HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Cynthia Owens

Cynthia Owens


1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
I have two favorite characters. They’re actually secondary characters who appear in In Sunshine or in Shadow. Tom Flynn is the heroine, Siobhán Desmond’s, best friend. He knew her husband, and he’s the “big brother” character that every girl wants. He’s a good, uncomplicated man who just wants to raise his family in peace. But he’s also a man you can count on. He’s fiercely loyal and strong of spirit.

My other favorite character is
Grannie Meg, Siobhán’s grandmother. A wise, tender woman, she’s seen famine and death, but remains a rock of support to Siobhán when she’s needed it most.

2. Tell me about your travels.

3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
Coke – the beverage, that is. Some people need the caffeine in coffee to wake them up. With my crazy writing schedule (I regularly start my day at 5:30 a.m.), I need the caffeine in a can of Coke to pry my eyes open! But only Coke Classic. Diet Coke and its other variations just don’t do it for me.

4. What else can you do besides write?
5. Who are you reading right now?
6. Pop culture or academia?

7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
Probably the scene in which Rory, the hero, returns to the tiny thatched cottage at the edge of Ballycashel land where he lived for the first ten years with his mother and his abusive father. It was a wrenching scene in which Rory went back to his childhood and remembered all the beatings he suffered at Seamus Doherty’s hands, and it brought him close to emotional collapse. I think, in order to write a good hero, you have to show his vulnerabilities as well as his strengths, and I hope this scene did that.

8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
A lot of my inspiration comes from Irish music. There are so many stories contained in the old, traditional Irish songs that when I listen to an Irish CD, my imagination just takes flight.

Case in point: There’s a lovely old song called The Fields of Athenry, about Michael, who is being transported to Australia during the Famine. His “crime” was robbing a wagon of food to feed his wife and starving family. That, with a few variations, became the backstory for Siobhán Desmond in In Sunshine or in Shadow.

9. Food you could eat everyday.
10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?

11. What kind of music speaks to you?
I like many different kinds of music. I love Broadway show tunes, and depending on my mood, a county or rock song might appeal to me. But for music that really speaks to me, inspires me, it has to be Celtic music, in particular the songs of Ireland. Whether it’s a merry Irish jig, a melancholy song of love or land lost, or a spirited “rebel song,” Irish music speaks to me in a way that no other music does.

A few years ago, my Irish mother-in-law gave me a CD of Irish music performed by Will Millar, of the group the Irish Rovers. This past autumn, I was able to obtain permission to use a clip of one of his instrumental works in the music video for In Sunshine or in Shadow. Needless to say, I was thrilled. I think the tune captured the story beautifully.
If you’d like to view the video, here’s the YouTube link:


12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
When I begin a new story, I usually have a general outline – beginning, middle and end. During the research period, I flesh out my characters – hero, heroine and secondary characters – and come up with their backstory. Then I work from there.

I’ve found that, in discovering a character’s backstory, I’m able to come up with the situations that will affect them most profoundly. For instance, Rory’s father was illiterate, and resented his son knowing more than he did. It was obvious to me that I had to give Rory a reverence for the written word and a drive to learn that would take him to the most shattering experience of his life. This experience led him to his ultimate destination: Ballycashel and Siobhán.

I am not a plotter. I find planning a story scene-by-scene to be very constraining. Oftentimes, if I’ve hit a snag in a story, I’ll work on another scene. Sometimes I’m so connected to my characters that I even dream about them and what’s happening with them.

13. Celebrity crush.
14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
15. Do you still watch cartoons?

Cynthia Owens was destined to be interested in history. One of her distant ancestors, Thomas Aubert, reportedly sailed up the St. Lawrence River to discover Canada some 26 years before Jacques Cartier’s 1534 voyage. Another relative was a 17th Century “King’s Girl,” one of a group of young unmarried girls sent to New France as brides for the settlers there.

A former journalist and lifelong Celtophile, Cynthia enjoyed a previous career as a reporter/editor for a small chain of community newspapers before returning to her first love, romantic fiction. Her stories usually include an Irish setting, hero or heroine, and sometimes all three. Her first novel, In Sunshine or in Shadow, is set in post-Famine Ireland and was released by Highland Press in December, 2006

She is a member of the Romance Writers of America, Hearts Through History Romance Writers, Celtic Hearts Romance Writers, and the Canadian Romance Authors Network. Cynthia is a lifelong resident of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, where she still lives with her own Celtic hero and her two school-aged children.

You can visit her blog at http://cynthiaowensromancewriting.blogspot.com/ or find her at Romance Book Junction.

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  1. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to meet Cynthia, Heidi. I haven't read her book yet, but this interview just bumped it up on my "To Be Read" list.

  2. Great to see you interviewed here, Cynthia. Loved In Sunshine or in Shadow!

  3. Great interview Heidi and Cynthia! It was nice getting to you!

  4. Thank you, Pat. I hope when you read In Sunshine or in Shadow that you enjoy Rory and Siobhan's story.

  5. Gerri, thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed "Sunshine."

  6. Pat:

    The pleasure was all mine.


  7. Thank you, Holly. The interviews are always fun for me, too.



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