Today’s Author interview is C.J. Ethington; Mastermind behind Cinnamon and Salt.
Names and dates of published novels?
Cinnamon and Salt (March 2015)
Oil and Vinegar (September 2015)
What genre and/or sub-genres do you write in?
I write a little bit of everything. The Sentinels series, which is already out, is young adult urban fantasy. However, in the past few months, I have finished writing and editing a middle grade fiction fantasy, and have started first round edits on a contemporary romance. I like a good challenge.
How long have you been writing?
Since I could hold a crayon. No, really.
What made you want to be a writer and have you always wanted to write?
Always. Well, at least as far as I can remember. My sister started my interest in writing. When I was four years old, I overheard her working on a creative writing assignment with my mom. Her story was unlike anything my young little ears had ever heard. I had to know it ended. She never finished it, but I did. A million times over in a million different ways. She still doesn’t believe me when I tell her, but she was my inspiration.
Who is your favorite author?
Man, well, that depends on the day. I have too many to narrow it down. First, I love the classics: Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde, Charlotte Bronte. On a more modern side: Holly Black, Rachel Vincent, Cassandra Clare, to name a few.
What was the first piece of fiction that you fell in love with?
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I probably read that book ten times just in elementary school.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
Watching my characters take on a life of their own. As frustrating as it is sometimes, it’s exhilarating to watch them defy me at every turn.
How long did it take to write your first/last novel?
It took me a lot less time to write it than to publish, that’s for sure. Cinnamon and Salt was originally written in 2008. That’s eight years ago! It sat on my personal computer where only I could read it until last year. Originally, I was really nervous about publishing that story in particular because there were so many stories that were similar being released. In the end, I decided that I wanted to share it with the world anyway. The (aforementioned children’s) novel that I just finished took me a month. It’s easy to get something done quickly when you have a cute little 9-year-old setting deadlines for you.
What are three words that you would choose to describe your writing style?
Informal, direct, and humorous.
Are your characters inspired by real life people, or do you make them up 100%?
Honestly, I don’t think any character is 100% made up. Whether they show similar characteristics to the clerk at the grocery store who twitches one eye whenever he sees me, or the woman walking her dog who sings at the top of her lungs, every character has a trait I’ve picked up from the real world. I do have some characters who were inspired by family and friends, though. The most fun I’ve ever had was when I called one of my friends and said, “By the way, let me know when you come into the story.” I’m evil like that.
What sort of mood or feelings did you hope to convey to your readers with your latest work?
Obviously, I want my readers to feel attached to my characters, because I am. I want them to feel what my characters feel. So, basically, I want them to feel every single mood and feeling, except maybe a stabby feeling. We can do without that.
Tell us about the main character of your most recent novel.
Let’s talk about Nicky from Cinnamon and Salt. She’s a 17-year-old introvert, cynic, and skeptic. While her friends are out partying, she’d rather be home watching the latest episode of Supernatural. While they’re drinking, she’s happy sipping a cup of coffee. In fact, she only puts up with the crowds because her best friend, and unrequited love interest, asks her to. Her world has always been black and white. However, when she meets Asher, she realizes that there is a whole spectrum of color she never knew existed.
How do you go about building an antagonist?
I figure out the one thing the antagonist could want that would go against the hero then try to put myself in their shoes for a moment. All it takes is a spark and they usually build themselves. Although, there have been some stories I’ve written where not even I know who the antagonist is until they reveal themselves. It’s odd when that happens.
Can you describe for us your writing process?
Character development, setting, write, plot a little, edit, delete, write, plot, delete, edit, start over. Just kidding. Sort of. Let’s put it this way: by the time I start writing, I have the setting and character figured out. Everything else is created around them. Seldom do I actually plot.
What kinds of activities do you enjoy besides writing?
I love to read, hang out with my kids, try new things, and I crochet. That’s still so weird for me to say. It’s a newer hobby that I don’t think I suck too bad at.
Do you ever need to escape from writing? What do you do to get away?
Not from writing. I need an escape to write. Writing keeps me sane.
What is the hardest part for you as an author? Easiest?
The hardest part is marketing. I am a diehard reader, which means I have an easier time talking to you about what you’re reading than tell you about what I’m writing/publishing. The easiest part is writing. I am a selfish writer. I write what I want to read. That way, I never run out of books.
Any author pet peeves?
I plead the fifth.
Any authors that you feel directly inspired you, your works, or your style?
Of course. I always feel an insatiable desire to write when I read a Rachel Vincent novel. Also, Lisa McMann. I love how easily she bends the rules of writing to her will. There are more; I just can’t think of them right now.
Would you say that you were good at English in high shcool? If not, what were you good at?
I remember being good at English in high school. It was the class I enjoyed most at least. During the rest of my classes, I was writing a book that starred all of my friends.
Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, what are some ways that you overcome it?
I have, yes. Many times. That’s when I take out a pen and notepad and write out a scene where I’m playing a game with whatever character I’m writing about at the time. That usually breaks down the wall. On a side note: Nicky sucks at Checkers while Kaleb always beats me at Poker. I think they cheat.
Any current projects that we can look forward to?
I have a lot of projects in the works right now. Currently, I am working on Blood and Water (The Sentinels #3), two contemporary romances, a middle grade fantasy, an illustrated children’s book, and multiple other projects that are in my queue.
What are your long-term goals as a writer?
To be better today than I was yesterday.
Are you planning any spin-off novels?
I have two, but most of my stories connect in some way. Kaleb from The Sentinel series has his own spin-off/prequel that’s in editing right now. Also, I have a tour journal written by Nicky’s favorite band that should be out later this year.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
“Believe it or not, you can have a job you don’t hate. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.”
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Don’t take constructive criticism personally. It’s normal for some feedback to hurt, but that’s what’s going to make you a better writer.
Any other interesting things that you would like your readers to know?
You are beautiful, each and every one of you.
How can your readers find out more about you and your books?