 person came… the bookstore owner, the “audience of one” and I drank wine and chatted, so it wasn’t horrible… but… yes, humiliating.
When, where and how do you write?
My home office, on a computer, when the story calls.
Did you find it hard to get published the first time?
Actually, no. Cat Rising was acquired by HPP on first submission. However, I did have a book rejected 181 times before it was picked up by my agent.
What’s the best thing a reviewer said about your last book? The best thing said about Angels and Manners was said by a fan: ”As a single mother who raised two kids alone, I want to thank you for writing my story, my kids’ story, and the story of so many of us today…”
What writers do you admire most?
All the “Southerns”: Faulkner, Welty, O’Connor, Smith, Ehle; my “boys”: Russo, King, Carver, TC Boyle, Gaiman; of late, Kate Morton (I believe she’s from your neck of the woods, Jesse) with The Forgotten Garden, as well as Kate Atkinson, Jillian Flynn, and Tana French.
What’s your favourite writing form?
The novel, although, I am currently working on a collection of personal essays that I’m enjoying writing.
Did you learn anything useful when you studied writing?
No….yes. From my mentor, the author Sarah Schulman who read the first draft of Cat Rising and told me that only 50 of my 250 pages were viable and if I didn’t fix that: “Your Novel Will FAIL” (she was right) and ”Simplicity equals Elegance” (she was right).
What are you working on now?
I have three projects: “Cutting Loose” #4 in the Cat Rising Series will be released this coming spring 2013 by Napping Porch Press. ”Then Came Jake” should be coming out in 2014. I am currently working on a collection of short stories and essays called “Where I Live, Folks Know How to Act Right,” which will probably be an ebook exclusive, also in 2014.
First paragraph of Angels and Manners
Carrie stopped at the threshold to the Mediation Center. Standing on the far side of the room with his back to her was Dill, her ex-husband, looking through a magazine. She could see the pages flipping between his outstretched hands. He was slouched; his head tilted into his lean. She had seen the same pose in their son Casper when he was lost in thought. Dill’s hair curled over his collar and was much longer than when she had met him—a lifetime ago—with his Air Force buzz cut. He had gone a little paunchy around the middle, love handles easing over his jeans. She would recognize that mannered posture anywhere. Seeing him like this—unawares—conjured the image of that boy she had met one dismal night in a musty tavern where she was tending bar.
For more about Cynn Chadwick, check out her blog