Cindy Cipriano has been a member of the Odyssey Books family since 2013. The first book in her Sidhe series, The Circle, was awarded the 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Silver Award. When she’s not writing this acclaimed children’s series, Cindy is a middle school science teacher. We sat down to chat with her about faeries, puppies and procrastination.
First things first, what have you been up to since The Choice?
I’ve been working on The Lost, which is Book Three in the Sidhe series. I’m so excited about one of the locations in the story! In keeping with tradition, it is a REAL place, and yes, this very real location is known for paranormal activity.
In the meantime, I’ve also finished a re-write of Amaberis, a YA novel about a girl who meets the boy of her dreams, literally. There’s also another YA, The Wish Taker, which I’ve started researching. I’m planning on it taking place in Aristotle’s ether. And finally, I’ve been sketching out details for a non-fiction series that blends science with fantasy.
So you’ve definitely been keeping busy! Something that Australian fans may not know is that you’re one of Odyssey’s American authors. Tell us what it’s like working with an Australian publisher.
I wish I could respond with some cool Australian catchphrase, but I don’t know any! I’ll just say it’s awesome!
At first, I wondered if it might be difficult, dealing with the 14-hour time difference, but there haven’t been any problems. I’ve also met a lot of Australian authors via social media, and have become friends with many of them.
Tell us a bit about The Sidhe Series and the first two novels in particular, The Circle and The Choice.
The Sidhe Series is about Irish faeries that live in the mountains of North Carolina. Although these faeries have supernatural abilities, they look just like us and so they go unnoticed in the small town of Emerald Lake. That is until members of a dark Sidhe clan move to town.
The Circle, Book One of The Sidhe introduces Calum Ranson. Calum feels guilty over the loss of his cousin, Finley, who vanished while playing in Calum’s front yard. Two supporting characters, Laurel and Hagen, unite with Calum to search for Finley in the Otherworld. They make an accidental, but important discovery that has Calum believing there was more to Finley’s disappearance than previously thought.
In The Choice, Book Two of The Sidhe, Calum, Hagen, and Laurel continue their quest for Finley, who, well, let’s just say, is suffering through a terrible situation. While briefly mentioned in Book One, readers are introduced to Kira, a gypsy from South Carolina. We’re not sure at this time if Kira is one of the ‘good guys’ or not, but Laurel does not trust her! Other characters from The Circle make a return in The Choice, including brother and sister bullies, Riley and Neal.
One thing fans will agree on is that you’ve built quite an in-depth world with the series. What are some of the challenges that go along with that?
One big challenge is keeping up with the characters. When writing a sweeping series that spans several years, it’s hard to remember who is related to whom. One of my go-to tools when writing is my 5 ft. wide family tree. This is an important tool as I look forward to when the main characters begin dating!
Dating opportunities aside, Calum’s a protagonist whose life is full of magic. How did you make sure he was relatable to a young, non-magical audience?
I’ve taught middle school for 15 years and I draw on that experience when developing Calum’s character. But Calum lives in the Realm of Man and has done so since Finley disappeared. Aside from Hagen’s family, there are no other faeries in Emerald Lake. Calum’s father, Gus, is not Sidhe, and so Calum is close to someone who is not magical. His life is a great mix of the two.
Something that delights your non-magical readers is that the Sidhe series creates a world where magic is all around us. What’s your favourite way to capture the magic in everyday life?
I love researching and visiting ‘magical’ places and including them in my stories. An important location in The Circle is Fairy Stone Park, in Virginia. This state park is known for its ‘fairy stones’. The legend behind these stones is that upon hearing of the crucifixion of Jesus, the fairies who lived in the woods wept and their tears crystallized, forming the fairy stones.
In The Choice, an important setting is Brown Mountain in North Carolina. Brown Mountain is known for its spectacular illumination. These low, floating lights are visible from afar, but vanish when hikers get too close.
The Sidhe series has been very popular with the tween/middle school market. Do you think this is an under-targeted audience?
Thank you, that’s very kind!
I think the middle grades market is building up. This is clear from the number of movies that are made from middle grades fiction titles. HINT, HINT to any filmmakers who might be reading this!
Kids are a tough market – how do you go about capturing and keeping their attention?
Two things of equal importance.
One, give them a good story. Kids are smart! They can tell when you talk down to them. In fact, most kids tend to read ‘up’, meaning they are usually reading above their age group.
Two, give them a three-dimensional character, someone they can relate to, feel empathy for, and cheer on. One of the things I always ask readers is, ‘Who is your favorite character?’ I love hearing their answers, and it never ceases to amaze me by how closely they’ve become attached to their favorite character. They ask questions about the character as if they are living people. ‘What is Calum doing?’ ‘How is Laurel?’ ‘What’s up with Kira?’ This is truly one of the greatest things I’ve experienced as an author.
We know what it’s like to be Calum or Laurel, but give us a snapshot of a day in your life.
I get up at O’dark-thirty. I teach in a rural school, and our day starts early. After school, I take care of my millions of pets. At least it seems like millions sometimes! We have three dogs and three cats. Here’s a pic of one of my pets, Nellie. Or as I call her sometimes, Nellie Ache (belly ache). Once all the tummies have been filled and scratched, I write.
Every writer has experienced the perils of writer’s block. What’s your favourite way to procrastinate?
During the school year, exhaustion sets in and I procrastinate by getting more sleep.
However, whenever I truly experience writer’s block, the best fix for me is connecting with other writers. I belong to two critique groups and have a close friend who is making a name for herself with her mystery novels.
The Sidhe is set to be a seven-book series. How do you go about immersing yourself in such a long series?
I love this story!
Like other writers, I am very attached to my characters. They are real people to me and I’m vested in telling their stories.
When I first outlined the story, I didn’t realise it would be at least seven books (yes, at least). But as I began plotting, it was apparent the story would have to take place in multiple novels.
Finally, can you give us some teasers for The Lost?
I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to tell you, but I will say one thing…
The “Finley” situation will be RESOLVED.
I hope that keeps my readers happy as that is the one question I am always asked, especially after they read The Choice. ‘What about Finley?’ Some readers are quite upset about his predicament, and with good reason. Rest assured, Finley’s story will be concluded – or at least this part of his story.