The DMS was lucky enough to interview Cynthia DeFelice. Lizzy reviewed her stories Signal and The Ghost of Fossil Glen, and it was great to share our thoughts about it and hear yours. We are excited to learn a little bit more about the story behind the story. So, without further ado... take it away, Cynthia!
What inspired you to write Signal?
The first thing I do every morning is to go for a run with my dog, Gabby. Back in 2008, when I first starting thinking about writing SIGNAL, I had a wonderful dog named Josie (who appears as herself in the book but who, sadly, died last December.) We ran together every day on the very trail Owen and Josie run on in the story. One day Josie found a doggy treasure: a ketchup-smeared napkin, which she proudly brought to show me. I thought, Whew, it’s ketchup, not blood. Then I thought, what if it had been blood? I began imagining a kid tracking signs of blood down the trail, curious and freaked out in equal measure. What might he discover?
I love deserted houses, and the secrets they contain. That is why Owen discovers Cam hiding in the deserted house.
How long did it take you to write Signal?
Most of my novels take about a year, though I might be working on something else at the same time.
What was your inspiration for the characters Owen and Campion?
I like to think and write about kids who are on their own. Both Owen’s and Cam’s lives have been affected by the actions of adults, but they are left to figure things out for themselves. They are both lonely, and I enjoyed exploring how this would bring them together.
The “Dog People” were inspired by a real couple I see when I’m at the trail. They arrive with a pack of 20-30 wild and crazy dogs they have rescued, creating total pandemonium! Their hearts are good, though.
What are some of your favorite books from childhood? Were there any specific authors who inspired you?
My mom read the works of E.B. White and A. A. Milne to me and my three siblings. I loved the Madeline books, the Borrowers, and folk and fairy tales from every corner of the world.
I’m amazed how many fellow authors say this: I was – and am - enthralled by the book To Kill a Mockingbird. I’m sure it has influenced me in many ways, both conscious and unconscious. You could learn everything you need to know to live a decent life from this one book. I love the mysterious Boo Radley, the voice of Scout, the strength of Atticus, the way Harper Lee didn’t shy away from any of the disturbing realities, and the fact that she only wrote this one incredible book.
If you could live anyplace real or fictional, where would it be? Why?
I love living near the water. I am lucky to live on one of the beautiful Finger Lakes in upstate New York. We also own some farm property, where we built a pond. It has been one of the great joys of my life to watch the birds, reptiles, and other critters that have come to live and visit there. In an ideal scenario, though, I have to say I’d choose to live in a remote area by the sea, somewhere with four distinct seasons.
If you could befriend a character from one of your books, who would you befriend? Why?
I love so all of my main characters! I’d enjoy hanging out with any one of them. And sometimes a secondary character comes along who steals my heart: Ezra in Weasel, Stewpot in Nowhere to Call Home, Memaw in The Missing Manatee, and the dog Quill in Wild Life!
I guess at this point in my life I would choose to befriend Jessie, from my first novel The Strange night Writing of Jessamine Colter. She is wise in a way I aspire to be.
Your Ghost Mysteries series involves Allie, who can communicate with ghosts. Did you know when you wrote the book that The Ghost of Fossil Glen would turn into a series or did it just happen? Will Allie have any more ghostly adventures?
I had a lot of fun writing The Ghost of Fossil Glen! So, when it turned out to be so popular, and kids were begging for a sequel, I was very happy to revisit Allie, Dub, Hoover, Mr. Henry, and the rest – and new ghosts! I didn’t plan it to be a series, but one thing seemed to lead naturally to another. I think, however, that The Ghost of Poplar Point is the final book.
You write books in a variety of different genres. Is there a genre that you prefer? Or is there a way you decide which genre you are going to write next?
I enjoy writing in every genre except sci-fi/fantasy. By the time the concept of a book takes shape in my mind, and the main character begins to become real, it becomes obvious what the genre will be. In general, I write realistic fiction. If it turns out to be historical fiction, it is because some tidbit of history has grabbed my imagination in an irresistible way.
Are you currently working on a book? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?
I am. It has the working title of FORT, but who knows what the final title will be? I’m cracking myself up writing it, and I’ve got to think that is a good sign! It’s about two eleven year old boys, Wyatt and Augie, who are building a fort in the woods during the summer. I think a lot about kids who “don’t like to read.” I truly believe they just haven’t yet discovered the books they would like. I’m hoping Wyatt’s and Augie’s adventures will appeal to some of those kids.