She lives in Annapolis, Maryland, United States. Cynthia Polansky is the author of two novels, Far Above Rubies and Remote Control and four nonfiction books (written as Cynthia P. Gallagher). She has terrific friends who continue to provide support while she works on her next book,WHIFF: Human Aroma Through the Ages. She writes a blog, Crossing Polansky where you will find the longest list of homophones I've ever seen.:) Visit her website at www.cynthiapolansky.com.
Barbara:. I have read and reviewed Far Above Rubies, but I haven’t read Remote Control. How is it different from your first novel?
Cynthia: Remote Control differs in every way from FAR except that both protagonists are Jewish. Where as FAR was based on a true story in a historical era, and written in a literary voice, Remote Control has a contemporary, humorous voice and is totally speculative. That's when it hit me that I wasn't going to stick to one genre!
Barbara: How did you get the idea to write Remote Control?
Cynthia: During one of the many fascinating discussions I have with my artist friend Mary Yaeger about life after death, a topic we both find interesting. We've read a lot of the same authors on the subject -- James Van Praagh, Sylvia Browne, George Anderson -- and have a grand time speculating on spirituality and what lies ahead. Somehow the notion came up of reviewing your past lives from the comfort of a lounge chair in heaven, and a novel was conceived. Must have been the wine.
Barbara: The heroine of Far Above Rubies seems larger than life. How did you get the idea to write this book and who was the inspiration for it?
Cynthia: The heroine, Sofie, was the aunt of my friend, Mieneke. We were both volunteering as docents for a touring photographic exhibit called "Anne Frank in the World." Each time I listened to Mieneke telling her aunt's story to the school groups I guided through the exhibit, I grew more convinced that the world needed to know about the woman who had voluntarily gone to a concentration camp just to look after her six stepdaughters. I urged Mieneke to somehow preserve the story, but she didn't think anybody would want to read about her family. Now I love saying to her, "Told you so!"
Barbara: When did you start to write your books about dogs? How did you get the idea to do this?
Cynthia: I adore dogs, so it's not surprising that most of my published works have been on that subject. In addition to articles for dog magazines, I wrote a monthly column online called Boxer Shorts, funny anecdotes about Boxers (I intend one day to reinstate this column, by the way). One day TFH Publications, the parent company of Nylabone and a leading dog reference publisher, contacted me. They were updating their single-breed guide books (found at most pet supply stores), and asked if I would be interested. I've done three titles for them (The American Pit Bull Terrier, The Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and Boxers) and one for Bow Tie Press (Bulldogs).
Barbara: The story of Far Above Rubies takes place in Germany before the war. What kind of research did you do for this book?
Cynthia: My friend Mieneke is Dutch, as was her aunt Sofie about whom I wrote, so I needed to learn about life in Holland in the 1930s and 40s. Mieneke supplied me with the background info, Dutch terminology, the town where Sofie grew up, etc. I had previously visited Holland myself, which helped with the visuals. The historical facts about Europe and the war came from research books. I've never traveled to Auschwitz, but some day I plan to participate in a "March of the Living".
Barbara: For people like me who don’t know what it is, would you please tell us about a “March of the Living”.
Cynthia: As stated on their website,THE MARCH OF THE LIVING is an international, educational program that brings Jewish teens from all over the world to Poland on Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, to march from Auschwitz to Birkenau, the largest concentration camp complex built during World War II, and then to Israel to observe Yom HaZikaron, Israel Memorial Day, and Yom Ha'Atzmaut, Israel Independence Day.
The goal of the March of the Living is for these young people to learn the lessons of the Holocaust and to lead the Jewish people into the future vowing Never Again. They have a similar trip for adults.
Barbara: Do you have a preference for writing fiction or non-fiction? Why?
Cynthia: It took me a long time to figure out the answer to this question! After 2 novels and 4 nonfiction books, I've concluded that my heart is in nonfiction. I prefer reading nonfiction to fiction, so it's natural that I would prefer writing it. I had always thought that a "real" writer must write fiction, so I started out that way, but I'm not going to fight against nature.
Barbara: I noticed you have two websites and a blog. In addition to this you are currently touring to promote your new book. How do you juggle all of this and have time to work on your WIP?
Cynthia: Who says I have time? Seriously, it is a problem! Hiring an administrative assistant has helped a lot; she takes care of much of the daily mundane tasks that eat up my time. I've also resolved to stay away from email until the end of the day. Checking my email first thing in the morning generates so much ancillary work that I never get to anything else!
Barbara: Please share your writing process with us if you would. What does a typical day look like?
Cynthia: I don't have a rigid routine, but one thing is clear: I cannot write in my home office. Too many distractions. When working on a manuscript, I go to coffee shops or the library. Writing "dates" with a friend keep me accountable. I tend to write in bursts, which is stressful, but I can't force creativity.
Barbara: Do you have any work published online? How do you feel about eBooks and devices like the Kindle?
Cynthia: Most of my work is available online as well as in print. I know I have to keep up with technology, so my books are available electronically, but for my money, nothing replaces a real book. E-book readers have come and gone, and I suspect the current Kindle craze will eventually subside. Perhaps we old-fashioned book lovers are a dying generation, but for me there's no substitute.
Barbara: How involved are you in the marketing of your books? How much has your publisher helped?
Cynthia: I am the primary marketer of my books. It is a full-time job and a learning process, but it's the norm for authors. The days when publishers did it for you are long gone. Publicity budgets are spent on the successful authors likely to make money, not newbies. My publishers are small independent presses, so their resources are limited, too. A lot of promotion is cooperatively accomplished. But the truth is that if an author doesn't have the means and the will to dive headlong into consistent, long-term self promotion, commercial success is unlikely.
Barbara: How do you feel about writers having an agent? Do you have an agent?
Cynthia: Agents definitely help get a writer's foot in the door, but that doesn't mean you can't become a successful published author without one. I had an agent many years ago for Far Above Rubies but nothing came of it. It requires a lot of tenacity to get a publishing contract on your own, but it can be done. I hope to land an agent for the book I'm now working on because I feel it does give you a certain amount of instant credibility.
Barbara: What are your feelings about self-publishing? Would you ever self-publish any of your own work?
Barbara: Do you have any interesting anecdotes to share with us from your touring and book signings?
Cynthia: I always chuckle at book events because nobody seems to realize I'm the author, especially if I'm in a bookstore. I am standing behind a table stacked with my books, with two posters on either side, each containing my photo, and wearing either a badge that says my name, or a tee shirt that says, "Yes, I am the author." Yet nearly every person who stops to look asks me if I've ever met the author, or if I know where the rest room is. I've never liked talking to people whose eyes are on my chest, but in this case, I encourage it!
Another classic happened right after I wrote Far Above Rubies. I was at a reunion of airline personnel with whom I worked at Reagan Airport in DC about 20 years ago. Catching up with everyone's news, I proudly told my former boss that I had just finished my first novel.
"No kidding!" he exclaimed. "You've never read a novel before?"
Cynthia, thank you so much for being my guest today and I hope that people will comment or ask you a question, because I know we are giving away a copy of your novel, Remote Control to the lucky winner of the drawing. To be in the drawing you need to leave a comment or question for Cynthia here. I only take the names that have commented here. So if you're new to this blog or you don't leave comments, you might want to jot down something quickly so your name will be here for the drawing. Also, if you haven't read Far Above Rubies, you should definitely get your own copy and read this incredible story. You can see my own review of this amazing book on amazon.com or you can read the other reviewer's reviews. I didn't go into enough detail for some people, but I don't like to give away much of the story before it's read.:) I like surprises.:)