Interview with Cindy Vincent #3
About the Author
Cindy Vincent, M.A. Ed., is the award-winning author of the Buckley and Bogey Cat Detective Capers, a mystery series for kids and cat-lovers that features the adventures of two black cat detectives. And yes, as she is often asked, Cindy used her own black cats, Buckley and Bogey, as the inspiration for the series, since they seem to run surveillance on her house each and every night. Cindy is also the creator of the Mysteries by Vincent murder mystery party games and the Daisy Diamond Detective Series games for girls, along with the Daisy Diamond Detective novels, which are a spin-off from the games. She lives in Houston, TX with her husband and an assortment of fantastic felines. Cindy is a self-professed “Christmas-a-holic,” and usually starts planning and preparing in March for her ever-expanding, “extreme” Christmas lights display every year . . .
1. What does your writing process look like?
Ha! My first reaction to this question would be, “It does not look pretty!” (Of course, that’s a more literal answer . . .) I can’t even tell you how many late night hours I’ve spent sitting at the computer in my pajamas, with bags under my eyes and hair sticking out like Medusa . . . In fact, I had gum surgery during the time when I was writing The Case of the Crafty Christmas Crooks. The surgery left bruises on my cheeks and made my face swell up like a chipmunk for two weeks, but I still had to keep typing away to meet my deadline. Years ago, someone told me they thought writing was such a glamorous profession. Let me tell you, I have yet to see all that glamour . . . J
In any case, to answer what you’re really asking here, my writing process depends on starting small, sometimes with just a concept, and then I constantly build on that. I might pump out a few “starter chapters,” just to let me build some more on my theme and develop the characters better. Then I toss those chapters, return to my original concept, develop it some more, and go back to building again until I’ve got what feels right to me. I especially love plotting, and I can spend hours figuring out how I want a plotline to go, so that it comes full circle. I also believe a lot of my process depends on Divine Intervention, because many times, it seems like ideas pop into my head from out of nowhere, and I feel blessed beyond measure.
2. How long does it typically take you to write a novel?
This varies greatly, and it really depends on what else I have going on in my life at the time. For instance, when I ran a full-time business, I was somewhat limited on writing time. But typically it takes me about six months to write a Buckley and Bogey book or a middle-grade novel. Grown-up novels are a different ballgame, and can take up to a year to write. I love those times when I can fully immerse myself in a novel and write without interruption. That’s when I can really burn rubber on the keyboard.
3. What is your current WIP (work in progress)? What can you tell us about this project?
Actually, I have a couple different projects going right now. I just finished up with the first book in a new mystery series for grown-ups, the Tracy Truworth, Apprentice P.I., 1940s Homefront Mysteries, due out this fall. The first title in the series is called Bad Day for a Bombshell, and it’s a historical cozy mystery novel, with equal emphasis on both history and mystery. (And a smidgeon of romance added in.) Yet even though it’s set in WWII, (which is a serious subject), this book is written with a bit of levity in spots, to keep it true to the cozy mystery genre. I’ll start working on book number two in the series soon. Right now I’m in the process of developing the plotline.
Then, I also have another Buckley and Bogey book outlined. This one is using our newest family member, a calico kitten named Amelia, as the inspiration. And believe me, every day she gives me more and more material to write about! I always have so much fun writing the boys’ books!
4. Where is your favorite place to write? Do you have a specific place or can you write anywhere?
I do most of my writing in my home office, which I painted a gorgeous shade of green. Then I hung drapes with a black background and large, bright quirky flowers. I write on a desk from the late 1930s, and I also have several other pieces of antique furniture in my room. Across from me, on the other side of the room, sits a Murder, She Wrote style typewriter and my copy of the Maltese Falcon. (The statuette, not the book.) And of course, I always like to have my cats nearby. They tend to occupy the chair and settee in my office, and one usually hangs out on a perch and another sleeps on my lap.
When I’m not writing in my office, I take my laptop out to my back deck, which is at the far end of my yard and located in the middle of a cluster of trees. Several of them are ancient pines, with some huge oak, elm, and cottonwoods in the mix. The branches create a canopy over the deck, and it’s an absolutely heavenly place to write. But only when it’s not 100º out, a typical summer day here in Houston.
5. How did you decide to write mystery books with cats as the main characters?
My real life cats, Buckley and Bogey, were the inspiration for this book and the series. We had adopted Bogey from a local animal shelter when he was a kitten, and he joined our household of three much older female cats. Of course, Bogey wanted to play 24/7, but the older girls had no intention of playing with him. And Bogey, having come from a litter of five boys, liked to wrestle and roughhouse. We soon realized that Bogey needed a brother. So we adopted Buckley from another animal rescue agency, and the two boys have been best friends and inseparable ever since.
As they seemed to explore our house together every night, we joked about them "running surveillance" to make sure the place was secure. That's when the idea hit me — Buckley and Bogey Cat Detectives.
The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. Especially when I realized how very different the boys were. While they're both black cats with gold eyes, Bogey is sleek and wiry, whereas Buckley is huge and fluffy. Bogey is laid back and fearless, and Buckley is anxious about pretty much everything. Bogey is the expert and Buckley is the rookie. Together their personalities play off each other beautifully, much like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Or Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe. Only at a children's level, and well, at a really adorable level, as both boys are such a joy, and happy to cuddle and purr at a moment's notice. So, with cats usually sleeping near my keyboard, I started writing their cat capers. Book four was released just last year and I’ve got book number five outlined. Funny, but here I thought I was doing something nice by rescuing a couple of homeless cats, and I ended up being the one with the most blessings . . .
6. Are you a full time or part time writer?
A few years ago, after losing a friend to cancer, I decided it was time to shut down my murder mystery party game business of 20 years and chase a new dream. Or rather, I should probably say, an old dream. That of writing books as a full-time author. I was 55 at the time, and decided, if not now, then when? And while yes, the change took some adjusting, I’m really glad I did it. Now I write full time and then some. I’m especially happy to be doing this as I’m watching so many of my friends slow down with their jobs, and not feel a sense of purpose anymore. Yet many successful authors keep writing well into their twilight years. So, while I’m watching my peer group get ready for retirement, I’m just getting started again and looking forward to some fabulous new goals. I absolutely love it!
7. How do find or make time to write?
Having run a business for nearly twenty years (writing and selling murder mystery party games), I learned to be self-motivated. (Business owners don’t have a choice if they want to be successful.) But now that I’m a full-time writer, I treat my writing as though it were my job and my business. I get up early and hit the computer. I have a daily page count in my head that I aim for every day, and if I go past that, I’m overjoyed. I have deadlines, just like any other job, and I make sure I hit them! Once you begin to treat your writing like it was a business and a top priority, it’s much easier to make sure you “get yourself to work.”
Besides all that, writing is such a joy to me that it’s automatically a high priority in my life. As far as I’m concerned, writing is right up there with breathing, eating, and sleeping. I feel miserable when I’m away from my latest project. In fact, when I’m not writing, I’m usually thinking about writing. Thank God I have been blessed with a husband who truly backs me and appreciates my work. In fact, as a lifelong avid reader, his critiques are absolutely invaluable to me!
8. What inspired the story idea for The Case of the Crafty Christmas Crooks?
Let me just start by saying, I am a Christmas fanatic. And I do mean, fanatic! I LOVE absolutely everything about the season — the carols, the traditional TV shows, the lights and decorations, and, most especially, the true meaning of Christmas. I usually start decorating about mid-October, and I put up three Christmas trees each year. Our house often wins the best yard or best lights award, since we go all out with our yard decorations, complete with music and computer programs. Plus, I usually host a couple of Christmas parties, and try to bring as many people in to enjoy the decorations as well.
So, being a Christmas fanatic, I always knew I’d write a Christmas-themed book. (And in fact, the first book in my new 1940s series is also set during the Christmas season.) But the idea of The Case of the Crafty Christmas Crooks fully jelled in my mind after Buckley's first Christmas with us. He was both fascinated and nervous as the tree and decorations came out of storage and went up around the house. Bogey, who'd already been through one Christmas at our house, seemed to take the lead and show Buckley around the trees and decorations. It was as though he was explaining it all to his little brother and telling him not to be afraid, that Christmas was "the best." I knew right then that I had to write a Christmas book as one of their mysteries.
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