It’s a great pleasure to welcome Cynthia Woolf to my blog today. To kick off the interview, tell us about yourself.
Thanks for having me as your guest, Anna. I was born in Denver, Colorado and raised in the mountains west of Golden. I spent my early years running wild around the mountain side with my friends.
Our closest neighbor was one quarter of a mile away, so my little brother was my playmate and best friend. That fierce friendship lasted until his death in 2006.
I was and still am an avid reader. My mother was a librarian and brought new books home each week. This is where I first got the storytelling bug. I wrote my first story at the age of ten. A romance about a little boy I liked at the time!
I worked my way through college and went to work full time straight after graduation and there was little time to write. Then in 1990 I and two friends started a round robin writing a story about pirates. I found that I missed the writing and kept on with other stories. In 1992 I joined Colorado Romance Writers and Romance Writers of America. In 2001, I saw an ad in the paper for a writers’ conference being put on by CRW and decided I would attend. One of my favorite authors, Catherine Coulter, was the keynote speaker. I was lucky enough to have a seat at Ms. Coulter’s table at the luncheon and after talking with her, decided I needed to get back to writing.
I credit my wonderfully supportive husband Jim and the great friends I’ve made at CRW for saving my sanity and allowing me to explore my creativity.
Sounds like it was meant to be. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
Hawaii. We love Hawaii. The beach, the slow pace. I’d love to have a little bungalow on the beach where I could swim every morning and watch the sunrise every day.
Paradise! Have you had other careers before becoming a writer? I’ve been a sales and use tax accountant, a property tax accountant, a real estate appraiser, a waitress, a bookmobile page, a janitor, a statistician, a deputy assessor, and a tax manager.
Wow! You’ve worn many hats. Are you a full time writer now or do you have a “day job”? I’m currently a full time writer. I was lucky enough to be in a place financially that when I was laid off from my “day job” I could become a full time writer. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I work much longer hours, about 18 hours a day between writing, promo, email etc. but it’s the best job ever.
I agree. How did you get started writing? I started writing as an adult in about 1990. I was going through a really rough patch in my life and needed an outlet. Writing gave me that. I loved it. I kept trying to get traditionally published and getting rejected. It’s probably one of the best things that happened to me. Now as an indie author, I can write what I want, how I want and at what pace I want. I’m only limited by myself.
What genre do you write in? I write historical westerns and sci-fi romance. I started out writing a western, inspired by my parents’ love story. Then I started writing a sci-fi based on a dream I had where I was a princess from Alpha Centauri and my people would be coming to take me back. Isn’t that what all teenagers dream? That they are really adopted and their real family will come get them, because the family they are in is just too weird?
LOL. How many books have you written? Do you have a favorite? I’ve currently got out 10 books. Four westerns and six sci-fi, in four different series. My favorite is the first western I wrote. My mother, who is gone now, liked that book, except for the sex, and since it was inspired by the meeting and subsequent marriage of my parents, it enjoys a soft spot in my heart.
Tell us about your current series. My current series is the Matchmaker & Co. series about several mail order brides. It’s a historical western series and so far has been very successful.
What a great theme. What inspired you to choose it? The last book in my first western series was called Tame A Wild Bride and was about a mail order bride. I had a great time writing it and it became the best seller of that series so I thought I’d take it farther and write a whole series about mail order brides.
What is your next project and when will it be released? The next project I have is the second book in the Matchmaker & Co. series. It is called Heiress Bride. I’m hoping that by the time this blog is published that the book is done. It may not be published but at least I hope I’ll be finished writing it. After that is Fiery Bride, which may or may not be the last in the series.
What was the deciding factor in self-publishing your books? Did you decide on ebook or print only or both? As soon as I found out I could self-publish my books and not pay to have someone do it (vanity publishing), it was a no brainer. Why would I want someone else to publish me and I get only 8% of the gross, if I’m lucky, when I can make 70%? I decided to do both ebook and print, even though I sell almost no print books, because there is nothing like having that book in your hand with your name on it. I use my print books for giveaways and for reviewers mostly.
Thanks for sharing the wealth of your experience with us, Cynthia. Here is an excerpt from the first book in the Matchmaker and Co. Series, Capital Bride.
New York City April 10, 1867
On the other side of the door was her last resort. Either this or prostitution and prostitution was not a choice. She couldn’t raise MaryAnn in that environment, nor if truth be told, could she lower herself to live like that. At least this way there would be some stability in her little girl’s life.
Sarah took a deep breath, turned the knob, and walked through the door to a better future for her daughter and, if she were lucky, for herself.
The office was small and precisely kept. A single desk with a straight, high backed wooden chair, one in front and one behind, sat in the middle of the room. She’d noticed the flowered curtains were open on the way in, curtains tied to the side. The small area was flooded with dazzling afternoon light. The walls were whitewashed and the desk well organized. There were several tables with neat piles of files along one wall. The other wall held several rows of pictures of women and men. None smiling, as that was the way pictures were taken, but all appeared to be wedding pictures. Below each picture was a small brass place with the names of the bride and groom and the date of the wedding.
A small, woman in her late thirties with fiery red hair, sat behind the desk. When Sarah got closer she saw gorgeous dark blue eyes behind the wire rimmed glasses perched on the end of her nose. Her eyes were so dark a blue they could almost be called violet. They were striking and clear, honesty shone from them along with a “no nonsense” attitude.
“May I help you?” the woman asked.
“Um. Yes. My name is Sarah Johnson. I saw your advertisement for mail order brides.”
The woman looked Sarah over, taking in her clothes, her hands clasped in front of her and ending at her face.
“First, let me introduce myself. I’m Margaret Selby and I own Matchmaker & Company. Please, sit down. You’re older than the women we usually have. You’re also better dressed and don’t appear to be hungry. What would bring someone like you to my door?”
“I’ve been living with my great aunt. She passed away suddenly two weeks ago and the lawyer says I need to find other lodgings. My cousin, William, has inherited everything except a small stipend she left for me. William is selling everything. MaryAnn and I have nowhere else to go.”
“So, you are a widow?”
Now was not the time to be less than truthful, if she wanted this woman’s help. “No.”
“I see. How old are you, Miss Johnson?”
“And your daughter?”
“MaryAnn is five.”
“Tell me, Miss Johnson, how did you come to find yourself with child at age twenty-two without being married? Surely you knew how those things happened by that age.”
“My fiancé was killed at Bull Run.”
“I understand. Many fine men were killed there and throughout the war.”
“Yes, they were. Lee and I planned on marrying before he left. He still had two weeks before he was supposed to go back. He was sure the war wouldn’t last long,” she sniffled and blew her nose into her handkerchief. “They called him back early, and then he was killed.”
“No need to go into further detail, Miss Johnson. Let’s get down to business, shall we?”
Sarah sat straight in the chair. “Yes, of course.”
She was more nervous now than she had been showing up on Aunt Gertrude’s doorstep six years ago, pregnant and unwed. They’d planned on putting out the story that Lee was her husband but one of the servants overheard and passed the information on to other servants, some of them in the homes of her Aunt’s friends.
Aunt Gertrude took it all in stride. She actually handled it far better than Sarah had. She’d cried for days until Gertrude shook her and said to get under control and stop feeling sorry for herself. So she’d had her beautiful MaryAnn and was raising her with Aunt Gertrude’s help. She would be missed for so many reasons.
“Miss Johnson? Miss Johnson.” Margaret snapped her fingers bringing Sarah back from her memories.
“Yes, Miss Selby. I’m sorry.”
“It’s Mrs. Selby. Now, please pay attention. I have several candidates that might work for you. Two farmers in Kansas and a rancher in the Colorado Territory.”
“Do you have a recommendation?”
“Well, neither farmer has children, though they are not unwilling to consider a woman with children. It would be awfully lonely for your MaryAnn with only you and her new stepfather for company. The rancher, on the other hand, also has a daughter, who is seven, I believe. They would be able to keep each other occupied while you attend to the work you’ll need to do. Can you cook?”
“Yes. Our cook taught me the basics. If I have a recipe, I can follow it.”
“Then, I suggest you write down all of your cook’s recipes. You’ll need them no matter which man you choose.”
“I’ve already got the ones I want. I’d hoped to put them together in a book one day. These men you’re talking about, how old are they?”
“Raymond Jacobsen, farmer in Kansas, is thirty-two. Robert Kline, also a farmer in Kansas, is twenty-nine, and last is John Atwood, a cattle rancher in the Colorado Territory. He’s a widower, thirty-seven and has a daughter who is seven. I think he would be the best match for you.”
“Have you checked out these men?”
“Of course. I’m very thorough, Miss Johnson. I have an associate who travels for me and talks at length to each of our bachelors. We don’t have any brutes or other disreputable types with this agency. You can put your mind at rest.”